Jeff Kirschner’s inspiring TED talk showed how data – time-stamping, geo-locating and itemising litter – could drive awareness and engagement around a universal problem.
So we asked Doug Brown, Chief Data Scientist, and Tirath Virdee, Director of Artificial Intelligence, from Capita Employee Solutions, to talk about the transformational power of data.
They both agree that in today’s world, data is the new currency, with huge value. Over the last two years we collected more data than we have over the past 50 years – something that brings huge change, but also new issues. How do we get the best insights from data, and then act on those? What does the value exchange look like and how do we control it? And how can humans and data work best together?
Technology and data have the power to do so much – in fact, machines could outperform humans in nearly every capacity. Every sector is open to being analysed and transformed through data. Farming is to be revolutionised, with tractors able to automatically sow, weed and harvest, and with data helping us to do everything from improving crop yield to stopping the decline of the humble bee. And we’re already looking at data from a behavioural and psychological point of view – helping customer experience, or even education, by predicting what someone’s going to say next, how they’ll react to certain questions or how they’ll learn best.
But it’s also important not to forget the human touch. For many industries, it will be essential that the human is retained in the decision making, based on the outputs of the algorithms – and not just letting the machines take over. We’re starting to see some of that collaboration already, with Harvard research finding that the most significant performance improvements come when humans and machines work together.
We talk about ‘augmenting humanity’ – making sure that it’s a human decision, but one with data at its core. This ‘human hybrid’ model allows us to use machines to perform tasks better – and even be able to learn from their mistakes – but the machines will help humans make these decisions, not make them themselves. However, that can be easier said than done. There have been so many advancements in technology, that what limits companies is, in fact, the ability of senior management to use it and to connect the dots.