Will Big Data be a force for good or evil within a decade? Will humanity find new and innovative ways to analyze, visualize, and extract value from massive and growing data sets, or will we become overwhelmed by information that's simply too abundant to manage effectively?
These are just a few of the questions the Pew Internet Center's Internet & American Life Project and Elon University asked more than 1,000 Internet "experts," including educators, business executives, pundits, scientists, and other tech industry observers. "The Future of Big Data" survey posed a series of thought-provoking questions centered on one main theme: How will Big Data influence our lives in 2020?
Here are some of the more interesting predictions from the survey
Pew survey statement: "By 2020, the use of Big Data will improve our understanding of ourselves and the world."
"Big Data is the new oil," wrote Bryan Trogdon, an entrepreneur and user-experience professional. "The companies, governments, and organizations that are able to mine this resource will have an enormous advantage over those that don't."
Survey statement: "Nowcasting, real-time data analysis, and pattern recognition will surely get better."
Google chief economist Hal Varian agrees that real-time forecasting has a bright future: "I'm a big believer in nowcasting," he wrote. "Nearly every large company has a real-time data warehouse and has more timely data on the economy than our government agencies. In the next decade we will see a public/private partnership that allows the government to take advantage of some of these private-sector data stores. This is likely to lead to a better informed, more pro-active fiscal and monetary policy."
Survey statement: "The good of Big Data will outweigh the bad. User innovation could lead the way, with "do-it-yourself analytics."
Marjory S. Blumenthal, associate provost at Georgetown University and adjunct staff officer at RAND, sees the pros and cons of advancements in data analysis tools and techniques. "Do-it-yourself analytics will help more people analyze and forecast than ever before. This will have a variety of societal benefits and further innovation. It will also contribute to new kinds of crime," Blumenthal wrote.
Survey statement: "In the end, humans just won't be able to keep up."
Marcia Richards Suelzer, senior analyst at Wolters Kluwer, sees potential risks in real-time data analysis: "We can now make catastrophic miscalculations in nanoseconds and broadcast them universally. We have lost the balance inherent in 'lag time.'"