Monthly Archives: July 2014Blog

The Power of Big Data

Tech companies are just scratching the surface of what they can do with Big Data. An enlightening article describes some of the power that comes with recording the daily lives and activities of hundreds of millions of people. In a 2012 experiment, Facebook learned how it could alter its users’ moods. Google routinely runs about 20,000 experiments per year involving users. Facebook even discovered that it could motivate people to get out and vote — not inconsequential given that they can filter out individuals’ political persuasion. That experiment involved over 60 million people! Where else but online can such a large sample size be assembled — and without having to let the subjects know they’re being tested.

Facebook and much of the rest of the web are thriving petri dishes of social contact, and many social science researchers believe that by analyzing our behavior online, they may be able to figure out why and how ideas spread through groups, how we form our political views and what persuades us to act on them, and even why and how people fall in love.

We should expect researchers to start figuring out much more about human behavior, given the magnitude of data available and the power derived from such knowledge. It makes one wonder what interesting things they’re looking at right now that remain undisclosed.

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