Could Big Data be your boss one day?


You don’t have to look far to hear about the promise of big data. Big data enables us to churn through information at incredible speed and provide calculated outputs, uninfluenced by external factors.

We humans on the other hand are not quite so efficient in our decision-making. It may be tough to admit sometimes, but humans are inherently flawed in the way they make decisions. We are influenced by our mood and surroundings, by the way something is phrased, by the opinions of other people and so much more.

By using big data to help inform our decisions however we can start to free ourselves from these limitations. One way in which we are using this technology to help us make better decisions is in the field of machine learning – whereby systems are created that can actually learn from data, rather than just follow instructions. This machine learning intelligence, or learning cognitive agent, can solve problems, interpret context and crucially, learn from information and experiences to draw calculated conclusions. It is able to not only process what is being said, but also the meaning of what is said.

What’s more, these virtual, cognitive agents are already working their way up the pecking order in companies too, with an algorithm recently being appointed to the board of directors of a Hong Kong based venture capital company, where it now has a say in the company’s investments. Other companies too are starting to look to the virtual realms to find the newest addition to their boards, which would be able to use big data analytics and algorithms to contribute to company strategy.

Surely, with an intelligence now matching that of humans, and a processing capacity way beyond anything any individual can dream to achieve, it’s just a matter of time before virtual agents take over completely? Could big data really be our boss one day?

The answer, fortunately for humans, is an emphatic no! Though big data can offer huge benefits, increase efficiencies and save costs, we still have invaluable skills that big data doesn’t. What limits us might even be the very thing that we’ll always have over technology: we’re human. This means we have the ability to use our intuition and think beyond an algorithm. And that’s not all – our emotional intelligence allows us to deal with people in a way that technology simply is not able to, at least not yet.

Big data has the ability to benefit people and businesses all over the world and undeniably can help us make significantly better decisions, but the key thing to remember is that without the people to analyse, interpret and give real-life meaning to it, big data is, well, just data.

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