Night With A Futurist: “The Coming Data Tsunami”

 Futurist Speaker, Thomas Frey, DaVinci Institute

Rocky Radar:  Monday’s Night with a Futurist featured Thomas Frey’s thoughts on “The Coming Data Tsunami.” Simply, this coming tidal wave exists because the rate of data creation is about to explode and exceed all solutions to store, transmit, process and extract value from the data. At the core of Frey’s thoughts on the subject is what he calls the cumulative law of information value. To paraphrase, this law says that more information, or data reserves, is more valuable and that this value grows exponentially. An important addendum to this law is that that a lag time exists between data creation and when the value from that data can be extracted. With this view on the value of information in place – postulating that it could even be a currency of the future – Frey went on to explore the challenges expected as the volume of information explodes.

An important step in grasping this data creation problem may be to understand its magnitude. Frey conceived of a time when information existed about every atom on earth, noting that a storage device to hold such information would actually have to be larger than the earth itself. While knowledge of every atom may be many generations away, the problems of storage are actually soon at hand as more data is created by more advanced devices and sensors. Frey postulated that were storage to keep pace with Moore’s law, data storage on electrons – the “ultimate small particle” – should be achieved in about 125 years. Yet even if storage issues are solved, greater amounts and types of data generate other challenges including ownership rights, privacy concerns, and actually being able to process and use the information.

Frey then moved on to engage in some “radical extreme thinking,” as he calls it, and presented three scenarios that could be created by the coming tsunami. While not entering the realm of the fantastical, each of these ideas has the potential to create a substantial paradigm shift in how human beings interact with the world. A few notes on each scenario follow:

  1. Future Search Technology – Current search technology is primarily text matching (e.g. Google), but future technology could enable searches on other properties like smell, taste, reflectivity, or specific gravity. Search could also move out the digital world and into the physical world, which will be a huge help in locating your misplaced keys.
  2. Whole Earth Genealogy Project – Imagine having a family tree that connected everyone on earth so any person could locate exactly where they fit in the puzzle. This concept could be extended to the animal and plant kingdom.
  3. Whole Earth Ownership – A map could be created that mapped exact ownership rights for the entire planet. Ownership maps could go beyond real property to include all objects. If all objects were tagged, this ownership could be tracked noting a change in ownership when someone put a product in their cart at the grocery store, with built in automatic billing- a shoplifter’s nightmare, but great for avoiding those long checkout lines at Safeway.

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Following Frey’s presentation, a panel moderated by Mike Cote of ColardoBizMagazine then took the stage to offer reactions to Frey’s thoughts.

The panelists were:

  • Mike Koclanes, CEO of Bolder Data Solutions
  • Mark Soane, Managing Director of Appian Ventures
  • Drew Crouch, a VP at Ball Aerospace and Technologies
  • Jim Franklin, GM of the Crystal Ball Unit at Oracle

The panel was generally in agreement with Frey on the coming data explosion, noting that, if anything, real storage and processing challenges may happen even sooner than anticipated. Much of the panel discussion focused on how the growing volume of information will be put to use in the future. Soane, as any good investor would, focused on the economics – data that has a value that exceeds the cost to create and process it will flourish. Soane stated that IT analytics, or algorithms that find patterns in data, are one of the current bright spots in a bleak venture investment scene. In a similar vein, Franklin also focused on the utility of information, specifically on how it can lead to action within a business. Franklin still sees room to grow in the processing of data, taking a consumer from the present position of realizing patterns to the future of mapping out how to best execute decisions once those patterns are understood.

Several of the questions posed to the panel centered on whether a role still existed for people to process and synthesize data (say, the media) now that raw feed is available to virtually everyone, all the time. Generally the panel felt that data synthesis still represented an important role in value creation, with Koclanes pointing out “there is no value in data, only in information.” Crouch cited an expectation of information consumers having a greater choice to “be at various points of data” from the raw data to something synthesized. According to Soane, what could change in this data synthesis role is how it is monetized, as ad-based models are proving ineffective for traditional media.

The DaVinci Institute produces a variety of events designed to share the knowledge of most talented thinkers and seasoned veterans who have fundamentally changed the business landscape. Upcoming events include a Startup Junkie Underground meeting on February 16th at the MADCAP theatre featuring Joel Comm, an internet marketing expert and best-selling author.

Via Rocky Radar