If you own a cell phone, like 80 percent of the people in the world, you are constantly producing data. And even if this "data exhaust" may seem like useless information to you, innovative companies everywhere are taking advantage of it, and will continue to devise more advanced ways as they become better and better at complex data analysis.
Just how big is the opportunity in big data? The World Economic Forum has already embraced it as a key asset for the world economy, while others have equated its importance to oil. That's right: big data is the new oil.
The plot thickens when we consider big data's relationship to politics and personal freedom, and that is the subject that Rick Smolan takes up in today's lesson. How will we view the likes of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange in 50 years - as dangerous threats to national security or the heroic defenders of individual liberty? Likewise, how will we view men like J. Edgar Hoover, who used government data for personal gain?