Book Review

Technology has introduced us to many new words that have been added to our vocabulary along with many new terms/phrases that we now hear or use regularly. One of those terms we hear frequently is big data. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is a Professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute with the University of Oxford and Kenneth Cukier is the data editor of The Economist. Together these two gentlemen wrote the book Big Data.

Big Data is broken down into 10 chapters explaining big data from the very beginning through what is to come. They take two small words that encompass a vast amount of data with a meaning that can be difficult to comprehend. They break it down in to smaller pieces doing so in a way that provides interesting tidbits of amusing information along the way. Throughout the process they describe how our world and way of thinking is changing. For those people afraid of the possibilities big data holds this book explains how to enjoy what big data has to offer while also not fearing the loss of our liberties.

There is still much to discover, research, and understand regarding big data. In an article by Tim Harford with FT Magazine titled “Big data: are we making a big mistake?” he warns that “Statisticians have spent the past 200 years figuring out what traps lie in wait when we try to understand the world through data. The data are bigger, faster and cheaper these days – but we must not pretend that the traps have all been made safe. They have not” (2014). The authors of Big Data not only introduce the great potentials of big data but they also warn what could happen if we allowed it to be used in every area of our lives.

Big data is still new territory that is being explored which we need to explore carefully and intelligently. Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier caution that “The future must remain something that we can shape to our own design. If it does not, big data will have perverted the very essence of humanity: rational thought and free choice” (pg. 193, 2014). While there is great advancing potential within big data we also need to be aware of the monster it could create.

Big data is a powerful tool that we possess. The piece by piece unveiling of big data was helpful in the path to understanding for those who may be less than tech savvy. The authors made this not only easy to follow but also easy to understand while also entertaining. This will become the new go to book on how to understand big data.


Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28

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Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2014). Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How

            We Live, Work and Think. Boston, VA: Mariner Books.


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