Is big data the new realm of philosophy?

My referral to the big data term might well be, in a way that is not expected by the one merely attracted to the title.

I guess the best way to start is by saying how interesting is that since the era of modern reason in philosophy there is not much that has been written, that can be quite definitive or influential, as the works in the past 300 years. Reason has moved in a dispersion effect, from one point it starts and separates into so many fragments that you lose track of where it started. A beginning point, where ancient men started to think and try to approximate to a knowledge that was unknown to them, but stubbornly still thought it was necessary to acquire. More in the belief that they, at best, only had a slight chance to conquer it, however the search was the most noble of quests, it was the foundation of the love of wisdom (greek root for philosophy). Jump ahead 1500 years, and since modern era, to know, or have a sub-specialty of what we called science allowed men to stop approaching the knowledge search in a humble way. They stopped to believe they couldn’t know everything, instead they were made to believe, quite the contrary. Somebody in some institution is either already an expert in that something, or is studying it already with some grant for research.

For the new common man knowledge is abundant (not a romantic quest), even mobile (at their fingertips anytime, anywhere). How different this new belief to the one that propelled knowledge and science in the first place. Where rearing our human head out of the unknowns of religion, with no guarantees of really finding something, was somehow obliged and correct, worth it. An attempt that built the foundations for all knowledge going forward.

So now, the light is bright, so bright that probably blind us that we need to keep looking for it. Science (our new light) is a sub-specialty of a sub-specialty. Yes, get kids into science, to be mathematicians or engineers, but humanities? that is not part of the course, we need to give them a head start, no need for them to understand why their quest is necessary. Leave that to the ancients, or the ones that came after them. To us, a science men of the modern time is the one advancing to a more sub-specialty of a sub-specialty, and writing a very specialized paper in a very specialized science magazine, that makes him a scientist. I think guys like Newton, Descartes, even the Greek ancients will laugh at the impossibility of believing there is nothing new to be known, and particularly that man of knowledge need not to know about the reason of why looking for knowledge. This would be  the most puzzling of all things if they were able to travel in time. The common man can argue that the unknowns are still at the frontiers of super ultra specialized fields,(and he just wants a job to pay the bills), however many will admit this is much a duller of a time time in exercising true humanity. The enlightenment, even ancient Greece, seemed like a roller-coaster in comparison. For the lay men, the system is not to contemplate or rethink, is already so bloody complicated, that the light supposed to be guiding us is that bright so blinding us already.

Then, in a world of knowledge at our fingertips, and unlimited quantities of new super ultra specialized papers, true wisdom is as scarce as it has ever been. Actually, you can say that in many aspects we are coming back to where we were at the time where pursuing an unknown knowledge quest was worthy of a life. Knowledge is back to the point, for some, that the quest to know is a bounded one. Bounded by the impossibilities of still not being able to know a few things (or a lot), that, which gets us back closer to our human essence.

Now, to “Big data” the light shining so bright that it blinds.

Think about this. In an era of big data, what you are sure to have is more data. More, and more by the tons (actually bits), day by day, second by second. Even though many computer scientists, statisticians, and mathematicians (even IBM) want to tell you the contrary, what they are really finding out is how little they know. Not more light, not more signal, just a realization that in many specific aspects, what we have been calling forecasting science, is really just a nice theory on things that cannot be repeated, (scientifically) or cannot be understood.

The signal becomes more and more scarce in a sea of big data. What becomes more clear is how little we know of the world, and its inter-connectedness (including its dynamic equilibrium, and randomness). The fact that we are measuring more is just allowing us to see a clear path looking back for wisdom, without knowing if it will be there. Big data could be just an example of a field where philosophy will work better than super computers applying advanced probabilistic theory. It can be the last realm of philosophy, or just the beginning of a movement back to basics in the way of approaching knowledge. One of not knowing whether we would be able to ever find any absolutes, but trying to approximate to it still. An approach absolutely foolish, and absolutely human. Stubborn but with a sense of purpose, whatever form looking up to God, morality, community, state or any other. One that has been lost in current forecasting science, and that would allow us to understand the best way to go around the blinding light of more data. Light which many people would equate to just another form of darkness.

Is in this situation that humanity calls again its men to dream of knowing. Like it started, thousands of years ago, from an admission of ignorance and not from a pile of hubris.

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