On May 22 I attended the 2013 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. This year’s theme was The Transformational CIO: Architecting the Enterprise of the Future. “The enterprise of the future will be very different from the one we know,” wrote the organizers in the event’s website. “It will be complex, develop hitherto unforeseen forms, and will have to respond to unforeseen challenges. All while the windows of opportunity and response will continue to shrink. There will not only be the need to be agile and adapt to changes as they occur, but to be proactive in shaping the next generation enterprise to be ready for the future.”
The Symposium included a number of talks and panels on the key issues facing CIOs in our post-digital world, that is, in an era when digital technologies permeate just about every nook and cranny of the business, and where every business is a digital business, the title of one of the talks at the event. While a number of transformative technologies were discussed, big data was the most prominent.
MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson led an all-MIT academic panel of experts on The Reality of Big Data. In a brief introductory talk, Brynjolfsson pointed out that throughout history new tools beget revolutions. Scientific revolutions are launched when new tools make possible all kinds of new measurements and observations. In 1676, for example, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek used a microscope, a relatively recent and rare tool, to discover the existence of microorganisms in a drop of water. Thus was microbiology born, leading to major discoveries in biology, medicine, public health and food production in subsequent decades and centuries.