Author: Shy Blick, CTO

The Power of Curated and Consolidated Information

Answer to any question: 10 cents. Correct answer to any question: 10 dollars.

The information revolution has brought access to data to the masses. “Knowledge is power” is not specific enough anymore – the true challenge is in making sure the information used in decision making processes is reliable.

If you want to purchase a product, you spend time scouring the web, learning about the product’s characteristics, comparing it to its competitors, finding different suppliers and their pricing, etc. In order to make an informed decision you know that you must become a mini expert on that specific product. Businesses make this process more efficient by building information harvesting systems which automate a portion of the research, but these still require employees to invest their most valuable asset – time. Time to make sense of the information, to make sure that it is relevant to specific business needs, etc.

First, every piece of information has a finite lifespan. When you check the weather, you know that the information you just gathered is good for today only. The value of a commercial real estate property fluctuates as market conditions change, and a year-old credit score may not reflect the current financial status of a borrower. Therefore, it is important to identify the age, rate of accuracy degradation and expected expiration of each piece of data that you harvest.

A successful information harvesting and processing system is characterized by the user spending little to no time gathering and processing information and most of their time making decisions.

Next, you need to identify the credibility of the source of the data. Did you get the borrower’s net worth valuation from the borrower or a third party impartial source? Try reading about the same event at two different news outlets. The same story looks totally different if you experience it through different sources. You may have to read multiple sources and find the truth yourself somewhere in between them. This is fine when objective truth is not so important, but when information needs to be consumed in a path that leads to the success of the person or business entity, truthful data is crucial.

The situation gets even more complex when we consider the concept of infobesity. Information obesity is just what it sounds like – an epidemic that exposes humans to an overload of information, leading to a situation where we can’t see the forest for the trees. When an underwriter is onboarding a loan, they put a lot of effort into harvesting huge amounts of information, and at some point they need to make a decision based on a forest of data points. It’s like telling your doctor that you are not feeling well and explaining your symptoms, and in response he or she simply gives you a list of the hundreds of possible causes for those symptoms rather than telling you their qualified diagnosis. That’s the experience we are used to today when we use search engines, and it’s very similar to what decision makers face when they need to decide based on thousands of data points around a loan.

So, in our era, rather than saying “knowledge is power,” it is more precise to say that “curated and consolidated information is power.” The most valuable information must be curated by an expert (human or AI) to fit the needs of the business, automatically harvested by a computer system, and continuously checked for its lifespan, credibility and accuracy. And when all of that is done, the business must take the next step of consolidating the information in a form that will still deliver the powerful insights without causing an outbreak of infobesity.

Today, decision makers spend most of their time preparing and processing information and only a small fraction of it making business crucial decisions. A successful information harvesting and processing system is characterized by the user spending little to no time gathering and processing information and most of their time making decisions. Such users can conduct much more business in the same amount of time, which leads to a higher chance of business success and a lower “cost of doing business.” Such a system allows its users to look at information like a judge on “America’s Got Talent” might look at a contestant. They can watch just a few minutes of a performance and make an informed final judgment without further investment.

Now that’s power.

What Does a Valuable AI System Mean to Me?

Engaging your neural network and decision signature in time for breakfast.

You are standing in line at your favorite deli and you see that they recently changed the entire menu. There is a long line of people behind you. You feel a slight increase in your stress level as you tell yourself that you have about 20-30 seconds to decide what to order, to be considerate to those waiting behind you.

Your analytical mind immediately strikes out a few items for being too expensive or not in line with your diet, but you are still left with quite a few items to choose from. In the context of your life, this decision is far from “existential” and therefore not very important. You use your gut/intuition/your fast brain (See Daniel Kahneman’s great book Thinking, Fast and Slow) and decide.

Who knows why you might order one thing one day and something else the next. You may not even be sure yourself. Much of your day is spent making those non “fight or flight” decisions, at work, at home, and whenever you’re interacting with the world.

“In reality, to me, a valuable AI system is one that is able to ‘record’ and digitally store a portion of the experience of a specific human, so as to be able to mimic their decision-making process digitally.”

Without you being aware of it, these sets of small decisions can be made into a “signature” that is unique to you. When asked about you, people may say things like “well, that person is conservative in their choices” or “when buying clothing I should be asking that person, they have the best fashion sense,” etc. This “signature” defines you as a person as much as your physical features, knowledge or abilities do.

How do you make decisions? The neural network in your brain uses its vast experience, having been exposed to years of life where events continuously impact it. The sum of your senses “teach” your brain to avoid certain things and crave others. The same process takes place in your professional life. Your accumulated experience means that you know how to approach a problem and determine a course of action without a lot of hesitation and without having to spend too much time thinking about it.

This accumulated knowledge is priceless. We all have these “hidden gems” of knowledge that are unique to us.

In the movies, artificial intelligence is often a self-aware, auto-evolving entity that craves knowledge and is able to harvest data and make sense of it by itself. Often with a British accent, for some reason. In reality, to me, a valuable AI system is one that is able to “record” and digitally store a portion of the experience of a specific human, so as to be able to mimic their decision-making process digitally.

In other words, what if we could have the ability to forecast what Albert Einstein would do given a choice of approaches to solve a problem? What if we could consult Andy Warhol on what color to choose for a school art project? Or ask Sun Tzu how to strategize our next Fortnite game?

A valuable AI system is able to focus on a certain “vertical” of a human’s experience. By using a “fly on the wall” paradigm along with a feedback loop, it should be able, in time, to have the ability to mimic that person’s decision-making process.

In the not so far future you will walk into your office craving breakfast, and your favorite deli’s delivery drone will meet you at the entrance. It will have one of those new menu items it chose for you based on your unique “digital” decision signature. While you enjoy the delicious item you will probably say to yourself “wow, how did they know exactly what I wanted?”

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