Philosophy of Big Data: Big Data, the Individual, and Society


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Philosophical concepts elucidate the impact the Big Data Era (exabytes/year of scientific, governmental, corporate, personal data being created) is having on our sense of ourselves as individuals in society as information generators in constant dialogue with the pervasive information climate.

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Philosophy of Big Data: Big Data, the Individual, and Society

  1. 1. Philosophy of Big Data: Big Data, the Individual, and Society Melanie Swan January 24, 2013 Microsoft, Mountain View CA Slides:
  2. 2. Technology Evolution 2
  3. 3. Data Big Data! 3
  4. 4. Big Data What is it? Biggest hope? Biggest fear? 4
  5. 5. Heaven or Hell? “Hi! I'm a Googlebot! I'm indexing your apartment.” Physical world analog to robots.txt ?
  6. 6. Defining Trend of Current Era: Big Data   Annual data creation in zettabytes (10007 bytes) 90% of the world’s data created in the last 2 years 2 year doubling cycle Source: Mary Meeker, Internet Trends, 6
  7. 7. Big Data Composition • Massive amounts of data generated daily which cannot be processed with conventional data analysis tools (volume, velocity, variety) – Impossible to store all generated data, 90% real-time surgical video feeds discarded • Scientific, governmental, corporate, and personal – Each generating exabytes/year – 1990s data management challenge solution: low-cost storage, massively parallel processing, data warehouses 7
  8. 8. Typical Big Data Problems • Perform sentiment analysis on 12 terabytes of daily Tweets • Predict power consumption from 350 billion annual meter readings • Identify potential fraud in a business’s 5 million daily transactions 8
  9. 9. Wireless Internet-of-Things (IOT) Image credit: Cisco Source: Swan, M. Sensor Mania! The Internet of Things, Objective Metrics, and the Quantified Self 2.0. J Sens Actuator Netw (2012) 1(3), 217-253. 9
  10. 10. 12 bn Internet-connected Devices 2016   Usual computing gadgetry (e.g.; smartphones) and everyday objects: cars, food, clothing, appliances, buildings, roads 3 year doubling cycle Embedded chips in 5% of humanconstructed objects (2012)1 Source: 1Vinge, V. Who’s Afraid of First Movers? The Singularity Summit 2012 10
  11. 11. Personal Information Streams ‘Omics’ Genome: SNP mutations Structural variation Epigenetics Microbiome Traditional Personal and Family Health History Self-reported data: health, exercise, food, mood journals, etc. Prescription History Transcriptome Metabolome Quantified Self Internet-of-Things Smart Home Smart Car Mobile App Data Lab Tests: History and Current Personal Robotics Demographic Data Proteome Quantified Self Device Data Environmental Sensors Standardized Questionnaires Biosensor Data Objective Metrics Community Data Diseasome Environmentome Legend: Consumer-available Swan, M. Health 2050: The Realization of Personalized Medicine through Crowdsourcing, the Quantified Self, and the Participatory Biocitizen. J Pers Med 2012, 2(3), 93-118. 11
  12. 12. The TechnoBioCitizen • Sense of ourselves as information generators in constant dialogue with the pervasive information climate Swan, M. The Quantified Self: Fundamental Disruption in Big Data Science and Biological Discovery. Big Data June 2013, 1(2): 85-99. 12
  13. 13. What are Big Data Scientists Saying? • Jim Harris, Data Science Consultant: beware of big data fundamentalism; need for data philosophers • Evelyn Rupert, Goldsmith’s London, Economies and Ecologies of Big Data: (dangerous) normative relation to data ; no reality, just representation; data is performative • Grady Booch, IBM Chief Scientist: human and ethical aspects, tremendous social benefits, full life-cycle of data, ineffective legal controls • James Kobielus, IBM Big Data Evangelist: no ‘single version of the truth’; be critical of beautiful data visualizations and data-driven narrative stories 13
  14. 14. Big Data What other kinds of things is Big Data like? 14
  15. 15. Big Data: Profound Unknown • Profound, overwhelming, intangible unknown • Approaches: how do we deal with something that is unknown? • Other vast unknowns – – – – – – Exploring the ‘new’ world Space God/spiritual realm Disease cure National debt Large-project completion 15
  16. 16. Sublime vs. Uncanny • Sublime: loftiness, excellence, inspiration; sublime is the name given to what is absolutely great (Critique of Judgment (Kant, 1790)) • Uncanny: beyond normal/expected; plays on fears (The Uncanny (Sigmund Freud, 1919)) The sublime is a crisis where we realize the inadequacy of the imagination and reason to each other (the differend); we are straining the mind at the edges of itself and its conceptuality Source: Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Jean-Francois Lyotard, 1991) 16
  17. 17. Big Data: Sublime or Uncanny? Listening Post : Real-Time Data Responsive Environment (Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, 2001) Source: The Sublime in Interactive Digital Installation by Tegan Bristow 17
  18. 18. Is Big Data Different? Are there ways in which big data is not part of the natural ongoing process of making our world more intelligible and manageable (collect and exploit information)? Is there something about big data which is fundamentally different than animal breeding, the plow, eyeglasses, the airplane, computing, and the Internet? 18
  19. 19. Responses to the Big Data Unknown • Analogy • Representation, visualization, map (issue of repticity (representational accuracy)) • Story, narrative, myth • Understand through opposition • Borders, limits – Autoimmunity, Antifragility • Quantitative approaches – Data quality – Statistics 19
  20. 20. Representation: InfoViz 20
