Miruna Codeanu

Decision Making in the World of Big Data

In espresso on October 14, 2014 at 7:21 am

what-can-i-ask-siriWhat movie should I watch tonight? What band should I listen to? Which road should I take? Based on previous ratings, your app will recommend you a movie to watch tonight and a new band, also the shortest or fastest route home. You are constantly losing your ability to make decisions, while smart and interconnected technology is gaining your trust and making decisions for you,

Technology both fascinates and scares us and it’s not only smart technology that scares us. The telephone was also subject to many myths and stories as being the source of evil. Humans seem to be having a love-hate relationship with technology and it has been so for centuries. What happens when technology is becoming more and more a part of your life? You integrate technology. You might find it shocking to believe, but for anthropologists, your life hasn’t been majorly affected by technology: rituals have been adapted to the new way of life. However, you can feel your life changing. You can feel that technology is becoming an integrated part of your life, you can no longer get to an unknown destination without GPS navigation. You can no longer make it through the day without checking your agenda on your smartphone. This leads us to our main concern: will we still be able to make our own decisions in the age of Internet of Everything?

Your health app tells you how many calories you are allowed to eat and how many km you should run. It will soon be able to monitor your health more than it does now, including basic blood tests. That means it will store data on you, and it will make recommendations based on that data. There is a rising concern on insurance companies accessing this kind of data. Let’s say you have diabetes and you are not eating right, skipping exercises, which would determine an insurance company to offer you a higher rate. With this kind of data being unknown at the time being, other consumers are paying for your irrational choices. But with this kind of data available, insurance companies will be able to offer you a “personalized” program, while your health app will try to make you make the right choice, quit smoking, drop the sweets, etc. Your navigation app will try to make you take the shorter way, save some money on the gas and the planet. What if you had a really awful day and just miss the taste of your childhood and drop by your mom’s house and she bakes you your favorite cake? What if you like taking the long road because you could use some time alone before getting home? What if sometimes you’d like to make the wrong choice and take the risk?

We have identified one possible path for our future: smart and integrated technology which offers us the best decision by analyzing immense amounts of data. There is however, a second option. Smart technology can also analyze the decisions you’ve been making by now. Based on your decision making process, one can trace a behavioral pattern. You smart watch, or glasses, or shoes, or jacket could not tell you your shortest road, but could also suggest, by analyzing your behavioral patterns, another road. The longest and shortest road may not seem problems of vital importance, but what happens when you might to take risks, make a less moral decision? What happens when your behavior is that of a risk taker? Sometimes it may not affect others, but in an interconnected world, it becomes harder and harder to be an island.

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