Big data refers to data which is too large or complex to be processed by traditional software, but which instead can be analysed in numerous ways to gain specific insights for modelling future scenarios.

The Covid-19 pandemic and expected recession is one such instance where big data will likely play a key role, as it can be tracked in real-time to provide up-to-date analysis, help forecast developments and chart a less turbulent path through the downturn. Here are some areas of big data that are already being utilised:

Restaurant reservations

In this unique circumstance, experts have been provided with lots of real-time information, which has been helpful in indicating where the country’s economy is headed. This has led to a new school of economic analysis.

There are many areas which analysts are looking at for data, one of which is restaurant bookings. By monitoring how many people are choosing to go out to eat, experts can monitor and predict trends that may affect businesses in specific areas or sectors.

Credit card spends

Another area which provides useful data is credit card spending. The closure of many non-essential shops has led to a fall in spending. Credit card data compiled by some of the leading banks offer a clear picture of how people are spending.

It can look at whether people are choosing to spend on travel, home or outdoor entertainment, and meals out.

Energy use and pollution

As factories halted production, energy consumption dramatically decreased. Oil prices plunged in price, meaning producers were struggling to have people take it off their hands.

Furthermore, pollution data has been monitored. With much social and business activity on hold, road traffic has fallen and air quality has improved. Cities with once large amounts of pollution had cleaner air for a period of time.

Internet searches

Data from search engines and what people are browsing is valuable is building an idea of what people across the world are taking an interest in during this time. They also provide spending pattern information, as we see more searches for social activities as lockdown is eased.

The big data gathered from Covid-19 is helping experts across the world predict future trends, potentially helping us to prepare for the possibility of a recession and the businesses and sectors that may thrive and those that will be impacted more severely.

Artificial Intelligence will transform economies

In much the same way the combustion engine changed an industry and our economy, AI will have a transformative effect on all aspects of our society, including how we run the economy.

Solving income inequality

Tax avoidance is a huge issue in today’s society and the disparity of wealth is only increasing, so scientists are looking at how AI can make for a fairer, more balanced method of taxing workers. In a recent experiment, an AI was given control of applying tax policies to a simulated workforce to identify how it would react.

It applied higher taxes to the richest and the poorest of these simulated workers, leaving the middle bracket with a lower rate of taxation. Rather than going for the more traditional routes of progressive or regressive taxation, the AI produced a policy that seemed counterintuitive, but in doing so its system resulted in a smaller wealth gap between the richest and poorest of its simulated workforce.

Predicting the future

An AI doesn’t look only to the past to try and predict the future. Instead, it can look at any and every future possibility or scenario, rehashing the same experiment over and over to produce results that will benefit the majority. No current method of prediction could have foreshadowed what has happened over the past few months with the pandemic, but an AI simulated model can easily add social distancing to its parameters and thus adjust its policies accordingly.

Real-world applications

AI could soon be setting interest rates, reacting to inflation changes and predicting consumer spending. It will be able to create policies in line with the current prediction models but rather than relying on historical data only, it will be based on data that has already played out in a simulated world. In doing so, AI can help craft a society that is fairer and more equal for everyone.

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