Big Data, Nanotechnology, Magic and Random Acts of God (or Eric Schmidt)

Two of my interests, Big Data and Nanotechnology seems to be colliding this week and that’s a bad sign? Why? Well nanotechnology is seen as a Deus Ex Machina that performs the magic step that enables or justifies other technologies, which usually means that someone hasn’t got much of a clue how to get to their imagined version of the future. As an alternative to throwing in some magic, or it all being a  dream we now have a new tool to replace random acts of god, nanotechnology.

First came a mention in the early stages of Eric Schmidt’s book ‘The New Digital Age‘ where the authors allege that nanotechnology machines in your bloodstream will apparently send back data to your doctor, although what kind of nanotech or how it may work isn’t allowed to get in the way of the big idea. I’m a quarter the way through and while there are some interesting ideas, the overall tone of the book of “Wow, the future will be really cool and enabled by all kinds of data” is beginning to annoy the cr*p out of me. If it was presented to me by one of my students I’d tell them to go back and show the working, so I could figure out how they’d got from now to the future. It has all the unfortunate hallmarks of being written by a a bunch of people with no interest in anything outside IT, and even less understanding of the real technological world. I’m with the New York Times on this one, it’s both fascinating and facile.

The theme is repeated byAdrian Asher, chief information security officer (CISO) of the Skype division at Microsoft who claims in an article headed “Big data will go mainstream when nanotechnology is embedded into humans, says Skype CISO” perhaps after reading Schmidt’s book…

“There is much talk about networking and e-commerce uses for big data in the future but imagine in five or 10 years, if each of us had nanotechnology embedded in us to help fight various forms of diseases.

“Once those markers are present [of a disease], they will be detected and fed into your house’s gateway and then will be processed into the healthcare system. Being able to do that with animals and humans – that is when you’re really embracing big data.”

It would be more interesting see what nanotechnologists think of the impact of big data on their field.

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