Big Data and The Eye of Sauron:


“The Hobbit-An unexpected Journey” is set to be released December 14 and it had me thinking about the themes of the Tolkien Trilogy.   I have always found the image of Sauron as a burning eye a fascinating image.  It is a powerful image of fear and dread.  Its quest to see and know all made it hard not to think of “big data”.   It got down right creepy when I found these quotes in Morgoth’s Ring”. 

Sauron came to possess great knowledge of the physical substances of the world, forging, and all manner of craftsmanship — emerging as “a great craftsman of the household of Aulë”.

“it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall …) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction.”  

Roger Shattuck wrote a fascinating book entitled “Forbidden Knowledge”. In it he explores the results of different quests for knowledge from Prometheus to the genome project and among other observations highlights how the motivations behind these quests bare careful analysis. Even when the initial intentions are pure at the outset the knowledge, once uncovered and made known (not unlike Pandora’s Box) cannot be controlled. 

Yeah, yeah, our interest in Big Data can be rationalized as a desire to know more so that we can solve problems and make the world better, but we cannot deny the corrupting influence that lurks in this quest, that subtly shifts its goal from altruism to power, control and manipulation (“one ring to rule them all”).

Perhaps we should “google” the creation story, Prometheus, Pandora, Oedipus, Babel, Faust, Frankenstein, Josef Mengele, and The Manhattan Project as a reminder that quests for knowledge should never be undertaken lightly. 

1 Response to “Big Data and The Eye of Sauron:”

  1. 1 JFS December 11, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Interesting connection. Thanks for sharing the thought. Very excited to return to middle earth this weekend.

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Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

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