How Data Changed the World

It’s often said that we are in the age of information, but we often fail to appreciate just how the concept of the information age is changing over time

The latest iteration of this new era revolves around data, both collecting it and analyzing it in ways never before possible. Big Data, as it’s often called, is changing the world, and these changes are substantial. Here is how data is impacting society and what changes to expect in the future.

Improved Healthcare

The availability of robust scientific data in the latter half of the 20th century revolutionized how doctors treated diseases and provided better outcomes for patients. However, the ever-increasing flow of new data has made it nearly impossible for doctors and even large medical organizations to make sense of what the best and latest information is saying. By relying on machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools, powerful computer systems using sophisticated algorithms can seek out signals that would be lost in the noise using more traditional statistical tools. Furthermore, digital imaging, when paired with large databases, can serve as invaluable tools for diagnosing a growing number of conditions. Tools powered by Big Data won’t replace doctors for the foreseeable future, but patients should expect to see their doctors working with increasingly powerful systems.

New Jobs

Some are concerned that Big Data will displace jobs, but experts are torn on what the overall effect will be. However, one factor is clear: New jobs are being created for those with expertise in Big Data and its associated technologies. Data scientists, in particular, are finding insatiable demand among companies and other organizations, and this trend is only expected to accelerate in the coming years. Big Data also requires software developers to implement algorithms developed by data scientists and mathematicians; IT experts are also needed to ensure the increasingly complex computer systems used to run programs are reliable. More high-paying jobs will be available to those who qualify, and students and employees are beginning to change their focus.

City Management

Running a city is always a challenging task. With Big Data, however, comes new opportunities alongside new challenges. Instead of having to rely on surveys and manually tracking how people move throughout an area, cities can instead rely on sensor-derived data, providing far greater resolution and a pool of data to draw from orders of magnitude larger than ever before available. Many of these advances may seem a bit mundane at first; developing improved traffic routes, for example, is unlikely to garner many headlines. However, these changes lead to concrete improvements, saving travelers time and improving overall quality of life. Furthermore, Big Data-derived improvements can inform city planners when deciding which direction their cities will take in the future. Before launching large and expensive projects, city managers will be able to look at information gleaned from Big Data to determine what the long-term effects will be, potential changing cities in fundamental ways.

Cutting Back on Energy Waste

When it comes to cutting back on carbon emissions, new forms of energy and major new regulations often garner the most attention. However, energy experts have long known that one of the most powerful ways to fight global warming is to improve energy efficiency. When it comes to cutting back on waste, all interested parties can benefit from Big Data. Power companies can use smart meters and other sensors to better determine when to generate energy and where to send it, letting them avoid energy going to waste. Government officials can better develop programs to encourage more efficient consumption through taxes and financial incentives, and Big Data is invaluable for informing these programs. Even individuals can benefit. Power companies are increasingly sending customers more detailed data about their power consumption and how they can cut back on their usage by changing when they use energy. Industrial entities consume a tremendous amount of energy, but large manufacturers and other companies can reduce their energy usage by coordinating with their energy providers.

Securing Technology

Our world is increasingly reliant on computer technology, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down for the foreseeable future. While the Digital Age comes with tremendous advantages in terms of convenience and efficiency, it also comes with risks: Data breaches, in particular, are notoriously difficult to prevent. However, Big Data, when combined with artificial intelligence, has proven itself a powerful tool in the fight against cybercrime, and collaboration and data-sharing have the potential to make networks far more difficult to compromise. Big Data analysis is largely about finding patterns, and locating malicious entities through the clues they leave can allow cybersecurity experts to respond promptly. Even if vulnerabilities exist, data analysis can allow organizations to respond while an attack is underway to mitigate or even prevent breaches. It should be noted, however, that the tools used in Big Data present risks as well. Sensors, in particular, can be compromised and used in botnets or for other malicious activities. Ensuring systems are secure is crucial for making the most of Big Data and its associated technologies.

Better Human-Computer Interaction

People often dread being faced with an automated phone systems. Lengthy menu options, for example, can make it difficult for users to find the information they’re seeking. Armed with Big Data, providers can deliver faster, more accurate, and more reliable interactions, leading to a smoother experience for customers. Furthermore, these systems can learn over time, providing faster help and cutting back on the cost needed to provide excellent customer service. Big Data plays on role in this endeavor in several ways: Voice recognition has improved dramatically thanks to Big Data and machine learning, and many self-help systems have reached the critical mass needed to reliably estimate what services customers are seeking. Computer-based help systems are coming, and Big Data has the potential to make them even better than human-run systems.

The Information Age is still in full effect, but it’s evolving along the way. With the Internet of Things growing at a staggering rate and artificial intelligence experiencing a renaissance, it’s little wonder that Big Data is taking center stage. Significant change has already occurred thanks to Big Data, and the way we live our personal and professional lives will be affected significantly as the technology continues to evolve.