The Economist has a special report on how Data and the tools and technologies we use to understand are changing our lives at an accelerating pace. For example:
Google applies this principle of recursively learning from the data to many of its services, including the humble spell-check, for which it used a pioneering method that produced perhaps the world’s best spell-checker in almost every language. Microsoft says it spent several million dollars over 20 years to develop a robust spell-checker for its word-processing program. But Google got its raw material free: its program is based on all the misspellings that users type into a search window and then “correct” by clicking on the right result. With almost 3 billion queries a day, those results soon mount up. Other search engines in the 1990s had the chance to do the same, but did not pursue it. Around 2000 Yahoo! saw the potential, but nothing came of the idea. It was Google that recognized the gold dust in the detritus of its interactions with its users and took the trouble to collect it up.
This is something that will be key to understand for the rest of our lives. We have not even scratched the surface of what harnessing all the data we generate can do (for good or evil) in business, health care, or our personal lives.
I just started learning R and SAS, two popular statistical computing programs. You don’t need to become an expert, but the more you learn about statistics and data mining, the more useful you will be in the future.