A May 2011 report from McKinsey, “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity,” is assuredly worth reading.
While current commentaries, such as this February 2012 overview from The New York Times, “The Age of Big Data, focus on McKinsey’s emphasis on the explosion of data, the other focus of the report was on the Internet of things — a micro-manager’s dream come true.
For myself, I see several perspectives lacking in the McKinsey report.
01) The report continues to think of big data in relation to specific companies and industries. It fails to recognize that the really big data is multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, and multidomain. A corollary of this failure of perspective is that it fails to emphasize the urgency of getting to open data access, to information sharing treaties and agreements, and to next big leap, hybrid intelligence, hybrid policy, hybrid budgets, and hybrid governance.
02) I read the report twice and could not find any mention of “true cost economics” Evidently big data is whatever the straw-like company wants it to be (they hardly deserve to be called a silo). While some speak of big data as the “new dirt,” the reality is that most big data is completely divorced from reality — it does not address the water content, fuel content, child labor content, tax avoidance content, and embedded toxins content of the entire supply chain.
03) The report treats data as something that must be processed to support decision-makers at the top, not the public at large. There is a very strong industrial-era mind-set in this report, one that assumes the continuation of Epoch A top-down command and control markets, one that appears oblivious to Epoch B bottom-up localized markets that demand integrity across the board before they will do business. There is no question about the value of data-driven decisions–this is not something that governments or corporations like to do or even know how to do. What the report misses is the reality that the only sustainable decision-making body in existence is the public at large. This is the heart of “third phase science” and it is also the heart of “the (new) craft of intelligence.”
04) I may have missed it, but I did not see substantive coverage of the quagmire we are creating in computational mathematics. Google is doing math hacks on digital garbage that are out of this world, and largely useless to the challenges facing humanity. Google is also doing many evil things, including distorting search results with programmable search engines (you see what someone else pays for you to see — kind of like medical journals have been for decades), violating all privacy protocols, creating its own back doors, etcetera ad naseaum. Goldman Sachs and its computer models are the financial twin to Google. On the side of the angels we can count Wolfam Alpha and a tiny handful — but growing number — of open source coders who earnestly believe, as I do, that no proprietary information technology is secure, scalable, or agile and adaptive. I see a huge need for a Center for Computational Mathematics that is devoted to the public interest and nurturing of “open source everything.” I also see a huge need for “open everything.” Proprietary information technology does not scale, is not secure, is not worth what you pay for it, and is corrupt at multiple levels.
A unified systems engineering concept by John Warfield (1972)