Is Big Data Really the Latest Thing?

Is Big Data Really the Latest Thing?

If you’re like me, you’re constantly reading articles that depict big data as the ‘next big thing’.  Those articles also usually portray big data as something new.  But is it really new?

“No” says Bernhard Warner in a recent BloombergBusinessweek post.  He claims a CIA Analyst named Orrin Clotworthy described “with eerie clarity the promise of data analytics and computer modeling to predict the future” in a just released internal CIA document (Some Far-Out Thoughts on Computers) originally published in the CIA journal, Studies in Intelligence.  When was Mr. Clotworthy’s report originally published?  1962.

The report is an interesting read, providing many examples where the ability to predict human behavior would be a benefit.  He even predicts the invention of artificial intelligence by the year 2000.

But after reading the following section of the report, I wonder if Mr. Clotworthy shouldn’t also be credited with predicting the domain of knowledge management and, specifically, using technology to leverage tacit knowledge by identifying individuals with specific skills or characteristics.  Food for thought:

“Should we decide to do so, we could, over a span of a few years, index personnel knowledge and skills to a degree never before dreamed of, using more advanced forms of electronic data processing.  In a television drama a few months back, a private organization was supposed to have compiled just such data on millions of U.S. citizens.  The story concerned the search by a federal agency for a man who (1) was a barber, (2) knew a lot about stamp-collecting, and (3) could pick locks.  The company found the man, the agency put his talents to use, and by the end of the program Yankee ingenuity had triumphed over a slick international narcotics ring.  The real hero of the story was the computer – they must have used one – that pinpointed the right man for the job.  It may be less than reckless to suggest that a comparable capability to match backgrounds to job requirements might be helpful in intelligence operations.” (page 12)

Does that sound like knowledge management to you?

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