Digital Anticipation and Global Understanding – Big Data, but what a future?

Chairs: Prof. Diana Mangalagiu, Sciences Po / University of Oxford and Prof. David Tuckett, UCL

Short Description

A quick search on Google about what “made the world faster” returns as first results: the cloud, internet, globalization, technology, wireless communication, the end of the Cold War, machines, information technologies. We have begun to design technologies that can take advantage of this increase in the speed of information transmission to develop better short-term insights. Some claim we can now forecast the spreading of flu pandemics or the volatility of stocks using search query data, the results of elections using prediction markets, the demand of new products by tracking their adoption by influential characters in social networks, and better manage prevention of and recovery from extreme events.

One question to ask is whether we can really do all of that and what might be its limitations. Is the availability and rapid analysis of large quantities of big data making societies better or what might be the problems? Another question is whether the developments that have increased the speed and reach of communication mean that our societies feel better empowered and more confident when facing the future? In fact it can seem rather the contrary. A sense of powerlessness is spreading from the unemployed, underemployed or less and less relatively well paid workers in Western Europe to the nation based policy-makers who have to confront global challenges such as financial and economic crises, climate change, or the rebalancing of power and influence at the global scale. In part, the picture is reminiscent of “the end of the economic man“ in the 1930s. […] A full description of the workshop can be found in the GSS Outline Paper



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