On the limits of automation

From The Economist Special Report on the future of finance, Jan 24th:

Mr Rajan of the University of Chicago says academic research suggests mortgage originators, keen to automate their procedures, stopped giving potential borrowers lengthy interviews because they could not easily quantify the firmness of someone’s handshake or the fixity of their gaze. Such things turned out to be better predictors of default than credit scores or loan-to-value-ratios …

In other words –  if the devs found something difficult to deliver they descoped it. Pretended it didn’t exist. A viewpoint that is more common than you might think: to develop software you need certainties (if x occurs then do y).

Not that this viewpoint is limited to devs. In my work with buyers I’ve seen a marked reticence to even attempt to quantify the non-price elements of the bids they are being faced with, and certainly a reticence about weighing up the non-price elements of bids against the price (e.g. is a 3-year warranty worth an extra £x per unit).

It’s almost as if there is a tendency to ignore the subjective when what we should be doing is incorporating the subjective, but accepting it as such.


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