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Most publications about Big Data tout its immense capability to change the dynamics of existing businesses, ranging from Amazon to Walmart, Lufthansa to Apple. One usually gets an image of a large group of people developing algorithms, to be applied to an ever-growing mass of customer data in order to do better in marketing their products to customers. I’m afraid that the image is fairly correct, regardless of some buzz around Watson the Jeopardy-winner, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. 

The disruptive capability is naturally real, but is has appeared so rapidly that most engineers and data scientists still think in a manual and unidirectional way. We create reports, analyses, recommendations and dashboards, based on which people can make decisions. Advanced, safe and incrementally useful. People are merrily in the center of the universe, just like Ptolemy envisioned. 

In my view, Big Data is just the primordial sea which allows spimes, those evolutionary objects in the Internet-of-Things, to thrive and evolve. They should not be confined to do batch reports from yesterday’s data, but allowed to become our trusted, real time servants within our more and more mundane physical objects. This will not only be economically sensible, but also sustainable from our planet’s perspective. 

Spimes naturally sport Artificial Intelligence (AI). It will be rudimentary in the beginning, but will get better and more capable with each digital interaction. Although some futurists warn about the risks a la Terminator, I firmly believe that we must embrace the new Spime era with curiosity and enthusiasm, in order to understand and emulate risks too. 

My special thanks to Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic for delivering a thought provoking presentation at our SPIME2015 in Amsterdam last month. I’m proud to be engineering something Bruce envisioned already 10 years go. 


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