Sitting in a BigData Academy conference at SAP South Africa and it got me thinking that perhaps we are entering a new age … I know, it’s a grand statement, but I believe it to be true. Let me explain my thinking.

One of the consequences of the rise of social media has been that anyone (with access to the internet) has a platform to make a statement (true or otherwise) and to air any view (malicious, or otherwise).

This is certainly a good thing in terms of our right to free speech, but because it is so easy to be ‘published’ we are ale to avert an important quality gate. Before social media became so pervasive the only way to share ideas to large audiences was via the formal (and expensive) broadcast media (including print) – where the broadcaster was identifiable and could be held accountable for the impact of their broadcasts, or in person (… and in the case of personal appearances sometimes this was a physical experience – as many a campaigning politician will attest).

This ‘broadcast quality gate’ was applied:

  • by the broadcaster and not the recipient, and
  • prior to dissemination and not on or after receipt.

But because many such public utterances are no longer subject to such a quality check we recipients can no longer infer the veracity of a statement from the mere fact that it has been broadcast, or ‘printed’: in other words not all (or even many) statements we read or hear today have been quality assured for truthfulness. Those of us receiving this ‘torrent’ have had to learn new techniques to differentiate fact from opinion. We are still learning those techniques.

You may or may not agree with these assertions … but why am I broadcasting this opinion via a blog dedicated to Business Intelligence and Analytics?

Well, with the latest developments in in-memory database technologies, and the platforms surrounding them, are we not about to similarly remove a formal quality control gate protecting the ‘truths’ within our enterprises? If anyone within the enterprise (or at least very many more than before) can now access data that was previously inaccessible due to technological constraints, and therefore become empowered to create and broadcast an opinion based on ever greater volumes of data with ever more sophistication, will not the responsibility for discerning veracity similarly shift from the broadcaster to the recipient. If this is the case it will then fall to each of us as recipients to take responsibility for where we place our personal trust.

And therein lies the challenge: as humans we have a tendency to over emphasise our own ability to make good decisions. After all our brains are hard wired in such a way that we are often (unknowingly) outwitted by our own brains (see Daniel Kahnemann – Thinking, Fast and Slow). Couple this with the fact that humility is such a rare human trait, and who of us can truthfully say that we are fully qualified to discern the veracity of a certain statement. On a practical level do we even have enough time, never mind the will, to evaluate a statement, de-construct it into its constituent facts and then to evaluate each to establish the ‘quality’ of the original aggregated truth. Are we therefore not at risk of operating under the Illusion of Being Qualified? And possibly more importantly what are the consequences of this?

Dunno, all I know is that I need to finish my next Lumira extension so that more people can misinterpret causality … (tongue-firmly-in-cheek)

Later,

Andrew

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  1. Jelena Perfiljeva

    “I read it on the Internet, so it must be true”. 🙂 I think we’ve already entered this new age a while ago. Also the information quality dilemma is nothing new either. E.g. I was born and raised in the USSR but only sometime in the 90s my generation found out that many things that were taught to us in school as facts were not true at all. Not to mention just a few centuries ago everyone thought the Earth was flat (and god forbid questioning that “fact”!).

    Sometimes I also reminisce about good old quaint times when one actually had to go to a library to find information from the books that were reviewed and edited by many people who were qualified (or so we thought). But let me be optimistic (I shall mark this rare occasion in the calendar! 🙂 ) and point out that just as everyone has all the tools to post any kind of bull hockey as a “fact” online, the equally large number of people has the same tools to correct that. E.g. if I post a statement in ABAP forum that X is not feasible, there is a big chance before the day ends at least 5 people will jump in to point out how wrong I am. 🙂

    Recipient’s responsibility is an interesting point but again not new. Just as my parents were aware that all the newspapers only printed information allowed by the government, we can’t take every online post at face value these days. We’ve only accelerated the news/information cycle and volume, the related challenges are pretty much the same as they were ages ago.

    Good blog and especially appreciate that you chose to post it in a personal space. 🙂 Thank you!

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    1. Andrew Jabbitt Post author

      Hey Jelena, thanks for the comment! It was interesting to read your USSR context. Having grown up under ‘pre-democratic’ South Africa I am all too familiar with the impact of state censorship, especially of Information 🙂

      I also liked (intellectually and electronically) your point that the community ‘self-corrects’ inaccuracies and misdirections in our public utterances.

      However … an appropriately motivated community must exist before that can happen (?)

      My ‘thought experiment’ proposition is that as more individuals within enterprises gain access to more powerful analytical and predictive tools on colossal enterprise datasets is there not a risk that they operate under an illusion of being qualified to offer an opinion when in fact they are not yet so qualified (or worse do not even know that they are not qualified)? Especially in the period before enterprises develop self-correcting ‘enterprise analytics communities’.   😏


      Happy Friday,

      Andrew

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