  21. 21. Understand through Opposites • Opposites (big data vs. small data) – Possible to have a just world without a notion (and experience?) of injustice? A world of equality without inequality? – Radical forgiveness of even the most unforgivable (Derrida) • Interrelations and Dynamism – Being with one another vs. alterity (Heidegger) – Fúsis: rising out of itself, taking back into itself (Heraclitus 500 BCE) – Plasticity (giving form, taking in form, exploding form) (Malabou 2012) 21
  22. 22. Border, Boundaries, Flexibility • Autoimmunity (Derrida) – Autoimmunity: porous borders, possibility of selfsuicide, identity cannot be completely closed – Absolute immunity: nothing would ever happen • Antifragilility (Taleb) – Antifragility: systems that are open to mistakes and learn quickly; resilient and vibrant – Fragility: over-controlled systems that aim for stability and avoid change; brittle, weak, and breakable 22
  23. 23. Subjectivation in Modern Life • City and subject co-create the modern sensibility For the Baudelairean flâneur, the city streets function as transitory stages of modern life. Modern beauty is not conventional and pretty, however, but rather discontinuous, fleeting, bizarre and strange. Differences and ruptures are its essential traits. • Data and subject co-create … Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, 1863 23
  24. 24. Immanence and Transcendence • Immanence: everything needed for change is within the system (e.g.; ourselves, society, organism) • Transcendence: something outside the system is needed for change • First give voice to our underlying desires (desiringproduction), our desires (biological and otherwise) as a productive force - Deleuze & Guatarri (1972) 24
  25. 25. Living in Harmony: Relation to Others • Hell is other people – Sartre (1944) • Desire for recognition; dependence on others for this, ephemerality; bubble, globe, foam - Sloterdijk (2011) • Modes of existence – LaTour (2013), Souriau • Modes of experience, equality techniques - Rancière (2010) • Group ethics: an honest negotiation between individual desires (not repression) - Deleuze & Guatarri (1972) 25
  26. 26. Relation of Individual and Society • Theme: government surveillance and diminution of liberty (NSA 2.0) • Scary/not-scary threshold: anonymous census (no), internment camps (yes) • Brin: souveillance (crowd) response to surveillance (government) • Foucault: biopower (top-down) vs. (the more pernicious) self-disciplinary power (bottom-up) • Deleuze: rid ourselves of self-imposed microfascisms 26
  27. 27. We are in a world that is fundamentally changing What is Real? Is this image of something real? What kind of real? Real life? Artificial Life? Synthetic Biology? Computergenerated image? Proliferation in reality categories 27
  28. 28. Wholly new relation to Information – Formerly everything signal, now 99% noise – Exception, variability, probability, patterns, prediction – New kinds of information • Longitudinal baseline measures, normal deviation patterns, contingency adjustments, anomaly, emergence • Multiple data analysis paradigms: time, frequency, episode, cycle • New kinds of models (supplementing the scientific method) – Machine learning, hierarchical representation, neural networks, information visualization Source: Swan, M. The Quantified Self. Big Data (2013) 1(2): 85-99.
  29. 29. A New World of Futurity • Shifting from focus on the past (known) and the present (measurable) to the future (predictable) • Increasing importance of math and heuristics – Statistics: mode, mean, variance, outliers – Probability: quantum mechanics, semiconductors, nanomaterials, financial markets, disease risk, preventive medicine • Systemic, dynamic, episodic, chaotic worldviews • Collaboration especially drawing upon crowdsourced communities Source: Kido, Swan, et al. Systematic evaluation of personal genome services. Nature: Journal of Human Genetics (2013) 58, 734–741. 29
  30. 30. Crowdsourced Creativity Source: Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3, 'Water Night' (2012),
  31. 31. Summary: Science and Society Summary • Big Data as a profound, intangible, pervasive feature of life requiring novel representation • Big Data as the inspiration for a new • New era of scientific discovery with a greatly formation and sensibility of ourselves as expanded range of possibilities due to big data, TechnoBiocitizens in a collaborative society computation, and big data:participation our • Philosophy of crowd centrally about relation to technology • Our attunement to to technology as an enabling Our attunement technology as an enabng background helps us see the possibilities true background helpsus see the possibilities for thefor the meaningfulness of our being - Heideg true meaningfulness of our being - Heidegger Source: Heidegger, M. The Question Concerning Technology (1954) 31
  32. 32. Technology Futures Institute 32
  33. 33. Technology Futures Institute • Mission: use philosophy to improve the rigor of our thinking about science and technology • Sample Projects – Ethics of Perception in Nanocognition – Perception is a feature (Glass, electronic contacts, nanorobotic cognitive aids), not an evolutionary given, therefore how do we want to perceive – Digital Art and Philosophy – Integration of science/technology, aesthetics, and meaning-making in complex human endeavor – A Critical Theory of BioArt – How artists appropriating biological materials and practices to create art is or is not art – Conceptualizing Big Data – How big data is remaking our world – Live Philosophy Workshop – Hands on concept generation • Services – Strategic Collaborations, Research Papers, Articles – Speaking engagements, Workshops, Classes, Conferences – Philosophy Studies: Epistemology1, Subjective Experience2 1 2 33
  34. 34. Philosophy of Big Data: Big Data, the Individual, and Society Thank you ! January 24, 2013 Microsoft, Mountain View CA Slides: Melanie Swan