Saturday, August 02, 2014

The petabyte children

Chris Anderson the former editor of Wired Magazine, several years ago, published an article entitled The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete. He believed that the age of “big” data would be “the end of science as we know it.”

We've had kilobytes, megabytes and terabytes, in other words, floppy disks, hard disks and disk arrays. In the Petabyte Age the “stuff” is stored in the cloud. Knowledge now begins with massive amounts of data. And can we deny in 2014 that those under thirty years of age are not constantly gazing into the virtual cloud?

Anderson said back in 2008 that data will be viewed mathematically first and a context for it established later. Correlations are the future young man. Causal analysis be damned! He ended his article by asking, “What can science learn from Google?”

Predicting the future

Regarding the future, I think a major challenge of the 21st century is acquiring a better understanding of the brain—and the mind, if any future is to become a reality. In the spirit of speculating I shall shamelessly promote my own ebook novel A Genetic Abnormality, which will be coming out on September 1, 2014. For more information go to

The modern scientific process began in the 17th century, and viewed against the thousands of years of human existence, science developed only yesterday. It's also “difficult” in that it goes against how we humans traditionally think.

If scientific thinking can be called analytic and objective, traditional thinking is more subjective and
associative, associative meaning we humans can see causal relationships between actions and events and sometimes indulge in quasi-magical thinking. Of course, at the same time, we appear to be the only species that can meditate on ourselves in ways other animals cannot.

The history of science has focused on ideas rather than methods. Theories are constructed based on observations and measurement of natural phenomena. It is a world of both inductive and deductive reasoning and creating hypotheses requiring testing, and in the best case can be repeated and replicated. Science likely has a lot more to teach all of us. The question still is what can Google learn from science?

No comments: