Petabyte Age: Because More Isn't Just More - More Is Different

Chris Anderson, Wired, Issue 16.07, July 2008, Jun 23, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"The End of Science" proclaims the cover of the July 2008 issue of Wired magazine. This article by Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, author of The Long Tail), is deliberately provocative. Anderson claims that the availability of large data sets spells the end of theories, models, hypotheses and testing. "Big Data" makes all of these obsolete, as all you need is to see what the data reveals. To me, this is an incredibly naive view of science, as large data sets still need to be understood, interpreted, and explained to others. We construct our worlds out of sets of symbols, and the same data, whether it is massive or not, can be used to paint many different pictures. Most revealing in the many examples that follow Anderson's essay are the examples where visualization techniques, statistical algorithms, and data reduction procedures try to make sense of the overwhelming amount of sheer information that is available. All these techniques require theories, models and rules. End of science? Not likely! -GW
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