Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blink #1

Malcom Gladwell points out in his book Blink that we are constantly making snap decisions about complex situations and that most of the time these decisions are right on. We don't know how we do it, but our subconcious mind quickly picks out the essence of a pattern that fits the given situation and we "sense" the right thing to do. These intuitions seem to work best when we have a limited amount of information. Mr. Gladwell gives the example of emergency room cardiac arrest diagnosis. In most hospitals, if you arrive complaining about pain in your chest, and especially if you're older and have been a smoker they will check you into the cardiac unit and run a barrage of tests. This is a classic case of too much information. The chairman of the department of medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago ran a little experiment. Given this information on 20 past patients, he asked his staff of doctors to make an assessment and recommend treatment for each. "The answers were all over the map." A cardiologist named Lee Goldman discovered through statistical analysis that there are only about 3 really important leading indicators. If you limit the doctors to this set of information for initial analysis their accuracy improves dramatically.

"Overloading the decision makers with information, he proves, makes picking up that signature harder, not easier. To be a successfull decision maker, we have to edit."

Now this may not be a groundbreaking discovery but what it does point out is an incredibly large problem that technology has foisted upon us. While dramatically improving our lives in many ways(including lengthening) technology has also created an information glut. This makes it harder and harder for us to make good decisions.

Can technology solve problems imposed by technology? Stay tuned. I'll write more about this in the future.

No comments:

pull your banner ads until google does a better job