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June 21, 2013

World Economic Forum

by murphcane

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Hello from the great city of New York and the World Economic Forum’s USA offices.

It has been about two weeks since I got settled into Manhattan, and as you’d suspect from a city with 8 million people, things are moving excitedly fast. The constant motion has kept things fresh and ripe for inspiration.

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The first order of business in preparing for the Forum was to get caught up on all the literature surrounding “big data”. While I have come to see this term as overused and misunderstood (in a similar way to “design thinking”), there was definite value in getting a scope for how the world’s leading experts envision data driving society. Hand in hand with this preliminary research was watching The Minority Report, the 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg, which I have found is widely cited in big data communities. The movie depicts a future where people are arrested for crimes they have not yet committed, and poses serious questions about rights and freedoms. With ever increasing amounts of data being generated in the world (it is estimated that there is more data/information produced per day than from 2003 to the beginning of recorded history – woah!), we are not that from off from analytical software being able to predict with great accuracy who will commit a crime

A week into starting things out with the Forum,  Edward Snowden set off a storm of press with his leaks of the NSA’s PRISM program. While I will not get to in depth at this point in addressing the politics of NSA and their initiatives, I can say that it was quiet a headline to come out the week of starting on the Forum’s personal data initiative. I don’t think I could have picked a more exciting time to jump into the world of personal data.

So what do we do about this (arguably scary) future?! What rules and regulations should be in place to ensure that individuals are protected, but also to avoid hindering positive social benefit and innovation through big data? These are exactly the problems that I am wrestling with this summer, and by approaching these topics from the background of an artist and designer I am presented with a fascinating perspective on how to best address this complex issues.

I will address more specifically my day to day work and longer term project goals for the summer in the next post, but for now if you are interested in reading more about the growing world of Big Data, check out the New York Time’s special section from this Thursday:

Cheers from the Big Apple,

Ryan

P.S. Can’t beat coming to work and findingendless amounts of N’Espresso!

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