Big Data refers to very large data sets collected for many reasons, typically without one definite goal in mind. Using techniques collectively known as Artificial Intelligence (AI), one can extract commercially very valuable information from such data. While famous data sets in the physical sciences are larger than any other, they have been gathered to answer a definite research question, such as, for instance, what is the mass of the Higgs boson, or are there gravitational waves. Such data acquisition follow the paradigm of theory-hypothesis-testing-knowledge. Big Data does not.
This raises the question whether science can also go directly to the data. One well-known (popular) expression of such a line of thought was a 2008 article in Wired magazine with the title “The end of the theory: the deluge of data makes the scientific method obsolete”. By extrapolating this reasoning, instead of us trying to imagine how the world works, computers will find for us the laws of nature. Not necessarily take the form of intelligible mathematical relationships, but which work just as well, and which will make our lives easier and therefore happier.
The Nobel Symposium “Predictability in Science in the age of AI” aims to bring together leading experts in AI and sciences to discuss these issues. One main theme will be to find out the limits of the Big Data approach. It has been argued that knowledge, as opposed to data and facts, is contingent on meaning. Any finite amount of data can however take many meanings depending on context. A crucial question will hence be to what extent a Big Data approach requires working in a given context, and to what extent it allows for the creation of new knowledge.
Convenor: Erik Aurell, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
Co-convenor: Francesco Petruccione, Stellenbosch University
Nobel in Africa is a STIAS Initiative in partnership with Stellenbosch University, under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences with funding from the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Public Lectures are organised as part of the Nobel Symposium in Physics on Predictability in Science in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the first in the Nobel in Africa – NOBEL SYMPOSIA Series.