Will big data reinvent science?

Posted on February 16, 2012  /  0 Comments

We thought it would only be social science. But all science?

The trend of looking for commonalities and overlapping interests is emerging in many parts of both academia and business. At the ultrasmall nanoscale examination of a cell, researchers say, the disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics begin to collapse in on each other. In a broader search for patterns, students of the statistical computing language known as R have used methods of counting algae blooms to prove patterns of genocide against native peoples in Central America. Online marketers look at your behavior in a number of contexts to sell you something you may not even know you wanted.

While it is attractive to contemplate the way everything may become connected to everything else, it presents a number of large challenges. The lab research model has been important for over a century in both scientific advancement and product development; soon it may also have to accommodate a search for truth based only on pattern-spotting. Nearer term, companies will have to make tough choices about where to invest and which signals to watch. Trying to do everything will still amount to doing nothing.

NYT blog.

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