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March 25, 2013


Charles C McGowen

Irving, While I agree with this there is an inherent flaw in the observation and it is one that many teachers make. The flaw is which entity is in control of the learning process. Teachers believe they are; however, they're wrong - the student is in charge. If the student has willing suspension of disbelief and believes in the teacher and persists through the learning process they will accept the new paradigms. However, Dr. Richard Massey many years ago noticed that people will not change their deeply held beliefs absent what he called "a significant emotional event'. An example is that you don't walk in to someone's office of "Religion A", wave your hands, speak a few incantations, and expect to convert them to "Religion B". Paradigms do not change that easily. I've been working on a software system for a number of years to address exactly this issue and ironically in the context of this article's premise. I have not just the architecture for this system but the method and techniques required to implement and use it. The user interface is a radical departure from any predecessor. In fact, I believe it to be revolutionary. If I were at IBM I would be driving this through the company. Alas, I'm not and am working issues through my own meager efforts.

Bud Byrd

Discretely defining the attributes of individuals by the connections they make to allow the specification of the individual, the stereotyping of individuals into markets, and/or for other purposes is an outcome that will ill-serve the population, the individual.

No doubt, understanding the wants and needs of the individual by the connections individually excreted will give business interests a belief that they understand their respective customers, their markets. In reality, I doubt that is so.

Will people be so predictable that they continue to follow the pathway of their connections history, or will people continue to connect, disconnect and reconnect in patterns that can only be ascertained by a dynamic monitoring that goes beyond a reasonable surveillance technique employable by our government and/or private businesses?

With the legal concerns for personal privacy, the reach of big brother and the restrictions of ethical decency, will the collection of data continue to be so freely accomplished? Hopefully, people will begin to understand the ramifications of the personal assets that they relinquish to social networks, cell phone GPS tracking, etc. With this understanding, I suspect that the answer to allowing the continued unrestricted access to personal data question becomes an emphatic “no” with a subsequent demand for government to enact laws preventing such access.

Technology allows for many things, of that there is no question. But, are the many capabilities that technology brings, acceptable to an informed public? Time will tell, but I am hopeful that the American people will begin to understand that hanging all of one's personal data out for anyone to see, to use, to abuse, is a real and continuing threat to the personal freedom that we have enjoyed in years gone by.

Can the underlying building blocks of “big data” be collected? Can the data be massaged and analyzed? Can inferences be made from the collected and analyzed data? Undoubtedly, the answer to all these questions is “yes”.

Will, what has been, a personal data apathetic public awaken and disallow the continuation of this invasion of its collective and individual privacy at a pace that technology allows? Hopefully, the answer to this question will also be “yes”.

Armen Hovanessian

Great write-up on a very important topic. However, I am not sure if I understand why we need a new discipline in Universities to tackle this when we had for decades the Analytical focus called Operations Research (or Operational Research as British called it) as a field of study and topic in several great schools.

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