The latest news from the fast-evolving world of the Data Economy:
For those familiar with Noam Chomsky, the pioneering linguist whose theory of recursion seeks to find the universal in all human languages, you probably also know that Chomsky often has not-so-nice things to say about the U.S. government, and has also made a career of finding the universal in the abuse of power by those who control the globe in any age. The political activist and self-professed anarcho-syndicalist (whatever that is) has made a career of bashing the U.S. government, specifically. Would he do the same to the surveillance state when given the opportunity? Not really. Or not exactly. In a recent appearance at MIT's Engaging Data 2013 Conference, Chomsky split the bill with Washington Post "big brother" reporter Bart Gellman.
"Big data is a step forward," Chomsky is quoted as saying by Computer World. "But our problems are not lack of access to data, but understanding them. [Big data] is very useful if I want to find out something without going to the library, but I have to understand it, and that's the problem."
Hmmm, not much agitation there...but wait! Chomsky went on to say that big data isn't really a new problem anyway. "We can be confident that any system of power—whether it's the state, Google, or whatever—is going to use the best available technology to control, to dominate, and to maximize their power," Chomsky is quoted as saying. "And they'll want to do it in secret."
Now that's sounding more like Chomsky.
(Read more: Charts that changed the world, before big data)
Gellman—who was on the receiving end of some Edward Snowden leaks—begged to differ politely. "I think it's important to know how far you can get into these discussions without assuming bad faith, that these institutions are deliberately working against the interests of citizens...The principle way in which I agree with Chomsky is that the place where the opposition comes from is that they don't want you to know about things they feel they need to do on your behalf. Because they're afraid you might not agree and want to call it off."
Well, guess that's the difference between an anarcho-syndicalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning "have to remain impartial" journalist.