The world after big data: What the digital revolution means for us

Never before were politicians, business leaders, and scientists more urgently needed to master the challenges ahead of us. We are in the middle of a third industrial revolution. While we see the symptoms, such as the financial and economic crisis, cybercrime and cyberwar, we haven’t understood the implications well. But at the end of this socio-economic transformation, we will live in a digital society. This comes with breath-taking opportunities and challenges, as they occur only every 100 years.

Big Data: a magic wand. But do we know how to use it?

Let me start with Big Data. When the social messaging portal WhatsApp with its 450 million users was recently sold, 19 billion dollars were made — almost half a billion dollars per staff member. Big Data is fundamentally changing our world. It is becoming the new oil of the 21st century, and we need to learn how to drill and refine it, i.e. how to produce data and turn them into information, knowledge and wisdom.

The potential of Big Data spans across all areas of society. It reaches from natural language processing over financial asset management, to smartly managing our cities and better balancing energy consumption and production, thereby saving energy. It allows for better protection of our environment, risk detection and reduction, and the discovery of opportunities, which would otherwise be missed. It will be possible to tailor medicine to patients, thereby increasing drug effectiveness while reducing side effects. Preventing diseases may become even more important than curing them.

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