PerspectiveComputer Science

Mining Our Reality

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Science  18 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5960, pp. 1644-1645
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174459

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Something important is changing in how we as a society use computers to mine data. In the past decade, machine-learning algorithms have helped to analyze historical data, often revealing trends and patterns too subtle for humans to detect. Examples include mining credit card data to discover activity patterns that suggest fraud, and mining scientific data to discover new empirical laws (1, 2). Researchers are beginning to apply these algorithms to real-time data that record personal activities, conversations, and movements (38) in an attempt to improve human health, guide traffic, and advance the scientific understanding of human behavior. Meanwhile, new algorithms aim to address privacy concerns arising from data sharing and aggregation (9, 10).