Elif Ayiter/Flickr

L'avvincente realtà dei big data

CAMBRIDGE – I big data, termine inglese che descrive voluminose raccolte di dataset, sono l'insieme delle tracce digitali che lasciamo ogni volta che usiamo carte di credito, telefoni cellulari, o il web. Se utilizzati in modo attento e preciso, questi dati possono offrirci un'opportunità unica, quella di comprendere a fondo la nostra società e migliorare il nostro modo di vivere e lavorare. Tuttavia, ciò che funziona a livello teorico può non avere gli stessi risultati nella realtà, dove le complesse interazioni umane non sempre riescono a essere registrate, neanche dai modelli più sofisticati. I big data, dunque, ci impongono di condurre esperimenti su vasta scala.

Per fare un esempio, il laboratorio che dirigo sta realizzando un sito web che, basandosi sulle mappe di Google, utilizza la traccia digitale di una data società per mappare la povertà, la mortalità infantile, i tassi di criminalità, le variazioni del Pil e altri indicatori sociali, quartiere per quartiere, aggiornando i risultati quotidianamente. Questa nuova funzionalità permette agli utenti del sito di vedere, fra le altre cose, dove le iniziative governative funzionano e dove, invece, falliscono.

Tuttavia, pur essendo in grado di aumentare significativamente la trasparenza e arricchire il sapere comune, questi straordinari strumenti di visualizzazione si rivelano sorprendentemente limitati quando vengono impiegati per risolvere i problemi della società. Una delle ragioni è che flussi di dati così imponenti favoriscono le correlazioni spurie.

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