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Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  3,967 ratings  ·  385 reviews
A revelatory exploration of emerging trends in "big data"--our newfound ability to gather and interpret vast amounts of information--and the revolutionary effects these developments are producing in business, science, and society at large.
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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I chose to read this book because it is one of the more visible examples of a trade business/ technology book about some recent changes in the data/information business. The key intuition that this book is highlighting is a shift towards greatly increased production of data and greatly increased use of large nearly complete population levels data sets in the management and control of a range of industries. This change is fueled by the wide adoption of broadband internet services and significant ...more
This book was interesting initially but became a bit repetitive overall. It has three major points in it;

1. Sampling was important when collecting data was expensive and difficult, but we now we have access by one means or another to all data.

2. Since we have so much data, the quality of individual data points is not important and we can allow inexactness in measurement processes as long as there isn't a systematic bias.

3. Causality and understanding why things happen is no longer as important
Rob Kitchin
In 2008 the term ‘big data’ was barely in use. Five years later and it has become latest ICT-related buzzword, used to refer to the recent surge in the generation of huge quantities of diverse and dynamic data produced by social media, transactions and interactions across the internet, sensor and camera networks, a myriad software-enabled devices, scientific equipment, etc. Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier’s book aims to provide an initial survey and analysis of the big data phenomena and what they ...more
Chapter two of this book starts by telling us the three things the book will be about:

“The first is the ability to analyse vast amounts of data about a topic rather than be forced to settle for smaller sets. The second is a willingness to embrace data’s real-world messiness rather than privilege exactitude. The third is the growing respect for correlations rather than a continuing quest for elusive causality.”

And that is exactly what this book does – it discusses each of these points more or les
David Adams
Apr 20, 2013 David Adams rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not recommended
Shelves: not-recommended
I just stopped reading this book at page 143 and I don't plan on continuing. The book is padded and repetitive plus most of the examples have already been published in articles. As another reviewer stated book... "it could've been reduced to a single feature-length article with links to prior stories"

Strange Statements:

-"Data has become a raw material for business... The data can reveal secrets to those with the humility, willingness, and the tools to listen"
Is this book about Data Science or di
Mal Warwick
Shocked by the NSA revelations? You don't know the whole story

While Edward Snowden bounces from one temporary refuge to another in search of safe harbor from the long arms of the U.S. government, the American public is starting to wake up to the reality of Big Data. The National Security Agency, long one of the pioneers in this burgeoning but little-appreciated field, has been teaching us -- or, rather, Snowden, The Guardian, and the Washington Post have been teaching us -- about the power that
Troy Blackford
This is a fascinating exploration of the topic of what happens when the sample size of a given field of study reaches the point where n=all. That is to say, what happens when we have data for all of a given variable, rather than just taking a sampling and extrapolating out findings. The authors compare the difference to what happened to visual representation when you could make a number of photographs in one second - it wasn't just a quality-based leap like that of the jump from realistic artwor ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
Big Data takes on big ideas: how will the availability of huge data sets change the way we do research? Does it matter why something happens as much as what precisely is happening? Will correlation analysis of large data sets take the place of the painstaking theory-to-hypothesis-to-empirical-testing of traditional science?

The author perhaps over promises the impact of Big Data and underestimates the associated privacy issues. Yet, there is much that is interesting and important in this book. Wh
Aaron Thibeault
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

The main argument: Statistical information, or data, has long been recognized to be a potentially rich and valuable source of knowledge. Until recently, however, our ability to render phenomena and events in a quantified format, store this information, and analyze it has been severely limited. With the rise of the digital age, though, these limitations are quickly being eroded. To begin with, digita
Dennis Daniels
Having read some of the critiques below I have to wonder, what other books on big data can people recommend?

That said, I'm a quarter way done and have discovered a number of interesting sites and read dozens of support pages to better understand what is being discussed. So far, I'm enjoying it.


Finished it. I originally gave it four stars but now just three.

