Experts Debate Big Data, Al Gore Talks Tech

By David Needle  |  Posted 2016-01-16 Print this article Print
Al Gore

Mayer-Shonberger gave several examples of companies leveraging big data, including DuoLingo, which offers an app for learning foreign languages using your smartphone. The app is used by millions of people daily. The company decided to analyze the data it was collecting to see if there were any patterns of interest. One thing they found was that Spanish speakers using the app to learn English did very well until they reached a particular lesson. When DuoLingo moved that lesson farther back in the sequence, the success rate went way up.

"This wasn't their intent, but it's what the data told them," said Mayer-Shonberger. "It wasn't finding a needle in a haystack because they didn't know what the needle was. When we can let the data speak, we can use it to generate some really intriguing questions."

Former Vice President Al Gore Weighs In

Al Gore (pictured) spoke earlier and told the audience of mobile developers and others that there are now more mobile devices in the world than people and it's changed our way of thinking.

"I find when I'm trying to remember something, instead of thinking too hard about it, I'll just look it up on the Internet if I have a mobile device with me," he said. "We are connected to this global mind on a regular basis. One study I saw said that over half of us look at these devices when we wake up before we do anything else."

While acknowledging many in the world don't have Internet connectivity, Gore noted that most people do and that, within five years, there will be as many as 50 billion intelligent devices exchanging data and communication. "Intelligence is being distributed throughout the physical world leading to changes and developments that are hard to predict," he said.

The former U.S. vice president suggested that advances in artificial intelligence could do a lot to help us analyze and better leverage the huge stores of big data being accumulated.


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