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Information is not Knowledge.

May 17, 2012

Big Data is the latest buzzword flying up and down the corporate hallways. There are industries where competitors are investing millions to gain competitive advantage by mining data and using insights to strengthen value chains that produce sustainable financial results. It is very impressive that an entire new industry in mathematics and statistics is building rapidly. This will have implications for generations.

A question that jumps to my mind is “how much data is there, or will there be?” This chart depicts the expected growth in data from 2009 to 2014. The units are petabytes. A petabyte is 10^15 power of bytes. Imagine 1 byte as a 1″ cube. Now 1 x 10^15 of those 1″ cubes is 15.78 trillion miles long. A light year is 5.88 trillion linear miles. So one petabyte is 2.68 light years long of 1″ cubes.

One petabyte (of 1″ cubes of data) = 2.68 light years! Now imagine that by 2014 there are expected to be 46,009 petabytes of data! Or 17,167 light years. Lucky for us, a byte does not consume a one inch cube of storage space. This really does put in perspective the immense task of entering, collecting, digesting, analyzing, storing and protecting data.

With this amount of data, you can begin to understand the development of companies, the growth of new career opportunities, and industries. Perhaps, this is the next frontier for America to strengthen our National Competitive Advantage for future generations.

Without the talent and capabilities to distill this amount of data, we will have a big ol’ pile of data. We should give national priority to training and developing the men and women to help us develop the ability to gain insight from the data, or succinctly to convert information to knowledge.

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