UPDATED 12:22 EST / FEBRUARY 28 2013

Tim O’Reilly’s Top Predictions from Strata 2013: Black Hat Data Scientists Are Coming Soon

Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and the organizer of the Strata conference we’ve been broadcasting from live this week, stopped by theCube to chat with show hosts John Furrier and Dave Vellante. Strata is growing, a lot like Big Data, with bottom-up organic growth. In it’s fifth year, O’Reilly wants to remind conference goers “…not to equate Strata with just Big Data. I’ve always thought of Strata as a data science event. How do we get value out of data? Think about, meaning…”

He gave his predictions and opinions on a myriad of topics revolving around Big Data:

    • The most interesting thing for me is seeing people doing something smart. Unexpected applications of data science. (He gave the example of a company out of New York and Louisville running predictive analysis on who is okay to let out with and without bail from jail. What would that save states financially?)
    • Data science is transformative. The first wave was marketing analytics, before that financial arbitrage. I think we’re finding more and more areas where you can do something really interesting with data, with a lot (emphasis mine) of big business implications.
    • The consumer Internet has show many many new opportunities.
    • What can you do when you have more data, and apply it more smartly? Transformation.
    • Autonomous vehicles, predictive analysis on machines.
    • There isn’t a good correlation between venture-backed startups and the real innovation. The company that comes completely out of left-field, and we all go WHOA.
    • No technological advantage will last forever. The really smart companies will bring together a bunch of competencies.

Two examples he covered struck me as game-changing in understanding how Big Data will play out over the next 10 years:

    1. He talked about Square. Quite bullish on Square and what Jack Dorsey and his team is doing, O’Reilly talked about how Square has created software above the level of a single device. When you walk into a store that has Square, there is immediately two factor authentication. They see your picture on their device, and they already have your credit card information when they ask you for your name. “They completely rethought the workflow of the store,” said O’Reilly.
    2. An earlier example in his interview was one where he discussed how YouTube has become this huge resource for music. “And I heard anecdotally, a Pop Star that is making more money off of YouTube, than iTunes, over half of that money comes from fans uploading their music as a soundtrack.”

He was very selective in his words describing how industries are going to be disrupted, but  the first market might “take all of the arrows” and not be the victor when it’s all said and done.  An example he used was Napster. Opportunities to reinvent old industries provide a very interesting game of chess that plays out on the world economic stage.

He ended by discussing privacy with Furrier and Vallente, and how it is a big, big (emphasis his) issue. “I think our attitudes towards privacy need to change.” He alluded to a digital world where lock-and-key data protection wasn’t exactly a best fit — if the sharing of certain parts of our personal data were used for good. “Expect Black Hat data scientists soon.”

In the data revolution, more value is in the data than the software. Big Data holds the cards, it’s our job to use it to improve the world.


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