Elon University

The 2012 Survey: What is the potential future influence of Big Data by 2020? (Anonymous Responses)

Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.

Big Data Survey CoverAnonymous responses to a tension pair on Big Data and the Internet in 2020

This page includes anonymous survey participants’ contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and Big Data by 2020. This is one of eight questions raised by the 2012 Elon UniversityPew Internet survey of technology experts, stakeholders, and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Imagining the Internet Director Janna Quitney Anderson and Pew Internet Directory Lee Rainie July 20, 2012.

In a recent survey about the likely future of the Internet, technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split when it came to imagining what role Big Data may play by 2020.

>To read the official study report, please click here.<

>To read credited responses by participants in answer to this question, click here.<

Following is a large sample of the responses from survey participants who took credit for their remarks when sharing their thoughts in the survey. Some are longer versions of responses that were edited to fit in the official report. About half of the respondents chose to remain anonymous and half took credit for their remarks (for-credit responses are published on a separate page).

Survey participants were asked, “What impact will Big Data have in 2020? What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate? How will use of Big Data change analysis of the world, change the way business decisions are made, change the way that people are understood?” They answered:

“Data is not information, and information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Conducting things as they had been conducted up-to-date, the finest information will serve ‘elastic’ statistics, neo-Nazi supremacy visions, wars based on ‘reliable intelligence relative to mass destruction weapons’ or faked president elections. The ethic-control thing will turn more and more important as the power of the Internet gives power to some men.”

“The more that data sets are open and accessible, entrepreneurial Web-savvy types will harness that raw material for different ends, and many times these may be philanthropic. We will see more visual representations of large data sets that will enable people to see the impacts of their activities as they play out in other parts of the world. Big Data will be used to forecast and predict, more simulations will be played out, and these simulations will help people to understand the complexity of our correlation to each other, as beings on this planet and beyond. People will try to ‘fix’ or ‘game’ scenarios based on simulations. We’ve already seen this in the past decade with the Wall Street crisis, but systems of this size and complexity are dynamic and self-regenerative. The realization of dynamic and emergent systems as a natural order will cause people to realize the foolishness of trying to game systems to the Nth degree. We will see the rise of more algorithmic thinking among average people, and the application of increasingly sophisticated algorithms to make sense of large-scale financial, environmental, epidemiological, and other forms of data. Innovations will be lauded as long as they register a blip in the range of large-scale emergent phenomena.”

“This depends on your definition of a positive use of Big Data. It is unquestionably a great time to be a mathematician who is thrilled by unwieldy data sets. While many can be used in constructive, positive ways to improve life and services for many, it will predominantly be used feed people ads based on their behavior and friends, to analyze risk potential for health and other forms of insurance, and to essentially compartmentalize people and expose them more intensely to fewer and fewer things.”

“‘Big Data’ will be by far the biggest driver for the next tech revolution. Overall, it is a positive thing, as it makes society more ‘intelligent.’ However, significant risks need to be managed properly.”

“There will be many mistakes and other negative consequences from all this, with issues of privacy, security, and just plain erroneous input or calculations. The potential for breathtaking good, however, is much higher than the potential for disaster.”

“Big Data will remain a challenge, and although enhanced techniques give more power to its users and analysts, the amount of data will keep growing enough to allow us to mine that data for all kinds of social and scientific uses, yet requiring advanced techniques and knowledge to regain any important insight from said data.”

“The ability to collect and analyze Big Data is analogous to the scientific revolution presented by telescopes and microscopes of the past. It will allow humans to see, analyze, and understand the world in ways beyond those available to the immediate human senses. In particular, Big Data will allow us to understand in more detail large geographic and temporal scale events more quickly and accurately than previously possible.”

“Big Data has many downside risks but higher potential to enable the smarter planet.”

“Human nature won’t change. It’s going to be mostly negative.”

“It’s both. Posing this as an either/or misses the point. Those who analyze the data will be able to make prescient predictions and terrible ones. But I do question our ability to glean signal from noise, even with all our computing power harnessed.”

“I think many places will misread the vast quantity of data, and that it will take time to many people/organizations to learn to navigate Big Data, but I assume that will be mostly in place by 2020. Big Data already is making people realize there is so much more information out there to be digested in newer and different ways. I consider the use of Big Data a big boon for society (understanding that it will take time to learn how to harness it).”

“Big Data still needs to be analyzed by a person. Information can be presented and then churned out, but there will always be a need for a person to provide insights on what the data means. Is this a negative? No. It just means that we must be tooled to learn how to analyze information. For instance, if a system determined that apple eating was a cause of cancer and all who believed in the data, how would that impact the apple market? The answer: People would stop eating apples. Common sense tells us to be skeptical and to ask questions. Hopefully this will not change going forward.”

“We are seeing the positive scenario emerging today in research universities and hospitals. Today we have seen the cost of gene-sequencing devices that generate terabits of data reduced in cost to the point where they are now found on almost every research university. Science is moving from a model of hypothesis to data mining to find the patterns that exist in these large data sets. Big Data is here today and will be ‘bigger data’ in 2020.”

“There will be mistakes but the importance of machine to machine is the connection of devices, particularly sensors, to machines that help us manage our lives. Whether that be sensors in the home on the electrical systems and appliances to detect possible problems or faults or sensors on the body to provide real time, remote monitoring for patients with chronic diseases. With real-time sensing over a length of time, it should be possible see possible trends that require attention ahead of time. These types of services can help individuals immensely.”

“Big Data will be positive. Misuse by powerful people with selfish agendas, and manipulation of data already exist and will not be made greater by access to more information.”

“Big Data will be great, however, people cannot completely rely on Big Data. There must be checks and balances to ensure that it isn’t a negative for society.”

“We will have much more use of Big Data in society. This may be one of those areas where the historical ‘winners’ are the ones who end up writing the history. We are starting to see this now in parts of the academic world, such as the sciences, where a love for simulation is perhaps starting to displace actual observation in the field, resulting in a strong (yet false) confidence in digital interpretations.”

“I am in between. Big Data will be incredibly useful. And humans will retain their ability to deceive and self-deceive.”

“I wish I could fence straddle on this one. The rise of Big Data must be met by a rise in consumers’ ability to evaluate evidence. Without that, we will have more problems than solutions by 2020.”

“I wish it were the former, but we live in the age where global corporations are more powerful than our own incompetent and corrupt government.”

“I suspect that Big Data will be a huge issue, as I suspect that individuals will not have the expertise nor computing power to identify and spot trends, so that corporations and wealthy individuals will have the ability to spot market trends before average investors or users, making investing a much more lottery like proposition. Individuals will rely on experts in the field who release findings (without a way for the average person to spot bullshit data).”

“Access to large volumes of data will make it easier to analyze and develop knowledge. An example is how data from space telescopes posted for the public to analyze led to two amateurs discovering new planets.”

“Currently, we continue to re-evaluate and strengthen statistical analyses and reporting methods to address the issues raised by the second answer.”

“Information is good. Full stop.”

“If Big Data is controlled by government and corporations (unfortunately, increasingly the same thing), then it will only be accessible by a powerful elite, and it will be used to manipulate and mislead. Data is mutable in context, and it is only the review and use by many eyes that ultimately gives it meaning (and makes it accurate). For example, there are many devices and processes that can collect a tremendous amount of data about the ocean ecology. British Petroleun kept the scholars away, and data was suppressed and ultimately lost. The Big Data was there. The Big Data was not shared, access was rigidly constrained to those with a vested interest and an agenda, and the opportunity to increase understanding about the implications of oil spills on ocean ecology was lost. The irony is that, in the long term, this understanding would have been of service to BP as well as the public. If Big Data is writ small, analyses widely available without too many limits, knowledgeable people in our social network and integration of communication/collaboration/content tools to help facilitate understanding about context and implications, and continuing commitment by educational institutions to help people evaluate information and critically think about it, then Big Data will lead to new understanding of the world. If Big Data is monetized and people can afford it, then it will be a powerful tool for the individual as a consumer, citizen, and (in the case of academia) the scholar.”

“It will be a combination of the two, though it will largely be positive. Although, data is always open to abuse and misuse, experts will still be required to make intelligent interpretations of the data and more must be done to maintain the balance of power and access to information between the citizen and the state in this new Big Data era.”

“If Big Data is used by intelligent people, futurists will have a useful tool that can help people around the world prepare and adjust to change.”

“There is a danger in trusting algorithms so completely. Without a way to understand the rules of the analysis there is a risk of utterly erroneous predictions. Without improved tools, the ability to interact with Big Data will remain in the hands of a technical elite.”

“Big Data will offer some social good, but it will undoubtedly raise many questions and problems.”

“Open access to large sets of data enables humans to bring a variety of analytical skills to work on common problems. Look at the success of crowd-sourcing or what a diversity of professional backgrounds can do to a single dataset. Look at all the amazing tools created by census data!”

“Most of these two scenarios will happen simultaneously. The Internet of Things will make us more intelligent, forward-thinking, responsive, and capable than ever before. It will also inflate our sense of security and be misused. Of course, this same data and its ease of access will give the public recourse to respond to false claims, to hold charlatan’s accountable, etc. Again, this question seems to be less about what’s around the bend than how to feel about it. I am a 20-something female. So long as ‘information is power,’ the march of progress is on my side. Sure, there will be ‘societal’ negatives to a world with a huge Internet of Things in it, but the world sucks now, too. Today the world is run by selfish people—mostly white men—and people have been manipulating findings for centuries. It will stay that way nine years out, but at least, with the Internet and more people like me out there, squawking, we have a shot at defending ourselves—and so much more!”

“There has always been a potential for good and bad use of data and those with bigger pockets will have greater influence as has always been the case. Good use of data is possible in healthcare to allow people to track their personal health, mesh that data with other datasets and so benchmark personal behavior in order to lead a healthier life. Personal data exchanges such as Twitter now allows us to learn about disasters such as the recent earthquake and hurricane faster than traditional news sources. Predictive modeling will allow us to obtain even more information relevant to our location and thus have the potential to save lives. Predictive purchasing patterns will benefit big business but also allow small businesses to tap into previous unavailable product and service demand data and so improve economic prosperity.”

“I chose the positive option because groups like Pew Research will also be able to have their reading of Big Data. The multiplicity of actors will make it harder to manipulate data. But we might fall dispossessed of our lives in a wider extent that today by data allowing to individuate causal factors to social or economical changes at a very high level of causality.”

“Big Data will be fantastic for science/medicine. Big Data will be horrible for democracy unless we change laws regulating political speech.”

“Black swan theory will come to the fore. We’ve already seen it in the stock market—seeking alpha.”

“The rise of Big Data is a huge positive for society in nearly all respects. The fear of ‘false confidence’ is not unfounded, but it is not specific to Big Data; it is an issue for the analysis of any data sets. The same is true for the concern of misused of Big Data by powerful people and institutions. Controls/management/security measures will have to evolve as well to protect the integrity of Big Data.”

“As long as society doesn’t lose sight of the importance of relying on ourselves to be responsible for our personal information and utilizing this technology without becoming completely dependent on it, we’ll be fine.”

“But any movement toward investing ourselves in Big Data has to come with a better public understanding of how data works and what data means.”

“It’s hard to imagine that we can draw conclusions and make analytical assumptions without having time to think through the numbers and to consider outside factors that could be skewing the data.”

“The more we know, the better off we are. There will always be people or companies that are willing to manipulate data for greed, but that won’t be pervasive enough to prevent the good of Big Data to outweigh the bad.”

“The second scenario is too bleak and the first is too sunny. The betterment of data analysis will only make it easier for humans to continue doing what they’ve always done, just a little more efficiently. It will not improve our ability to predict the future or forecast events. Humans will continue to be as flawed as they ever were. The technology will help fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people, and certainly not all of the time.”

