Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reverse Engineering Big Data

Want to dabble in Big Data, right from the comfort of your own keypad?  Want to know what the rest of the world is thinking using one of the world’s great algorithms?

I don’t pretend to understand Google’s Autocomplete, but I do know that it wants to try to answer my question before I even know what I want to ask.  In other words, it takes what billions of people are doing and tells us, Big Data-style, exactly what the rest of the world is thinking about.  

It’s very cool, sometimes distracting, and often very scary.





Suppose, for example, I type: “Do entrepreneurs. . .” and then stop.

The autocomplete suggests:
. . .need a degree?
. . .need an MBA?

What’s the “Big Data” conclusion from that?  Short MBA stocks, I think.  There are lots of people looking for ways to escape two years of business school.

Or, type in “Strategy is. . .” and you’ll get
. . .Destiny.
. . .Dead.

That seems about right to me.

How about turning the tables?

“Big Data Is. . .”

. . .the new oil.
. . .bullshit.

Again, a bit of a divide.  It could be complicated if your strategy, ah, destiny involves Big Data.

How about going existential?

“What. . .” 

. . .is gangnam style?

6 billion people in the world and that’s the most popular autocomplete for “What.”   (And yes, I’ve cleared my cache, because I did have to look it up myself about three months ago.)



"What if. . ."
. . .God was one of us?
. . .there was no Google?

Likewise,
“The world will. . ."
. . .end in 2012.
. . .not end in 2012.  
Now you know what people are worried about all day when they’re supposed to be working.

How does autocomplete feel about our biggest Web players?


“Facebook is. . .”
. . .down.
. . .evil.
“Apple is. . .”
. . .evil.
. . .stupid.
. . .a cult.

“Google is. . .”
. . .evil.

You'd have thought Google might have fixed this little glitch in its algorithm.


Maybe we should try it with stars and singers?
“Keira Knightley. . .”
. . .weight.
“Britney Spears. . .”
. . .net worth.  
“Brad Pitt. . .”
. . .chanel commercial.
“Scarlett Johansson. . .”
. . .hot.

Not kidding.  We must be worried that Knightley is too skinny, Spears is going broke, Pitt has sold out,  and, well, it doesn’t appear that we’re worried about Johansson.

Finally:




“The Internet is. . .”
. . .a playground.

Well, that happens to be a book, but truth is--you already knew that.  Sometimes you don’t need a book, or Big Data, to figure something out.