Building on the (exact) same premise as last week’s FT.com article Big data: are we making a big mistake?, Mikkel Krenchel and Christian Madsbjerg write for Wired:
Not only did Google Flu Trends largely fail to provide an accurate picture
of the spread of influenza, it will never live up to the dreams of the big-
data evangelists. Because big data is nothing without “thick data,” the rich
and contextualized information you gather only by getting up from the
computer and venturing out into the real world. Computer nerds were once
ridiculed for their social ineptitude and told to “get out more.” The truth
is, if big data’s biggest believers actually want to understand the world
they are helping to shape, they really need to do just that.
While the authors actually mean the above literally, I think the valid point the article could have made is that looking at a data set alone without considering:
- possibly missing data,
- context data and knowledge,
- and field know-how
can lead to incorrect conclusions — the most obvious examples being the causal fallacy and the correlation-causation confusions.
✚ Somehow related to the “possibly missing data” point, the article How politics makes us stupid brings up some other very interesting points.
Original title and link: Your Big Data Is Worthless if You Don’t Bring It Into the Real World