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How Big Data Analytics Touches Everything In Your Life

01/07/2016 8:31 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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The sound of the alarm wakes me up at 3:30am. I have flight to catch at 5.00am. I look at my iPhone and see that the flight is on time and security lines are moving without any delays at the airport. I look at the traffic; find that it is light and that I can get to the airport in 15 minutes. I decide it is sufficient to leave for the airport at 4.00am, cutting it a little close but feeling confident about the decision.

After my daily ablutions, I pull up my Uber application and request a ride. It responds with information that a driver will be there to pick me up in three minutes. I am happy on two fronts -- one that I am getting a cab quickly and two, that there are others like me who don't have a life.

Camaraderie even of other fools is a good thing.

As I settle into the cab I look at my health application, which in a very uncomplimentary way, tells me that I am overweight, I am getting less exercise and less sleep than the entire neighbourhood is. Make that the three neighbouring states. Maybe the whole country! With my spirits in the dumps, I turn to the Microsoft application that guesses your age by looking at your picture via the camera on your phone and in the nicest way possible tells me that I look 10 years older than I actually am. This is what I call a good start.

Big Data Analytics is a fundamental, enabling capability that will affect and alter every life.

Now with technology against me, I turn to my social media. Give me a break I need a support group too. I see a message from my friend pulling me up for not liking his post. I have made the cardinal mistake of not doling out the new social currency of "likes". Being a reasonably generous person I correct this by liking every post. Oops! Did I like the post of somebody my wife isn't too fond of? Did I like a post that definitely did not deserve one? Does anyone know how to unlike something?

Why am I spending time describing all this in such intimate detail?

Behind every one of these actions is a big data solution collating and presenting information that is presumably useful, augmenting my abilities and comprehension. In some cases -- as in the travel arrangements -- it is genuinely useful. In others, like Google Maps directing me back home, not as much. I am not ready to go home yet. Memory check, I just liked a post from someone my wife despises.

The point here is Big Data analytics is not going to affect every aspect of our life with a sign that says 'Big Data At Work'. It is like electricity, a fundamental utility that impacts us through its ability to change the way we think, act and make decisions. For example, I do not know anybody who makes high value purchases without looking at reviews or ratings -- that is fundamentally Big Data at work.

Big Data Analytics, as a term, will recede into the background. We will just see the useful aspects like the trend in prices; fluctuations, etc. that helps us make better, more informed decisions. A data-driven society is the biggest contribution of a Big Data revolution, something that is only being accelerated by our transformation into an increasingly digital world.

The onus is on us as a society to leverage its positives and rally against the ill effects of bias, erosion of privacy and many other possible pitfalls.

As much as we extoll the virtues of Big Data in democratization of information and its positive impact on our lives, it is important to talk about the flipside as well. With every Ying there is a Yang.

Welcome to the dark side

There is increasing personalization in everything, from the remote you use to control your television to the news that you read. This is presumably done with an intent to only show you things that you are interested in. However, this can have much of the same effect as putting blinders on a horse.

You will increasingly see the world in only the way you want to see it. For example, a person with extreme views will like and see news that reinforces his or her beliefs and not the world as it is -- a colourful and varied mélange. In addition to this, data, its interpretation and inferences of causality are all dependent on individual perceptions. It can lead to disastrous consequences if these unverified and biased opinions are passed as the truth, pointing to Big Data as the science that supports them.

In conclusion, Big Data Analytics is a fundamental, enabling capability that will affect and alter every life. The onus is on us as a society to leverage its positives and rally against the ill effects of bias, erosion of privacy and many other possible pitfalls. It is not a question of whether the future will be shaped by Big Data, but rather what form this new world will take.

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