I’ve got another great read for our readers – Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres, of Yale Law School. Ian is one of the best and more original “law and economics” scholars in the country, and indeed the world. And, it just so happens, he’s a native of Kansas City, the home of the Kauffman Foundation. But that’s not the reason I’m plugging his book. This book is a real treat: an explanation of how data mining is transforming business, social policy, and Internet, all largely in a positive way.
But Ayres is also even-handed, highlighting the potential dangers to personal privacy through all this data mining. It’s not clear much can or will be done about it, however. Few people appear so far to value their privacy, if one looks at market transactions. That could change, however, with more data breaches and revelations of how data are used.
Another downside to all this data crunching is the erosion of discretion. As data crunchers find that formula-driven decision making beats intuition and personal judgment, the nature of jobs and those who fill them change. With formula-based rules, many more people can teach, approve loans, handle customers, and even provide medical care than ever before. The current holders of these jobs naturally feel threatened and may do their best to oppose change. But just as the word processor has changed the job of secretary into “personal assistant,” the continued rise of super crunching will change the nature of many jobs throughout our economy.
Some readers will see these changes as disturbing; others as inevitable. The smart ones among us will realize what is happening and get ahead of the curve. The really smart ones – the entrepreneurs among us – will find ways of making fortunes from the continued march of technology, and the ever expanding ways that the digital revolution is changing our lives.