“Ignoring outliers and minority experience are big issues. I don’t know that it will be a Internet big negative, but I don’t know that it will be a Internet big positive either.”

“Big Data excitement will have come and gone by 2020.”

“I am glass half-full. Large data sets do improve social, political, and economic intelligence and bring about huge positives for society. However, there are negatives from this as well, and the misuse of information or the misinterpretation of information will always lead to negatives.”

“It’s a simple case of Murphy’s Law. If something can go wrong, it will.”

“While there are problems with anything, the Internet has opened up the world to more of a global economy and we will learn more about each other and work better with each other as a result.”

“Big Data will never replace real research, because Big Data is too dirty—garbage in, garbage out.”

“I’d like to land somewhere in between here. There are growing privacy concerns, but I don’t think it’s as dire as the second scenario presented. We will have more options for controlling how our data is used.”

“Information overload—the information you do not need or want—will keep hounding you. The necessary info will be lost which will affect us negatively.”

“Big Data can have a positive impact, but it’s the same as for data now. It can be read or used in both positive and negative ways. We will have to study and understand it and realize that both positive and negative outcomes are possible with the same information and that it is possible to misuse the data and that of course there will be people or organizations that try to bend it for their own purposes. The benefits will outweigh the problems.”

“There is no evidence to support that large datasets per se improve forecasting capabilities.”

“Big Data will need to be done by real people who understand the benefits and limitations of statistical analysis. Losing track of smaller groups—minorities or the disenfranchised—is a real risk. See decision-making theory for improved understanding.”

“Big Data has certainly been helpful to those of us in marketing. But it is often dead wrong when it comes to specific data about a small group of individuals. This can lead to disastrous results—e.g. mistakes on credit reports. Also, it is all to easy to misinterpret the cause and effect when analyzing these data sets.”

“What drives all this stuff is profit from a working business model. Until they figure a way to make a big profit from Big Data it’s going to stay small potatoes. You also can’t paint it black and white. There may be some positives and some negatives to it all, just as there are to the Web today. The Wiki concept enables widespread sharing of information, and business would love to figure out how to clamp down and charge for it, but they can’t, yet. The same tool can be misused for propaganda because people don’t check facts. Aggregators try to convince us all their homespun amateur content is valid in order to sell advertising. Probably 80% or more of the Web today is garbage, or is being used to conduct business without people by making us do our own airline bookings for example. It all can be for the good, but it’s going to have to sort itself out, and the market itself will determine how it goes, not futurists and forecasters.”

“To answer this just ask yourself who owns Big Data; the answer is big business; big business runs politicians, ergo government, and look at the mess we are in.”

“We will have this knowledge. What is done with it is completely beyond our ability to forecast.”

“In 2012, we collect terabytes of data on every conceivable thing via the Internet, but the data is woefully under utilized. Groups that champion social equality, environmental justice, democracy, or health will by 2020 have a very friendly user interface where this data can be analyzed for helpful statistics. Data in 2020 will also be accessible by its providers, you and me, with new electronic rights granted by the Supreme Court.”

“Again, the truth lay somewhere in between, but society will not be comfortable enough for Big Data and the Internet of Things to be this big by 2020.”

“Big Data will allow government to make predictions/forecasts and then implement policy. Given the fact that they claim to use data now to make decisions and then make huge mistakes, huge amounts of data do not mean better decisions. Decisions will still be made for political reasons, and the data will be made to fit, not the other way around. The idea of Big Data will just be used to lend greater false credence to politically made decisions.”

“What is the missing from the ‘Big Data’ argument is the fact that we are still very early in dealing with unstructured data sets. That heterogeneity of data streams will create more of a damper than our ability to predict will.”

“There will be a Big Data disaster, but the overall result will be positive.”

“There always has been and always will be conflicting data and myriad sources from which that conflicting data is disseminated. It is how the data is interpreted and acted upon by the individuals seeking and using the data that matters. Therefore, who knows what will happen? We have dumbed-down education to such a pitiful degree that I am fearful that data will not be able to be interpreted at all by individuals who just don’t have the skills necessary to comprehend, let alone interpret data effectively.”

“It could go either way. Privacy concerns on use of personal data raised by companies like Facebook make it hard for me to believe that getting to safe, usable ‘Big Data’ is going to be simple or painless. I suspect large leaks of personal information will continue, ala Wells Fargo mortgage information, and hackers will have a field day getting to the Big Databases. On the other hand, the value of Big Data in tracking medical problems, political abuses, and safety issues has the potential to greatly improve our lives. How we can get the good without the bad is hard to picture at this stage.”

“Isaac Asimov was a genius. It will be a mix of both the positive and the negative, but people being what they are and the US political system cracking along its fault lines by the minute, I fear the balance will tip toward the second scenario. The ins and outs of the banking debacle amply demonstrate our inability to cope with powerful data-driven global institutions.”

“There will be problems, but overall a positive impact on society.”

“Seems to me we need more data-driven decision-making.”

“While there will be people and institutions who will use Big Data for self-interested reasons, I think there will be adequate structures in place to cause it to be mostly used in a positive manner.”

“The Big Data shift is not particularly new. It’s the culmination of a number of factors, including the increasing demand for data-driven decision making in all sectors, the increasing availability of numerical data and analytics about almost anything (a result of growing computing capacity and networks on which to share it), and the rise of shared resources in so many other contexts. The issue will be maintaining the ‘freedom’ of Big Data, so it is available and not just under control by governments, corporate and other political interests. Given our traditional distrust of such influences and our heightened awareness of the risks associated with the politicization of data (think climate change), I believe we can and will take steps to preserve the independence of data.”

“While the negative scenario seems to be sliding toward a world found in the movie Minority Report, it’s more likely to be this world than the second one described. Just as newspaper publishers have tried to predict the outcome of US presidential races in the past, and published the wrong outcome, the same thing will happen with ‘Big Data’ and predictive modeling. But, that won’t completely undermine the public’s faith in all analysis, as many predictions will be accurate. The ‘hit rate’ will dictate the level of confidence in the system. And, as time goes on, algorithm will get better and become more ‘scary’ as they seemingly predict the future. Just as the public has had a general mistrust of big government now and information put out by the government, I think the same will happen (a healthy skepticism) with Big Data. And, just as we all cite government data now when it suits us, we will do the same with the outcome of Big Data analysis.”

“Data won’t solve our problems, but like current scientific data, it gives rise to more questions, deeper exploration. That’s a plus. Yes, there will be those who twist data to their own ends.”

“I agree with the content but not the dire tone of this selection. Our ‘analytics’ are increasingly distant from theory. There is no doubt that spurious correlations exist in massive data sets/stores. There will be a period in which rampant decision-making will take place devoid of theory and get people into trouble. There will then be a period of frustrated expectations and a plateau in which appropriate precautions associated with appropriate uses of Big Data will become the norm.”

“The issues over the control/ownership of data will be around for a long time. I don’t think enough data is currently held by or open to enough non-partisan/non-profit oriented groups to create a long-term benefit to society.”

“As we increasingly rely on complex statistics to analyze large-scale behavior, it is far, far too easy for people to use these tools to produce the answers they want. Witness Vice President Cheney’s in-person visits to the CIA, bypassing the previous administrations’ strict controls that were intended to maintain objectivity in security briefings. It has always been tempting to give people the answers they want; when there is so much data available, it is ever easier, especially when most of the people creating the reports have little or limited understanding of statistics and analytics. History has shown repeatedly that leaders ultimately don’t want accurate forecasts as much as they want data that supports the conclusions they’ve already reached. That is what will get paid for, that is what will drive a lot of business and political decisions, until there are enough big failures that people generally begin to understand the limitations of the technology.”

“By 2020, there will not be enough emphasis on critical-thinking skills to prevent the second scenario. Add to that the fact that entities and organizations will react to protect what they already have, and the fact that human beings are incredibly short-sighted, and the power to make decisions is largely in the hands of an influential elite few, and I think the second option is going to be the norm by 2020.”

“Like so many things, this has the potential for great good and great evil. In a society built on self-interest and greed, this type of information has the potential to benefit large corporations who won’t use it for the public good! But I think whenever we pull together disparate ‘bits’ of information we can do great things and I think this will be a positive development if there are adequate controls around its usage.”

“While I see many, many positive uses coming out of what I see as the inevitable proliferation of Big Data, I think that there will be a differential of access to the data and a spin put on the data that is accessed in a way that I don’t see as positive. I think for example of the ways in which mapping of data points geographically has allowed hyper-focusing in political organizing, some of which is great, but has also allowed political bosses to more carefully draw political districts to pre-determine political outcomes.”

“However, privacy abuses, hacking and human fallibility will mean there will be data problems— always.”

“Thanks to many changes, including the building of ‘the Internet of Things,’ human and machine analysis of large data sets will improve social, political, and economic intelligence by 2020. The rise of what is known as ‘Big Data’ will facilitate things like ‘nowcasting’ (real-time ‘forecasting’ of events); the development of ‘inferential software’ that assesses data patterns to project outcomes; and the creation of algorithms for advanced correlations that enable new understanding of the world. Overall, the rise of Big Data is a huge positive for society in nearly all respects.”

“Data that feeds back to the user will generally be generally helpful in making tech and the world work better. That is not to min the challenge of privacy and misuse of data. This is really not an either/or.”

“The data deluge is a good thing. Large datasets can be mined and visualized to elucidate patterns that have not been ever possible. The availability of large datasets is not the issue, but how people choose to use this information for policy decisions that benefit humanity (or not.)  As an example of large datasets, scientists continue to collect voluminous data from imaging techniques from earthquake and ocean sensors, satellites, and space probes. The 2D and 3D visualizations are able to help scientists explain changes to our planet and predict future changes. Inferential software can be wrong, but I believe the developers of those tools will be making tools for the greater good, so better software will be developed when bugs are found.”

“Most Big Data projects will have problems equivalent to Netflix’s Napoleon Dynamite problem: anomalies that will tell more about human nature and choices than the programmed results.”

“It certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, and the ethical use of Big Data is definitely a concern; however the possibilities are greater for its positive use.”

“I’m going for the positive, but really I’d answer none of the above. Apart from financial markets, who may have learned an important lesson about Big Data in 2008, I don’t see any areas where Big Data can and will be leveraged to the extent to create big problems. It will effect marketing importantly and mostly at the margins. And I don’t see democracies adopting a Big Data-based from of psycho-history as a form of governance.”

“We may not be comfortable with all of the findings but the availability of better and more complete predictive information will be useful.”

“Without proper social controls, Big Data will have a negative impact.”

“The economic crashes and financial volatility and the general helplessness of global leadership to understand what is going on, much less manage or control the global system, basically demonstrate what will happen when Big Data and Internet of Things as explained in scenario one take place.”

“Chaos is preferable.”

“Big Data is the shit for the next years. It doesn’t matter if that’s a good thing or not. It’s coming for good. Most of the time.”

“Like any technology, the potential for abuse is always there and at some point it will be abused.”

“The mistake in the second choice (which I picked) is in saying that Big Data will serve the majority. This is wrong: it will serve capitalist and state power.”

“Data can definitely be misused and given the past history of this, we can expect that it will be misused by those in power.”

“Will people have the analytic skills to both use Big Data and/or to understand (and question) conclusions based on data?”

“I have to be optimistic, but in this field there are equal chances that things could go in the right or in the wrong direction. A risk is that the Big Data available could be used—in a Wild West of privacy rights—as a new gold mine for aggressive Internet companies. It will depend very much on the capacity governments (and the future Internet governance bodies) will have to avoid the risk that the data provided by the Internet of Things (IoT) will become the same that is today the data derived from search engines. In terms of benefits from IoT for the environment, I don’t believe that their impact will be so relevant as you could believe. It will take a lot of time to standardize and to integrate existing networks and the databases of IoT. None of the existing companies will accept being maginalized via the IoT game; there will be fierce resistance to integration.”

