Was the Termintor wrong? It seems so

Four years ago I was moved to write a post “Was the Terminator so wrong after all?” based on a Gartner analyst making statements about the state of computer capability to make decisions. At the time I expressed some concern about where our automation of decision capabilities could lead us, and I wondered whether the scenarios painted in the terminator films of machines overtaking man could become reality.

Elsewhere I also made a comment or two about Big Data, and the hype at that time about it being able to solve all of our problems. Well, the raging IT skeptic in me is pleased to say that the outlook is brighter, or dimmer depending upon you point of view, than I had anticipated at that time.

The big news crossing my field of interest is a paper published by Ted Schadler et al at Forrester, and Ted’s blog post: Digital Insights Are the New Currency of Business which I suggest turns out to be both good and bad news.

The good news is that the Forrester team believe that Big Data alone is now causing us more trouble than the benefit it potentially brings. Germane to this is that actually, and to our great surprise, to truly get ahead in business we need people to look at the data and discern the insightful information that is there. It seems we may still have a chance. Our computer technology, while good and improving all of the time, is unable to get its chips around the sort of mental processes that make us truly human and enable us to conceptualise what the data presents, but then I seem to recall Roger Penrose said something much like that in The Emperors New Mind  back in 1989.

However, I think this may be bad news at the same time as it presents the sort of story that our journalistic friends seem to like. If I may paraphrase: “Big Data is dead. Long live Digital Insights“. I say this because the summary of the paper (I sadly don’t have access to the source yet) joins together several in-vogue concepts: systems of record; the internet of things (aka “systems of automation”), and people (aka “systems of engagement”). All of these are nicely drawn together to create the snappily named “Systems of Insight” that “..power digital business”.

Oh dear. Simple. Eye-Catching….. and so open to interpretation. I feel a fad coming on. At least it will make us sit up and think about this, so that has to be a positive.

Meanwhile, those of us looking at this, and possibly thinking that it is another repackaging of what we are actually doing today, will continue to plug away at getting our IT made useful independently of what anyone calls it.


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