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Is the golden age of disruptive technology coming to an end?

Nick Booth casts an eye over some of the claims that are made by marketing types and wonders if things will change with technology supporting consensual data collection

Content is king. Your call is important to us. We take your security very seriously. You could win an iPad. It’s all for charity. Terms and conditions apply. It was all there in the small print.

Those are just some of the ironic customer centric phrases that are issued in the name of marketing. Technology has played an important part in empowering marketing types, giving them hundreds of new options for invading your space, wasting your time and electronically siphoning money out of your bank account. When you try to end that ‘conversation with your favourite brand’, you discover just how sincere their commitment was, as you spend weeks talking to a customer ‘service’ operator in the ‘talk to the hand’ style call centre in a distant geography somewhere out in cyber space.

Yes, marketing technology has much to be proud of and I’m surprised there isn’t some kind of glittering red carpet and tuxedos awards night for the purveyors of the best untruths. However, if The Golden Glibs did exist, its days would be numbered, as we are possibly entering a new age of technology where the use of data is more consensual and constructive.

According to Mike Pentland, a data scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we are moving to a new era of data transparency initiative where people will be much more in control of their data and how its seen. Anonymised data will be used by governments and telcos working together to contain disease outbreaks and improve the distributions of foods and medicines, Pentland promises. The study of human dynamics and crowd behaviour will be used as a force for good in future, he says.

Let’s hope so.

One of the professors at MIT, Mike Stonebraker created the foundations for the relational database systems all the biggest corporations in the world use today.  It was Stonebraker’s academic prototypes that created Ingres and Postgres, which became the foundations for everything from IBM’s Informix, through Microsoft’s SQL Server to EMC’s Greenplum. Stonebraker won the Association for Computing Machinery’s Turing Award and $1million from Google for his pioneering of database design.

His current projects include VoltDB, Tamr and Paradigm4, which created Sci-Db, a database designed to help scientists save masses of time by eliminating much of the donkey work involved in searching through petabytes of data.

The big data industry is about to change its nature, according to Stonebraker. It will be down to a change in personnel apparently.  “As soon as we can train enough data scientists, they’ll take over from the business intelligence people,” says Stonebraker. Sadly, the business intelligence types can’t be retained to become data-scientists, as they lack the necessary skills and empathy for a job career in predictive analytics. Business intelligence people, if I’m summarizing Stonebraker correctly, are reactionary number crunchers, whereas data scientists have a wider perspective and can pre-empt events based on their ability to take an historical overview.

The upshot is that data science is the discipline the channel needs to cultivate. And the era of the Golden Glibs is drawing to an end.

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