“Big Data will have impact; a lot will depend upon the usage and applications.”

“Big Data will be good only when used by responsible people.”

“This is already happening. We have too many people who think that more data somehow imparts knowledge, or that simply applying some data mining technique will result in deeper understanding of the world.  What many fail to realize is that if the wrong things are measured, no useful conclusions can be drawn: simply collecting data is not sufficient. Data must be reduced to information, and knowledge must be used to interpret that information correctly. ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ is only amplified by having more data processed by computers.”

“The negative outcome reads like a Luddite criticism of machinery. I don’t know that I’d sign up for ‘huge positive’ and ‘all aspects’. There are definite issues around big data and its use that need societal and government oversight, but I expect Big Data to be a significant net positive.”

“I agree with all the negatives and also believe that the incorrectness and misapplications will be quickly rebutted. As the world becomes more chaotic (climate change only one instance) ‘forecasters’ will be eating humble pie every day.”

“Elements of both are likely, but my predictions tend toward the dystopian.”

“All of the problems stated exist today—they will be increased only in proportion to the number of people and volume of data involved—an inescapable consequence.”

“Two points: First: Big Data is not Big Knowledge. We are opening a fire hose of data pointed at ourselves, but aside from developing higher density storage, we’re not doing much in terms of handling it. Major challenges here will be developing ‘perceptual filters’ for these data flows (analogous to the ones in our minds that allow us to, for example, not spend the whole day paying attention to the fact we’re wearing socks): throwing away data points that are not likely to become knowledge, that are not likely to ever be accessed, that will only serve to take up space on a hard drive and complicate further analysis of interesting events. Second: legal protections for the citizenry (in those jurisdictions which are not decidedly autocratic) are lacking, and will be essential to prevent corporate or governmental abuse of the insights available about people through widely aggregated data, as well as through new surveillance techniques.”

“In 2020, few people understand ‘Big Data’ as no more than conventional 20th century statistics applied to variables measuring highly superficial and ephemeral presences in physical and cyber space. This information will continue to be imbued with magical power to predict, but will nonetheless fail to determine the unplanned behavior of individuals who are subject to highly emergent social cues. The rise of Big Data is not a negative, but many will lose interest as the cost to acquire and maintain the data exceeds the derived benefit.”

“We still haven’t figured out the implications of Chaos Theory, and if ‘Big Data’ and futurecasting aren’t perfect examples of chaos-based information, then I don’t know what is. Generically, we’re not prepared for this great a lack of privacy; we’re even less prepared for data of this magnitude available only to the powerful, rich, or connected.”

“Large databases are very difficult to manipulate, in practice. Large stores of valuable data are notoriously difficult to secure against breach. These tend to limit the utility, and maximize the risk, associated with very large collections of data. As legislators and courts become more familiar with these issues, personal privacy legislation will protect people in some areas, while lack of consumer power will render other areas uninteresting. Only in the Wild West of the United States and Australia will consumers with valuable identities be unprotected.”

“Big Data will provide enormous social and economic value. The fears of new technology like Big Data have always been overblown.”

“We don’t have much social and political will to do good things with even revelatory sets of data, but I expect we’ll continue to have both the patient and meticulous analysts who turn Big Data into valuable knowledge and the people and organizations who wield Big Data with negative results. The forces for openness of data are two fairly strong examples of the culture of open source and the widespread belief in crowd-sourcing. I expect good outcomes on balance, but it will take continuous effort and education.”

“The lack of adequate assessment of where ‘government by algorithm’ is leading is/should be a major social and political concern. But because ‘we’ now feel that government is the problem, we’ve handed everything over to the private sector, which remains too focused only on bottom lines and not on social outcomes that won’t be evident before the next product cycle.”

“We are on a path that will make very large datasets available to study the world around us. The emergence of ubiquitous, high-speed wireless environments will enable the deployment of low-cost sensors. These sensors will provide unprecedented quantities of data. Businesses are presently leading the way in ‘predictive analytics.’ Government has recently become attentive to such tools. In the near term (2020), these big data sets will begin coming on-line and professional analysts will begin using the information to make informed policy choices. Over the longer-term, the potential for abuse is strong. It is unclear that politically driven people will possess the will or skill to properly interpret data analyses. Any real abuses are likely to accumulated in the more distant future, beyond 2020.”

“The correct choice depends largely on our collective choice. In the end, I selected the more pessimistic scenario because that is the choice we are in right now—the one where corporations with no sense of values, morality, or conscience make choices for humans (choices affecting humans, but motivated by mere profit for shareholders). Consider the number of TV programs dedicated to ‘investing’ money compared to the number of TV programs dedicated to ending poverty. As things stand right now, there is little doubt that the second option is the correct one. But fortunately, that could change if humans decide to take charge, and return corporations to their subservient role.”

“Both outcomes will occur, concurrently, in many complex intertwined ways. Even liberal governments will feel compelled to accumulate and use data against their citizens, in many of these countries corporations run amok will do the job.”

“I do not really believe that Big Data will be abused and manipulated but I do not believe it will successfully predict social outcomes.”

“Both visions are likely to be true. It depends again on our education systems’ capacities to cope. It is also a big issue for regulators to curb unhealthy exploitation of ‘Big Data.’”

“Technology is always an added value to our intelligence, the Internet empowered individuals before it empowered institutions. There may be a need to put certain limits on this to avoid misuse.”

“Governments and civil society institutions have not been able to protect individual rights and have not been able to ensure healthy competition in the digital realm in the last two decades and it is naive to believe that suddenly laws and institutional agility will evolve on time to ensure balance and wisdom in the way big data is implemented and used.”

“I expect to see examples supporting both sides of this argument. Net-net, I’m an optimist, but there will be well-publicized mistakes along with positive impacts.”

“Tough call here as both things will be happening simultaneously, in the short run the second option will be the one taken by governments and corporations during the ‘Big Disruption’, but I’m hoping for the first one to be the final outcome as we learn to solve our planetary problems via new models of cooperation and collaboration resulting in new models and paradigms that are effective where governments and corporations are not.”

“While predictive abilities will improve, people will always overestimate their accuracy. There is a great tendency for things that eliminate small, short-term discontinuities to increase the probability and even inevitability of larger, less frequent discontinuities. If you tie together local power grids, you don’t have local power failures but you are more likely to have regional power failures. If you repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, you are less likely to have individual investment bank failures but more likely to have a banking system failure.”

“I don’t believe either of these extremes will come to pass, and certainly not within the next ten years. Too many people still misunderstand the potential upside of Big Data analysis (they only worry about ‘invasion of privacy’ and/or ‘becoming nothing more than a number in some database’) for it to receive the support and resources it still needs to deliver the kinds of Brave New World results envisioned in option one. Likewise, there are still far too many unscrupulous ‘data miners’ around today that would abuse such efforts for short-term financial gain to win over the support of the masses in these technologies.”

“Although there is a risk of misuse of our data, I think researchers and more people will have access to more data than even before. This will democratize access to it, and therefore will enable more people to use the data to improve our understanding of the world. Since more people will have access to the same kind of data, wrong predictions might be caught more easily than currently. However, I think this will also negatively affect those countries where huge amounts of data are not available. Research and the policies based on those analyses will focus on countries and socio-economic groups that have been able to generate that data.”

“I don’t think either of these will really happen because as people take control of their own data, and regulators support that, ‘Big Data’ isn’t so big, without millions of people’s permissions, or that data has to sit within the confines of a company and they can’t share the data without permission. Additionally the fact that most data is unstructured is a huge issue, and I doubt that we will solve the problems associated with getting meaning from that morass.”

“Corporate and government corruption is always a concern. However, personally I haven’t seen compelling evidence that the leveraging of large-scale data sets will provide significant insights into social, political, or economic intelligence. I believe that one day it will, but I also think that international and national law will, in the near future, prevent meaningful/useful/lucrative data sets from being constructed and exploited for good or ill.”

“Large datasets are already being used to prepare for and respond to social needs. I think this trend will continue and become more sophisticated as we get better on modeling future trends from existing data.”

“I am an optimist and believe in a true partnership between people and technologies.”

“I lean toward this being a negative for society. Money will drive access to large data sets and the power needed to analyze and act on the results of the analysis. The end result will, in most cases, be more effective targeting of people with the goal of having them consume more goods, which I believe is a negative for society. I would not call that misuse, but I would call it a self-serving agenda.”

“Apparently this ‘Internet of Things’ idea is beginning to encourage yet another round of cow-eyed Utopian thinking. Big Data will yield some successes and a lot of failures, and most people will continue merely to muddle along, hoping not to be mugged too frequently by the well-intentioned (or not) entrepreneurs and bureaucrats who delight in trying to use this shiny new toy to fix the world.”

“Big Data sadly restores the advantage of institutions over individuals, and, as usual, this will lead to divergence of European and United States contexts; in the former, the willingness to control or limit institutional (and especially commercial) prerogatives will also limit the utility of big data to those institutions. In the United States, however, the scenario will play out largely as indicated in option B.”

“Big Data will be less successful in analyzing the world than many forecasters predict (and have been predicting for decades). Nonetheless, it will be most likely to have a harmful impact because of its use by the powerful.”

“The usefulness of ‘Big Data’ is wildly overstated, in general.”

“If it is one thing I’ve learned about data is that it can be manipulated to mean anything the owner believes it should be. So, given human nature, I go with the second choice. I believe data is a good thing. It can provide clarity to issues, nature, and offer better solutions based on fact. However, the concept of ‘Big Data’ seems to something akin to a crystal ball. Somewhere along the timeline of life, logical basic understandings that root each of us to the others need to take precedence. I don’t think technology or Big Data can do that or should try to tell us the future or how or what to believe. I’m not ready for that conceptual change. Technology moves fast, people not so much.”

“More data is definitely better. Period.”

“Both outcomes will come to pass.”

“Sorry, I can’t choose anything remotely resembling either of these. I don’t believe Big Data would be a positive for society, but I don’t believe the big institutional centers that would try to take advantage of it to control it will be doing it well either.”

“Who will watch the Watchmen (and who will just download it)?”

“The situation will settle somewhere between the scenarios, with plusses and minuses.”

“Data will remain too soiled to make it useful across domains. Businesses that own the data will not be willing to share it openly.”

“It’s 1984.”

“This is not linear, but complexity and chaos theory will abound in the algorithms.”

“Big Data will produce some interesting and true predictions, but you can never fully account for complicated human behavior, which trumps all predictors.”

“It depends: on the questions, on the type of data, on what it is informing, and on how it is being read. I am afraid nuances will be lost and individual input will count less, but I think there is enough people out there who understand the importance of putting the big data into perspective.”

“I don’t trust corporations with information.”

“Unless some major political upheaval changes the balance of power in the world, Big Data will be primarily in the hands of the increasingly small group of the rich and powerful. The tendency of those with immense power is to use tools such as Big Data to increase their power. Therefore, if the current direction of international power structures continues and power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, the capabilities of Big Data will be used to further augment that power and will not be used for the good of the community.”

“Probably somewhere in the middle. There will be a lot of new data that has some benefit, but probably not as great as one might think. And some of that data will result in harmful effects, but probably not as bad as one might worry about.”

“The availability and accessibility of Big Data will impact society tremendously. Policy makers, industry consortia, and users in general all have influence how the data will be used. Various mechanisms currently exist in society—such as social networking—to empower users to start grassroots movements and affect how the data can be used constructively.”

“Technology is just a tool; it’s our institutions and values that determine how it will be used. Since I’m fairly confident in US institutions, I take the optimistic perspective.”

“I’m already seeing the problems with Big Data—reliance on data crunching without understanding.”

“Big Data will have positive influences, but it is very likely to be abused sometimes.”

