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92 Foreign Aff. 28 (2013)
The Rise of Big Data: How it's Changing the Way We Think about the World

handle is hein.journals/fora92 and id is 592 raw text is: The Rise of Big Data
How It's Changing the Way We Think
About the World
Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger
E veryone knows that the Internet has changed how businesses
operate, governments function, and people live. But a new,
less visible technological trend is just as transformative: big
data. Big data starts with the fact that there is a lot more information
floating around these days than ever before, and it is being put to
extraordinary new uses. Big data is distinct from the Internet, although
the Web makes it much easier to collect and share data. Big data is
about more than just communication: the idea is that we can learn
from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend
when we used only smaller amounts.
In the third century BC, the Library of Alexandria was believed to
house the sum of human knowledge. Today, there is enough informa-
tion in the world to give every person alive 320 times as much of it
as historians think was stored in Alexandria's entire collection-an
estimated 1,200 exabytes' worth. If all this information were placed
on CDs and they were stacked up, the CDs would form five separate
piles that would all reach to the moon.
This explosion of data is relatively new. As recently as the year
2000, only one-quarter of all the world's stored information was digital.
The rest was preserved on paper, film, and other analog media. But
because the amount of digital data expands so quickly-doubling around
KENNETH CUKIER is Data Editor of The Economist.
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHOENBERGER is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation
at the Oxford Internet Institute.
They are the authors of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and
Think (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), from which this essay is adapted. Copyright @ by
Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger. Reprinted by permission of Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt.

28  FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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