Gary King, professor and director of Harvard University's Institute for Quantitative Social Science, spoke at The Washington Post May 18 as part of Transformers, a live event about pushing the boundaries of knowledge. (Washington Post Live)

Harvard’s Gary King spoke at The Post’s 2016 Transformers live journalism event May 18 in Washington, D.C. Learn more here.

“Big data is not actually about the data. The revolution is not that there’s more data available. The revolution is that we know what to do with it now. That’s really the amazing thing.

“If you take social media, today there were 650 million social media posts that were written by somebody and are available to researchers to be able to see what people think. Some people say it’s the largest increase in the expressive capacity of the human race in the history of the world. One person could write a post and potentially billions of other people could read it.

“But how’s any one person going to understand what billions of other people are going to say? The only way of understanding 650 million social media posts for one day is to have automated methods that can understand this text.

“The revolution is not about the data. It’s about the analytics that we can come up with and that we now have to be able to understand what these data say.”

Gary King
Professor and director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Harvard University

DARPA director Arati Prabhakar and Harvard professor Gary King examine new tools in machine learning that are helping make meaning from data in critical areas of national security. (Washington Post Live)

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