“Option one would be desirable, but option two is more likely, at least for 2020. In 2020, many questions related to justice, majority vs. minority decisions, etc., will not be solved and the algorithms will still be too machine-like and not humanized enough. Option one might be a long-term scenario.”

“I want to believe it will be a positive thing because I think that it is the way we are moving. I have my doubts about human nature though.”

“The two propositions are (largely) compatible and I believe both. We’ll rely much more on large datasets, they’ll be extremely useful, and they’ll be abused.”

“I don’t believe analysis of Big Data will be predictive.”

“I don’t agree with either choice. It will be somewhere in the middle. However, Big Data will probably be a cause of reduced freedom and privacy, and it will give advantages to companies that can spend money on analysis.”

“Humanity will always have greed and corruption and deception, and this can only be mitigated by insightful analysis of fact, open sharing of information and logical decision making.”

“I hate the overall consolidation of data. Its a personal thing.”

“I chose the second paragraph mainly because the majority of people act out of naked self interest rather than altruism so I am pessimistic about the uses to which all this ‘Big Data’ will be put.”

“Big Data will be a positive force if the proper legal framework is put in place to prevent abuses.”

“We’ve already seen the impact on the stock market of reliance on algorithms and data analysis/models. Reliance on these can be self-fulfilling, to an extent, but no computer model can take all potential variables into account, and they are fragile when it comes to real events. Bubbles burst. Nothing can grow forever, not even the universe.”

“Reality will likely land us somewhere in the middle. There will be mistakes and abuse by the powerful with Big Data. And, some very poor, disadvantaged people will pay. How we can work to avoid this is a difficult question.”

“While we need to be very aware of the limitations of large data sets as a basis for social planning or predictions, such data can be enormously helpful. I am less concerned about its misuse than about political leaders who dismiss all data as irrelevant.”

“Obviously there will be positives and negatives and they will differ across the world based on technological integration, infrastructure availability and state policies. The second scenario is a textbook Orwellian vision as it denies the obvious benefits of the first outright. The utopian vision of the first scenario is unimaginatively too positive. Both are hugely problematic, but the second does get one thing right—the majority of big data is and will continue to be in the hands of corporate interests which by definition are selfish bastards.”

“Both of these things will prove true. But my optimism makes me choose the first over the second.”

“We will still be muddling through. Data analysis will be a powerful mechanism, but error and confusion will both engender false confidence (and over-reliance), with repeated unintended consequences, as well as handicap attempts to misuse it. I don’t know that I believe it will produce enormous positive or negative consequences ‘for society in nearly all respects’, although I believe that there will be painful impacts (e.g., through economic and political misforecasting) as well as important medical breakthroughs as a result of the power of the tools that it places in the hands of researchers.”

“Big Data and the Internet of Things will certainly play a big role in the shaping of the future. Based on artificial intelligence and natural language processing, they will probably be the engines for the information society of the future. That can be both good and bad.”

“Anytime societies begin to claim that technologies or other advances make forecasting more reliable or can minimize or eliminate risk, such as financial risk, people run into problems. Technology is does not eliminate risk, but creates that impression. Note the ‘dot.com’ bubble or the real estate bubble that they had new models of economic development that were ultimately illusory. In the same way, claims that technology is a panacea or that it won’t be misused are false.”

“With the right legal and normative framework, the Internet of Things should make an astounding contribution to human life. The biggest obstacles to success are technological and behavioral, we need a rapid conversion to IPv6, and we need cooperation among all stakeholders to make the Internet of Things work. We also need global standards, not just US standards and practices, which draw practical and effective lines about how such a data trove may and may not be used consistent with human rights.”

“On balance, more data is a good thing but it isn’t an end in itself. New sources of data, and better resolution will enable us to make better and new kinds of decisions, but the emphasis in the future, as now, must be on an understanding of the phenomena we are observing and making predictions about within a wider social context as it is that context that is most likely to determine the future rather than any algebraic inference. Data is misused today for many reasons, the solution is not to restrict the collection of data, but rather to raise the level of awareness and education about how data can be misused and how to be confident that data is being fairly represented and actually answers the questions you think it does.”

“Both are exaggerated, though I lean toward the negatives.”

“The Internet of Things approach is fundamentally flawed; it assumes we can model everything down to the most infinitesimal detail. Experience with the Semantic Web and elsewhere shows how futile this is at any scale, and the negative effects are potentially enormous when you give these tools to people who don’t understand them. Reflect on the history of the financial markets over the last decade.”

“It is almost impossible that the amount and type of data discussed in this question will not be abused in some way, most especially by those who will claim they are acting in the public’s interest.”

“People already rely on statistics in many fields, often to the extent that the underlying processes resulting in the observed data are unknown, unstudied, and generally not understood. We as humanity should soon start to realize that statistics are just that, and not an explanation for why the facts are what they are.”

“Again this is not a matter of Big Data, but how it’s administered. For example, you are asking for reflective data—regardless of immediacy. Actually I’m finding it hard to do since I’m so used to things like a ‘Like’ button. I think Big Data will learn to analyze more complex thoughts than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but should never be the only basis for a decision. Logic- and data-driven decisions, we know, have been proven to hurt as often as help. So data needs to get better and more diverse but should never be more than one factor contributing to a decision and never be thought than more of a point in time.”

“Neither outcome is likely. The second scenario, while less unlikely, is too pessimistic. For one thing, I do not endorse the idea that ‘Big Data’ (whatever that is) will lead to majorities oppressing minorities. This racial idea seems out of place here. What I do think is that policy makers make poor use of the data they have now. (Remember 9/11? Remember Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’?) So there is little reason to think the more data will lead to better outcomes. Only better use of data will lead to better outcomes, and that happens slowly. As for ‘predictive’ powers, anyone who thinks more data can somehow allow anyone to see into the future is being foolish. I doubt that having more data about the past is somehow going to constitute a crystal ball that predicts the future. One positive outcome of more data may be smarter business decisions, better understanding of customer preferences, better economic efficiencies (look at Walmart’s ability to streamline its distribution system and hold down prices), and thus a somewhat higher standard of living that we might otherwise have seen.”

“This trend will ebb and flow. There will be those who are skeptical of the predictions from Big Data and experience will bear them out. On the other hand there will be those who are enamored of the idea that the future can be forecasted based on the present and past. This should create an interesting debate between those who want to have more confidence in predicting the future and those who recognize that there will always be great unpredictability, particularly as the world becomes more and more intertwined and complex.”

“I lean more toward the negative as data is not value-neutral. Data can be manipulated to support multiple arguments, especially in the social sciences. Data is the outcome of questions asked and methods used—the old saying ‘garbage in garbage out.’”

“It will depend on criteria for access. Because the Internet was essentially open source and free access to all, that ideal is still embraced by almost all, but the security specialists have to deal with that small percentage of criminals looking for the fast or easy buck, without regard to consequences to others.”

“Aside from privacy and regulatory issues it’s a good thing. In the United States and internationally I don’t see the political will or stamina to address the human rights issues, privacy, etc., while encouraging transparency.”

“Data analysis will improve and be more timely.”

“Big Data will be a positive, but not to the extent that you describe. It will be more of a democratization of data.”

“The truth will be somehow in the middle but I would be less optimistic here.”

“I started dealing with data aggregation in the 1970s and have a copy of the 1970s US Health Education and Welfare report on computers, privacy, and databases on the bookshelf where I am typing this. Data aggregation is growing today for two main purposes: National security apparatus and ever more focused marketing (including political) databases. Neither of these are intended for the benefit of individual network users but rather look at users as either potential terrorists or as buyers of goods and services. Already it costs a lot for people to fetch the results of some of these things, even simple things like credit scores are available to the data subject only for a fee. Information is power, and power will cost money.”

“Whenever corporations or governments get involved with anything, they rarely behave in what could be considered an ‘altruistic’ fashion. Corporations will monopolize Big Data to make money; an unethical government administration could use it to wreak havoc on private lives, which I believe is already happening in the United States, under the auspices of preventing child pornography and exploitation. While certainly a worthwhile endeavor, there are implications to eroding citizens’ rights to privacy to carry out sting operations. This sets an uneasy precedent where suspicion of activity can trump proof, and entrapment follows closely behind. I see this being a major problem for journalists and political bloggers in the future.”

“The false confidence already plagues risk-management ‘professionals.’ No one looking at the big databases predicted the criminal activities of the financial sector, anything could be changed to look a certain way, and any channel to data could be clogged, muddled, or dirtied to the point where an independent analysis is undermined. Files have and will be deleted on demand. There is no moral code in the algorithms, no ethics, no enforcement. These tools are only indexes pointing to areas of further research. Without a more robust system of checks and balances and independent watchdogs, these systems will not guarantee fidelity to the truth.”

“I choose ‘option three’—something in between with elements of both scenarios taking place.”

“I prefer to be optimistic in this matter, but I fear we may be on the knife-edge of going either way. The reality that is seldom raised by those who discuss and advocate the ‘Big Data’ scenario is that a lot of data is proprietary and/or governed by strict privacy regulations and will never be available for free on the Web. Therefore, those who rely on Big Data will still have an incomplete picture, jeopardizing any public policy or private sector decisions based on that information.”

“People and institutions can’t use ‘little’ data now. Why would they be any better in eight years using Big Data sets?”

“Big Data will still require analysis, which is a political problem. Selecting criteria for analysis depends the interests of the analytical group. It is just too easy to use data for propaganda, and I don’t think that the general public’s understanding of interpreting statistics and data analysis will be very sophisticated by 2020.”

“As compared to serendipity and non-empirically based policy decisions, I’ll bet on technology improving rather than weakening our decisions, which (as a country) are currently fairly poor.”

“Certainly in 2020 Big Data will be more risky than trustworthy. We just won’t have enough experience—the equivalent of the 100-year flood in forecasting terms—and so our systems will ‘look good’ on some basic problems but prove to make whoppers of mistakes.”

“Few people can manipulate any amount of data in a really innovative or useful way.”

“Tools that disrupt society do not last long.”

“People underestimate the potential privacy concerns of large data sets of personal information, which will primarily be used by companies for corporate ends. While Big Data could have a revolutionary positive impact through better empirical answers, people don’t trust numbers and scientists.”

“In summary, people are greedy!”

“Both are likely to happen, and that is inherently no more self-contradictory than many of the things that go on in our political society. All the ‘Big Data’ in the world isn’t going to help people who already have the benefit of excellent information and technology and choose to ignore it or disbelieve it. Knowledge is only as useful as the social context within which it is embedded.”

“The current tensions and obvious flaws in the global financial system are breaking down public complacency about the way big enterprises function—be it government, banks, or businesses. I think we will all learn from this era to become more accountable, transparent, and democratic.”

“This is a tough issue because generally, Big Data will improve our ability to serve each other with better, more qualitative information, product and service offerings. Semantic information is already making search infinitely better. However, there will be repercussions including further polarization and perhaps an unhappy realization of the picture that Big Data shows of ourselves as a society. Society may not be ready to see itself in the mirror. As to the opposite answers and corporate abuses of Big Data, in every technology, in every sector, there are abuses. This will be no different.”

“Both scenarios are equally likely, and may occur simultaneously.”

“Databases will continue to raise significant privacy issues—http://www.databasenation.com/.”

“I expect the good to outweigh the bad, given that I am an optimist. On the other hand, I do expect the ‘bad’ to exist and be a significant problem, even as I believe the ‘good’ will ‘outweigh’ the ‘bad.’”

“Data is neutral, and one can do good or bad things with it and some quite impressive things. However, the old lesson that correlation is not causation seems never to be learned. The control over data means that inaccurate data is hard to identify and correct. I see that the problems will only increase with the size of the datasets. Most emphasis seems to be given to doing clever things with data rather than ensuring its validity or giving the right people control over it.”

