Big data: the information revolution

Multivac weighs all sorts of known factors, billions of them.
It will protect you. If you are in danger of accident, it will know. If someone plans harm to you, it will know. Multivac will be able to help Earth adjust its economy and its laws for the good of all.

This is Multivac. A giant database that stores all information and puts it at human disposal.

But, of course, it only exists in Isaac Asimov’s fiction. In real life, we only call it “big data”.

The world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.
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The wonders imagined by fiction have become reality once again. But, as in Asimov’s stories, this dream-come-true is not exempt from trouble. How can such vast amount of data be managed effectively? What implications are there for privacy and security? Does hyperinformation lead to infraknowledge? And ultimately, what would be the consequences of mismanagement?

The government would have collapsed; the economy broken down.
This was the first crisis to be sparked by it—and there will be more.

Now, which of these quotes is taken from fiction and which from reality?

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Big data will be discussed at our breakout session ‘The Changing Nature of Statecraft: The Impact of Big Data‘ on November 8, 1700 to 1830, with Michael ChuiAlex KarpTodd ParkStefaan G. VerhulstLionel Jospin and Mary Robinson.

Quotes about Multivac taken from Issac Asimov’s short stories ‘Franchise’ (1955) and ‘All the troubles in the world’ (1958).

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