Cusp In The Media

Can Big Data Resolve The Human Condition?

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Back in the day, astronomers studied galaxies one at a time.

Data about each metropolis of stars had to be pieced together slowly. These individual studies were then combined so that a broader understanding of galaxies and their histories as a whole could slowly emerge.

Then, along came the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and everything changed. Using a special purpose telescope and computer-driven data collection, the Sloan Survey fire-hosed millions of objects onto the laps of astronomers. That was the beginning of “Big Data” in astronomy, and it changed the way we understood our place in the universe.

Now, a visionary group of scientists believes it can do for society what Sloan did for galaxies. Using the ever-increasing capacities of Big Data, the goal is to change the way we understand the human universe.

The Kavli HUMAN Project is a collaboration between the Kavli Foundation, the Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision Making at NYU, and the Center for Urban Science and Progress at NYU. It’s based on one simple goal — and an array of stunningly complex technologies required to get there. Here “HUMAN” stands for “Human Understanding Through Measurement and Analytics.” The project’s vision is to “generat[e] a truly comprehensive longitudinal dataset that capture[s] nearly all aspects of a representative human population’s biology, behavior, and environment.”

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