David Byrne – Big Data, the Cyclical Universe and the End of Science

The faith part of science—the belief that there are underlying laws and explanations—will possibly be abandoned if we adopt big data as a guide to the universe. One doesn’t need to know why the apple falls from a tree at a specific rate the law of gravity. One only needs to see that that is what always happens, accept that fact, and log in that in such and such a situation, that is what will happen—the apple will fall. That there is a law that can be applied to predict that and to even predict how apples will fall on Mars is irrelevant—when you have infinite data you don’t need to know the why of anything.

via David Byrne – Big Data, the Cyclical Universe and the End of Science.

Very interesting essay by David Byrne. Yes, that David Byrne — of Talking Heads fame. It’s about big data, the root of both science and religion in faith, and the inherent problems with trying to catch criminals with data and technology (hint: it will always fail because… humans)…

Based on the behavior of insurgents that have been tracked, the NSA may feel that any occurrence of a similar pattern of behavior warrants watching: eating Pringles and playing in a video arcade, for example. If your behavior matches this too closely you could be arrested, though you’ve done nothing. As before, this reliance on data doesn’t ask why the insurgency, what caused it, or what those people want—it doesn’t look for underlying causes, it simply and dispassionately (or so we are led to think) goes about its business of crunching numbers.