The Computer as Oracle

When given strong data to work with, computers can do a good job of beating humans in predicting what the masses will embrace. BusinessWeek has an interesting recap of successful machine-made future-gazing: from computer Deep Blue’s 1997 defeat of human chess champion Garry Kasparov to a Spanish company that uses algorithms to advise bands on which single to debut their album with (successes include Norah Jones and Maroon 5). The gist: because computers are more objective than humans, they make decisions based on quality rather than hype. [%comments]


Brian S

Sounds like the confirmation bias is strong with this one. I wonder how many people are tracking the countless instances where computers fail to best humans at myriad tasks.

Brett

Very cool, but are the computer models able to factor in the oh-so-hard-to-quantify '01011000' factor?

Eric M. Jones

"because computers are more objective than humans, they make decisions based on quality rather than hype"

Emotionless maybe, but somebody wrote the program Bubela. So it goes without saying, so I will say it, that computerized selections are based upon past success.

...past performance is no guarantee of future success. In fact it is a guarantee that the new and novel will be ignored or dismissed as "too risky".

Lots of great movies were rejected by studios for this very reason.

noah

"The gist: because computers are more objective than humans, they make decisions based on quality rather than hype."

This is really a terrible way to phrase things. Machines can find patterns much more easily and readily than humans can, and they wont dismiss a strong result because of a "gut feeling" or anything like that. But that doesn't mean they're judging quality, it just means that there is a pattern.

Never forget the now infamous story of the algorithm that was supposed to recognize tanks. If was extremely accurate on the test data, but in actual practice failed horribly. The reason? All the pictures with tanks were taken on a cloudy day. So it wasn't a tank recognizer, it was a cloud recognizer. I'd hardly call that a quality judgement.

Nikki

"because computers are more objective than humans, they make decisions based on quality rather than hype."

The masses embrace Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Is that what you call quality? It makes perfect sense that computers, given the right data, can extrapolate trends, but quality of the trends has nothing to do with it.

Beast

"The gist: because computers are more objective than humans, they make decisions based on quality rather than hype."

Don't underestimate the importance of hype when it comes to selling albums. The computer may think Kanye song A is a better single than Kanye song B, but Kanye blogged that B is going to change music forever and it features Taylor Swift for a glorious reconciliation. You gotta take advantage of that buzz.