Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Big data's diminishing returns

Have you ever read novels from over 100 years ago? Notice how often people were afraid something embarrassing would become public? People would commit murder to hide the fact that they were homosexual, had an illegitimate child, or any number of little secrets from their past. The only way these novels have any tension about people's secrets is if we can put ourselves in a 19th century mindset.

Okay, so there are still plenty of people alive today with a 19th century mindset. Every year there are a lot fewer of them. On the flip side, every year we have young people who are growing up with no sense of privacy. Everything they do is on social media -including all the dumb things they do. Maybe especially the dumb things they do. They joke about doing things a Victorian would have paid blackmail money to keep hidden.

So what happens when these young people become old enough and interested in public office? Embarrassing things from their past? No big deal. Everyone has embarrassing things from their past. It may actually be suspect if someone does not have skeletons in their closet. It won't be normal.

There are two groups interesting in all that data: governments and business. Governments, by their nature, don't trust the public and want to get the goods on them. Business wants to know all about someone so they can sell to them -or to do things like deny credit to people with bad medical histories. That's just creepy.

So what has the government found out? They've discovered that a lot of people hate them, so the government spooks are feeling pretty unloved. They also want to discover dark things about folks. That only works as long as people care to keep those things hidden. Will the younger generations even care? Blackmail doesn't work when no one gives a darn.

Right now businesses are very excited by the promise of big data. Every tiny bit of information about someone has market value. Past performance is a good indicator of future actions. That works as long as everyone is safely in their ruts. Big data is only predictive for fairly short periods of time in a relatively stable society. When things upset the status quo, all old data goes out the window.

Now there are big data geeks who think they know how people will behave in stressful life changing situations. They may even have a small track record. Fine, but wait until truly disruptive things knock people out of their routine -repetitively. It could be anything from war, plague, a comet strike to a new religion suddenly catching fire. Mix and match for even more confusion.

Then you have the people on the web with a number of personas totally divorced from their real selves. No one on the 'net knows for sure if you are even male or female. Then there are folks who think it's fun to game the system by feeding erroneous data into the mix. In a world where no data is deleted, the bad data pollutes the stream forever. Go ahead, Google for things that you have no interest in at all. It's fun, like throwing a tiny monkey wrench into the system.



  1. and finally all that data becomes garbage going in asnd going out

    then it gets interresting for the survivors


    1. I'm betting that the GIGO problem is getting worse by the day.

      Appeals to my dark sense of humor.

  2. I'm fascinated by all of the people who consider 'selfies' to be so important. How self absorbed can a person get ? Five pictures of their last vacation - but 23 photos of them in the restroom (don't I look Hawt!!!) :^)

    The Internet is a heck of a search engine, I'll give it that. What took days or even weeks to research can be done in an hour. Like a librarian who pulls the materials to your screen for your pleasure. Throwing a few random searches does seem like sweet justice but watch out - you may recieve some unsolicited catalogs in the mail that might cause some comment by significant other.

    1. The Internet is a huge resource and most people don't even realize how hard research could be in the past.

      I don't get "selfies," and I've a pretty big ego. . . not that big, I guess.

  3. I would love to go to Alaska - it's on my bucket list. I spend a lot of time looking at pictures and such. I cannot tell you how many ads for cruises, vacations, and real estate I would get before I downloaded Ad Blocker! (but they still pop up on Weatherbug).

    1. When I get ads for odd and crazy stuff that doesn't interest me, I know those little monkey wrenches are doing their job. :)

  4. One of the best compliments I've ever received, was when James Dakin of The Bisonprepper blog started a fund raising drive for me recently. Proving to me that he believes me to be an honest man.
    No greater compliment can be given in my mind with all the deciet on the net....
    One day I wish to meet him in person, along with you there are few .
    Maybe this year, I and the Dragon lady will have to take a drive to whichever spot of Floriduh ya visit. In the past it seems work always got in the way of catching up with you and the Mrs. Won't be an issue this year, seeing how I'll still be confined to chair in seems lol.

    PS...always a place for your truck and trailer here, if ya want to explore the east side of the intracoastal....

    1. I do want to visit the east coast and thanks for the invite. It would be a pleasure to visit.

  5. I guess with the newer generation, blackmailers will be going out of business.