2016 Q & A with Vallee on UFOs + Big Data

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Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and new research: Q & A with Jacques Vallee

interview by Diana Pasulka

Quote:Jacques:

For those who have just discovered the world of “big data” because of the exploits of super-computers winning at chess or GO against the best human champions, the technology seems almost magical: dump unstructured threads of information into a large binary warehouse and let “deep thinking” extract the salient patterns. This technology actually works when the data itself is well-behaved, in particular for consumer trends, industrial maintenance or medical research. When the subject area lacks an ontology, as in the case of unexplained aerial phenomena, the same techniques are problematic because the software is most likely to extract spurious or misleading patterns. Much of my career has been spent developing metadata software and (more recently) investing in Big Data companies, so I am a believer in the relevant techniques but one cannot skip the arduous work of preliminary data “scrubbing.” In particular, we have to keep in mind that the observed data may be the result of multiple phenomena rather than a single source. The problem is one of discernment and intelligence rather than brute-force statistics.



Quote:The rapid expansion of computer records, as more and more old newspapers and books are digitized, has greatly facilitated access to original records. At the same time researchers are developing ingenious techniques for extracting information across long periods when the meaning of many terms has changed (think of the word “meteor,” which refers to the sighting of a falling aerolithe today but used to mean any luminous phenomenon in the sky). It has become feasible to conduct large-scale research on thousands of records at very minimum cost, without travel or administrative burden.

The problem remains of abstracting the data and making it available to others for critique, review and further research. A meeting was organized in 2015 at the Paris headquarters of the French Space Agency, gathering researchers from six nations in an effort to further collaboration in the exchange of data on unexplained aerial phenomena, but that work is just beginning. The phenomenon is global and very complex. Only 5-10% of the observations have actual research value. As a result, individual (occasionally heroic) attempts to hoard large quantities of information in hopes of “solving” the problem have proved naive, overly costly, and short-lived. It seems to me an open-source strategy will be the best way to motivate the research community and harness its resources.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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