Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Big Data-Fall

Have you ever stood by a big waterfall? Somewhere like the Niagara or Iguazu falls? What resonates with me the most, while visiting such places, is the sheer volume of water that keeps streaming down. If you stand there for five minutes - well ok, great. It's big, it's noisy, and very wet. But if you stand there for an hour, it all of a sudden dawns on you: "This unbelievable amount of water just keeps coming down". It coming through the whole day, week, year. Wait a minute - this waterfall is here for decades and centuries...

And think about the energy that is being dispersed... Now ... Think about the volumes of information being created and dispersed around the world... Take a step back... Nature has been generating big data since the dawn of time. Have you heard of chaos theory (the butterfly effect)? - now this is starting to get interesting.

Can a single act, by one person lead itself to fundamental changes in society? Well yes. There are examples of this in history. Can a single tweet change the world? possibly!

The speed and volume of information has changed drastically. We are no longer looking at a little streams of information trickling about in the plane. We have transformed our world into gigantic cascades of information falls, where data flows in all directions.

Step back again, and look at the water fall. Think about its purpose. There are reasons why it flows the way it does. There are so many ways to exploit its energy, and so much potential for what you can do with it.

Don't forget to also marvel at its beauty, and don't forget the risks of abusing or mishandling it.

Maybe its time to start thinking of information as a constant flow. Maybe its time to think about its patterns and its dynamic behavior. Do we really need to store all this data? Maybe its just about using its power and then letting it go. Is this perhaps what "big data" is really about?... I don't know. All I know is that information, like water, has the potential to create and the power to destroy.

Think about what you are doing with the power of the Data-Fall? Are you sailing down the river? Up the river? Are you on the bank, building a hydro-power (info-power) station? Are you merely a spectator, appreciating it beauty or simply ignoring it? Or perhaps you are operating an Data-Fall visitors' centre.

Whatever it is, just remember that you probably cannot change its nature (but don't forget the butterfly effect). Also, keep in mind that this Data-Fall will be here long after you have gone. Ask yourself - what is the legacy you want to leave? And how can you harness the power of the Data-Fall?

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