Big Data, Like All Hot Trends, Is a Bubble Ready to Burst

Data-driven solutions aren't going anywhere, but the public's perception of big data's value is bound to buckle beneath the weight of unrealistic expectations.

Big Data is hot right now. So hot. Remember how hot "Call Me Maybe" was in July 2012? Now multiply that by 100 and you've got the red-hot germinating vibe of thousands of companies across the world. In a business climate in which everyone's looking for a competitive edge, and especially in a sector like the exponentially growing technology industry, the potential for mining massive amounts of data is sky-high. Analytics, advanced statistics, and all facets of big data are so hot right now they're scalding. This is the world we're heading toward. Big data is the future.

Or is it? The hyperbolic display above belies an almost universal truth: Everything that heats up will eventually burn out. According to Adi Azaria writing over at Data Center Knowledge, big data may very well be the sort of major trend due for a sudden freeze:

"In early 2015, however, it seems this trend might be reversing, and the business world is growing disenchanted with data. Today the discussion revolves around whether Big Data will ever be able to live up to its promise, with an increasing number of skeptical voices being heard. The sentiment seems to be gearing toward overall disappointment."

This isn't to say Azaria doesn't believe that data analytics are valuable cogs in the business machine, just that our current interpretation of "big data" is one which will ultimately falter beneath the weight of uncertain definitions:

"Perhaps it would be beneficial if we stopped talking about Big Data as a term, and just stated exactly what types of data we are talking about: structured or unstructured, 1 million rows or 100 million, homegrown or harvested externally, and so on. This could help us understand what it is — and isn’t — and set realistic expectations when dealing with specific datasets. We could determine if they should be processed according to actionable timeframes, or in the types of insights and value that can be derived."  

Azaria is arguing in favor of boosted specificity. "Big Data" is a general term. It's been used as a blanket expression to describe a wave of innovation upon which, says Azaria, many have placed unreal expectations. Sooner or later it will become a victim of its own hype and will be replaced as the "hot" thing by some other trend. That doesn't mean data will get abandoned or cease to be important. Put simply, people will get tired of Big Data just like they got tired of hearing "Call Me Maybe," and something else like wearable devices or the Internet of Things will take its place as the current hot trend.

In the video below, OkCupid co-founder (and Big Think expert) Christian Rudder discusses the transaction of services that results in websites collecting large swaths of data.

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