Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, co-authors of the excellent book Big Data write in the MIT Tech Review with a good, skeptical look at the risks of relying on data to the exclusion of other factors in decisionmaking. They use Robert McNamara, the hyper-rational architect of the Vietnam War, as their posterchild for data-blindness, and discuss how modern firms have repeated his mistakes in other domains:
The dictatorship of data ensnares even the best of them. Google runs everything according to data. That strategy has led to much of its success. But it also trips up the company from time to time. Its cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, long insisted on knowing all job candidates’ SAT scores and their grade point averages when they graduated from college. In their thinking, the first number measured potential and the second measured achievement. Accomplished managers in their 40s were hounded for the scores, to their outright bafflement. The company even continued to demand the numbers long after its internal studies showed no correlation between the scores and job performance.
Google ought to know better, to resist being seduced by data’s false charms. The measure leaves little room for change in a person’s life. It counts book smarts at the expense of knowledge. And it may not reflect the qualifications of people from the humanities, where know-how may be less quantifiable than in science and engineering. Google’s obsession with such data for HR purposes is especially queer considering that the company’s founders are products of Montessori schools, which emphasize learning, not grades. By Google’s standards, neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg nor Steve Jobs would have been hired, since they lack college degrees.
The Dictatorship of Data
(via O'Reilly Radar)
Update: According to The Verge, Facebook has verified the authenticity of the screenshot below. In what appears to be an internal Facebook post, Zuckerberg defends his company’s ongoing association with Peter Thiel — Facebook investor/board member and major donor to white-supremacist/pro-rape presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The UK government says it wants to stop people under 18 from looking at pornography, and so it’s going to make all the porn sites operating in Britain collect some kind of age-verification in order to make this happen, on pain of being blocked by the UK’s Great Firewall.
Despite the denials of its new CEO, Wells Fargo had a serious, widespread cultural problem that led it to commit at least 2,000,000 financial crimes. But the crimes and the culture are widespread across America’s banks, and they spread further than that, because the system is rigged to reward financial crime.
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