Kenneth Cukier on America’s Failure to Use Big Data to Staunch COVID-19
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On Podcast
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
In this episode, Andrew is joined by Kenneth Cukier, the author of Big Data, to discuss the role that technology can play to combat the coronavirus and how it could even be used to prevent a future pandemic.
From the episode:
Kenneth Cukier: Why I’m so disappointed in the current environment of using data to fight against COVID is that for all the potential that we could apply this tool of big data, machine learning, AI, and data analysis, just very generally, to protecting people and getting a better handle on the crisis and the disease and staunching the disease, we’re not doing that.
And so, in a way, it’s been a complete surprise for me. It’s been a failure of our institutions and our leaders not to apply big data. It’s not been a failure of big data itself. It’s just that, if you have a jackhammer and you have a hammer, and you’re such a thick dolt that you’re going to use a hammer on the asphalt where a jackhammer would be better, well you can’t blame the jackhammer; you can just say the person who is using it should have thought through a little bit more clearly what they’re going to do. And if you have a society that accepts it, and you have a media that doesn’t call it out, then that’s a problem. So that’s the environment that we’re in. I’m very surprised and saddened that that should be the case.
Kenneth Cukier is a Senior Editor at The Economist, and host of its weekly podcast on technology. He is also an associate fellow at Said Business School at Oxford, researching artificial intelligence.