Adam wrote that Big Data is Mitchell’s “source of fear, anxiety, and disconnect that cripples him.” I would argue, however, that Big Data is what calms his fears and helps him cope. What Mitchell fears are the disaster scenarios that he concocts in his head. He researches them using Big Data to reassure himself that the possibilities of them coming to fruition are slim to none. In a phone conversation with his mother about his obsession he says, “I imagine a scenario in the greatest detail possible. That way I can figure out how unlikely it is to come true. Fearing the worst usually cures the worst.” (76). You could argue that the availability of this data makes it easier for him to come up with new scenarios, but I would argue that it only helps him create more feasible scenarios; if he didn’t turn to science to aide in his obsession, then he may have turned to religion, philosophy, or literature.
Big Data is not something to inherently fear, and I don’t think that is what Rich was trying to convey. This was book about fear-mongering that utilized Big Data, not a book on Big Data. Mitchell almost never told Future World’s clients the likelihood of an event occurring. What he did was implant the idea that it could happen and let the fear spread on its own. As I mentioned in my previous Readers post, I believe that Big Data is inherently good, though has the potential for being abused. Foreman’s fear is not Big Data, either, though he may not realize it. His fear is that the data analysts will use it to outsmart humans.
Below is an infographic depicting how Big Data can improve healthcare. Using Big Data makes it possible for doctors to look at numerous metrics about a patient and how similar patients responded to various treatments in the past. It also makes it possible to monitor patients’ conditions remotely, reducing the number of in-patients and thus reducing the financial burden on the patient. Big Data is good.