The Promise and Peril of Big Data

‘Big data’ is a term that describes the vast amounts information being collected and processed as the world’s technological prowess grows at an astonishing rate. What differentiates big data from regular old data is the three v’s, velocity, variety, and volume. Velocity describes the speed at which the information is initially received, transferred, and processed into a usable form for analysis. Variety and volume are categorized by the sheer quantity of data received, both in amount and in diversity. You can see for yourself the growth of big data both as a term and as a tool by checking the Google Trends display of ‘big data’ searches. Analytical programs such as Google Trends are made possible through the collection of big data, and will become more advanced and accurate as our understanding of this new phenomenon rises.

The future of big data is strong, but potentially frightening. As it grows, big data will have a growing impact on the functioning of the world economy and society in general. Whilst the increasingly pervasive presence of big data in our daily lives may be met with hesitance, the possibilities for its use will likely overcome any backlash. Positive uses of big data such as fighting crime and managing healthcare offer the potential to increase living standards by improving public safety, health, and longevity. Valid concerns about data privacy will need to be addressed, but are unlikely to stop continued big data collection and application.

Privacy is an increasingly important issue in today’s world. CCTV cameras track your every move, and tech firms monitor your every click online. This data collection and monitoring has the potential to make nations more secure, and websites more useful.  However, it could also be used to track your movements, influence your thoughts, and manipulate your decisions.  Is it a fair trade off? How much privacy and personal freedom are we willing to trade for a little more national security and shopping convenience? This is not an easy question to answer, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had.

In order to make an informed judgment about these privacy trade-offs, we must consider some of the practical applications of big data. One example of a beneficial use of big data and surveillance that has proven successful at cutting crime is a technology being deployed by Ross McNutt’s firm Persistent Surveillance Systems. With a small plane and a 192 mega-pixel camera, his team takes aerial photos of a targeted city at regular intervals. Now ‘photos of a city’ may sound like a small advancement for crime fighting, if an advancement at all, but let me propose to you a scenario. A drive-by shooting occurs in a poor part of town. Police resources are limited, the car skids into the distance, perhaps a change of vehicles occurs, and the criminals disband. No leads. Now, in McNutt’s world with this ‘Eye in the Sky’ technology, there are leads. The car can be tracked down frame by frame, with the ability to see individuals and vehicles move pixel by pixel on a near real-time map. This is not just theoretical. Within weeks of this technology being implemented in Juarez, Mexico, an otherwise unsolvable drug cartel hit on a Mexican police officer was solved.

Pair this technology with big data analytics and we have a crime stopping masterpiece. With new advances in machine learning, a computer could be fed these images and trained to spot irregularities, notifying police when unusual circumstances occur. This has real potential in aiding the fight against drug cartels, stopping gang violence, and decreasing overall rates of crime.

However, would you want your every move stored on a server, your position constantly known to law enforcement and the government?  Living in a Western democracy, it is easy to take basic safeguards for granted like free elections, freedom of the press, separation of government powers, and rule of law.  However, these protections do not exist everywhere.  Big data analytics in the hands of Kim Jong-un might well be used to further centralise power, micro-manage the economy, and suppress political opponents. In other words, to build a techno dystopian society.

The future will bring more big data analytics. Each aspect of your life will be targeted, your shopping preferences, holiday plans, employment potential, the possibilities are endless. With the vast swathes of information that can be collected from our devices, many of our actions will be increasingly pinpointed and analysed.

A current battle that will have a large impact on the future of big data is the fight for net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that governments and internet service providers (ISPs) must not discriminate against or give preference to any aspect of the internet, from the type of customer to the websites that they browse. The fight for net neutrality in the United States looks like it will be lost as the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) moves to crack down on the free internet, giving power to ISPs to regulate the web as they please. Losing net neutrality would be a large step backwards for personal rights as free access to the internet plays such an important role in modern life. Big data would be impacted by these changes as companies who are given preferential treatment by ISPs would gain a significant boost in web traffic, and as such be able to collect more data. Companies not favoured in a post net neutrality world would see their data stores decline as their traffic is throttled. As it stands, our data is going to be tracked one way or another, so it should at least be our right to determine which firms, preferably socially conscious ones, are the benefactors of receiving our traffic.

