CEO Blog



The numbers game

Anne Marie Forsyth, CEO, CCA
09/06/2017

This week Vodafone announced that it was intervening to prevent its brand being damaged by advertising inadvertently ending up on rogue sites, due to artificially intelligent algorithms making decisions.
 
The company will manually select a ‘white list’ of approved advertising outlets rather than take risks of unintended consequences.
 
In the same week, we learned that much of the political campaigning was 'invisible' so that targeted messages were different depending on the intelligence gathered about particular individuals and groups. But in the real world we don't appear very good at numbers – witness the car crash interviews by politicians giving wildly erroneous answers about things they apparently were responsible for.
 
Last week I was at a Ted talk event and one of the speakers was Dr Liberty Vittert, Mitchell Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the School of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Glasgow whose talk was entitled, 'How to win the lottery and get away with murder’.
 
Her point was that most of us have lack the ability to understand the barrage of stats that are circulated and we can be swayed by statistics that don't actually apply to us as a group - she even described how the use of stats in the trial of OJ Simpson were dubious in their relevance and yet taken as evidence.
 
Liberty persuaded the audience of the need for critical thinking in all important decisions, rather than decisions taken about numbers alone – when we read about a bacon sandwich increasing our risk of bowel cancer by 20% - is it actually all of us they are talking about?
 
Much of our customer service world is driven by reams of stats and outputs – the question must surely be in the validity of the inputs which drive these and the overall relevance of the data.

You can hear Dr Liberty Vittert present her unique view at CCA Annual Convention on 15 & 16 November. Register your interest here to see the programme preview.