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NPR: Big Data Revolution: How Number Crunchers Can Predict Our Lives


An author of a book on Big Data joins NPR's Steve Inskeep to talk about how Big Data helps Target detect pregnancies, the police track potential criminals - and has even changed the way he talks to his kids.



Big Data: A revolution

When the streaming video service Netflix decided to begin producing its own TV content, it chose House of Cards as its first project. Based on a BBC series, the show stars Kevin Spacey and is directed by David Fincher, and it has quickly become the most watched series ever on Netflix.

The success of House of Cards is no accident. Netflix executives knew exactly what their millions of customers were watching; they knew precisely how popular the works of Fincher were, and how many of their customers were fans of Kevin Spacey, and how many people were streaming the British House of Cards. Sifting through that mountain of data, Netflix executives were able to predict that House of Cards would be just what Netflix viewers would want to watch.

That kind of decision-making is an example of Big Data: the decade-long explosion of digital information, much of it personal, that has become available to companies and governments. This trend in predictions and decisions is the topic of a new book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.

One of the book's authors, Kenneth Cukier, joins NPR's Steve Inskeep to talk about how Big Data helps Target detect pregnancies, the police track potential criminals - and has even changed the way he talks to his kids.


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