My Favorite Big Data Movies

By Bill Schmarzo November 26, 2013

I’ve decided to take a break from my normal boring, business transformational big data blogging and share some of my favorite “big data” movies. So as we get ready to go into the holiday movie blockbuster season, this is my take on Hollywood’s best tales on what to expect in a world of big data gone awry!!

Colossus – The Forbin ProjectColossus

This is the original big data movie for me. Heck, I even named my first computer science project in college Colossus after the super computer gone bad in this movie (it was a rocket simulation program, most appropriately). In the movie, a data scientist builds a super computer to manage all of America’s defense assets and information in order to protect us from the Russians (heavy Cold War era movie). Russians counter with their own super computer to protect it from the United States. The United States and Russian computers join forces (communicating over a 2400 baud line?) to take control of all defense assets in order to protect man from himself. At those communication speeds, the computers could hardly say “Hello World” to each other before someone disconnected the phone line. By the way, we will see this same “protect man from himself” premise in other big data movies such as “I, Robot.”

War GamesWar Games

A super computer (again, programmed by some well-intentioned data scientist) is given control of all United States defense assets. It gathers all sorts of data and runs massive predictive models and simulation programs using all this available data in order to determine the best strategy to win a nuclear war against the Russians. Unfortunately, the computer is über-easy to hack into, and Matthew Broderick accidently sets it off to destroy the Russians. In the end, the super computer determines that Tic-Tac-Toe sucks as a strategy game and gives control back to the humans (thereby dooming man to eventually kill himself…but that’s probably in the sequel).

11 26 13 Bill Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard

Data scientisthacker takes over every on-the-grid network, video camera, phone networks and databases. The data scientist’s goal, with access to all of this available data and technology, is create a “fire sale” that will eventually bring down the United States financial system (and do all of this before the advent of Hadoop!!). Evil data scientist is able to access, analyze, and act on real-time data feeds from all the surveillance and information systems in order to thwart our heroes from saving the day. Fortunately, the bad data scientist is finally done in when his old school, OLTP-centric data warehouse crashes trying to analyze the massive data sets …not really, but that would have been better than the movie’s real ending.  “Yippee Ki Yay, Mister Falcon!”

Minority ReportMinority Report

This movie is a stretch to include on the “Big Data Movies” list, but here goes anyway. In the “Minority Report” future, über-smart data scientists (actually, only 3 über-smart data scientists) are able to predict when, by whom, and to whom a murder is going to happen (but they don’t know where the murder is to occur, which is the exciting part of the movie). Murders in this future are eliminated (at least in Washington, D.C.). In a world where real-time facial recognition applications are everywhere, marketers decide to waste the technology to create personalized billboards (“Hello Mr. Yokomoto.” You’ll never walk by a Gap billboard again without covering your eyes with your hands) and generating customized, come-to-life “Tony the Tiger” holograms on boxes of cereal. Also, I guess we’d have to consider the pre-cogs as predictive analytics taken to the extreme, right?

Eagle EyeEagle Eye

This is the ultimate big data movie. Super computer ingests all of the world’s data (structured, unstructured, video, audio, vibrations in cups of coffee), manipulates video and transactional data to confuse the good guys, takes control of combat drones to blow stuff up (nice to know how easy it is to hack into one of those babies), constantly updates the predictive models to determine the probabilities of success and only gets stopped when someone finally realizes that pulling the blades from the servers works pretty well in shutting down the system (what, no one could find the power cord?).  The computer’s name is Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst” (ARIIA) and sounds pretty hot (voiced by Julianne Moore). If I were to have one more child, I’d name him or her ARIIA just to freak my nerd friends out.

11 26 13 Bill I Robot

I, Robot

In my final Big Data movie, yet again another super computer—VIKI, in this case, which stands for Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence (guess that’s the next-generation Business Intelligence). VIKI leverages massive amounts of data and computational power to take control of the world’s robots in order to protect man from himself (never mind that VIKI has to kill several humans in order to establish this ring of protect).  Will Smith plays an old-school, data warehouse-type guy who doesn’t trust robots (or likely big data), battles the robots and VIKI with a sympathetic robot sidekick called Sunny (fulfilling the obligatory Jar Jar Binks role), and eventually destroys the evil master computer VIKI with nanites, that look a lot like Diet Coke. Actually, injecting VIKI with Diet Coke probably would have had the same effect.

Lessons Learned From Big Data Movies

Are there lessons to be learned from these big data movies?  Of course, including:

  1. Hollywood loves the idea that big data will eventually turn into big brother and control all of us like hamsters on a hamster wheel.
  2. Data scientists and their good intentions with big data can turn evil quickly due to unexpected consequences (like the machines leveraging data and massively parallel processing to take control away from us naïve humans).
  3. Evil big data eventually loses out because all technology crashes …eventually.

By the way, I couldn’t figure out how to get Caddy Shack or Animal House on the Big Data Movie list, but I’ll keep trying to find a big data angle!!

So, share with me your favorite big data movies, and give me a reason why it should be included on the list.

About Bill Schmarzo

Read More

Share this Story
Join the Conversation

Our Team becomes stronger with every person who adds to the conversation. So please join the conversation. Comment on our posts and share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “My Favorite Big Data Movies

  1. Don’t neglect the middle Batman movie of the Christopher Nolan cycle, in which the Bat simultaneously hacks the cell phones of everyone in Gotham to create a massive sensor network that listened for the bad guy and pinpointed his location. If you assume infinite uplink bandwidth and can accept some latency given the need to do massively parallel signal processing, this one has the neat feature of actually being feasible.

    But don’t tell the NSA; I don’t want to give them any ideas. Unfortunately, they probably already saw the movie.

  2. Really great angle on those movies!!
    I can’t think of a couple of others but they will fall into the “computational geek” bucket more than big data only. Fun reading. Cheers Bill.

  3. Certainly the Matrix series (or at least the original) must be included here as the entire matrix was/is data. Each human was kind of his or her own “node” while the connections they made were the relationships. They essentially had their own graph database going full bore, that is until NEO came and messed it all up!

    Another, slightly less popular one, is the Thirteenth Floor in which there is a computer generated 1930’s world that would take quite a large group of computers to simulate well. The ending has a pretty good twist too.

    Fun post, thanks for sharing!

  4. There’s a great scene in Iron Man 3 where Tony Stark does a bit of “Map-Reduce” to find one of the first of the ‘Extremis’ men explosions.. in the small town of Rose Hill, TN… (right before the bad guys blow up Tony’s house)… (other examples here/there as he tracks down the Extremis HQ,etc..)..