How to Judge Technology and Ourselves


One of the things I love about the discussions that we have here on All Analytics is that the community isn't shy about getting into what some would call philosophical discussions. It's not just a bunch of iPhone versus Android type of tech arguments.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

In reality, though, our conversations aren't as esoteric as what two philosophers debate in a coffee house. Many of our discussions are technology focused but less about the technology itself and more on how the technology and analytics fit into our business and personal lives.

That's why it was fun and educational having Michael Schrage, an author and research fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management, on All Analytics Radio the other day. If you missed it, listen now on demand. We built the conversation on the foundation that Schrage set with some of his own research and in a Harvard Business Review article, How to Give a Robot a Job Review.

A job review for a machine? Sounds kind of frivolous. However, it may be time to address questions about machine performance. Have you ever considered how much you rely upon technology and how often you evaluate that technology? I doubt that you do such evaluations just once a year the way your employer might do with you. Maybe you pass some favorable or unfavorable judgment on your PC once a week. Do you curse your cable provider or you cell service every day? You can bet that you aren't alone in that case.

While yesterday's discussion about intelligent machines raised questions about scenarios such as whether you will expect your future autonomous car to drive like you do -- testing the law by speeding -- and whether it's OK to swear at a chatbot, we touched on some bigger issues of the human/machine relationship.

Michael Schrage
Michael Schrage

We raised plenty of questions and actually came up with a few potential answers. However, the key, as Schrage pointed out is that it's time actually to ask those questions, to set out to understand what we expect of machines and software, and thus to understand what technology means to us.

One other part of the conversation that I hope you will listen to with care is where Schrage notes that how a piece of technology performs isn't just part of the machine's review. Think about it, the machine's performance increasingly is a factor in our own job reviews.

If you are wondering, yes, we got into the whole issue of machines replacing us in the workforce and machines ruling the world.

I hope you will give a listen and share your own comments and questions in the text chat field or in the comments section below this blog.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

Big Data Success Essentials: Tech, People, and Process

While there is an increasing focus on the role of people alongside technology in analytics initiatives, let's not forget that process -- business rules -- play an important role in big data success.

Why You Should Remember Equifax

The Equifax breach raises multiple concerns about how companies respond to hacks, but also how they handle third-party consumer data.


Re: Need to listen
  • 5/10/2016 1:48:58 PM
NO RATINGS

A job review for our machines is an idea whose time has come. But, it's probably not going to fly for most. Although my handy PC is a wonderful piece of magic machinery, It's seldom a week goes by that I wonder if I and maybe life in general could get along quite well without all the latest and greatest apps, chips, and internet bandwidth miracles. And then there's Facebook.....a technology we could live better without?

Re: Bot performance metrics
  • 5/9/2016 9:20:08 AM
NO RATINGS

@Joe. On the "new" idea vs "good" idea aspect, I don't think there are all that many truly new ideas. What we do have is incredibly easy access to other people's ideas that are "new" to our own organizations or situation. In other words, it's easy to copy someone else's idea when you can browse through a dozen websites -- news sites, commerce sites, competitive sites, etc. --  in a matter of minutes. In the past executives (I'll throw execs under the bus but I guess we all are guilty) you would have had to scan through multiple news and business magazines to see what others are doing, or go out and see what a rival store was doing by going in person.

Today, we can see all of that on the web in a fraction of the time. So, we copy ideas and our "innovation" is merely a slight tweak to make the idea fit our environment. All of this allows us to keep "new" ideas flowing, which CEOs, investors and customers expect. Hence, what SaneIT cited with online shopping carts. Everyone had to have them whether that were appropriate or not.

 

Re: Bot performance metrics
  • 5/6/2016 2:42:27 PM
NO RATINGS

@SaneIT: Excellent point -- and perhaps better put by way of an old Hollywood adage: "Don't come up with a new idea; come up with a good idea."

Re: Bot performance metrics
  • 5/4/2016 10:44:42 AM
NO RATINGS

@Jamescon, this is the problem with copycat devs and as you put it immature technologies, you get all of the bad habits with none of the best practices that come with years of hammering out the flaws.  We saw the same thing with shopping carts in the 90s, everyone had to have a shopping cart on their site but no one gave much thought to the underlying issues.  It wasn't until sites were being attacked through the carts that anyone started paying attention. 

Re: Bot performance metrics
  • 5/3/2016 9:40:51 AM
NO RATINGS

@SaneIT. Saying that bots and intelligent machines are fairly immature probably is an understatement. I think it's more like infancy. That sector probably just past the stage where the PC required you to load the OS on a floppy every time you turned it on.

You're right on target about the copycat developers. For a lot of organizations you can get the impression that someone saw what another company, even one totally unrelated, was doing and ordered, "I want that." Plus, I suspect that the UX testing on those things is minimal at best.

Bot performance metrics
  • 5/3/2016 8:33:40 AM
NO RATINGS

"Look," he adds, "you don't sit these machines down and make them feel bad."

No, you sit their developers down and you make sure they understand what you asked for.  I find that as this is a fairly immature field that there is a lot of "close enough" being accepted because the customer just wants something working now.   I don't want to say that all of the bots you see now are cut and paste coding but the ideas do tend to be somewhat cut and paste.  You want a bot that will help people order tacos just like the bot that lets you order pizza?  The most likely course of action is going to be to emulate what is out there rather than build something brand new.

Re: Need to listen
  • 5/2/2016 10:26:00 PM
NO RATINGS

@Louis, Thank you :-)

Re: Office Space review
  • 5/2/2016 5:51:08 PM
NO RATINGS

I agree. That's one of the best ones.

Re: Need to listen
  • 5/2/2016 2:11:27 PM
NO RATINGS

@bulk   Welcome back !

Need to listen
  • 5/2/2016 11:50:17 AM
NO RATINGS

I just got back from a trip and I see I missed a lot, I have some catching up to do. 

Page 1 / 2   >   >>
INFORMATION RESOURCES
ANALYTICS IN ACTION
CARTERTOONS
VIEW ALL +
QUICK POLL
VIEW ALL +