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Making better decisions – Using data to power better decisions

Making better decisions – Using data to power better decisions

Whether it be the mundane or the profound, we’re presented with hundreds – if not thousands – of decisions every day.

Some of the mundane ones?

Take food and drink. How do you like to get your day started: Americano or a flat white; decaf or extra shot; bagels or cereals? Things like this account for the 200+ food-related decisions Cornell researchers reckoned we make every day.

In a series of posts, we’ll be looking at decision making and how to make better decisions through the use of data.

New capabilities in AI and machine learning are causing a huge buzz. According to McKinsey Global Institute’s ‘Artificial Intelligence: The Next Digital Frontier‘ survey:

“… early AI adopters that combine strong digital capability with proactive strategies have higher profit margins and expect the performance gap with other firms to widen in the future”.

AI and machine learning provide powerful new opportunities for businesses. But by way of introduction, let’s look at first principles and the relationship between technology and the human.

This year marks two truly remarkable anniversaries in human development. The first manmade object on the moon hit 60 years ago September 1959 ‘when Moscow… scored a bullseye’. And on July 21, it will be 50 years since Neil Armstrong made his giant leap.

The Apollo guidance system was the most advanced embedded computer systems at that time. When interviewed by the BBC World Service about the Eagle lander, MIT aeronautics professor David Mindell said:

“The ultimate goal of technology should not be full automation but rather the goal should be complete cooperation with the human – trusted, transparent, collaboration with equal load sharing between the human and the computer.” [5m45s]

It’s beautifully put and highlights one of the key considerations as to how we work. The challenge in employing techniques like artificial intelligence and machine learning is to find the right level of cooperation between the user and the technology in order to drive maximum value during the decision-making process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look more closely at the “trusted, transparent, collaboration” between technology and the individual, and how to engineer data solutions that power better decision making.

But in the interim, do check out the full BBC World Service podcast below (featuring Prof Mindell) exploring the role that complex technology plays in high-risk systems.

Audio Player

BBC World Service ‘The Truth About…’ Episode 4

To find out more our own work in supporting data-driven decision making, check out this link.

[Main image shows Buzz Aldrin approach lunar module Eagle. Credit: NASA.]

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by PJ Kirk

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