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James Taylor

I will use this blog to discuss business challenges and how technologies like analytics, optimization and business rules can meet those challenges.

About the author >

James is the CEO of Decision Management Solutions and works with clients to automate and improve the decisions underpinning their business. James is the leading expert in decision management and a passionate advocate of decisioning technologies business rules, predictive analytics and data mining. James helps companies develop smarter and more agile processes and systems and has more than 20 years of experience developing software and solutions for clients. He has led decision management efforts for leading companies in insurance, banking, health management and telecommunications. James is a regular keynote speaker and trainer and he wrote Smart (Enough) Systems (Prentice Hall, 2007) with Neil Raden. James is a faculty member of the International Institute for Analytics.

Oz Analytics - The Darker Side Of Analytics was an interested little post discussing the risk of using analytics to, in this case, to profile potential criminals based on past behavior. The use of analytics to predict crime and criminals is certainly growing and, as Steve said in his post, you have to

wonder how many times their 'digital techniques' will create false positives and (presumably) false information being sent out?

In my opinion the question is not whether analytics have such risk - clearly they do - but whether the use of analytics increases or decreases the risk of a false positive.

Without analytics, this kind of proactive policing (essential not just to stopping pedophile tourists but also to catching terrorists, for instance) relies on human judgment. Humans, unlike analytics, are prone to prejudices and personal biases. They judge people too much by how they look (stopping the Indian with a beard for instance) and not enough by behavior (stopping the white guy who is nervously fiddling with his shoes say). They tend to be driven by recent results to the exclusion of ones further in the past and much more (see this post on decision making traps). If we bring analytics to bear on a problem the question should be does it eliminate more biases and bad decision making than it creates new false positives. Over and over again studies show analytics do better in this regard (check out some great examples in Super Crunchers). So, personally, I think analytics are ethically neutral and the risk of something going "to the dark side" is the risk that comes from the people involved, with or without analytics.

This post was found through Smart Data Collective syndication.

Posted July 20, 2009 12:38 PM
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