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There’s an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about Big Data in Manufacturing. Manufacturers are now leveraging sensors and scanners throughout the factory floor to collect data about everything from screw turns to temperature and humidity in an effort to improve quality. My favorite part is actually this line:
In the past, some of that data had to be typed in, creating the risk of errors.
This is the future of software: invisibility. The days of us sitting in front of a computer typing in data are numbered. With the cost of data collection, storage, and analysis all plummeting, the software of the future will gather data seamlessly from your activities. You will no longer have to tell your software what to do — it knows. You will no longer have to put in strict relationships between data (this email is for this order) — it can figure it out.
One day, a six-year-old will ask you “Grandpa, did you really have to sit at a computer to order things online?” What can you say? Maybe “Yeah, but my grandpa had to shovel coal in the snow, so it wasn’t so bad.”
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Think that Big Data will solve the world’s problems? Read The Signal and The Noise first. This interesting books talks in detail about forecasting, including the good (baseball and weather), the bad (econonmics, politics, and earthquakes), and the very difficult (long-term climate change, terrorism.) In the end there is a warning to all of us: with the explosion of data has come an explosion of noise, of spurious correlations which are not grounded in sound theories. Think twice before you believe something because of “The Data.”