written by Mike Sterling for Canadian Community News
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Christmas has come to mean 'gadgets' for humans. People exchange them. I admit that I do it too. I get gifts from my kids, never gadgets.
I gave a gadget to one of my daughter's family. She asked me to send it back. Her young children have a lot of gadgets. They are home schooled and fun to be with for me. On Christmas day we played a simple game. Not a gadget in sight. (more about that soon)
I gave them an Echo from Amazon. I gave another Echo to another son's family. I hope they liked it, but maybe I should have gotten a more creative gift for both and the other children too.
ECHO is a way to look at BIG DATA. It's a gadget. In exchange I received books from them. I love books. I like biography and history of warfare. I enjoy books on math and science best. My children try to fit these likes of mine with their gifts.
One book my son gave me is called 'Weapons of Math Destruction' It's a very serious book written by Cathy O'Neil She has a PhD in mathematics from Harvard. She's a world expert on BIG DATA. I like it that she did her thesis on algebraic number theory. That subject is secure from gadgets and very beautiful.
The main thought of her book is:
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives--where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for insurance... are being made not by humans like us, but by algorithms working on BIG DATA models.
So our time alive is tied to and hostage to clever models extracted from world-wide CLOUDs of data.
A new person entering the work force has this 'Cloud' of data that they pull along through the space and time of their lives. Algorithms work on this data and decide whether the examined people are up to certain tasks. Decisions are made about these subjects of scrutiny, but not by humans.
You see, we are hosts to our own data and it is absorbed by BIG DATA. Not even death rids us of it. I always thought my father lived on in his PO Box which I used, but it was eventually re-assigned. His university quit sending him requests for donations. Yup, he was really gone. But, he lives on in some dusty records that are gradually being assimilated by BIG DATA.
So it's not just a person being held back or advanced by what people know or remember of them. More and more people don't get involved. An algorithm can be influenced by how they handled social media, their parents postal code and any number of things. Did they live in a good area growing up? How does the risk of their geographic youth influence their future?
We have memories. As humans, we have collective memories. BIG DATA has a LONG and WIDE MEMORY.
I love models and algorithms. I spent my active work life working with and on them. I never thought about how they cut us up into slices of humanity. Everyone knows that if you get a science or math degree from Waterloo or MIT or any type of degree from Harvard, you are set for life unless you really mess up.
This goes far beyond that. BIG DATA is pervasive. It can include our DNA too. Are we doomed or helped by our BIG DATA DNA? Not hard to guess.
I don't think a fear of BIG DATA is at all important to governments other than the threat of hacking and plundering the outer layer of commerce. Everyone should pay attention, especially those in public life. Once your data is indexed, it is no longer yours. It's now belongs to BIG DATA.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016