I must admit I do enjoy Beck Bennett’s series of commercials for AT&T where he poses the question, “Which is better: faster or slower?” I find his deadpan approach to a variety of co-actors and situations very humorous. The question “Which is better: faster or slower?” has interesting application in today’s information and analytics environment. Faster has always been better, correct? The scenario holds true in every industry. If you can make better decisions at a faster pace than your competitor or adversary, then you will always hold an advantage over them. However, the key isn’t just faster, but better decisions faster!
An interesting event occurred few years ago that made the point that faster is not always better. A short-lived Twitter hoax briefly erased $200 billion of value from the US Stock Market. False reports of explosions in the White House triggered a set of algorithms monitoring news feeds into a two-minute selling spree. In this case, untethered analytics only increased the pace at which we can make mistakes and caused the DOW to drop 145 points. The error was quickly identified and the DOW bounced back, but who knows what losses were incurred by algorithms reacting to the news feed and potentially to other algorithms reacting to those algorithms.
I am fortunate to be in the information and analytics industry and am continuously astounded by the algorithms and analytics that I see people put together. However, this event continues to remind me that even the best algorithms need good data and solid IT development principles such as building in a failsafe. Perhaps we need to teach these algorithms to check their sources before taking action.