Back in the early 2000s, Silicon Valley promoted Big Data as the means to revolutionise not only marketing and business, but the scientific method itself. Theories were no longer necessary or desirable, instead big data would drive change and understanding. Physics and biology were to be transformed. Yet the claimed scientific breakthroughs do not appear to have materialised. And instead of being neutral and value free many argue big data embeds the prejudices of those writing the code.
Should we reject the claims for Big Data as marketing hype for Big Tech that obscured a darker reality? Should we conclude theories are not only necessary but unavoidable? Or might developments in computing power enable machines to identify patterns that are more powerful than any theories humans can dream up and bring us a better picture of reality?