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Apr 13, 201509:24 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Data science is transforming decision-making: How will society strike a balance?

(page 2 of 2)

A recent New York Times story examined how data science might be used to fine-tune assessments of whether a loan applicant is a solid risk or a potential deadbeat. That can help people who deserve the benefit of the doubt but hurt those who come up short on a data-driven analysis lacking human review.

“A decision is made about you, and you have no idea why it was done,” Rajeev Date, an investor in data-science lenders and a former deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told the Times. “That is disquieting.”

Data science is still a young science, subject to human error — or, more precisely, human judgment about what data is crunched in the process. The promise of data science, however, is that software algorithms can learn as they go by sifting through ever-increasing amounts of information.

Because that information originates with humans, is analyzed by humans, and is applied by humans, data science may never lose its human touch. It’s less a question about the data itself than how it’s used.

As the world of Big Data grows, so will opportunities to address truly global issues such as climate change — as well as routine consumer choices in the grocery aisle. As with any science, however, data science will carry an obligation to get it right and present all results, successful or not. The data itself may be complicated, but transparency in how it is presented will allow people to make their own decisions.

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About This Blog

Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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