Big Data: Humans Required

Big Data: Humans Required by Sherri Hammons.

From the post:

These simple examples outline the heart of the problem with data: interpretation. Data by itself is of little value. It is only when it is interpreted and understood that it begins to become information. GovTech recently wrote an article outlining why search engines will not likely replace actual people in the near future. If it were merely a question of pointing technology at the problem, we could all go home and wait for the Answer to Everything. But, data doesn’t happen that way. Data is very much like a computer: it will do just as it’s told. No more, no less. A human is required to really understand what data makes sense and what doesn’t. But, even then, there are many failed projects.

See Sherri’s post for a conversation overheard and a list of big data fallacies.

The same point has been made before but Sherri’s is a particularly good version of it.

Since it’s not news, at least to anyone who has been paying attention in the 20th – 21st century, the question becomes why do we keep making that same mistake over and over again?

That is relying on computers for “the answer” rather asking humans to setup the problem for a computer and to interpret the results.

Just guessing but I would say it has something to do with our wanting to avoid relying on other people. That in some manner, we are more independent, powerful, etc. if we can rely on machines instead of other people.

Here’s one example: Once upon a time if I wanted to hear Stabat Mater I would have to attend a church service and participate in its singing. In an age of iPods and similar devices, I can enjoy it in a cone of music that isolates me from my physical surrounding and people around me.

Nothing wrong with recorded music, but the transition from a communal, participatory setting to being in a passive, self-chosen sound cocoon seems lossy to me.

Can we say the current fascination with “big data” and the exclusion of people is also lossy?


I first saw this in Nat Torkington’s Four short links: 18 March 2014.

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