Big data has technically been around since the beginning of records of communication. Cave drawings? Data. Records of a new language? Big data. Then came math. And that’s when cave data became big data.
There is no specific record as to when big data can be defined, but we can look at the Roman Empire for some of the earliest recordings of big data. Back then, they used the Roman Census approach. This newfangled concept in that era means that people were able to process large amounts of data.
The Roman Census approach is still working today, but did you know how it began? Taxes. The Romans wanted to tax their citizens and they needed data, namely, a census. Due to the number of Roman citizens, the higher-ups found that it would be impossible to get all the data they need by going through the citizens one by one.
For one thing, a huge line of millions of Roman citizens would not be very practical. Second, a lot of the citizens were not located in the Empire. They traveled or were based in different parts of Europe and Africa. So, what did the Romans do to get their census?
They decided to go for the auditor approach. They went to the citizens instead of having the citizens go to them. The Romans appointed “census takers” and had them travel to where all the citizens were. They recorded what they needed and returned to Rome to tabulate the census.
Because of this, the Romans were able to collect a huge amount of data without wasting time and the resources of the citizens.
First, the census required the locations of the citizens, thereby recording their addresses and their properties. Next, the census records the assets so that the empire can decide what to tax and who to tax.
The bigger your property, the higher your tax. While this was not a perfect process, as there were no deeds and records of ownership before. However, you had to take responsibility for your properties before or else someone would take it from you. Basically, you were the deed.
This also allowed the Romans to record how rich the empire was. The purpose was simply to intimidate other empires like Egypt and parts of Asia. Today, the Roman Census approach is used in a slightly different way.
For properties, the IRS is considered the census takers. While they don’t need to visit your home, they can send you mail and send you to the jail without leaving the office. The system of the IRS is perfect to a point because not many people are able to evade taxes without spending a huge amount geared towards hiding it.
For properties, it’s quite difficult to hide a house or a hectare of land. You pay property taxes no matter what, and even if you put it under another name, you still pay taxes. The Roman Census approach has helped keep people in check, but it also helped make people take responsibility for their contribution to the country.