Lateral thinking and business intelligence, pt. 1

If you have a couple of hours to spare, there are far worse things you can do than to watch the 10-part D&D extravaganza, Acquisitions Incorporated (pt one is here. First, it will raise your nerd cred so high you won’t ever be forgiven by your spouse/students/friends who ever thought that maybe, just maybe, you might be a little cool. Second, there is extra Will Wheaton awesomeness, including the line “Wheaton’s vicious cod-punch of furious anger.”

And third, you will see at least one fantasti-magical example of lateral thinking (in part 7.

The setup: the adventurers have found themselves on a nether plane. They discovered a semi-docile hell-cow, wandering about, chewing on some volcanic rock. The hell-cow delivered them to the mouth of a castle, where they spend their time attacking the baddies. One of the characters (Mike Krahulik, who does the art behind Penny Arcade), sees a minion running away with a chest of jewels. He initially thinks about trying to cast a spell to control the beast. But then he does something very different. Instead of casting a control spell on the beast, he decides to cast a prestidigitation spell on the minion running away, making him appear to be volcanic rock, hell-cow’s favorite food.

The description doesn’t do it justice. Take a watch from about 7:44 to about 11:38.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the prestidigitation play, it connects with some of my interests in automated trading, algorithms, and data mining. With regard to financial markets, as Felix Salmon reports, we are living in an computer-driven, algorithm world (“We may be able to slow it down, but we can never contain, control, or comprehend it. It’s the machines’ market now; we just trade in it”). But it is more than this, I think. Data-driven analysis, the strategy manifestation of quantification, is a force to be reckoned with.

But data-driven analysis can also be stupid. That is to say, data-driven analysis – what Hans Peter Luhn dubbed “business intelligence” in 1958 – has become more intelligence in the ‘fact gathering’ sense than intelligence in the lateral thinking sense.

This sets the context for speaking about this post on business intelligence and human-centric analysis, but as my brain power is working at 35% nowadays, I’m separating this into a couple/few posts before I can make a point.

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