Early Ancestors of Big Data

Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel discuss the matter of the evolution of language and came to the conclusion that something similar to natural selection might be affecting modern forms of communication. They use the example of how in  English, the “-ed” past-tense ending of Proto-Germanic  replaced the Proto-Indo-European form of indicating tenses by vowel changes. The only words unaffected by this change were irregular verbs. To test their theory  Aiden and  Michel came up with an idea they dubbed culturomics, meaning the use of large amounts of digital information  and big data to track changes in language and culture.

In Aiden and Michel’s book, Uncharted, they make the claim that language is the primary method for communicating culture around the globe. Since it has written form they state that it is a convenient data set for scientific analysis. Language is the basis for communication but not the only method to communicate the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.The author’s seem to make the assumption that language is the primary form of sharing culture. What I question is whether there is a way to test their theory on other forms of expression to see if a form of Darwinian evolution affects not only our genes, but our culture as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.