I feel that the author would have been better served by a stronger editor. There is quite a bit of repetition in the book. For only 2
Having been on a big data/statistics binge recently, I can't help but be struck by the similarities in approach and execution between the major titles on the subject. Crack open any of these books and the authors are sure to regale you with the torrid tales of Billy Beane and his baseball Sabermetricians, Target's premature targeting of expectant mothers, and lest we forget - fawning references to the zany whizzes over at Google.

Still, the subject is so intensely fascinating that it doesn't mat
Well-researched and well-written, this guidebook to the (dystopian?) future is intriguing, mind-bending, and alarming, all at the same time.

The authors explain that our economy and society are undergoing a massive upheaval, akin to the industrial revolution. “Representative sampling” used to be the norm, and researchers tightly controlled variables to isolate why something was occurring. Thanks to the massive increase in computer processing power, very inexpensive storage, and diverse types of d
Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
Very padded, He covers the same information three times. For me he didn't make the case for big data being as influential as he thinks it will be. I would like to read a clearly defined statement about areas of application and other areas. I think he minimizes causation and over states correlations. I don' understand a scientific method without hypotheses, ideas coming from the data like ooze and how data has improved decision making in N=All situations. Baseball using N=all hasn't done well and ...more
As an ex-nerd, I've been spending less and less time thinking about and working with computers and networks professionally. I'd heard the term "Big Data", and knew approximately what it meant. This book was a surprize. It explained in lay terms what Big Data is, how it can be used, the implications for businesses and governments, and how it is different from the data bases that we have used for decades. It uses explicit and clear examples. It is a great read for anyone who wants to know what the ...more
The first half of the book was great but it really took effort to get through the second half. Essentially, the take away from this book can be summarized by this quote:

“There is a treasure hunt under way, driven by the insights to be extracted from data and the dormant value that can be unleashed by a shift from causation to correlation.”

All-in-all, useful information for my purposes as I hope to play a role in the analysis and dissemination of Big Data at my company.

Hồng Sơn
Cuốn sách giới thiệu về những ứng dụng của Dữ liệu lớn trong việc cải thiện khả năng dự báo, nâng cao chất lượng cung ứng sản phẩm dịch vụ, giảm thiểu rủi ro,... đồng thời giới thiệu về xu hướng phát triển và khả năng ảnh hưởng của Dữ liệu lớn trong các lĩnh vực của đời sống trong thời gian tới, kèm theo đó là những nguy cơ và thách thức đối với quyền tự do cá nhân khi lĩnh vực Dữ liệu lớn phát triển tới một khả năng nhất định.

Mặc dù cuốn sách đánh giá việc phân tích, xây dựng thuật toán xử lý d
The first time I came across the idea of quantity transforming into quality was when I read Friedrich Engels' 'Dialectics of Nature' a long while ago. This book on 'Big Data' elaborates on that principle by showing how 'gems of insight' emerge when you let computers crunch vast stores of information using its algorithmic power. By processing large volumes of data, we are now able to save money on airline tickets, predict flu outbreaks, enable health insurance firms to provide coverage without a ...more
Marcos Feole
This is a book that aims to explain to a very non-technical audience what kinds of uses have big data technologies for companies, governments and individuals.

The book repeats itself a lot (really, a lot) and it's not that well written, so it's very hard to read it through. But if you are really interested in big data, you should put some effort and read it anyway. I wouldn't recommend it to people that are not that interested in the subject.

I personally found the first chapter very exciting and
The authors have written an highly interesting book which is a good introduction to a topic I didn't know much about. For sure the book gives an accurate and complete introduction to the topic of big data. The book discusses not only the data but also the people handling the data and enterpreneurs building new business models. The book is filled with a lot of convincing examples of the use of big data within commercial, political and societal environments. I really liked the part in which they t ...more
Don O'goodreader
RIP: Scientific Revolution - da Vinci to von Neumann - the short reign of cause and effect. If you read only one non-fiction book this year, this is it.

For 100s of millions of years, correlation has been the natural heuristic of all intelligent behavior, The driver behind evolution is mindless correlation. All that matters is what survives with not consideration of "why?" Then came the scientific revolution and the scientific method and a demand to understand "why?"

