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Moneyball Diplomacy

June 7, 2013

I’m on a train again to D.C. to attend a conference on how to use big data to enhance U.S. diplomacy and development.

I’ll be on a panel in the afternoon called Diving Into Data, which has the following blurb attached to it:

Facebook processes over 500 terabytes of data each day. More than a half billion tweets are sent daily. And so the volume of data grows. Much of this data is superfluous and is of little value to foreign policy and development experts. But a portion does contain significant information and the challenge is how to find and make use of that data. What will a rigorous economic analysis of this data reveal and how could the findings be effectively applied? Looking beyond real-time awareness and some of the other well know uses of big data, this panel will explore how a more thorough in-depth analysis of big data could prove useful in providing insights and trends that could be applied in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

Also on the schedule today, two keynote speakers: Nassim Taleb, author of a few books I haven’t read but everyone else has, and Kenneth Neil Cukier, author of a “big data” article I really didn’t like which was published in Foreign Affairs and which I blogged about here under the title of “The rise of big brother, big data”.

The full schedule of the day is here.

Speaking of big brother, this conference will be particularly interesting to me considering the remarkable amount of news we’ve been learning about this week centered on the U.S. as a surveillance state. Actually nothing I’ve read has surprised me, considering what I learned when I read this opinion piece on the subject, and when I watched this video with former NSA mathematician-turned whistleblower, which I blogged about here back in August 2012.

Categories: data science, modeling
  1. Abe Kohen
    June 7, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple of Taleb’s popular books and hearing him at industry conferences and at seminars at Columbia and Courant. (OTOH, his book “Dynamic Hedging” still sits on my desk, mostly unread.) Taleb is the sort of skeptic I admire. One of his themes, which I believe you would agree with, is that traders get paid based on luck, rather than skill. A facetious example I heard on a trading desk is: a married couple get jobs at Goldman and Morgan. One goes long the S&P 500, the other goes short. One gets a fat bonus, the other loses his job. A great hedge!

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  2. Marcos
    June 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

    It’s worth trying to speak with Nassim (he’s on record as a “Big Data” skeptic).

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  3. wb
    June 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

    >> how to use big data to enhance U.S. diplomacy
    bring your PRISM …

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  4. June 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Looking forward to your appearance on the #TechATState panel this afternoon!

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  5. June 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    A shame that you haven’t read “Black Swan” or, more recent, “Anti-Fragility.” Mainly because I want to read your post-read blog. Not that you aren’t busy enough.

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  6. Aaron
    June 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Is “effectively applying findings from studying big data to formulating public policy” code for “how to harass twittererers who start talking about a revolution”?

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    • June 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      Nonsense. That only happens in states where the government surveils it’s people, not the land of the free

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  7. Abe Kohen
    June 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    You can’t trust this government with the IRS. How are you going to trust them on big data?

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