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Big Data In The Wild

This TED video is truly mind-blowing. It's Deb Roy of the MIT Media Lab, sharing some results from his remarkable research.

It's hard to know what to even call the research. At one level, it's an exploration of "The Birth of a Word," as it examines audio and video traces of Roy's son's path to learning to pronounce the word, "water."

Truly amazing. 

But, the research goes much further than that.

About 11:30 minutes in, the video demonstrates methods of visualizing the ways that our individual and collective experience of the world is being communicated through social media. 

As our ability to capture, correlate, analyze and depict previously unimaginable amounts of data grows, we will begin to see patterns emerging that were heretofore invisible; a consequence of the truly staggering volume of data which we can now realistically afford to capture and store. 

McKinsey recently pointed out some of the economic opportunities that "big data" sets present in health care, retail and other industries.

Over the last decade, Google has shown the way in demonstrating the utility of big data analysis algorithms. Its new Google + platform opens another enormous data source that will undoubtedly be subjected to the kinds of analyses Roy and his MIT colleagues are pioneering here. 

Many of us are understandably fearful about some of the issues big data collection and analysis raises.

At the same time, it's demonstrations like Roy's that give us a glimmer of the spectacular worlds that will become visible when big data analyses routinely start showing up in the wild.

Like Roy and his son say near the video's end: "Wow!"

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