“The challenge in making ‘Big Data’ useful is to retain/represent context and appropriate interpretation. While we’re going through our current socio-political and economic situation, the nature of economic (financial) power will certainly need to be considered. That includes who’s reading which data for what purposes. Big Data is not a positive or negative for society, but will be used for both over the upcoming years.”

“It will be in between. People will do stupid things, but the people who do it smartly will advance. Natural selection will mean net positive.”

“Time to embrace something that is bigger than our brains, but also to put our brains to use to manage the input and control the analysis. A win-win. We think harder and get smarter.”

“By 2020 we’ll have the Big Data predicted above, but no good idea of how to use it. By 2030, we’ll know how to use it, and the battles for social justice, and free speech will be about the topics we research and the moral choices behind them.”

“The capacity of humans to use information to solve problems is great. The creative impulse can, and will, be misused. Nevertheless, in a democratic society, the will of the majority will help ensure that new technologies go to better social conditions.”

“The hype surrounding Big Data is almost as frenzied as the hype surrounding the efficient markets theory in the 1990s, and look where that led us. While improvements in data collection and processing will lead to vast improvements in our understanding in many areas, it is not a panacea. We have had decades of experience analyzing corporate financials, stock exchanges, and market indices, and yet we still cannot predict what will happen next. Many dynamic systems, of which the stock market is one, do not lend themselves to predictable patterns, no matter how much data you gather or how much computing power you apply. I worry that overconfidence in Big Data and all-seeing algorithms will lead to terrible errors. And I worry that these systems can be gamed, made to deliver false or misleading results.”

“The chief hindrances to the realization of ‘Big Data’ benefits include resolving issues of security, sufficient infrastructure (to move/analyze big data), infrastructure energy/environmental impacts and open policies about sharing of data. Given sufficient redress to these issues, the rise of ‘Big Data’ is an almost entirely positive one for broader society and for individuals.”

“The bigger question here is the rise of anti-science political rhetoric that will create two tiers of public opinion, one based on data and one fearful and skeptical of all reality-based information.”

“I’m a cynic. I worry about who has access to what data, and I have seen data manipulated and selectively interpreted for harmful ends.”

“Mostly I agree with danah boyd’s analyses of the problems of Big Data—that, as you put it, it will ‘engender false confidence’ and lead to a lot of costly misinterpretations and mistakes when it comes to social issues. However, I do think Big Data can be useful in some arenas, such as analyzing financial markets and (anonymized) medical data. I truly hope that Big Data will help us predict and prevent the next pandemic. I fear that it will help law enforcement and intelligence agencies justify rounding up people engaged in ‘anomalous’ activity.”

“There may be ‘Big Data’ but there will always come the ‘Big Surprise’ that breaks the rule. Human nature is hard to predict.”

“The answer will be somewhere in the middle.”

“All data is subject to interpretation.”

“Archives, let alone huge data archives, are scary things; the need to create them and control them is something ingrained in the Web’s current social media structure.”

“Some have already indicated that Big Data may not be the biggest challenge, but real-time access and use of those data is. As computing power and bandwidth continue to increase, those challenges will potentially fade, yielding a net positive.”

“Once more, the question of how people use Big Data is key to what occurs. If people choose to use it to benefit society to the best of their ability, letting everyone know the strengths and weaknesses of analyses (and of humans in general), then the potential to use Big Data for positive effects is big, but only as big/humble as we are as humans.”

“Big Data will have a beneficial effect on us, as we’re provided with more information about ourselves and we have more to learn. As long as we approach it objectively, it will be a positive change.”

“While I am a big fan of data, it is true that statistics can be made to say anything. I can see this being abused and hindering many people.”

“Big Data is a thing of the future. If we embrace it and can foresee the issues and problems it will have a positive impact on society. Big Data is coming, so we need to be prepared and to use it in a positive way.”

“There are many challenges involved in the concept of Big Data. Most importantly is the current lack of necessary metadata. What follows from that are the differences in data definitions. Data set one says ‘salary’ and data set two says ‘salary,’ but the underlying definition for each includes different subsets. Any Big Data merge between the two data sets will look valid to developers, programmers, and the average user, but the merge is not statistically accurate. The manpower required to appropriately tag and accurately merge all current data sets is prohibitively excessive. And that doesn’t consider the new data sets being created every day. Consequently, Big Data will generate misinformation and will be manipulated by people or institutions to display the findings they want. The general public will not understand the underlying conflicts and will naively trust the output. This is already happening and will only get worse as Big Data continues to evolve.”

“The ability to protect initial datasets from corruption/change will determine which way this one goes.”

“We have a long history of ‘better living through analysis’, and I believe that more data fundamentally means more opportunity for learning. Insofar as these data sets are able to exist in the public space, then they will inevitably lead to a generally positive public good. However, I am dubious of some of the large-scale claims within the statement. Many human activities are too complex to control as grandly as proposed. Look, for example, at economics. There are a bevy of data sets available, there has been for more than sixty years, they increase daily and have led to no real ‘solution’ of economic problems.”

“Big Data is good, if used well. I think it is difficult to mine the data effectively at the National level at this point because it is kept in so many places. a big innovation will have to take place to make this useful. I don’t see Aetna and US Healthcare cooperating on a big study. That issue will need to be dealt with.”

“Big Data + automated analysis = power. Power corrupts. While I see more and more data being available, the powerful applications to make sense of them will be not in the hands of the people.”

“This is an area where I believe we have a great opportunity for significant change for the better. Big Data analysis will be primarily done by those who understand the usefulness of confidence intervals, overcoming many of the circumstances set forth in the second scenario. It has already changed the way the stock market works and as more and more disciplines utilize these techniques the increased broader based understanding will benefit all.”

“Insights from Big Data will be limited to those who can interpret and preserve their data. At first this group will be a relatively small number of people who have the money to buy the resources to do that. The power of Big Data will initially, then, be concentrated in the hands of a few: governments, multinational corporations, and universities. It won’t be until after 2020 when the average person may be able to derive some benefit from large data sets.”

“The future could be any of the above or a combination.”

“Data is already being misused by scientists, politicians, special interest groups, etc. Having a bigger data set will not improve things. The only field I think/I hope would advance is the medical research field.”

“I don’t think it is quite this bleak, but I am concerned that all creative thinking and judgment will be rendered irrelevant”

“I have no doubt the ‘the Internet of Things’ will be huge. There are simply too many positives that can come from getting all of the data into the hands of consumers. I think of monocle function in the Yelp iPhone app. When I traveled to New York City recently, it helped me find and navigate to a delicious pizza place.”

“This is the age of Google, and its influence will continue.’

“Big Data will provide positives and negatives, and the technology and the availability of the data don’t have much to do with the impact. The way that the use of Big Data is regulated, the way that it is or isn’t used responsibly, the goals of the people using it, and so forth, are what will determine the effects of Big Data. If Big Data is used primarily to plan cities, improve transportation systems, minimize crime, mitigate environmental problems, and so on, then the benefits would be positive, but it is clear that the people who have the money to start collecting and analyzing Big Data are going to do so because of a planned return on their investment. And while that may be fine, it is unlikely to have a positive result on society (only because that won’t be the goal).”

“Open data is a revolution. Open data will trump Big Data.”

“The negative scenario will occur before the positive one, although the positive scenario is inevitable.”

“Big Data fails in my life. I’m 48 and I buy a baby scale to weigh my skinny and fat cats and Amazon starts pushing diapers, formula, and bottles at me. Places I’ve browsed at follow me creepily around the Web with banner ads.”

“As with all things, Big Data will evolve and ideally it will evolve into the positive. Data will always be used, rightly or wrongly, to forward an agenda. Rapid evolution of data does not allow for much contemplation, and right now we see the negative results of reacting immediately instead of analyzing within an amount of time.”

“It probably will be somewhere in the middle. Better forecasting but human behavior will still be tough to predict.”

“This is to a great extent a false paradigm. Massive increases in the volume and availability of data will certainly improve the power of analytical and predictive tools, but there will not be some kind of major shift to more ‘knowable’ outcomes. Having more data does not change the fact that there are too many interoperating variables for meaningful prediction to be possible for many things—e.g. weather. To the extent that people are saying that certain things are more predictable than they used to be they are either lying or using magical thinking.”

“I don’t believe there will be large data sets that are shared across corporations, government, and universities at a widespread level like discussed in the above scenarios.”

“Big Data will create more niche audiences and not necessarily minority groups. This means more personalization and deeper lines of human groupings. It may mean more blending of races and cultures as well as people unite along the lines of specific features and interests.”

“Because I believe corporate entities will be the movers of this, profits will be a larger factor than scientific validity.”

“I’m personally very involved in this trend and I am thrilled how consistently people are pushing for open data.”

“Analytics and reporting are becoming more efficient with the rise of technology.”

“Despite the broad idea that this change will be positive in all respects, this shift promises to open some great opportunities. If all over-rely, as with over-reliance in general, this shift could be a problem.”

“I don’t think our analytical models will be perfect in 2020, but I do believe that the implementation of the Semantic Web along with the Internet of Things will significantly improve our predictive capabilities. I worry about this though, as the Minority Report effect will almost certainly be realized as a result. Big Data is real and will only get scarier as time marches on.”

“Big Data will just get bigger. We will become more addicted to what the databases tell us. It might impair risk-taking for the good. We’ll depend more on models than instincts.”

“While I’m sure there will be some of the second statement, I think about Sergey Brin and his attempt to use data in disease detection, prevention, and research. That is a very good thing. Or I think about people recently making money for investors by studying Twitter data. The world of using the massive amounts of data we can now collect and analyze quickly is huge, untapped, and exciting. It will be a mixed bag but I’m optimistic it will be more positive than negative.”

“I believe in the usefulness of data to help solve social and political problems. However, the opportunities for misuse of data and the general public’s lack of understanding of how data can be manipulated make me wonder if I’m being overly optimistic.”

“At present we can read about hedge funders who publicly say they have no political allegiance, simply allegiance to the market. That these comments, which ought to alarm us, are said with such candor that suggests the misuse of people, data, products, and environment are here to stay unless a strong and sustained response is conducted by the people. By 2020, I imagine that data will be manipulated by those who hold power.”

“Big Data is here already under Homeland Security data capture, social networking and search engine cache, and credit bureaus. However, such data has always been misused and will continue to be misused by the unscrupulous and the paranoid, be it individuals or governments.  On the other hand, the availability of this data has many beneficial effects, such as advanced medical treatments and preventative medicine, and greater awareness of the circumstances of our fellow citizens can lead to social welfare improvements.”

“Big Data does in fact generate false information currently, and its users can extrapolate and draw false conclusions especially when taking into account their belief set and expected outcomes. I do think that by 2020 those using data sets and those reviewing work gathered from these data set will have developed an eye to see falsehoods and illogical conclusions.”

“It is definitely open to propaganda.”

“The promise of ‘Big Data’ to ‘enable new understanding of the world’ is overblown. I certainly don’t think it will have material impacts on everyday lives by 2020 as the first scenario suggests, but it’s also not nearly as scary as the second scenario suggests. I would have selected ‘neither’ on this one if that option were available. There’s simply too much complexity and nuance in the real-world phenomena represented by the data, and too many artifacts in the data itself, for it to routinely and reliably offer up revolutionary insight or forecasts in any economically efficient way.”

“Big Data will have a major impact on our day-to-day lives.”

“Like other technologies, it has the potential for good and bad at the same time. Improved computing, where data exists, will help. Does coherent, useful data exist to solve societal issues? How would it be collected? Who would pay for it?”

“Statistical analysis can easily be used to manipulate a message, this is not new, and I see no reason for this to change. Rather, it seems more probable that the amount of statistical deception will either remain about constant or will increase proportionally to properly-applied data sets, and that the availability of Big Data will more widely be used to create more accurate inferential forecasts.”

