Corrente

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An unsettling quote on Big Data

From next.gov of all places:

Quoting HP Lovecraft:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

I'm no expert on Lovecraft, but I'm guessing that a science fiction writer who died in 1937 did not have the precise formulation "Big Data" in mind when he opened his famous story "The Call of the Cthulhu" with these lines.

But detached from their native context and pasted as the epigraph of a 1987 role-playing game adventure book I found in a vintage book store, Cthulhu Now, it kind of makes sense doesn't it?

Because data is merciless. It will correlate all its contents. And then what?

But the real issue is how the data gets "correlated." Because there are infinite way to correlate, as any indexer knows.

"Correlated" in such a way as to reinforce existing power relations would be the outcome, ceteris paribus. Eh? As with, for example, the correlations ObamaCare makes, the correlations the NSA makes....