What Will the Humans Raised by Big Data Be Like?

Today a question based on a slide I have in my current keynote: what will the humans who are the products of big data be like when they get older?

To explore this further, we have to define big data (simply, of course). Generally, big data is thought of as data sets so large they require a computer to make sense of them. Computational analysis of immense data sets to reveal trends or patterns, that kind of thing.

When I talk about humans raised by big data, I am thinking about the child who will sleep in a bedroom with a baby monitor that surveilles sleep patterns, respiration, and heart rate and then analyzes all the data to create a sleep profile for the infant that the parents can then use to time feedings and bedtimes and even dietary choices.

Kind of a Baby God.

The computer monitoring the baby's behavior becomes the authority on how the parents should act, in accordance with accepted cultural repertoires for how to raise children. (Cultural repertoires = what experts believe is the "appropriate" parenting behavior for a given situation (think about spanking as an example: it used to be part of popular advice, not so much anymore [or at all] today). 

So, if you're a baby born into a world where every conceivable part of ambient intelligence is quietly monitoring all of your behaviors and recording how you sleep, what you eat, what you do, and your general health, it’s easy to imagine a constant stream of advice on how you should behave. Rules to live by, as it were, created and informed by an ever-growing BIG DATA that is hard to refute. And it does that for your whole life (“Put down the Cheetos!”)

I think what’s likely to develop is a kind of regression towards a mean of "accepted" behavior, almost like a trend. Instead of learning through trial and error, the "smart, big-data-supported supercomputer" tells the parents how to parent and there is no argument to the contrary because the computer is always right and it knows the trends of the big data and is the assumed authority. (It’s the god, after all.)

If you Google-image-search "Olive Garden," you'll find they all pretty much look like this

If you Google-image-search "Olive Garden," you'll find they all pretty much look like this

Is it possible the big-data humans of the future will all be the same? Humans that are not unlike strip malls today? In San Diego and San Antonio, the Olive Garden looks the same. The food tastes the same. (It’s fine. Kind of. And boring.) And no one ever says, “When you get to San Diego, be sure to find the Olive Garden. It’s awesome!”