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Can Big Data inform the human condition?

Big Data is credited with many things but “resolving the human condition” is not normally among them. Step forward the University of Rochester which suggests otherwise in a blog. Thanks to a new study called the Kavli Human Project we’re going to know a lot more about our societies and how they operate en masse.

It’s going to follow the lives of 10,000 people for 20 years and as such looks like a large-scale modification of the Seven Up TV show. The scale means there’s some hope that Big Data techniques will tech us something about the longer-term behaviours of people and the implications for what they might do next.

From the data analyst’s point of view, the fascinating thing will be to watch the technology evolve as the data grows. Consider for a moment if someone had started such a project in 1996; could they have predicted the shape of technology in 2016, even if they’d had some inkling it would get smaller and more efficiency? Our best guess, and it has to be speculation, is that the citizens of that year would have queried the idea of phones having music attached, let alone any other advances we’ve seen.

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