Big Data does not have all the answers
Martin uses the example of LEGO, and the numerous ‘big data’ studies LEGO commissioned that saw the company veer off course.
Every big data study LEGO commissioned drew the exact same conclusions: future generations would lose interest in LEGO. LEGOs would go the way of jackstraws, stickball, blindman’s bluff. So-called Digital Natives – men and women born after 1980, who’d come of age in the Information Era – lacked the time, and the patience, for LEGOs, and would quickly run out of ideas and storylines to build around.
And the ethnographic study which helped bring LEGO back.
At that moment, it all came together for the LEGO team. Those theories about time compression and instant gratification? They seemed to be off base. Inspired by what an 11-year-old German boy had told them about an old pair of Adidas sneakers, the team realized that children attain social currency among their peers by playing and achieving a high level of mastery at their chosen skill, whatever that skill happens to be.
Martin sights many other examples, including this one regarding Google’s self driving cars.
According to the New York Times, last year as one of Google’s new cars approached a crosswalk, it did as it was supposed to and came to a complete stop. The pedestrian in front crossed the street safely, at which point the Google car was rammed from behind by a second non-Google automobile. Later, another self-driving Google car found that it wasn’t able to advance through a four-way stop, as its sensors were calibrated to wait for other drivers to make a complete stop, as opposed to inching continuously forward, which most did. Noted theTimes, “Researchers in the fledgling field of autonomous vehicles say that one of the biggest challenges facing automated cars is blending them into a world in which humans don’t behave by the book.”
As accurate, then, as big data can be while connecting millions of data points to generate correlations, big data is often compromised whenever humans act like, well, humans.
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