Big bang data - the impact of data on society in the Digital Age

18 March 2016

by Will Leighton Senior Manager

A broader perspective

When fifteen esteemed Data Assurance colleagues visited the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House, we discovered some startling facts on the impact of data on humans and society as a whole. Believe it or not, the first transatlantic cable was laid down over a hundred and fifty years ago. Since this date in 1858, the use of data gradually crept into relevance in human civilisation, until the introduction of three key inventions - the transistor, followed by the microprocessor and the internet. These applications of producing, storing and transferring data led to an explosion of data being produced, stored and transferred to all corners of the globe.

At our fingertips

Our attention spans are shorter than ever, but with the ease that one can find information nowadays it’s easy to imagine why. Take for example the ability to find out the address, contact information or background of virtually any business or individual in the developed world within a single click or Google search. Twenty years ago this would have been unfathomable, but data has made the world a small place. The benefits are huge – not only keeping in touch with friends and family is easier than ever, but the global economy is completely interconnected, with imports and exports of goods and services connecting people all over the planet.

Beautifying data

Data is also being presented in new and insightful ways, shrinking previously unreadable volumes of data into formats that can be viewed in powerful ways by people and society. Below is a single snapshot of all tweets captured in one second across the world – the information fills an entire 1000 page book.


Into the unknown

The exhibition asks more questions than it answers, and rightly so - how are we to know what future lies ahead for us living with all this data, and what are the downsides and dangers of having access to all of it? Dangers such as mass surveillance and lack of data privacy are proliferating, governments are tapping into our data for their purposes, and cyber criminals are gaining access to our personal information and bank accounts more than ever. All of this is occurring from our willingness to create data on publicly-accessible platforms and the “Cloud”. Lastly, we should never ignore the power of human intuition and creativity - something that data will never fully replace.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

by Will Leighton Senior Manager