Monday, July 08, 2013

Big Data, Apollo and Daphne

Over on oomkenscom, a small piece about Big Data...

Some see it as a huge, transformational boon for mankind, others as a fatal step to ever more intrusive state control - others still dismiss it as relatively meaningless.

All in all, it's probably a mix of each of those things.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne
It reminds me of the legend of Apollo and Daphne, whom Eros confounded - with an arrow of love for Apollo, and an arrow of hate for Daphne.

When Apollo came close to catching Daphne, she begged her father Peneus to change her form, to prevent her being ravished. He duly turned her into a laurel tree - a tree Apollo tended with love and devotion, making her evergreen, using her leaves for honourable, sacred wreaths.

Normally interpreted as an alegory about lust and chastity, the myth can also be seen as a message about the state's lust for information about its citizens, and how this is resisted by the people, driving them to change the form of the data they share.

This interpretation implies that the people's actions will provoke a change of heart in the state, a perhaps unrealistic outcome.

But the power of myth illuminates the eternal better than enlightening us about the future - predictive outcomes (its advocates claim) are in the sphere of Big Data...

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