Data Mining…does it have similarities to “psychohistory”?
Reading articles and news stories about the data mining that companies and governments conduct on routine correspondence, telephone calls, purchases, and all varieties of habits such as web searches, shopping and personal preferences is certainly enough to make one paranoid.
Certainly I can understand people being upset upon learning about how government agencies are spying on routine activities. In fact I cannot help but think about the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Perhaps I am the only one who sees a similarity between the powers of data mining “big data” and the branch of mathematics from the Foundation books called “psychohistory.”
In the Foundation series (especially the original trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation) mathematician Hari Seldon used the laws of mass action to predict the future on a large scale. His predictions worked on the principle that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of people was very large (like the population of the universe).
Of course this is not the same thing as Target predicting which customers are expecting babies so they can be sent special promotional offers at a key “flux” point in their purchasing habits but it does ring of many of the same concepts.
Perhaps I need to dig out my old copies of the Foundation trilogy for a good read over the weekend.