This post is certainly not the first text to suggest taking a step back from the big data hype and try to gain a broader view. But usually, this new perspective has been somewhat self-centered: Is big data truly advancing database and systems research? Is big data and its technology truly adding value to my company? Data for Humanity, for one, attempts an interesting and important viewpoint – how can (big) data help society or at least not harm it
. The authors encourage people and institutions to perform their work responsibly and proactively search for positive uses of data. Stoyanovich et al. also argue for a responsible use of data as they recognize that big data “technology can propel economic inequality, destabilize global markets and affirm systemic bias.”
Their suggestions for responsible data analysis, fairness, non-discrimination and transparency are without doubt imperative, but hardly affect the possible uniformity of data-driven lives.
In summary, big data optimization already touches very many aspects of our lives and promises / threatens to affect more. We could be heading towards an optimized but uniform society with no place for individual choices, bad habits and the ensuing serendipity. And big data may help us to understand the consequences of social injustice, but they are not able to tell us what justice really is.
 E.M. Forster: The Machine Stops, The Oxford and Cambridge Review, November 1909 http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html
 Aldous Huxley: Brave New World, 1932
 Patricia Marx: In Search of Forty Winks, New Yorker, February 8 & 15, 2016 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/08/in-search-of-forty-winks
 George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Secker and Warburg, London, 1949
 Alex Pentland: Reinventing Society in the Wake if Big Data. Edge.org, 2012
 Julia Stoyanovich, Serge Abiteboul, Gerome Miklau: Data Responsibly: Fairness, Neutrality and Transparency in Data Analysis. EDBT 2016: 718-719
 Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. Yale University Press, 2008
 Roberto Zicari and Andrej Zwitter: Data for Humantiy: An Open Letter http://www.bigdata.uni-frankfurt.de/dataforhumanity/
Felix Naumann studied mathematics, economy, and computer sciences at the University of Technology in Berlin. After receiving his diploma (MA) in 1997 he joined the graduate school “Distributed Information Systems” at Humboldt University of Berlin. He completed his PhD thesis on “Quality-driven Query Answering” in 2000. In 2001 and 2002 he worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center on topics around data integration. From 2003 – 2006 he was assistant professor for information integration at the Humboldt-University of Berlin. Since then he holds the chair for information systems at the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam in Germany. His research interests include data quality, data cleansing, data profiling, data integration, and text mining.
Copyright @ 2016, Felix Naumann, All rights reserved.