George Dyson (no, nothing to do with vacuum cleaners) delivered the final session before coffee here at Strata in London this morning.

Rapidly jotted notes follow…

When he was invited to speak, he didn’t know what big data was. Made up his own definition… “when the human cost of making the decision of throwing something away became higher than the machine cost of continuing to store it.” That works…  🙂

100 years since birth of Alan Turing. Died in 1954, at the dawn of this world. In 1953, there were 53kb of random access storage… globally.

In 1959, Richard Feynman anticipated growth… “why can’t we write the contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a pin?” Now we can… Idea formalised (more or less) as Moore’s Law.

Last week’s New York Times piece… alarmist view that data centres will consume all available power. It’s not that bad. Huge improvements on the way, says Dyson.

Exchequer tallies “the first data centre?” The first time that money ‘existed in two places at the same time…’ [What about clay tablets from Mesopotamia, etc?]

Thomas Hobbes, in 1656, anticipated importance of data… and binary. Also Leibnitz… “told us 400 years ago how to build a digital computer.” “Nothing has changed in 400 years; we just do more of it, faster and faster.”

Babbage… “a big fan of big data.” Ada Lovelace “described his ideas more elegantly than he could himself.”

Lewis Richardson in 1922… “if you have enough people working together on a problem, you can model it…” to provide weather forecasts, etc.

“It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence.” (Turing, 1936)

Enigma was a big data problem.

An interesting history of computing, for sure… but not entirely clear how it fits here, at Strata…


Image by Flickr user Samuel Livingston