The influence of Big Data in contemporary science: methodological and ethical implications

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Edna Alves de Souza
sexta-feira, Outubro 2, 2020 - 10:00

To what extent have techniques for recording and analysing massive amounts of data, also known as Big Data, influenced ethics and scientific methodology? This question guides the present philosophical-interdisciplinary reflection concerning the contemporary digital culture. We investigate the concepts of causality and correlation, arguing that data, organized by mining, analysis, and modelling techniques, may show correlation, but not necessarily causality. While acknowledging current controversy concerning the relevance of Big Data analysis, here we argue that in contrast to causal associations, correlation is unable to reveal the reason for the occurrence of events, only signalling what could be happening in specific locations and situations. Nonetheless, the study of correlations can be of great help for decision-making in many areas of science, politics, and commerce, among others. Considering the capacity and analytical methodology of Big Data resources, which favour the study of correlations, rather than causal analysis, we also discuss the ethical implications of the use of Big Data analytics in scientific methodology.

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Keywords: Causality, correlation, data, scientific method, digital culture, ethics.