“More information is not harmful in and of itself. The more important issues are who has control of the information. If scientists are using it, are there peer review processes (not always foolproof, but good starting points for conversation). If governments control the information, then other issues arise. No matter how much data we have, at the moment we are constrained by human limitations of not knowing what is going to happen in the future.”

“I would like to think that possibilities will outweigh greed.”

“’Big Data’ will be a useful too, but only that. We’re not going to be idiots and make significant and hurtful mistakes. We will continue to apply human judgment to problems for which ‘data’ suggests inaccurate results.”

“In a sense, author Isaac Asimov forecast this in his Foundation series. ‘Big Data’ was designed to be able to analyze and forecast very difficult problems. He saw both the pluses and minuses. Overall it was a ‘plus’ for the good of the many worlds, but it could also be misused and vigilance was always required.”

“While I believe in data analysis as a tool, there are so many variables in human action and the created world. There are too many unpredictable factors that will remain as influences.”

“See Max Weber, the Iron Cage of the Future and the irrationality of rationality.”

“I expect a backlash against Big Data to occur sooner rather than later, and expect to see a movement toward people reducing their presence on the grid. There is still a large percentage of the population who have a low level of Internet presence (anyone over the age of 45, for example) and this will offer the necessary contrasts for this to occur.”

“The more we know the better we will be served by the data. I’m all for Big Data and feel confident that the growth in that area will lead to the greater common good.”

“I’m an optimist, people as sensors can provide some very useful insight.”

“Big Data is a Pandora’s Box, and unfortunately technology will exceed the ability or will of legislatures to regulate its use.”

“Big Data will be either useful or neutral, but it won’t be destructive. The same challenges exist with any kind of data, including the massive amounts of scientific data possessed prior to the Internet, and while it has been manipulated and used to create harm, that is not its predominant effect.”

“Sure, there are going to be problems, and the potential abuse of data needs much more attention, but the benefits are going to outweigh the problems.”

“Big Data will prove that ignorance is not bliss!”

“I have been around data analysis since BC (before computers) and I can assure you that management manipulated data derived from just the use of the stubby pencil.”

“Big Data is funded (or is perceived to be funded) by Big Industry with its own self-interest. It prompts skepticism (and rightfully so).”

“Big Data will likely become more influential in day-to-day living and decision making, but it is important to strike a balance between generalizing and acknowledging the human element involved in many widespread decisions.”

“I do not believe either.”

“I would like to be more optimistic about the outcome of Big Data, but I’m not. The mining of information form almost every type of Internet interaction is intrusive. Personally, I would be willing to pay a small fee to providers each month rather than having my data mined.”

“Training and professional training in use of data sets will be required to move forward.”
“I’ve been concerned about information and privacy since 1971 and have no reason to be mollified now.”

“I see both happening, with ‘Big Data’ being neither completely beneficial nor completely negative. They will balance out to a neutral impact—many organizations and individuals will use data for positive work, but many corporations/entities will use data for agendas that harm the general public. The two will be working against each other, both using data to do so.”

“To realize the benefits of ‘Big Data’ we must develop an appropriate and future-oriented regulatory framework. This will require a major change of attitude among our political leadership.”

“Massive amounts of data are already being collected to little benefit for anyone but advertisers. Protection of data will be of utmost importance.”

“We have already seen the power that business intelligence (BI) has provided to business profitability assessments. As more people become comfortable with giving up their personal data in exchange for valuable offerings, businesses will continue to develop data assessment tools that will help deliver the goods and services people want.”

“Social forces against science and intellectualism and fears of sharing too much will provide a counterforce to the aggregation of large, meaningful amounts of data as it relates to human behavior and its credibility. But in some fields, especially medicine, there will be some big positive outcomes.”

“I’m all for a world with more fact-based decision making.”

“The potential for hacking Big Data and its potential misuse by powerful institutions is real.”

“Access to open data solves more problems than it creates, and it keeps everyone honest. Period.”

“Big Data will have very productive and positive impacts for society, especially in medicine and science.”

“People tend to believe what other ‘researchers’ post without being able to challenge how, when, why, or other specific information regarding how they came to these statements.”

“Certainly we have access to far more data today than ever before. That information hasn’t helped Americans to come together on social, political, or economic issues. In fact, as the amount of information has increased, so too has political polarization.”

“We will lose the ability to think critically and reason for ourselves.”

“Current Big Data didn’t prevent the current financial crisis. In fact, it engendered a lot of false security. Moreover, too much of that data will be privately controlled and privately manipulated for the benefit of mega-corporations.”

“Upside: How to Lie with the Internet of Things becomes an underground bestseller.”

“The more information we have the better we can analyze, compare, correlate, and predict. While I do not believe we will learn all there is to know about a phenomenon from ‘Big Data,’ it can certainly lead us to answers never before discovered and help to guide future more specific research studies. The more we know, the more we realize how much we still need to learn. Big Data will help us get one step closer to understanding the world.”

“Big Data can be the most positive change yet—for instance electronic medical records will make our future much easier to navigate.”

“That is what humans are for—to get to the truth. Computers don’t have emotions. Not everyone believes everything they see. Case in point: a video in San Francisco where a man was beaten to death. The eyewitness and the tape matched and the officer were charged with murder. Checks and balances are always needed.”

“If Big Data is not also Wide Data (that is, dispersed among as many players and citizens as possible) then it will be a negative overall.”

“There will always be crooks and the future is not likely to occur without them, but how we assimilate data and use it will likely be done as cited in the first scenario. Thieves will just develop new ways to scam and steal. Also, manipulating data is not exactly a new concept, or one that is waiting in the wings for 2020.”

“People will always misrepresent statistics for their own agenda. Access to data and analytic skills will become increasingly important.”

“Data can be manipulated, and if it can be, it will be.”

“Big Data is here already—air crash investigation is a symptom. We cannot forecast the future but we can learn from the past. Human error, greed, and manipulation are always issues but in open systems the checks and balances are more likely to prevail.”

“I answer in the negative because I distrust the data owners’ ability to let data drive decisions unsullied by human frailty and the agendas of those who possess Big Data.”

“Making the world more open and connected = Facebook.”

“All extensions of data available to more people and organizations have led to abuses, but overall the progress has a positive effect. I do fear that the erosion of privacy will have serious impact on our society and freedom as we know it.”

“I am very concerned that Big Data will be manipulated for profit in ways that have a negative impact on everyday life. Some of it, like knowing what kind of toothpaste someone is interested in, is annoying but relatively benign. I am more concerned that it will be used to deny insurance coverage, weed out potentially undesirable workers, and to prematurely force young people into education tracks.”

“As more people enter the digital age there will be more minds working to improve the way people communicate, curate information, and even predict events. Studying how people interact based on time, day, use of language, and comparing it to particular events it would not be impossible to say there could be patterns for identification of future events. If such a process of identifying algorithmic processes doesn’t occur by 2020, it will be well on its way.”

“As long as Big Data and Big Money are intertwined, there will be manipulation of findings in pursuit of greed. The Western capitalist model will promote Big Data over the needs of the non-Western developing world. It would be wonderful to dream of major breakthroughs achieved via analysis of huge data sets that could change the lives of hungry people, thirsty people, people living and dying with AIDS, and people oppressed on account of their race/religion/ethnicity, but I don’t see that happening, alas.”

“I selected the positive scenario because the use of medical statistics is already trending in the way described.”

“Big Data will be helpful only in countries that are democratic. In authoritarian countries, or should I say, pseudo-democratic countries like Singapore, it remains to be seen.”

“It will cause us to address even bigger questions about being human.”

“Human hubris may lead the way to the extinction of humans. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. We are dependent, contingent biological beings and screwing up badly.”

“Too much centralized control of any information format risks inappropriate influence over public information, just as current concentration of print/TV/radio media in few hands skews information available. This is at complete odds with the original concept of the Internet—a place for sharing and input by individuals.”

“Elaboration of efficient tools for protection and ethical usage of data is largely yet to be accomplished. I hope it will be done fast enough compared to the Big Data picture described here.”

“Transparency will obviate attempts by Big Data to control things. Too many alternate approaches will defeat attempts to control data.”

“It’ll replace human thought if it goes as far as scenario one. Mistakes will be accepted along the way as a part of the process, but that might be too much.”

“The talk by Kevin Slavin available on video at TED.com reveals much about the algorithms. His discussion of the stock market crash is a good example of algorithms gone wild. Predictive analytics is such a young discipline with so many possible unintended consequences I am not particularly hopeful. For every positive advancement, there will probably be a negative result too.”

“By 2020 healthcare and science will get great boosts from Big Data. So will other areas like politics, government, business, and so on. By 2020 most attention will fall on the benefits rather than the negative, i.e. those who would have access to the benefits of the data gaining at the expense of others.”

“We’ll see big swings (like the stock market) because of the Big Data as information is used and misused to manipulate outcomes.”

“It is all politics. The manipulation of data has existed forever, and could become more widespread. One can lie with statistics. Big Data will be misused just like now. I listen to politicians and cannot believe they are talking about the same things because their points of view are so opposite, and this has become worse. There would be more data to read the wrong way.”

“People lie, numbers don’t. We already see constantly politician’s manipulating data to make their case among constituents. Big Data will suffer the same machinations and thwarting.”

“With the Robert’s Supreme Court’s decision giving power to corporations to donate to political campaigns, and so much money being spent by anonymous PACs, the rights of ordinary people and the ability to regulate corporations will be lost. I feel very pessimistic about the America my children will find when they graduate college in the next ten to sixteen years.”

“Mistrust of politicians and big business influences my choice.”

“Big Data will solve many major world problems. The bulk of its use will be with positive ethical intent; despite that, there will be mistakes—made by humans, not the data itself because data is compiled and analyzed by humans or the humans who write the code. This will result in extreme, even catastrophic, events. Also, there will always be a few bad apples using the day’s technologies for evil as there have been in all of human history.”

“We need only to look at what high-speed computers have allowed at present—hedge fund managers to buy and sell in seconds, while ignoring the ‘black swans’ and catastrophic collapse. Sadly, those who will be using Big Data will ignore the history of the Big Recession.”

“As data of all types moves to the cloud and becomes accessible for harvesting, more and more analytical use will be made of the data to micro-cast. However, all we need are a few instances where marketers and/or government misuses data for society to insist on significant controls over the use of the data. Privacy concerns are already high on the public agenda, though most of us are wary, rather than insistent on legislated controls.”

“I don’t believe Big Data will solve everything, but we’ll be better off with it than without.”

“My thoughts are that there are always potential for problems, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forge ahead. Will big data sets make us think we have more predictive power than we do? Perhaps. But so what? Is it better to give up the benefits that might come with understanding our world better? I am a glass half full person. Let’s take the improvement and then figure out how to deal with the problems that come with it.”

“Big Data will seem to be a fine choice for the youthful net-generation since they are already incapable of making difficult independent decisions without group-think advice. Those of us who once trusted the Wall Street bankers and federal politicians will not likely forget the lessons of 2008-2012 quickly.”

“The benefits of Big Data slightly outweigh the risks as outlined above. However there is a real weakness in general comprehension of statistics and data, so both the users and consumers of data need to massively improve their analytic skills to avoid manipulation by misinformation. This is the big ‘if’ that will profoundly affect a positive vs. negative outcome. The opportunity is there for much greater understanding, if we apply ourselves wisely and with balanced analysis.”

“Let people do their own thinking and analyzing of data and events. We still need to promote individual thought and responses. We do not want everyone thinking alike.”

“This is an area for the grey zone. While I, ultimately, have faith in humankind to use information and ‘Big Data’ for ‘good,’ I find that there does exist ‘evil’ and ‘malevolence’ in this world. I’m inclined to believe that knowledge and data are, in and of themselves, beneficial to mankind in the big picture.”