Curiosity and discovery have c
Good, if repetitive, introduction to big data. Humans have always searched for the causes behind events or phenomena, and have developed sampling and math techniques to determine cause. Big data upends all this, because computing power and storage are fast an cheap enough to enable us to use all of the dataset, not small samples (n=all). This uncovers correlations, not causes, but in more and more cases we will have to be satisfied with knowing "what", but not "why". Everything in the world is b ...more
This breathless look at Big Data was a fine survey of the concepts behind the buzzword of the day. But it failed to question the successes that it cites as evidence of the sheer amazingness of Big Data. (To be sure, these is plenty to be amazed with). The book awkwardly starts off with Google Flu Trends, an impressive example of how the company could predict where the flu was spreading based on what people were searching for on the Internet. I assume that the major failure of the system to accur ...more
This is a reasonably good introduction to Big Data. It describes the subject from the applications and impact point of view. You come away with a sense of how Big Data is changing business and society and of some of the issues. It is anecdotal in style; while easily read, it doesn't put things in perspective. How much economic impact is Big Data really having?

I was disappointed that there was very little discussion of the methods of data analytics (excusable in a non-technical book), and no rec
Martin von Haller Groenbaek
Great and very informative book. Excellent introduction to Big Data. Many points and ideas are repeated on and on throughout the book. Many will probably find this annoying, but for me it helped to drive in the points. Of course, the authors are very enthusiastic about the importance and potential of Big Data bordering to hyperbole. However, good sections look at the risks of Big Data "enslavement" and caution not to be naive but to implement new regulation or update existing to mitigate those r ...more
If we were previously unaware of the role big data plays in contemporary life, the revelation in June that the NSA vacuums up a billion domestic telephone records a day will have wakened us from our slumber. Something new and deeply unsettling is under way in the bowels of governments and corporations. And yet, as becomes very clear in Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, the weakening of personal privacy is only one of the areas undergoing profound change as ...more
Frankfurt School thinkers (Adorno, Marcuse) would have got worried if they had read most of the statements made by Cukier & Schönberger, who foresee and advocate for the triumph of the big data ‘technical reason’. The core of their reasoning might be put in these terms: sales are the most important thing in life; the data analysis helps us in reinforcing the sales; every discipline or judgement type not based in data analysis may be overlooked (‘The subject-area expert, the substantive speci ...more
Edward Tse
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Even though I could see mixed reviews about the book on the net, but I personally feel that this is a book for everyone. The book is excellent for someone who wants to know what is big data without getting into technical aspects (mostly managers, architects, principle engineers). The book also acts as a reference for someone who is already working with big data but do not understand practical value of the technology (mostly developers).
There are numerous references available on this topic most
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger makes a compelling case for data analytics and especially the modern approach where correlations are superior to a more causality-seeking analysis. This is achieved by using the full population instead of a sample. In th book, this is called "N=all".

This analytical approach allows one to bypass the usual "correlation != causality" argument, because when you are describing the whole world with a correlation, the fact that it does not mean causality, matters less.

It is not always that one comes across a book that is astute in its observations, wise in its analysis, and kind in its approach. This is especially hard for books that have to deal with technical subjects, often deemed dry. The authors make the book not only comprehensible but highly readable, like an edge of the seat thriller.

The book is enlightening in its definition of big data - the entire data set (or as close to it as possible) subject to experiments or observations versus a subset of it
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VIKTOR MAYER-SCHÖNBERGER is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University. A widely recognized authority on big data, he is the author of over a hundred articles and eight books, of which the most recent is Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. He is on the advisory boards of corporations and organizations around the world, inclu ...more
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“Sometimes the constraints that we live with, and presume are the same for everything, are really only functions of the scale in which we operate.” 2 likes
“The very idea of penalizing based on propensities is nauseating. To accuse a person of some possible future behavior is to negate the very foundation of justice: that one must have done something before we can hold him accountable for it. After all, thinking bad things is not illegal, doing them is. It is a fundamental tenet of our society that individual responsibility is tied to individual choice of action. [...] Were perfect predictions possible, they would deny human volition, our ability to live our lives freely. Also, ironically, by depriving us of choice they would exculpate us from any responsibility.” 2 likes
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