Big Data – The New Science of Complexity

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Pietsch, Wolfgang
conference paper description
Data-intensive techniques, now widely referred to as 'big data', allow for novel ways to address complexity in science. I assess their impact on the scientific method. First, big-data science is distinguished from other scientific uses of information technologies, in particular from computer simulations. Then, I sketch the complex and contextual nature of the laws established by data-intensive methods and relate them to a specific concept of causality, thereby dispelling the popular myth that big data is only concerned with correlations. The modeling in data-intensive science is characterized as 'horizontal'—lacking the hierarchical, nested structure familiar from more conventional approaches. The significance of the transition from hierarchical to horizontal modeling is underlined by a concurrent paradigm shift in statistics from parametric to non-parametric methods.