Brain Game: How would you explain the concept of ‘big data’ to people in the 1980s?

  • Each week, our readers vote for their favourite answer and the contestant with the least votes is eliminated
  • This week, they try to explain how companies like Google and Facebook gather info on users to do different things
Kelly Fung |

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‘Big data’ as a concept might be weird to something from the 80s.

Every Wednesday we ask our Brain Game contestants one interesting, thought-provoking or just plain quirky question. Their answers will be published anonymously in Young Post. Then readers vote for their favourite answer. We will eliminate the contestant with the least votes every week until we have a winner. The ultimate Brain Game winner will win a fabulous prize.

Votes close at midnight on Sunday.

Contestant 1 

Data comes from a large number of different sources, such as business transactions, customer information, and medical records. All of these things combine with other types of information to become big data. 
The main idea behind big data is that the more you know about something, the more you can gain insights into it, helping to make good decisions. For instance, big data can be used in the analysis of customer satisfaction. 
By analysing all of the information, you can see how customers feel about a company or brand, and if any problems happen, how brand loyalty might be preserved and how customer services improved. 

Contestant 2

Well, this may be hard for you to understand right now, but there will be something called big data in the future. 
Big data recommends trends, what we are interested in, and so on. It can also provide a big boost for companies and organisations looking to improve their services, too.
Big data, to put it simply, reveals patterns and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions while you’re using your so-called mobile phone. I am referring to the one you may be using now – a Nokia Cityman 1320, The Transportable Vodafone VT1, which weighs almost 5kg and is the size of a briefcase. 
You may not understand right now, but believe me, things will be very different in another 30 or so years. Just enjoy life for now and live in the moment.

Contestant 3 

Hello, people of the 1980s,  You’re probably astonished by the functionality of computers and mobile phones that are available to you now. These devices all include data on a minimal scale. 
Now imagine a world where data is so big it is impossible to process it quickly. Don’t think that will happen? Well, within 40 years, people will realise that “big data” has arrived. It’ll become such a popular phrase in the future that companies will even use it for advertising.

Contestant 4 

Me: Big data is high-volume, high-velocity, high-variety information that demands cost-effective and innovative forms of processing.
Person from the 1980s: Whoa! Slow down there!
Me: Right. Nowadays – that is, the year 2020 – we produce a mind-boggling amount of data. We upload billions of pictures and documents to the internet every day. We call this big data. It can be analysed to uncover valuable information that creates lots of cool stuff.
Person from the 1980s: Tubular!
Me: Like right now, big data is being analysed to develop self-driving cars.
Person from the 1980s: And to think I was really proud of us for inventing CDs …

Contestant 5

In three or four decades, you will all regularly use things called social media and search engines. They will show you content that you’re interested in thanks to something called big data.
There will be a staggering amount of information available, but it there will be ways to filter it, thanks to big data. For example, if you have watched videos on how to make cookies, similar recipes will be recommended at other times.
Speaking of cookies, when you visit a website in the future, you may see a notification pop up talking about “cookies”. Don’t get your hopes up when you click “accept”, though, because these cookies are inedible, and their purpose is to track your behaviour to customise content.
Thanks to big data, you will be able to find any information you want with just a few clicks.

Contestant 6 

I’d say big data will help improve the living conditions of people in the 1980s. At the time, people were looking for ways to make their world a hi-tech one. Instead of storing data on lots and lots of sheets of paper, they wanted to find more efficient methods. They were also looking for ways to use information to improve medical systems . 
If we want to make someone understand something which they are not familiar with, we should find a way of explaining it that makes it relatable to them. So I would start describing big data to people in the 1980s as a “magic bullet” that is going to change their world. 

Contestant 7 

I would make a movie to explain the concept of big data to people in the 1980s. It would feature the Apple Macintosh, which revolutionised the computer industry at the time. It was the first personal computer with a built-in screen and mouse. 
I would tell people that big data is an extremely large collection of information and statistics that helps with our daily lives – which is just as interesting as Macintosh’s evolution. I would also invite Steve Jobs to host my global movie premiere and introduce the idea of big data. I believe people would be very eager to find out more about it.

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