No More Mistakes

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 4/19/2012 | 13 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Much of the interest in business intelligence applications is fueled by the desire to "mistake-proof" the process of making business decisions. That's all well and good, but what if there were an application that could tell you when you (or a co-worker) was about to make a mistake? What kind of business intelligence gold mine would that be?

If a recent discovery by a University of Arizona researcher pans out, this BI El Dorado could one day be available in every enterprise boardroom in the land.

According to a press release dated April 19, Federico Cirett, a doctoral student in computer science at the university, has discovered a method of looking at data from electroencephalography (EEG) that can predict when a test subject is about to make an error about 80 percent of the time.

Using a test population of college students taking the math portion of the SAT exam, Cirett found patterns of brain activity that indicated a mistake was about to be made -- and did so within 20 seconds of the subject's initial reading of the question.

It's not as though the current technology could be used on an unobtrusive basis: Cirett used a headset developed to monitor high-stress and fatigue in military personnel as the primary human interface for the test equipment. The headset has nine sensors that record activity when test subjects are given specific tasks to accomplish, and the data from the sensors is fed into an algorithm Cirett developed. The results seem promising in their ability to predict wrong decisions in answering test questions.

Cirett explains in the press release that he's primarily interested in understanding whether students have properly learned academic lessons so that an instructor can intervene if necessary. That's nice, but I can't help but think about the potential of this EEG-based technology to make a difference in other industries.

I can imagine a room full of financial instruments traders, all wearing headsets. Before they execute a trade, they wait for a red or green light to flash on their cubicle wall, indicating whether or not they're about to make a mistake in their trade.

The same technology could easily be built into (fashionable!) headsets worn by buyers for retail merchants before they place orders for next season's clothing and accessories. Perhaps a future version could even be tied in with something like Google Glasses so that the "Go/No Go" indicator was hidden from the fashion designer's view.

Flights of fantasy are almost unavoidable once you start going down these roads. What might sales staff do with this aid? How about professional poker players? Major league baseball managers? The possibilities are endless. Of course, perhaps this line of speculation is entirely wrong. I wonder if there could be a technology to help...

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impactnow   No More Mistakes   4/30/2012 10:07:44 PM
Re: Mistakes

Damian exactly, if we eliminate the mistake we ultimately eliminate the discovery process.

kstaron   No More Mistakes   4/25/2012 11:06:35 AM
Go/no go vs know/don't know
I suppose that this brain activity means that somehow we know we are making a mistake. I like the idea of this as this may help bring our conscious minds to awareness of what we really know, however, if we no longer rely on ourselves and instead on a little go/no go light, what will that do to our descision making skills overall?
Damian Romano   No More Mistakes   4/23/2012 10:04:38 AM
Re: Mistakes
@impactnow - You make a strong point with respect to trial and error. Some of the greatest finds in history were made because of mistakes. In essence, we don't live in a perfect world. There seems to me to be no reason to assume that we could ever be flawless.
The_Phil   No More Mistakes   4/22/2012 11:27:07 AM
Re: Human or Machine ?
This all sounds like Minority Report-like intelligence based modeling. Interesting.
impactnow   No More Mistakes   4/22/2012 2:02:22 AM

I guess I believe that mistakes are in the eye of the beholder some of the greatest business ideas arose from a mistake. If we eliminate trial and errors don't we eliminate a certain level of success?

WaqasAltaf   No More Mistakes   4/21/2012 10:48:45 PM
Benchmark : past records ?
Many of the mistakes made by business executives for instance, seem and are right in the circumstances they are made but turn out to be wrong due to changing environment of economy or that specific sector/industry. This should remain a limitation of any technology, even in the future too.

As far as the positives are concerned, I think this technology would be great for people who need to make decisions within extremely limited time period. A football (American football) manager might be intimated if he was about to make a bad tactical move based on the success rates of past decisions he made in similar circumstances (assuming those decisions are stored) and the time he might have to decide would be few seconds.  
Umair Ahmed   No More Mistakes   4/21/2012 8:32:43 PM
Re: Confused
@ Nemos, I also feel that it will be the advancement of lie detection technology that would monitor your brain activity, attention and stress level, and based on these factors will judge your ability of making a right choice. But predicting your choice in MCQs is really amazing and the more surprising is to find whether that choice is correct or not, something that sounds impossible without connecting with the backend database or some program that can calculate the right answer. I too, would like to know more on this.
Hammad Masood   No More Mistakes   4/21/2012 8:16:44 PM
Re: Confused
Is it something like machine larning ? or does it senses conflicting behaviour of humans?

Sara Peters   No More Mistakes   4/20/2012 4:02:51 PM
Re: Confused
Yeah I'm confused too... does it only work like if I learned the answer but can't remember it, or does it magically know something that I've never been taught in my life?
singlemud   No More Mistakes   4/20/2012 11:20:45 AM
Re: Confused
It may know the answer for the testing purpose, but in the real usage, it can not know the answer,  it just predict that the subject will have high posiblity to make mistakes.
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