Big Data Is Taking Over, Here's Why Intuition Still Matters

How data analysis is changing the face of decision making.

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Big Data Is Taking Over, Here's Why Intuition Still Matters
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Big Data Is Taking Over, Here's Why Intuition Still Matters

You have probably heard the phrase Big Data, but do you know what it means? Ninety-nine percent of people who like poodles, coconut water, needlecraft do not know what Big Data is. And that may include me, even though I only like one of those things.

But here's what I think it means. Big Data refers to the modern ability to collect and store 
trillions of facts and then analyze them using hundreds of millions of math programs. Big Data allows its practitioners to see correlations we never would have guessed existed. It can predict good and bad years for wine and Supreme Court decisions and whether a specific medicine will work for you. 
 
It can probably tell us whether a specific convict should be paroled.  I mean, it can predict with uncanny accuracy whether that person will commit more crimes.
 
But how many important decisions should we just turn over to Big Data?  
 
You can join the conversation. E-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

  

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E-mail from Neely

Sorry I can't call in. Have just been listening to the debate about whether computer-collected data can predict our tastes, or do this or that. There is a spectacular success story to be mentioned in this connection, and that is computer music. Specifically the sort of music that is in the style of one composer or another. Starting in the 1950s the debate used to rage "Can computers write music?" Then, when it was obvious that algorithmic music, using computers, was certainly possible, the debate was "Can computers write good music?" When that was settled (at least to the taste of some) it was "Can computers write good tonal music?"

Well, it was pretty obvious from the beginning that computers could write music in the style of Stravinsky or German expressionists. But in recent years David Cope has demonstrated that, using algorithms, indeed one can write music in the style of Bach, and other tonal composers as well. Of course all of this took decades to achieve. But if in the course of 60 years or so computers can learn to write like Mozart, it's pretty clear that they will know our psyches pretty accurately, at least for purposes of marketing, in far less time.

All the best—Neely