“Once again, we have the ancient principle of ‘Garbage in, Garbage out.’ The fact that Internet processing, such as cloud computing, enables faster and faster processing of information does not protect us from the dangers of using faulty and unreliable information, the danger of substituting political dogma in numerical form for actual scientific fact. Any prediction, any mathematical model, any assumption, is only as good as the data that it is based upon. Will there be a Big Data? Undoubtedly! Just as there was Big Oil, and Big Steel, and Big Pharmaceuticals. And they made Big differences in all our lives—mostly positive. And Big Liberal politics to milk everything and everybody dry in the name of compassion. People and institutions use whatever is available to advance their goals. But the Internet and social media have made the little guy—the actual little guy, not the alabaster Social Realism sculpture posted for worship in the faculty lounges—empowered, visible, and vocal as never before. Even Red China couldn’t shut down the Internet permanently. It’s too necessary now.”

“This is my impression, but I would not say ‘negative in all respects’. Any sort of aggregation of people’s behaviours and analysis thereof results in strange ideas. I am a language analyst, and although I might make generalisations based on my data, I always know that once taken out of context, loss of meaning occurs. I know that the bigger the data set, the more likely my generalisations will be ‘true’. But still all I have are generalisations. This is sometimes useful and interesting, but not always sensible to apply it to social changes. So, while I agree with the sentiments of paragraph two, I’m also drawn to the knowledge aspects of the large data sets. I’m only ideologically against the use of such data for commercial or social engineering purposes.”

“Data collection and analysis can only get more accurate with the ability to gather data at a faster and more accurate pace than in the past.”

“It is never this simple! All systems tend to have lives and dynamics of their own. Things move in response to expectations and ‘Big Data’ will provide some better forecasting but all systems tend to react and change based on expectations.”

“As we study human behavior, we can better understand possible outcomes and trends, which can facilitate policy decision making.”

“Big Data will tell the story of big money and those who control it.”

“Big Data is scary, but I don’t know how else we will be able to manage the flood of information that is growing exponentially.”

“Although potential for misuse certainly exists, the targeted use of compiled data will enhance and improve most people’s lives thru more relevant communications and more relevant products/services that solve real problems for people.”

“I would like to think that data will make the world better, but I remain skeptical. Currently there is a lot of competition for who controls the data, which makes this question very dependent on who ‘owns’ the majority of the data in the end. While currently having more data gives an organization a competitive advantage, it is likely as more and more data is held this advantage will flatten. Overall, the outcomes of data will depend on our abilities to organize and process it. The improvement of computational resources have not improved at as fast a rate in recent years and while storage of data is increasing it is not clear that there are/will be resources to process this data.”

“I do not believe that corporations that have huge impacts on media have the best interests of people in mind. They are driven by market share. There is grave potential danger in this venue.”

“Big Data is about who has access to it. It is not a matter of whether or not this will be available, it will, although when is a question. But more importantly it is a matter of who controls it and how open it is. We are seeing a tremendous developing trend between open and closed when it comes to power—governmental or corporate. Let’s remember that corporations are international and governments have trouble monitoring cross border data transfers as we are seeing in Europe despite its laws about, for instance, personal and personnel data. I believe the second scenario most likely.”

“The larger the data sets and the better the algorithms, the better the predictive power of the data sifting. Only, we need to be asking the right questions.”

“Big Data means lots of people attacking problems. Just look at what happened recently with the AIDS issue when it was turned into a game! The problem got solved.”

“Transparency is the key. With the rise of Big Data comes the rise of transparency. It will be harder to fudge the numbers when everyone is watching/checking everyone else. People who worry about the ill effects of Big Data don’t think through peoples’ or corporations’ incentives to use it for ill or the impact of regulation on their behavior. They simply know that it could be used for ill and are capable of making analogies to Orwell novels. Even if only a handful of people use Big Data for good (e.g. efficient management of aid, education, healthcare, transportation, energy), these positive changes far outweigh the inevitable handful of cases of fraud (which, again, because of increasing transparency, won’t be hard to see).”

“Of course every new technology and system can be abused, and Big Data is no different. But overall, when the public sees the major upsides, it will merely insist on ‘supervision’ (even if only informal, e.g. the press) of those who abuse it.”

“There is such a thing as too much information. Too much information gives too little in terms of confidence of what is found. Who is doing the analysis, who is supplying the data, can you tell, can you find it.”

“The development of data warehouses, mining, and analytics will become even more infused in our culture. People in general will make more data-driven decisions and evaluate the results/impact of their behaviors.”

“Big Data will win this battle, not because it won’t lead to overreach and not because it won’t make mistakes in overpromising along the way, but because it will be too seductive, make things too easy, and deliver too much good for the good to be mitigated by the mistakes.”

“Alas, this is an area where I do not feel that we will put technology to the best use. While I am excited about the possibilities created by this kind of access to data and modelling, I am concerned that political agendas and the base demands of mainstream media will quickly drive the use of this data to the bottom—justifying prejudices and creating sensational sound bites.”

“Overall, the first option is closest to what will transpire. When we speak of ‘Big Data’ the one thing most people overlook are inherent data quality problems that only seem to grow as we aggregate more data from disparate systems and/or from a longer time horizon. Poor data quality will undermine the confidence of consumers, and will negatively impact the ability of businesses to accurately predict the behaviors, spending patterns, or other criteria that will help them drive profits.”

“Big Data, as a way for understanding society has the potential to reduce the vagaries of human interaction into the forms ever-more complex (and deterministic) algorithm. Ultimately, this focus does not account for the chaos and natural entropy and human creativity. As we base social structures and institutions on the conclusions drawn by Big Data, we create the facsimile of a more determined world, and thus push ‘possibility’ towards extinction. While useful at predicting trends over longer yet finite chunks of time, Big Data will perhaps be an important factor for the creation of more robust public policy and help create more political will. But in order for it to be useful, we also need an electorate and leaders who are not only entranced by science, but understand its vagaries.”

“I’m not at all sure these are mutually exclusive. ‘Big Data’ will grow—and be abused. The question of regulations will continue to vex.”

“I agree completely with scenario two mainly for two reasons. First, Big Data will be very attractive to corporate, government and ideological interests who wish to create legitimacy for their particular product, worldview or policy positions and second, the inherent error potential in big datasets and in the algorithms that process them will produce a considerable tendency to false analysis and bad decision-making based on faulty data processing. In my view such errors will tend to produce what I like to call ‘perfectly good solutions to the wrong problem’ as situations are inaccurately assessed based on inaccurate or faulty assumptions about data at both entry point and analysis points. Thus, whatever processes are created to deal with the situations falsely predicted by such bad data analysis, even if those processes work exactly as designed, will wind up failing to produce useful solutions to problems. This will be compounded by absolute faith in the inerrancy of the analysis, based on belief that such systems are sufficiently advanced to produce inconsequential errors, and failures to produce solutions will be blamed (as we hear currently) failure to follow the analysis rigorously enough rather than to question the legitimacy of the original analysis.”

“Both will occur, emphatically.”

“Big Data is not well matched to tiny minds. The data sets now exceed the capabilities of most businesspeople to know what to do with, about, and for the data. This will lead to huge abuse and misapplication.”

“Big corporations and powerful individuals will probably manipulate Big Data to their advantage, or they will at least try. But access to Big Data and large information sets will continue to help society advance and improve as a whole.”

“Information is power and absolute power usually corrupts. This knowledge has the potential to be misused and may very well be by those in control.”

“Big Data will lead to development of the means to assess patterns and advanced correlations that will result in new and more inclusive knowledge that will positively benefit society.”

“I want the benefits of Big Data, but fear the privacy issues will prove a major stumbling block. And there are big cultural differences to use of data, not just United States vs. Europe, but between different European countries too.”

“This is already going on. It is already subject to scrutiny inside/outside academia—the large data sets available for climate change are being subjected to scrutiny by those doubters with an agenda. It can’t be helped however academia (for as long as that exists) create intelligent and worthy notions with their repositories of data. No one could have imagined the power of GIS in shaping urban development and other sociological plotting.”

“Sadly very few people actually know how to access a large amount of invaluable information on the Web. Furthermore, governments try their best to ensure that people can’t access information or they put such useless and garbled information on their sites that people get discouraged. They sometimes try to overload people with information by giving them the raw data instead of a proper sort of it. The adoption of true interactive e-Government would make this more feasible, if governments were to provide the information in a clean and usable format on their websites to citizens. Then people would realise the value of the information and would want to interact with it more and would want more information.”

“Ethics and the use of such data will always be a point of contention. As we have seen in the past, technology can often get ahead of the ethnics and human side. I’m reminded of the movie The Forbin Project where governments let giant computers make the determination to use nuclear weapons. Technology should assist mankind—not rule it.”

“Whether ‘Big Data’ actually provides helpful analysis will require: analysis. Whether humans trust the analysis or not will likely depend on more than the given data and analysis. Humans will want to trust other humans. So, the successful analysis of data will continue to be dependent upon trust, which humans only secondarily give to ‘machines.’ While Big Data will help in certain, often isolated, ways there will not be a ‘Pax Data.’”

“Big Data is to be very powerful. Whomever owns/controls Big Data can force changes that may not be beneficial (and possibly harmful) to humans. While making information available can be seen as being politically transparent, medically life-saving, and cost-effective, Big Data will be manipulated by the powerful controllers of the data to alter truth (mind control) to their advantage. Controllers of Big Data will be able to identify opponents and arrange for their eradication. Machines may replace humans because they are seen as more controllable.”

“The answer is probably not an either/or answer. Big Data will have negative implications. But for the most part, Big Data will be used to help improve lives, communities, health care, and commerce. I do think we’ll see a rise in people paying a premium to keep all or part of their lives private.”

“We are already seeing nowcasting. And, I think that makes our news more exciting. In terms of decision-making, doctors already practice medicine with algorithms. There is already a ton of number crunching going on—insurance, Wall Street, and Major League Baseball. That’s nothing new. It’ll be easier to do in more circumstances, and I think that will be interesting to watch. What does it change, and what doesn’t it change?  Will women stop getting annual mammograms because, statistically speaking, getting an annual mammogram doesn’t save lives after all. Turns out breast cancer is more complicated than that. Early detection isn’t a panacea. But, that concept completely freaks people out!  So, there will be doubts about numbers. There will always be people who are skeptical about numbers. And, that will fuel discussion, critical analysis, and all that good stuff. And then, there will continue to be widespread ideas that are completely disconnected from statistical reality—particularly when it comes to our political processes because people are ultimately emotional beings. They will listen to the shock jockeys and will firmly believe that the federal government is setting up death panels. So, be careful what you sign in the ER. Big Data won’t change that.”

“Big Data might help to solve traffic jams, but personal profiling and scoring with Big Data will have some cruel impact on powerless people. ‘Big Data will be misused by powerful people and institutions with selfish agendas’!”

“Big companies and governments will be the principal beneficiaries of this kind of data crunching, better able to acquire data and analyze it to provide meaning which they will not share freely.”

“There’s no doubt that the analysis of Big Data sets will be of increasing importance in the future, and it would just be far too depressing to think that the main outcomes of this would be ‘hurtful’ and ‘harmful.’”

“Reality is more powerful than data.”

“‘Big Data’ will be a powerful force for good and bad and it’s silly to be either a cheerleader or a Luddite.”

“Not sure that data can solve everything although it does help in some instances.”

“The more we have, the more we learn. The less we have, the less we learn.”

“Again, this one will be a give and take. But the mapping of the genome will be a good indicator of how this could turn out. We have seen a genome mapped. We can pay a (large) sum of money to have our own mapped. How useful is this yet?  There are anecdotes, but nothing like what was predicted. Alternative energy. How come it hasn’t taken off? The rise of Big Data is not negative in all respects, but I think it will be much more difficult to harness and direct than some have made it out to be.”

