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08/17/2018

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Big difference between options and choices, as your article recognizes.

Enhanced predictability in events "beyond our control" might increase possible options or narrow potential options. Hard to tell which might help or hurt, but modern technical resources can enhance our power to produce both outcomes. Advanced mathematical models have also enabled previously unheard-of levels of precision in predictive accuracy. These wonderful tools, like all tools, can be applied for good or evil. Greater certainty should help future decision-making. Whether the results produced are positive or negative is a different matter, of course.

The more choices, the more opportunities for productive and also destructive outcomes. Ambiguity will still exist as options proliferate. When you can predict what will happen without change, you usually increase your ability to change those outcomes.

What next? Then the fun REALLY begins!

As Jim notes, all tools can be applied for good or evil or just plain stupidity (Hanlon's Razor).

In contemplating your post, I can't help but think of the flagpole scene in the sublime movie, A Christmas Story. In that scene, the protagonist Ralphie abandons his in-distress friend Flick in the schoolyard for the most-Pavlovian of reasons: "The bell rang!"

It is humorous in the movie, but I see the potential for managers to react in a similar way in the future. I imagine a conversation such as "Mrs./Mrs. Manager, why did you choose to do X?" "Because the computer said so!"

For some managers, I think that such decision-making algorithms will be heartily embraced just because the ability to say, "Because the computer said so!" will seem so alluring.

Decisions without responsibility or even the need to think! Why, some will say that it will revolutionize management!

It sounds like a Dilbert cartoon, but I suspect it will play out in some organizations.

First, Jim speculates that (predictive) tools can be used for good or for evil, and then Joe changes the conversation to include a little (relevant) vignette from The Christmas Story. Now I don't feel quite as out-of-place in citing the lyrics from the Paul Simon song. I guess the only half-way certain prediction is that if anybody receives a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, somebody is going to shoot out someone's eye . . .

In all seriousness, good points from Jim and Joe - although Joe's touched a nerve about our future "predisposition" to defer to the (computer) prediction. I wonder if that's because we: have trust in the computer; don't really understand what the computer is doing; neither trust nor understand the computer, but at least now someone (or something) can be held accountable, when things go wrong. Oh, did I say when . . . I think I meant to say IF things go wrong. Or did I?

Under our current thinking, a future without choice sounds terrible. But it might not be fair to apply current-state boundaries on future-state experiences. In other words, our computer may "help" us decide in such a way that the rationale is clear and unequivocal or it might be framed in such a way that we totally buy into the decision the computer is recommending. ... We'll just have to wait and see!

Your blog is very impressive. Thanks for sharing your opinion on the predictability of some good things. I would like to share this info with my friends also.

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