Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Getting Smart With Superficial Intelligence

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If you're creating a product or service that incorporates data science and big data analytics, you might be paying too much attention to artificial intelligence and not enough attention to superficial intelligence. Data science is filled with mystical algorithms reminiscent of spells chanted by wizards of yore. Armed with this arsenal of prestidigitation, zealous leaders eagerly present their market with new and improved widgets, powered by artificial intelligence. However, many times they take an egocentric view of the world, relying myopically on their internal capabilities for advanced analytics. If you flip this around to a customer-centric view, you'll see intelligence doesn't need to be artificial to be valuable. To get the most value from your artificial intelligence application, combine it with the superficial intelligence obtained by involved communities.

The Wisdom Of The Crowd

There's a wealth of valuable data available in plain sight and happening right now--I call this superficial intelligence. When I was in grade school, my neighborhood friends and I would occasionally start a pickup football game in the middle of the street. We would post the girls on the corner to signal us when a car was coming, so we could move out of the street. This was great superficial intelligence for us. Without the benefit of this information, a wide receiver might be tackled by an unwelcome, automotive defensive back!

Superficial intelligence is a great addition to your bag of data science tricks, as it adds to your existing base of artificial intelligence and it represents a more customer-centric marketing approach. This primarily applies to leaders who are using big data analytics to support their core products and/or services: similar to Progressive Insurance's Snapshot device, where analytics supports a traditional product (insurance) to gain a competitive advantage. The value of data and information doesn't need to be artificial or involve sophisticated analyses to be valuable. Just knowing that a car was turning down our street was great to know. Where this starts to get exciting for data scientists is when you combine superficial intelligence with artificial intelligence. That will take your game to whole new level.

A great example of this is an application I just downloaded on my iPhone called Waze. If you haven't heard of it yet, you really should. Like Google Maps or MapQuest, Waze is an application that helps you navigate the streets of your locale. You give it an address, mount your phone in your car, and it gives your real-time navigation instructions to your destination. What's different about Waze though, is the Waze community, which is actively involved in feeding you superficial data. For instance, with the help of your local community, Waze tells you where there's an accident, construction that requires a detour, or even a cop hiding out under a bridge. Waze combines this information with real-time analytics to determine your best route. It's amazingly powerful and accurate. I don't say this often, but it actually puts Google to shame. That's what the wisdom of the crowd can do for you.

The Human Machine Synergy

To apply this principle of combining artificial and superficial intelligence, consider the evolution of data into wisdom. I'd say superficial intelligence gives you a good base of data to start with. Remember, data is just raw, uncultured insights. If there's an accident a half-mile away or a car around the corner, that's really good data that someone could use. You can combine this with non-crowd-sourced data. Waze obviously has geographic data at its immediate disposal and I'm sure the team at Waze curates of wealth of other information as well. This data becomes useful when it evolves into information.

Information is analyzed and applied data. When Waze analyzes all the stock and superficial data coming from the Waze community and tells you to "turn right," that's information. Information tells your consumer what to do with all this data, based on their objectives. So again, you must transcend the pure data paradigm and think about what your customers might be trying to accomplish. Then, using a mix of base data and superficial data, perform a real-time, big data analysis to prescribe their next step. This strategy alone puts you at a distinctive advantage, but there is one more level you can take it to.

Information evolves into knowledge, which further evolves into wisdom. Knowledge is when you take information from disparate sources and combine them for new insights. With superficial intelligence, you're already going down this path; however, for more impact, you'll want to explore related but very different sources of information. I used to live next to an arcade, which would sometimes host special events that drew a lot of traffic. So, it wouldn't be a good idea for a pickup game on one of these days due to the traffic. Wisdom comes from maturing knowledge over time. The first time we tried a pickup game at 5p when everyone was coming home from work, we learned our lesson. If you apply these ideas to your next product or service, you will probably be approaching breakthrough territory.

Summary

Artificial intelligence is great, but when combined with the superficial intelligence of the crowd, your product or service goes to a whole new level. Take some time to consider how your existing data can benefit from additional, crowd-sourced data, and what your analytics would look like at that point. Then, survey your customers and see if they would be willing to form a community around your offering. With the wisdom of the crowd on your side, you can't go wrong.

Submitted for Publication in TechRepublic’s Big Data Analytics Blog

This is the sneak peak of my latest contribution to TechRepublic’s Big Data Analytics blog. As editors do, when this gets published, some of the words and content may be arranged or deleted for a variety of reasons including SEO. What you’re looking at here is the uncut, unabridged, unedited version of the article that was submitted.

Update: TechRepublic published this article on April 23rd under the title, “Crowdsource data science to add superficial intelligence to AI”

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John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps people and organizations achieve strategic results. His Fortune 500 clients include Hewlett Packard, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco and Visa where he managed and mobilized their enterprise data strategy, a comprehensive program of 150 projects, over 45 initiatives, and 5 major tracks. John can be found on many social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

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Guest Tuesday, 19 June 2018