Expert speakers participating in a recent seminar at the University of California, San Diego discussed the rapid growth of big data and how it is affecting people’s daily lives. California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology director Larry Smarr pointed to a typical Google search on a smartphone, whose operation requires more computing power than all of the Apollo space missions put together. “Never in our history have we had a sustained period of this kind of exponential growth [in computer science],” Smarr said. “What we’re talking about is something humanity has never tried to deal with before.” The key theme of the seminar was speculation on the future changes that big data will usher in. Fellow speaker and San Diego Supercomputer Center director Michael Norman discussed the center’s Gordon supercomputer, which is a repository that moves, houses, and analyzes data with vast volumes of flash-based memory. The research areas Gordon is used for include climatology, finance, food production, big industry, physics, biological science, and government. Norman says the three central functions of big data are the volume of data, the speed of information produced, and the variety of data that is readily available.