This podcast is a discussion on Big Data from a legal perspective. There’s some really interesting points here - in particular about the legal lens we operate under. The US focusses on National Security, the EU through Privacy but it would be interesting to see it persued as Property.
But what I really got out of this was an interesting way of understanding why Big Data has become such a popular and messianic figure in our culture. As Annelise Riles states:
What I noticed was that after the 2008 crisis, regulators started to lose confidence in their own understanding of how the market worked. And at the same time, because they had been trained in that neoliberal era they also didn’t have confidence in government planning because the whole neoliberal idea was governments don’t know how to plan. So imagine what it’s like to be a regulator in that situation. You simply have no idea how to control this market.
I’d relate this observation back to complexity. Complex systems don’t allow you to control anything in the same way that a hierarchical, simple or even complicated system would. Big data is becoming the way in which people are being fooled into thinking that control has been regained.
So I think that that idea that big data can save us from the failures of our expertise is not unique to finance. And in fact just for ordinary people, perhaps when we lose our confidence in how to choose a university or which flavour of ice cream to buy or how to choose a sexual partner, we suddenly turn to big data as a way of getting us out of our loss of expertise. So I see this turn to big data as a symptom of our sense that perhaps we’ve lost our foundations in other areas.
Over the last few decades (not just since 2008) expertise and insight have been slowly eroded by economic ideals. That everything can be simplified into a cell in a spreadsheet and a number attached to it. This simplification of complexity has done innumerable damage to our economies, societies, communities, morals and ethics that plays out in the black & white binaries of the media. We’ve lost any sense or appreciation of the complex. Instead of embracing it we sort to control it, to simplify it and establish it as ours. Big Data offers just that promise - but as with every attempt before it, economic, political, religious - will fail because it doesn’t fit. Instead it ends up contradicting itself. As Ian Bogost noted:
The thing about correlation vs causation is: statistical correlation is becoming causation. Transparency won’t help. #tyrannyofalgorithms
Source: We’re all data now: What Big Data could mean for law & policy
Image: data.path Ryoji.Ikeda - 2 shared BY-SA