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Viktor Mayer-Schonberger

Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford University; Author, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age; Founder, Ikarus Software

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Travels From: United Kingdom | Fee Range: $25,000 - $40,000

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Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances. The written word made it possible for humans to remember across generations and time, yet now digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget–the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse. Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that’s facilitating the end of forgetting–digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software–and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it’s outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won’t let us forget. He explains why information privacy rights and other fixes can’t help us, and proposes an ingeniously simple solution–expiration dates on information–that may.

Which paint color is most likely to tell you that a used car is in good shape? How can officials identify the most dangerous New York City manholes before they explode? And how did Google searches predict the spread of the H1N1 flu outbreak?

The key to answering these questions, and many more, is big data. Big data refers to our burgeoning ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it. This emerging science can translate myriad phenomena from the price of airline tickets to the text of millions of books into searchable form, and uses our increasing computing power to unearth epiphanies that we never could have seen before. A revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press, big data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation in the years to come. It also poses fresh threats, from the inevitable end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we haven’t even done yet, based on big data’s ability to predict our future behavior.

Biography

Acclaimed for his ground-breaking research into the role of information in the networked economy, Mayer-Schönberger is a visionary thinker about information innovation and governance, data privacy, memory and forgetting in a digital age, electronic government, and”of course”big data.

He is the Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University’s Internet Institute and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He has published eight books, including the award-winning Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age and is the author of over a hundred articles and book chapters on the information economy.

A frequent public speaker, and sought after expert for print and broadcast media worldwide, he has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Nature, Science, NPR, BBC, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and WIRED.

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