A new study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in Science Express in February 2011 estimates that the global storage capacity for digital information totals around one billion gigabytes. How much is that you ask? “Picture a stack of CD-ROMs reaching from the floor beneath your desk to 80,000 kilometers beyond the moon”.
Counterpoint to Big Data vs. Little Data – start with the fundamentals.
It’s already hardly comprehensible! Yet, the same study also estimates that storage capacity is growing by approximately 58% per year.
It’s mesmerizing and exciting all at the same time. What’s most fascinating is not the overwhelming pressure this is putting on technical systems and infrastructures for storage itself. Instead, it’s about the mind-boggling gargantuan pool of data that’s being created and the explicit need for humans and technology to work intimately together to mine it, understand it and, most of all, action on it. If effectively managed, the impact on both business and individuals could be enormous. See #9 in our Top 10 Trends for 2012.
As an example, according to a study conducted by MGI, “if US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent.”
There’s little debate about the deluge of potential lying in that gargantuan data pool. There’s also no doubt that, although technology has created this situation, technology itself is mining intelligence like never before. “Given enough raw data, today’s algorithms and powerful computers can reveal new insights that would previously have remained hidden”.
But technology is not enough. The real power lies in man and technology working together. There is real danger in emphasizing “machine insight that might make sense to the underlying underestimating algorithm but not to any human being. Instead of a “black box” that spits out answers … think about the value of a “glass box” that allows the human analyst to understand how the machine reached its conclusion and add to it with human insight”
So if the human element is the differentiator between the ability to mine the data and the ability to extract the nuggets of gold, then it’s imperative that businesses invest in the developing those skills and resources now. MGI forecasts “there will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions”
The old adage that knowledge is power has never been truer. The businesses that harness data through the assimilation of human wisdom and technical science will be the winners.