Jan 8, 2020

What Google and Facebook owe to a 19th-Century machine

In the data economy, power comes not from data alone but from the interplay of data and algorithm. In the 1880s, a young German-American inventor tried to interest his family in a machine to process data more quickly than humans could manage. With the 1880 census, the bureaucrats had swallowed more data than they could digest. If the power of data was apparent to Hollerith's customers, why did the data economy take another century to arrive? Because there's something new about the kind of data that's now being compared to oil - the likes of Google and Amazon don't need an army of enumerators to collect it.

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