I originally published this article in WSJ MarketWatch.com. The article relates to my book, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die.
The Computer Knows Who You Are
Commentary: Peril, promise and the price of predictive technology
As computers are entrusted to make judgment calls traditionally decided by people, should we worry?
There’s a surprising twist. While some question whether the prescient machines that drive decisions by way of induction and prediction are trustworthy, an emerging problem is that they often predict too well. Predictive technology is so powerful, it reveals a future often considered private.
Millions of operational decisions in finance, marketing, law enforcement, and health care are now machine-driven — often with improved dexterity — using electronic predictions of human behavior, one person at a time. The technology to do this, predictive analytics, is a booming practice that’s taken hold across many industries.
Computerized prediction will never be perfect — like people, prognostic technology often gets it wrong, although in many applications it turns out to be more accurate than people are. But predictive analytics can cause difficulties not only when its predictions are wrong, but when its predictions are right.