Big Data

Data is collected now from every kind of source.
Surveillance cameras, sensors, and mobile phones, of course.
Email, social media, and every time you pay
Yup, Data sure is Big, and it gets Bigger every day.

Some of the ways they use it will legitimately please.
They comb through patients' records to diagnose disease.
Data powers Google Translate and rec'mendation lists,
And, hidd'n away, the NSA obstructs the terrorists.

But Big Data has a dark side, I'm sorry to relate.
Discriminatory bigotry it tends to replicate.
If you look on Google Image for "child" then you might
Be a bit surprised to learn that children almost all are white.

Conversely if you search for someone named "Jermaine",
Ads about arrests appear, for reasons all too plain.
Such cases are offensive; but what's dreadful is the fear
That in things that really count these same criteria appear.

If Big Data's hiring workers, does it choose them by their race?
Does it finger crooks by measuring the contours of their face?
Does it think, if you're a woman, that you're likelier to fail?
If you're black, does it recommend a longer time in jail?

And there can be no appeal of Big Data's stern decree.
The data's confidential. The code's a mystery.
And if you still insist, they play the trump card in their hand.
They tell you that it's Math and that you wouldn't understand.


This is part of the collection Verses for the Information Age by Ernest Davis