Patrick Meier: Big Data, Disaster Resilience and Lord of the Rings

Data, Resilience
Patrick Meier
Patrick Meier

Big Data, Disaster Resilience and Lord of the Rings

The Shire is a local community of Hobbits seemingly disconnected from the systemic changes taking place in Middle Earth. They are a quiet, self-sufficient community with high levels of social capital. Hobbits are not interested in “Big Data”; their world is populated by “Small Data” and gentle action. This doesn’t stop the “Eye of Sauron” from sensing this small harmless hamlet, however. During Gandalf’s visit, the Hobbits learn that all is not well in the world outside the Shire. The changing climate, deforestation and land degradation is wholly unnatural and ultimately threatens their own way of life.

. . . . .

There’s been push-back of late against Big Data, with many promoting the notion of Small Data. “For many problems and questions, small data in itself is enough” (1). Yes, for specific problems: locally disconnected problems. But we live in an increasingly interdependent and connected world with coupled systems that run the risk of experiencing synchronous failure and collapse. Our sensors cannot be purely local since the resilience of our communities is no longer mostly place-based. This is where the rings come in.

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