chapter
Big data
ByJonathan E. Abel
Pages 3

Reappearing in the digital world of the 2000s, the concept, coded as “big data,” is associated with broader, deeper, and faster computer-aided information collection and analysis; the contemporary, trendy academic corollary of the industrial and political use of mass databases goes under the name digital humanities. The flurry and fetish for digital humanities are but part of a long history of quantitative, positivistic humanist inquiry which supplements, but cannot supplant, the quests for information, knowledge, and truth which have formed and will continue to form the humanities. The stories of Asimov’s Foundation series are based on the premise that future history is predictable through a new science called “psychohistory” developed by the Shaman-trickster, mathematical genius Hari Seldon. The depiction of Seldon’s successful predictions based on massive data sets is an allegory for prevalent utopian attitudes toward big data.