Increasingly, top thinkers in academia and business believe that analytics, especially analytics connected with big data, is going to be a driving force in our economy and society in the next 10 to 20 years. This belief is being matched with action in the public and private sectors.
In February 2013, MIT Sloan launched a digital economy initiative to explore how digital technologies are influencing both productivity and employment, declaring, “The digitization of the economy is one of the most critical issues of our time.”1 The broad use of analytics is an important factor in the development of the emergent digital economy.
This view is supported by General Electric Company executives Peter Evans and Marco Annunziata, who argue that the “industrial Internet” — a system of machine-to-machine sensors — will add $10 trillion to $15 trillion in economic benefit to the global gross domestic product through 2030.2 GE is putting its money where its mouth is, investing $1 billion in developing the talent, software and analytic tools to better identify when machines need fixing or replacement.3
A recent study of senior executives at Fortune 500 companies found that 85% of those organizations had launched big data initiatives.4 Intel announced a five-year, $12.5 million partnership with MIT to create a research center that will focus on big data. The state of Massachusetts, host to more than 100 companies that employ more than 12,000 people in big data-related businesses, has launched a public-private Big Data Consortium to grow its innovation economy.5 In 2011, big data companies received more than $350 million in venture capital.6
Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab, argues that as we move into a society driven by big data, “most of the ways that we think about the world change in a rather dramatic way”:
This is the first time in human history that we have the ability to see enough about ourselves that we can hope to actually build social systems that work qualitatively better than the systems we’ve always had. … We can potentially design companies, organizations, and societies that are more fair, stable and efficient as we get to really understand human physics at this fine-grain scale. This new computational social science offers incredible possibilities.