I heard an interesting interview about a book called The 'Big Data' Revolution: How Number Crunchers Can Predict Our Lives
The author was looking at data mining, how it is being used, and how it will likely be used in the future and what that means for you and how how we interact with each other whether at work or at home.
On how Target identifies pregnant customers
"The example comes from Charles Duhigg, who's a reporter at The New York Times, and he's the one who uncovered the story. What Target was doing was they were trying to find out what customers were likely to be pregnant or not. So what they were able to do was to look at all the different things that couples were buying prior to the pregnancy — such as vitamins at one point, unscented lotion at another point, lots of hand towels at another point — and with that, make a prediction, score the likelihood that this person was pregnant, so that they could then send coupons to the people involved... there might be a coupon for a stroller or for diapers ...
“ All stores will be doing this, and all governments will be doing this. Your doctor will do this. Your employer will do this. This is the new norm.
- Author Kenneth Cukier
"There was an example of a father coming in to a store and complaining that the teenage daughter was receiving fliers in the mail for coupons for baby products. And he said, 'What are you trying to do? Trying to get my teenage daughter pregnant?' And of course the way it ends is that he comes back later and apologizes, and says, 'It turns out there were things in my house that I wasn't aware of.' Now the story may be apocryphal. It may not be real. But the fact is, this is the sort of universe that we are now going to be in — we're all going to be in — because of Big Data. And all stores will be doing this, and all governments will be doing this. Your doctor will do this. Your employer will do this. This is the new norm."
On why Big Data doesn't care about causes, just correlation
"They crunched the numbers, and they found out that cars that were orange tended to not have breakdowns compared to other colors of cars ... So why might this be? Well, we can sort of concoct different scenarios. One is that orange tends to be a custom color, and if you order an orange car, perhaps the rest of the car was made in a custom way, a little bit more care was taken into it. We don't know why, and it's frankly, it's not that important. It might just bring us down a rabbit hole for us to try to find out why. But, again, if you just want to buy a car that's not going to break down, go with the correlation."
How do you see big data changing your life?
Edit: the above site has an audio link for your listening pleasure