So, you keep hearing about how the revolutionary nature of big data and its potential to change the world as we know it, but you want to know: why is it revolutionary and how will it approach such a grand task? Drawing from what you know about big data, you sometimes start to think that it isn’t being used as efficiently, effectively, or extensively as possible, and you would be right. However, there is no doubt that the study and application of big data is evolving and progressing at such a rate that its benefits are being realized on an increasingly greater scale. In fact, we think that big data is even capable of bringing about social change by narrowing the gap between those in power and those who lack, but deserve, a voice. We believe that we are witnessing the earlier stages of a big data revolution in politics.
Recent and anticipated political revolutions are proof that the people of the world demand new and improved political structures that will address their needs and desires. At this time in the United States, political unrest is not upending the established government as it is in multiple Middle Eastern countries; nonetheless many Americans assert that there are fundament al problems that must be addressed. Big data is a powerful tool to use in this situation; we think it has the potential to significantly alter and strengthen the structure of the American political system.
In today’s political arena, especially in the United States, lesser-known men and women campaigning for office often must compete against more well-known candidates who have the luxury of stronger financial and media support and, therefore, means of communication. This is gradually changing thanks to greater and cheaper access to big data systems that can help candidates to learn how to harvest greater levels of political influence. For instance, a recent start-up, PoliticIt ( http://politicit.com/ ), relies on machine learning to gauge the popularity of political candidates by measuring their digital influence.
CEO Joshua Light has said that he hopes it “bring[s] down that barrier of entry for people who want to run for office”.
How exactly would it accomplish that? PoliticIt users can see the effects of their campaigning and public appearances and statements in real-time and adjust their strategies accordingly. In addition, they may be able to reach out to individual influencers, a technique that can often prove more effective than appealing to a less motivated room of people. In short, when the advanced digital-influence analysis such as PoliticIt has begun to provide, is in the hands of nearly every candidate, expect a tranformation in political arena. ( Learn more here: http://gigaom.com/cloud/can-a-big-data-product-level-the-playing-field-in-politics/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OmMalik+%28GigaOM%3A+Tech%29 )
From another point of view, the average voter in America today has diminishing political power. This is due, in part, to the great difference in median American family income and the cost of running a campaign (especially a presidential or senatorial one) and the weight of influence the money carries itself. While big data cannot change this aspect of politics, it can gather the large amounts of data available and use them to create knowledge for the masses. We believe that knowledge is power, in the end. When voters have as much information as possible at their disposal, along with the means to interpret it, they are capable of making decisions that better reflect their beliefs and opinions on specific issues. Unfortunately, information is often skewed by the media, opposing candidates, and the general public and oftentimes the full picture is not even available. Big data can organize this political data for voters, who most likely do not have much time themselves to analyze political candidates and issues in depth. It can also provide an unbiased view of information, allowing voters to avoid the half-truths and discrediting of politicians by other politicians. After all, Americans pride themselves on their liberties - isn’t it time that average Americans were given the opportunity to arm themselves with knowledge and exert their inherent political power?
Big data is not on a mission to create a world-wide utopia, but when we, as a society, wield its power, we are levelling the playing field, little by little. If we give it a chance, big data can be a great equalizer. In the case of politics and power, that may just be for the best.
- The Captain