Big Data, Bigger Stories


Anytime there is a growing gap between technology and the law or society’s mores, look to science fiction stories to work that seam for inspiration and insight. The behind-the-scenes rise of massive computational power applied to exponential growth in private and public sector data is one of the most relevant ongoing themes to explore for security-focused policymakers and writers.

On Tuesday, the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security released a report, “Big Data: A Twenty-First Century Arms Race,” that is further fodder for discussion on this topic. Read the report and follow along on Twitter with #BigDataArmsRace.

“The exponentially expanding volume of digital data creates new challenges for criminal and national security investigations,” wrote Els De Busser, a senior lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, in the report. “There is a tension between the need for digital data for the purpose of such investigations and the need to respect a country’s sovereignty in order to protect the privacy of its citizens.”

One of the Art of the Future Project’s most pointed stories exploring the power of data analysis – and manipulation – is Mike Matson’s “Finger on the Scale,” the winner of the 2016 Global Risks 2035 contest. The contest sought a glimpse of the toughest questions to be confronted in defense and security two decades from now. Matson’s story depicts a future US intelligence operation of unprecedented audacity and impact that puts a nation’s future on the line. Read the story “Finger on the Scale.”

Data analytics can indeed be weaponized, for targeting, as just one example in the short story “ANTFARM” from the project’s War Stories from the Future anthology. In ANTFARM, crowd-sourced data and social media analysis gives US special operations forces and their close air support real-time information. When a mission goes awry, the crowd’s big data analysis becomes a matter of life or death. Read the story “ANTFARM.”