Data Economy

Google prepares for the end of the world

The suspected Google barge docked in San Francisco Bay.

Mystery ship

This past week, Google brass voiced a bit of byte displeasure at revelations coming from the "Bugs Bunny" of the surveillance state—intelligence provocateur general Edward Snowden—that the NSA has been going into the fiber optic cables deep under the ocean to tap data being ferried by Google and Yahoo!. Meanwhile, a mystery ship (barge actually) turned up in San Francisco Bay and has been attributed to Google's far flung (and often curious) ventures. Could the barge be a solution to interference from the NSA, allowing Google to ferry data across the world's oceans by a team of gondaliers with GPS-enabled Google Glass out of the reach of the government?

Is the mystery ship a floating home for Snowden to keep him free of government prisons—who was rumored this past week to be in line for a job at a tech giant (OK, a tech giant in Russia), or merely one more way to find real estate for Google servers, with data centers soon to eclipse the Queen of England, Donald Trump and Ted Turner as real estate's biggest landowner? In the 1970s, the major U.S. utilities had a plan to put nuclear power plants on the seas, so why not data centers, especially for Google, which is already involved in an ambitious plan to lay an electric grid backbone deep under the ocean for energy generated by offshore wind farms.

Or, is Google preparing for the end of the world? After all, these are apocalyptic times. The new book on the cold war management of nuclear stores from Eric Schlosser shows just how close, and how often, the Soviet Union and U.S., came to mistakenly initiating the launch code. So you never know ...

(Read more: You can live forever! Digitally)

The world's best, last hope may be to live on for all eternity in a Matrix-esque way, and yet, the servers in which a destroyed world can live on in virtual terms don't know how to swim ... yet. Two of each kind, as Noah was instructed, including two of each kind of Google server?

Sadly, by the end of the week it looked as if the mystery ship had a much more prosaic origin: no ark commanded by the god of Silicon Valley, but a potential floating pop-up retail store location for Google Glass sales and marketing events. Oh well, it was fun to imagine.

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Source: True&Co.

Sexy data

The dating app Tinder uses information from your Facebook profile to find matches. Facebook released a study this week showing how much it knows about your spouse. Whether it's a recommendation, dating or other social app, companies are increasingly using machine-based learning to get to know users better so that they can provide an improved user experience and target ads more effectively. Or just to learn whether they should target you with Scarlett Johansson or ChristianMingle ads.

(Read more: Charts that changed the world)

Health-care firm owners surveyed by CNBC and SurveyMonkey express more worry and expectations of pain than owners in other small-business sectors.
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Learning to live with dangerous drug cocktails

You've probably heard the one about how Google can now predict flu outbreaks by monitoring search activity around the globe. Well, that's just the beginning of what search data can do in the realm of medicine. Researchers at Microsoft Research Labs, in conjunction with Stanford University, have found that Web searches can help the FDA and pharmaceutical companies discover previously unknown dangerous drug interactions. And the FDA is welcoming the help.

Stanford University campus
Source: King of Hearts | Wikipedia

Google School of Liberal Arts

Every iPhone has an iTunes U app. Sebastian Thrun, CEO and cofounder of online education company Udacity, is a Stanford professor and former Google X executive. Adaptive-learning company Knewton refers to itself as the "Amazon Web Services of online education." Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, was an early investor in Knewton, too. As online education becomes big business, it will also be one of the biggest data grabs that exists for Silicon Valley—and it will be interesting to see how the tech pure plays capitalize on the advances being made today by the education-tech pure plays.

(Read more: Who's winning? Facebook versus LinkedIn)

Bringing big data to the masses

Galileo and Napolean as big data pioneers

Data visualization is a growing field in which massive amounts of data are measured in quantities reaching exabytes and crunched by an ever-increasing number of Silicon Valley servers ultimately to be presented in visual displays. Yet don't believe the hype about it being so cutting edge. It goes way, way back—well before Tableau Software went public. In fact, some of the world's greatest thinkers, including Galileo, were data analytics pioneers, gaining tremendous insight and changed the world simply by organizing and deciphering basic data sets in new ways. Here are the "charts that changed the world."

By Eric Rosenbaum,