Asher Sinensky of Palantir Technologies

Asher Sinensky of Palantir started his talk by using a chess metaphor for human and machine interaction. Humans have an uncanny ability to make decisions and analyze ideas. This ability is unique to humankind. He stated that for the technological enterprise it is important that humans be in the analysis process. Humans are key for conceptualizing new innovations and new ideas after data analysis. See Box 3-1 for Sinensky’s full comments.

David Thurman of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

David Thurman, computing strategy lead at PNNL, asserted that, in the future, computing applications will move toward computer architectures that bring together the different strengths of customized hardware and software capabilities to evaluate different types of distributed data (bringing together many types of computing). A key issue is being able to derive results-generated data from across different agencies.

He said that in 2005 PNNL created a new computer architecture that analyzes data where it resides rather than making copies of the data and transferring it to one central location. This architecture assumes the availability of new highly efficient algorithms tailored to distribute the heterogeneous data sets. Many of these algorithms are derived from the rapidly evolving commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processing applications of big data.


At the end of the April 2012 workshop, the chair asked committee members and speakers in attendance to make any final comments on what they had heard over the two days. These comments are made as a summary for the workshop:

Ken Kress—“Big data” is more than just a change of scale—it is a more persistent threat than we have previously observed.”

Al Velosa—“Progress in the human-machine interface will reduce friction and will allow capability enhancement for the individual, but we will mostly likely experience a fluidity of people more pronounced than we have ever seen.”

David Thurman—“I am struck by how different are the threat and impact of big data versus ballistic missiles and other classical threats because of the acceleration of commercially driven offerings, none of which are as controllable as the classical threat domains.”

Asher Sinensky—“Now more than at any time in history, we must demand flexibility and adaptability in the tool sets we create for the problem at hand, because those problems are changing faster than ever before, and we don’t have time to create a new generation of inflexible tools to counter each new twist.”

Mikhail Shapiro—“The highest value should be placed on the human capital, the engineer, and that asset is an asymmetric economic issue.”

Brian Ballard—“The big question is how to organize the data and make it accessible to the problem solvers. Cyber is its own category, but big data is a force multiplier of massive scale, with far-reaching implications. Succeeding here will allow us to ‘own the net,’ delivering advantages that we posit today but even more importantly, advantages of which we are not yet even aware.”

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