Sunday, November 02, 2008

The fallacy of analytical arrogance

The new book “Numerati” by Stephen Baker is one of the many recently published books that claim a new age of data and analytical driven wisdom across numerous disciplines that enters everyday lives to an increasing extent.

One of the more interesting quotes in the book is the sentence “We turn you into math” explaining the ever expanding attempts of  understanding human behavior by analyzing vast amounts of data. I believe that the real challenge is though in uncovering something new and insightful that will change human behavior. A lot of the published examples, not just in this book, talk about something interesting but without any meaningful derived actions besides some slightly optimized marketing programs. 

We are encountering the danger that analytics becomes a discipline of churning through vast amounts of data while turning up only mildly interesting insights.  “We turn you into math” expresses the unjustified arrogance that more and more analytical minded experts start to believe in. There is no reason to feel that. 


Blogger Bhupendra said...

Good pick up. This is the danger for the entire analytics industry to save itself from such sentiments. Analytics will have to deliver business value and serve the company to better their financial performance. Everything else remains futile.

And for driving business it needs good, simple and needful insights from the data, and not the complex algorithms or formulae.

Thanks for writing this article. I very well enjoyed it.


4:53 AM  
Anonymous Paul M. Banas said...

You could have just as well used the same title for a post about all the "quant jocks" and hedge fund "whiz kids" whose misuse of models they didn't understand helped bring down the US financial services sector in the past several weeks.

8:22 AM  
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