“The Expanse” (...of Data)

How a sci-fi TV series mirroring our data-driven world shows what’s possible today with Qlik

Back in my college years, I used to listen a lot to the English rock band The Sisters of Mercy. One of my favourite songs is called “More” from the album “Vision Thing.” Singer-songwriter Andrew Eldritch wrote the track around love, lust and broken relationships; his brooding tones repeatedly hammers out the demanding line “I want more” – a line which rings true today for our never-ending lust for data.

I tend to spend more of my free time these days in a love affair with streaming video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Most recently, I just caught up with the awesome sci-fi series “The Expanse,” akin to the magnificent reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.” It showcases great examples of a way of life that is truly data driven and embodies all three principles of the 3rd Generation of BI: Democratising Data, Augmented Intelligence and Embedded Analytics.

The data-driven lives in “The Expanse”

The characters in the world of “The Expanse” all have access to computers in various forms, including slim, glasslike handheld devices, and to vast amounts of data. Reading, working with, analysing and arguing with all this data is part of their everyday lives. They constantly speak to the computers, asking questions and getting the insights they need to decide what to do next. Interestingly, I noticed the computers aren’t given a voice, which is one way to resolve a bone of contention with today’s smart speakers. Instead, they just relay the data they have been asked for, often in extremely detailed and beautiful visualisations on screens, and sometimes as projected augmented reality.

It may sound very futurist, and, maybe, in some ways, far off, but there was one scene in the second season that really struck home. Two of the characters, Naomi and Holden, were trying to track down an infectious, extra-terrestrial agent called the “protomolecule,” capable of altering host lifeforms. To do this, they wanted to search for anyone who was connected to Protogen, a bioweapons research and security corporation, on the battle-scarred Jovian moon, Ganymede. So, they began to ask their ship’s computer a series of complex questions and got the answers back as soon as they asked them. First, Holden requested, “Show us anyone with Protogen in their employment history.” Then, Naomi asked, “Who here was on Ganymede when the battle broke out?” and received a long list of names. Next, Holden probed further: “Okay, now just ones with advanced degrees in genetics, biology or nano informatics.” This pinned it down to one individual who had degrees in all three. Then, they asked to see his current location, along with all the people whom he was with—and, just like that, the hunt was on.

Two things immediately struck me when watching this scene. First, if this were done on top of a query-based tool, it would be enough to cause a meltdown—or at least take the full length of the series to complete, given the resources needed to find the data, make joins between datasets, and wait for the query to complete. Then, of course, this would have to be done again for each follow-up question. Second, and on a more serious note, I realised all this experience is possible today, not just on a sci-fi show!

The Qlik difference

It’s a great example of what you experience with Qlik’s Associative Difference® and how our unique Associative Engine works in finding associations in all your data while still showing what isn’t associated. Moreover, combined with Augmented Intelligence capabilities like the built-in Insights Advisor and adding our Insight Bot™, you, too, can start to have conversations with your data and start to benefit immediately by surfacing actionable insights with ease, just by asking questions using natural language.

The Sister’s of Mercy sang “I need all the love I can get.” In today’s world, we need all the data we can get, and all the data we can’t get, too.

Stay up to speed – join the Qlik Insider webinar

Find out how you can unlock the value in your all data and democratise it to all who need it by joining the quarterly Qlik Insider webinar, where you can up stay to speed on Qlik’s latest product innovations, along with seeing sneak previews of what’s coming soon. The next quarterly webinar is on November 20; register now if you haven’t already (scroll down to the bottom of the page to select your region/country).

During the webinar, you will get the chance to ask the experts questions to get the most out of your experience, and we always get some great questions. In fact, I’ve written up a summary blog post on Qlik Community, based on what you wanted to know on last quarter’s webinar. I am looking forward to doing the same write up for this quarter’s webinar—so sign up, and, remember, never stop asking questions, particularly about your ever-growing expanse of data!

Our own @adammayerwrk reflects on the data world of sci-fi’s #TheExpanse and how it’s here today with #Qlik’s Associative Difference®, which can reveal insights through natural language questioning


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