Blog Post

Jeff Jonas Video on How Data Makes Corporations Dumb

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM (s IBM) Entity Analytics Group and an IBM Distinguished Engineer, thinks the world has a big problem with big data and that problem is only going to get bigger. Jonas arrived at IBM after the Big Blue bought his 19-year-old company, Systems Research in January 2005. Jonas & SRD helped develop a surveillance intelligence system for Las Vegas casinos that took in reams of data to identify card counters, including the MIT grads who were made famous by best-selling book Bringing Down The House. In 2001, In-Q-Tel invested in the company and helped SRD work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency on many matters of national security.  A triathlete and a frequent Iron Man contestant, Jonas is one of the foremost authorities on data systems.

Unlike most scientists, Jonas deals with realities of modern enterprises.  He recently stopped by at our offices to discuss the data tsunami that is hitting the corporate world.  We see him as a kindred spirit. Whether it is writing about the rise of sensor nets or webscale databases, big data is an area of focus for us.

“Information is being created faster than organizations can make sense of it,” he says. The gap between the growth of information and understanding is widening because the tools for understanding are not scaling as fast as the growth in data and information.  “As computers are getting faster and the world is getting more sensors, the organizations have been getting dumber,” he said. “The percentage of what is knowable is on a decline.”

“The future doesn’t look like Tom Cruise in The Minority Report at all,” he said in the video conversation, that was produced & edited by Chris Albrecht. “The actual future is where data finds data and relevance finds the consumer.”  He talks about what we can learn from casinos and why he hates the idea of batch processing. Jonas also talks about how the big data problem is going to overrun the web as well.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d):

11 Responses to “Jeff Jonas Video on How Data Makes Corporations Dumb”

  1. Did I miss it, or doesn’t he cover machine learning. Without it, good luck. His example of counting is a good example why there should be machine learning, as in self organization.

  2. Mark Hernandez

    That was a fantastic video.

    The takeaway is that given the increasing amount of existing and new kinds of information coming in, unless a miracle occurs…

    …there’s no escaping the need to have someone like Jeff Jonas on your staff who is the Chief Information Expert and takes responsibility for double-checking and second-guessing the existing and new interpretations of your data, constantly looking for gotchas and blind spots. Computers cannot do what humans do.

    How can you integrate such wisdom into your automated information systems without having someone on your staff who has that wisdom in the first place? If you’re getting bad data, then the basic problem couldn’t be more obvious!


    Likewise there’s a stream of another kind of information coming at us and GigaOM wants to be there to help us interpret it, add value and even wants to charge for a subscription to that added value. This is why I truly hope that there’s a “Chief Writing Officer” at GigaOM who takes responsibilitly for the quality of writing, sets the minimum standards and exercises quality control.

    The quality of writing on GigaOM is definitely inconsistent, and sometimes quite poor (e.g. D.E.) generated by writers who exhibit unprofessionalism, poor critical thinking and expository writing skills, a tendency toward sensationalism, and writing that’s obviously just banged out to fill the RSS streams parroting other sites.

    A Chief Writing Officer would know that GigaOM is not the only stream people read, and if it wants to stand out and offer exceptional value, it has to produce original thoughtful content that can take hours and hours of careful work and research to produce. is one example of a quality to strive for. The C.W.O. knows that consistency is key, that it takes a long time to build respect and takes just minutes to damage it. It’s either all high quality, or it’s only as good as it’s weakest offering.

    If GigaOM wants to be in between the industry and it’s readers, it wants to make sure it double-checks and second-guesses it’s output and takes a lesson from Jeff Jonas, if needed.

    Information is being transmitted here through the conduit of writing. And if it’s bad, the problem couldn’t be more obvious.

    Mark Hernandez
    Information Workshop