"Goodbye, Anecdotes", says @Butterworthy, "The Age Of Big Data Demands Real Criticism" (AWL, January 2013). Thanks to @milouness, who comments "Important concepts here about what is knowable!". The article tries to link Big Data with Big Questions about the Big Picture, and what @Butterworthy calls The Big Criticism. From this perspective, Bill Franks' advice, To Succeed with Big Data, Start Small (HBR Oct 2012), is downright paradoxical.
But why would we expect Big Data to help us answer the Big Questions? Big Data is rather a misnomer: it mostly comprises very large quantities of very small data and very weak signals. Retailers wade through Big Data in order to fine-tune their pricing strategies; pharma researchers wade through Big Data in order to find chemicals with a marginal advantage over some other chemicals; intelligence analysts wade through Big Data to detect terrorist plots. Doubtless these are useful and sometimes profitable exercises, but they are hardly giving us much of a Big Picture. Big Data may give us important clues about what the terrorists are up to, but it doesn't tell us why.