“The perception of this problem (and the arguments in this paragraph) will be used in the discourse, thereby creating its own problem: like a self fulfilling prophecy.”

“Big Data will be able to forecast the problem, but not the solution.”

“Again, misuse is always possible, but if Big Data becomes mainstream, so will the ability of others to catch those who misuse it. Public data is the next touchstone for politicians in 2020.”

“The truth is some of both, but more of the former.”

“I think it’ll be a combination of the two. The latter is very possible and dangerous.”

“You have captured this accurately in the first statement.”

“Big Data will drive a need for new ethics about the implications of this computing power but, regardless, it will move forward. There is much to be gained in areas of predictive analytics to both commercial and personal interests—from drug discovery to getting the cheapest fastest way from point a to point b.”

“Big Data’s fight will be public perception—similar to the distrust in media and the political process at the moment. How the data is delivered and by whom will play a large role in whether the general population excepts the application of the data. Big Data is already used by companies to project consumer behavior, but human emotional interaction will be the final decision maker.”

“I, for one, look to the better side of humanity.”

“It can be used for good or evil. Facts are facts and data is data, but anyone can put a spin on something and use it to their advantage.”

“History shows over and over again that the wealthy and powerful seek to control everyone else, and everyone else has a hell of a time trying to prevent it. Anyway, ‘Big Data’ is invariably clumsy and assumes ‘one size fits all.’ Its predictive value is minimal because humans are not statistical averages. Beginning with false assumptions is no way to achieve true conclusions, let alone useful ones.”

“I’m not optimistic about the data being free from control by ‘selfish people and institutions.’”

“So long as we have ‘Big Data’ and ‘Open Data’, all should be good. If we don’t, then I worry.”

“It is important to have as much information as possible. How this information is used/interpreted is the issue. It is a very grey area. Traditionally we have done very well at collecting data but have continual challenges in assessing and projecting outcomes. The general population does not understand and therefore have trouble interpreting statistics. Big Data is often considered suspect by the populace. I don’t see this changing. Data collection in some areas will assist in enabling new understating of the world. In other instances it will cause confusion, fear, and anger. This is particularly true if it is used to make decisions regarding rationing of resources. I do think that Big Data can and will be used by powerful people and institutions with selfish agendas. This will result in backlashes.”

“Big Data is here and already being used in ways that most people would abhor (if they knew about it). I have seen the issues with false predictions, data manipulation, and—as we all know—the significant data breaches that result in identity theft and account take-overs. Big Data and the Big Brother that has access to it is bad, bad, bad.”

“Even if we take half of Kurzwell’s predication of the singularity there will be exponential growth of knowledge and AI developments that will promote the more positive aspects of Big Data.”

“Hopefully the possibility to analyse large data sets will help to cope with global warming.”

“Benefits will materialize for causal processes, but will not be of any value for people-related processes. There’s too much randomness in the thoughts and actions of millions of (mostly) stupid, lazy people.”

“Big Data is not necessarily a negative for society, but it could be, and we’re not being critical enough about it at present. A lack of recognition of what Big Data doesn’t tell us is creating challenges. This said, there are many social scientists and others ready to leap in and critique Big Data-based work, and so we may find ourselves back on the right track with respect to keeping Big Data in perspective. However, ‘Big Data’ is unlikely to be positive for all society in all respects—as inherently it includes biases against minorities or those excluded from the network society (see Castells). Making sure ‘open data’ and ‘data in general’ is a positive for all of society in nearly all respects will involve significant work on capacity building and creating better policies and practices around open data.”

“Simply put, we are and will be a data-driven society.”

“Both will likely be true. But I prefer to believe that more knowledge is better.”

“The Internet of Things would be valuable if it developed in the context of emphasizing individual self-responsibility. Unfortunately, the opposite will be so, i.e. it will emphasize the forgoing of self-responsibility.”

“I think ‘nowcasting’ is a cool idea and could be extremely valuable in helping make important decisions, moving society more quickly forward. People will need to be more educated and informed about data and how to interpret it, unless it is extremely reliable in the future. Data can be manipulated, and its availability and utilization will need to be tempered with patience and a tendency to avoid using it to make huge, sweeping changes.”

“What we can measure we can influence, and while there are likely to be many speed-bumps, eventually we must gather and analyze data.”

“This is a capitalist society after all. Those with money can spend it to get information, shape it, and unfortunately misuse it. The digital divide continues; not everything relevant is represented online.”

“We are already seeing some excellent outcomes of analysis of Big Data. I am not so concerned by the negative scenario since I believe that it just portrays our current reality where statistical analysis can be faulty and misleading, but that does not mean it isn’t useful overall and in a context where there can be analysis.”

“Big Data will be useful, but there will be many data sets that aren’t ‘cleaned’ and ready for use in real-time. They will lag behind by months, thus saving us from the most catastrophic stupidities of now-casting.”

“‘Big Data’ is already facing some resistance from the general public. It is too complex for the average person to access and utilize. It is too intrusive for the wishes of most people. And because huge data sets are so valuable and may take the form of legal tender in some way, it will definitely be controlled and misused by an elite.”

“As part of the Big Data sector, I have only modest expectations of its positive impacts. There is very little evidence that there is growing practice of ‘evidence based decision-making.’”

“We are already seeing groups, candidates, etc., extract a point they want to make about an issue without sharing the full context of the issue. We are becoming more polarized due to the ease with which people have a platform to share their ideas.”

“Information is power, and information will be made even more accessible.”

“Without a system of accountability for the use of Big Data, its usage will cause more harm and probably increase wasted time spent clarifying complex relationships.”

“While I don’t believe in Big Data solving all our problems and lean more toward it providing a direction to look in for solutions, I also don’t believe it is always used for a ‘big negative for society’. I’ve grown up with parents that were afraid of any big change around technology, information access and big government. While in disagreement with a lot of their practices around these fears, I do believe that soley relying on data can be dangerous. Statistics can be manipulated to fit agendas, even with the best of intentions. Caution much be practiced in utilizing Big Data.”

“Overall the ability to quickly process huge quantities of data seems more of a plus than a minus.”

“Big Data access will be very positive, in business and in one’s personal life.”

“I’ll go with the growth of science.”

“In addition to the misuse of ‘Big Data’ for nefarious and selfish purposes, sometimes justified as the profit-motive by those with the power and wealth to gain more power and wealth. ‘Big Data’ will prove to be a huge problem that will be ignored at society’s peril. The infrastructure to do proper record-linkage will not be sufficiently developed and those relying on ‘data-mining’ and ‘big-data’ misanalysis will make huge errors with no way of knowing how big the errors they are making are. The misuse of huge datasets and the unrecognized large errors will have a very negative impact on many people’s lives.”

“I don’t see a problem with Big Data, its been predicted by Moore, so as we’re getting more data, we’re also getting more powerful machines to handle it. It is no problem at all, contrary, more data, more information, people learning things as they want.”

“There is a huge amount of value in Big Data sets as long as we put the firewalls in place to protect privacy issues, but that is a risk.”

“The rise of ‘Big Data’ will be generally positive; any negative consequences will be (slowly, painfully) addressed and overcome. The process will still be getting started in 2020.”

“Technology will contribute to analyze big amount of data in real time. Improving science, social, and other studies will be a good mix of both.”

“In 2020 the concentration of data will be still looked upon as harmful and potentially dangerous for individual freedom. Efforts by certain governments will certainly continue to defend the Big Data for the sake of security and effective governance, but resistance against this development will also grow, both against the public data stores and the data storage for commercial purposes.”

“Big Data will be important as will now-casting, and so forth. After all, we all like the predictions associated with weather reports. How that data is interpreted will vary. It will certainly be used by different groups for their political ends. But this is not new. Each side just will have more data to choose from (if they chose to see empirical data and trends as confirming the truth—e.g. global warming or the long form of Barack Obama’s birth certificate). There is a related question—will less educated or very opinionated people really care about the data? Many news programs and even candidates spout misinformation if not outright lies, and circulate it. They seem to think repetition is a guarantor of truth (a kind of  Bush/Cheney doctrine that worked with the weapons of mass destruction argument for invading Iraq.) The political and social world may not change that much with Big Data.”

“We will see greater control over events based on predictions stemming from large data sets. A model is only as good as its input, though, and it is difficult to capture accurate reflections of human opinion—not sure how this problem will surface. I also agree that the tendency to aggregate will result in the marginalizing of minority opinions. I do not trust government or industry to manage this data in a way that respects privacy or ethics.”

“The use of IBM’s AI Watson on Jeopardy is a sign of what the future holds. There is little doubt that supercomputers will possess the necessary programming to analyze large quantities of data and form a higher likely postulate. Medicine will likely be the first beneficiary of the technology with other disciplines following like finance and education.”

“We’ll learn more, things will sometimes be wrong, but mostly will be wrong about things where we have no prediction today, so the leeway will be granted.”

“Based on how data is currently used, I see no huge change with the rise of ‘Big Data.’”

“While I hope this is true we will need to be alert to misuse and mismanagement.

“The Big Data could be immensely beneficial, but as long as greed and hunger for power exist data will be manipulated especially access will be limited to only a select population. It’s all in the interpretation of the data, which as demonstrated in current uses of data in our culture misinterpretation and manipulation are the norm.”

“Big Data offers bigger opportunities for the misuse of data but it is a game changer in how we will be able to see, consider, and imagine the world. Like any tool it can and will be misused but that does not mean that we must always misuse it. Acting responsibly with data is akin to our use of any scientific advance.”

“I don’t know that ‘Big Data’ will ever ‘serve the majority.’ Unfortunately, just as ‘Big Oil,’ ‘Big Pharmaacy,’ ‘Too Big to Fail Banks,’ other outsized corporate interests, along with undemocratic government practices, fail to serve the majority, ‘Big Data’ threatens to undermine democratic civil society.”

“Overall Big Data is positive, but it will be abused.”

“The positives outweigh the negatives significantly. As a species that is growing, with finite resource availability, we need to drive efficiencies in all aspects of our existence. Big Data is one of the tools that will allow us achieve some of these changes.”

“Big Data causes more problems than it solves. Technically, new algorithms to process Big Data will improve. The problem is a political one—Big Data analysis can give better and more information to governments, corporations, insurance companies, and so forth, all to improve their bottom line, at the expense of the user.”

“Our cultural norms haven’t caught up with the implications of Big Data and mining of that data. It will take more than a decade for society to work out the implications of predictive forecasting, inferential software and tracking technology. This will be a very painful period and freedoms long taken for granted will be threatened.”

“I find some truth in both of the options, but the results of better forecasting of needs and other changes beyond ‘Big Data’ (including a greater understanding of the plight of people outside the US in troubled spots in the world) will lead to overall improvements.”

“The first option should be what happens; unfortunately the second option is what might/could happen.”

“Overall the ability to rapidly analyze ‘Big Data’ is a net positive. Among other things it will free us from the ‘monopoly of the majority’ where only the largest market segment(s) are addressed, by allowing content, product, and service providers to efficiently detect and address ‘niche’ markets that can profitably be served. Ultimately, if ‘targeted marketing’ is sufficiently targeted, it becomes a valuable service rather than a waste of the recipient’s time. It’s already starting to get close.”

“It will depend on our reactions to the problems we face. We may start off overwhelmed, but will eventually break it down.”

“In medicine, and particularly in genetics, already, Big Data is having a huge positive attitude and accelerating the production of evidence-based results. This is also true in physics, too. With the open access movement growing and being realized as beneficial not only to society, but to research interests, too, Big Data projects will accelerate in numbers of projects and in meaningful results.”

“In this case I tend to the pessimistic scenario because of the increased use of Big Data in service of narrow interests of the power elites of different countries.”

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