It is a tricky dilemma to balance the benefits of advanced data technology with the importance of data privacy. The potential advancements in the health sector are likely to be a great benefit to society, but we need to remain cautious about why, how, and what data is collected, stored, and used. Overall, big data will emerge as one of the revolutions of the early 21st century, but at a cost to our privacy. It is a hard trade to stomach, but the future is exciting nonetheless.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

Image: Pexels

How to Succeed in the New Age of Interviews

The process of securing an internship at an investment bank is both a daunting and strenuous endeavour. Through research and experiences of my own, I have gathered insights into how to prepare for and succeed in the search for an internship. I began by considering what to do to get an initial foot in the door, and how to set oneself apart from other candidates.

The beginning stages of the application process to a top-tier firm are much the same as any other. Provide your grade transcript, CV, and cover letter. You’re going to want to have top grades and a diverse range of life experiences.  The cover letter is the most important of these initial documents. A desired response from a recruitment manager would be “most cover letters I’m falling asleep. Reading your cover letter, I felt like I knew you.” Try to show your personal voice in your cover letter, don’t give some generic spiel about how you’ve graduated from ‘x’ university with ‘y’ degree. Vary your sentence length. Showing that you’re a good, emotive writer is important. Your cover letter should also be clear and easy to understand, as getting your point across is of utmost importance in the business world. In terms of CV specifications, keep your CV to one page. Write only your most impressive achievements. You want every sentence the manager reads to be a “wow” sentence. Start your CV off with a few sentences that set you apart as a candidate, be it your life background or unique experience set. Follow all of this advice and you might just get to stage two.

Stage two of the process may find you in front of your webcam, coming face to face with the recent recruiting tool developed be Hirevue. This involves being asked questions by a virtual man. You get 30 seconds to prepare a response and then two minutes to address the virtual man through the webcam. Be prepared for some difficult questions, an example being “what is a decision that you had to make in a fast-paced environment”, possibly prompting you to make the ironic response of “just now as I am taking part in this Hirevue process”. Almost certainly that is not the desired response. Whilst making realistic responses, you should also look into your webcam as if it is the eyes of a prospective manager. The webcam will record you, analysing your body language, eye contact, vocabulary, and anything else it can quantify. This will provide Hirevue with data that it will analyse to estimate how likely you are to be a successful candidate before a human even looks at your response. This can make for a very inhuman interview experience, but that is what the world is tending towards, so better get yourself acquainted with these technological advances.

If you continued to impress in step two, you’ll secure yourself an interview with a real human! This will likely be a technical phone interview in which you should have studied the potential terminology and conventions relevant to the industry. Your knowledge will be tested. This will be followed by a behavioural interview in which you give STAR (situation, task, action, result) responses to personal and teamwork questions. Just google STAR interview questions to find countless examples. It is good to have a pool of teamwork experiences to apply to the questions, considering both your internal feelings and external interactions. This step is possibly coupled with an aptitude test. These aptitude tests will assess your reading comprehension, numeracy skills, and logic skills in the form of pattern recognition. Succeed at all this and you’ll have made it to the final step!

The last stage involves being transported to the company headquarters to have face to face interviews. You’ll probably have 2 – 6 different interviews, each interview trying to pick your brain about a different aspect of your personality. These can often veer off script and you’ll do well as long as you have good conversational skills. These interviews are really to gauge your social competency. These firms want good all-rounders, and are looking for humble, kind, personable people. Teamwork skills are key. It is also pertinent that you remember all your interviewers’ names, you may be quizzed on them later in the day.

