The Big Battle Over Big Data

Last week we told you why many world leaders think global power increasingly depends on harnessing the promise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. So this week, in-house tech guru Kevin Allison takes a look at the key contenders for the crown. They are, mainly…


The United States: With the biggest tech companies, the best talent, and the most innovative economy — this is the tech power to beat. But the state’s hands-off approach to the sector means most of that power (and data) is accruing to private companies whose primary loyalty is to their own shareholders. With tech companies facing a bi-partisan backlash in Washington, the government will likely seek more control. Whether that stifles innovation or strengthens the US position vis-à-vis rival powers remains to be seen.

China: The challenger. China can’t match US talent yet, but it’s catching up fast, for three reasons: its private sector tech giants are closely aligned with the state and the Party; China’s billion strong population can produce vastly more raw data than the US; and President Xi Jinping has consolidated power in a way that enables him to credibly make long-term financial and political promises to support the aim of making China an “AI Superpower” in the next ten years.

How does all this affect you? The competition here isn’t necessarily zero-sum — advances in one place can fuel innovation in others. But as big data grows bigger and artificial intelligence gets more, well, intelligent — a host of political and ethical issues will arise. So it will matter a great deal which governments, or companies, are in pole position to determine the new norms of privacy, oversight, and accountability.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

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