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Big Conversation

BC: Big Conversation - Big Data: Opportunity or Threat to the Fabric of Society?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013, 12:30 - 13:15, Jupiter 11+12+13
Big Brother is watching us. Recent revelations about the practices of security agencies tell us so. But how concerned should we be? Should we accept reassurances that no-one has the time or inclination to wade through vast oceans of data just to monitor our activities? Or should we recognise that we have entered the era of big data analytics in which computers tirelessly sift through huge data sets searching for trends and patterns? Those patterns can bring significantly increased efficiency and competitive advantage - allowing machine parts to be replaced just before they are about to fail. But they also challenge privacy protection and raise the spectre of penalties based on propensities. Big data predictions could result in punishments being imposed even before a crime has been committed. Judging people on what we predict they might do challenges notions of justice and free will underpinning many societies. How can we take advantage of big data analytics without destroying the fabric of society?