If you manage to jump through all of these hoops, congratulations, you are in! They’ll be in touch within a few hours to lock you in as you have proven that you are one of the most talented individuals around. Beyond step one all else will take place over the course of around a week, these top firms really do not mess around when securing talent. All of this makes for a difficult, stressful process, but that’s what work for a top company involves! Good luck in your endeavours, keep building a diverse range of experiences and keep on top of your studies and you’ll have a great shot.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

Image: Pexels

The importance of human relationships in the modern world

I spend a large chunk of my daily life attached to technology. I wake up courtesy of the alarm on my phone and as I turn it off I am greeted by the notifications that have reached me overnight. Fantastic, one of my friends on Instagram has posted for the first time in a while. Swipe that notification away. Oh, good, two of my favourite shoe stores have given me a special 15% discount on their fall selection. Delete, delete. I put my phone down and have a fleeting recollection of my clash with a ferocious lion in my dream last night. I try to delve into my memory to find the remnants of my battle, but all I find are two cheap pairs of shoes. Before the day has even begun technology has penetrated its way into my conscious thought. I would imagine that many of you find a similar beginning to the day, perhaps with less lions, but likely with the same bombardment of trivial information.

That’s the cost of living in the modern world. Even if you try to cut down on screen time, most of you will find that your job requires you to spend many hours looking at a screen. Your appointments, communications, and the general organisation of your daily life are likely delegated to you by a small rectangular beacon of information. Technology makes life convenient and efficient. China, through Alibaba innovations, is the poster boy for the integration of technology into everyday life. Alibaba promotions show the ‘ideal’ daily life in which an individual uses their phone for every aspect of their day – getting from place to place with Didi Chuxing, reading news from Youku Tudou, shopping on one of their numerous online marketplaces, and so on. The growth of virtual reality makes this even more invasive. Online stores are being designed to replicate the interior of real stores, giving the feeling of walking around browsing products. Whether this level of assimilation reaches the Western world is yet to be seen, but unless there is significant pushback it appears that the impact of technology on everyday life will continue to grow.

This growing reliance on technology makes real human relationships even more important. Perhaps much of your interaction with a client or work associate happens through text or calls, with a rare face to face meeting along the way. A positive interaction with a client can lead to increased trust and bonding, thus taking the relationship to a new level. A client will often prefer working with an individual with whom they have good rapport, even if that person is less technically adept than the competition. Learning skills to make the most of face to face interactions is therefore paramount in the work climate of today.

Firstly, you should go into business meetings feeling relaxed and confident. In the lead up to a meeting try to remove any expectations that you may have set upon yourself. View every client interaction as an opportunity for success, but placing too much weight on that opportunity can cause anxiety. Nervousness can cause you to speak too quickly, fidget, lose concentration, sweat profusely, and leave an overall impression with the client that you are disorganised or even untrustworthy. You will personally have to test what works to quell your nerves. You could develop a pre-meeting routine that gets you in a confident mindset, or have a few pre-planned questions to fall back on in case you get caught up on your words.

Once in the meeting, begin with a firm handshake, an abundance of eye contact, and an upright body position. Whilst conversing consciously make an effort to slow down your speech to articulate yourself clearly. Mimic the client’s body language and mannerisms to create a subconscious bond. While this may feel wooden at first, these techniques should all become natural with some practice. However, if it continues to feel unnatural, drop it. The most important aspect of your interaction is that you truly listen. You don’t want to miss a subtle change in tone or choice of wording because you were too busy trying to cross your legs at the same time as the client.

Once you have overcome any issues of nervousness and mastered a few key techniques to boost your confidence, interactions should feel more genuine. That is the key to striking a positive business relationship. Yes, a firm handshake and upright body position may subtly influence a client’s opinion of you, but the true success of your meeting will come from human connection. Don’t try to refocus the meeting on business issues if the topic wanders, feel free to talk about fishing or dogs for twenty minutes if that’s where the conversation leads. The true purpose of the meeting should be to feel like you’ve developed a stronger relationship with the individual across the table.

Now that technology has permeated our everyday life, these client interactions have become fewer and farther between. As a result, to be successful in maintaining business relationships, you must nail down the impression you make in these meetings. Ultimately, the impression you give will not come from your body language, level of eye contact, or firmness of handshake, but from the bond you make with another human being.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

Image: Pexels