Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger herald its benefits:
Once we datafy things, we can transform their purpose and turn the information into new forms of value. For example, IBM was granted a U.S. patent in 2012 for “securing premises using surface-based computing technology” — a technical way of describing a touch-sensitive floor covering, somewhat like a giant smartphone screen. Datafying the floor can open up all kinds of possibilities. The floor could be able to identify the objects on it, so that it might know to turn on lights in a room or open doors when a person entered. Moreover, it might identify individuals by their weight or by the way they stand and walk. It could tell if someone fell and did not get back up, an important feature for the elderly. Retailers could track the flow of customers through their stores. Once it becomes possible to turn activities of this kind into data that can be stored and analyzed, we can learn more about the world — things we could never know before because we could not measure them easily and cheaply.
Derek Mead passes along the above video:
As photographer Rick Smolan tells it, Big Data is now like the internet was in 1993: People are just learning what it’s about, and people are just figuring out what it is. But then you hear Google CEO Eric Schmidt say things like “There was 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing…People aren’t ready for the technology revolution that’s going to happen to them.” Then you realize that, like the early Web, we’re not sure where Big Data is headed yet.