The robots can't live without us: Data's human side

By Lucy Clark | 18 March 2014
Lt. Commander Data of the USS Enterprise.

Big data might be taking over our world and the robots might be stealing our jobs, but they are nothing without humans.

Exponential's Bryan Melmed picked out data's human side at Adtech today. Melmed, director of insights at the US-based company, outlined the unprecedented growth of the Uber taxi app to make his point.

"From a consumer perspective it's great, but why is Uber already valued at $3-4bn?," he asked.

He outlined how Uber is a big data company, gathering data on the issues around calling a cab, from time of day and traffic patterns and jams, to the aggression of the driver and the size of their car.

"The robots are taking the jobs," said Melmed. "If you are a taxi dispatcher in an Uber world, you have lost your job. There is no amount of experience that can make up for the big data Uber has."

But, he continued: "Uber is a terrible metaphor for what we do as marketers", outlining the importance of humans behind the big data. Melmed pointed to three reasons why data is human and humans are needed to interpret big data.

Firstly, people act differently when they're being watched. "People lie," he said. "If you ask someone how much they earn, on average they will inflate their earnings by 10-20%. It's the same if you ask how much they weigh or how tall they are. We are social animals - there is a massive part of our brain making sure we are fitting in."

Secondly, context changes everything and understanding human behaviour without context is almost impossible.

Melmed's third point was that data reminds us we are working with people. "Our brains have evolved to recognise patterns," he said. "And a robot finds it very difficult to recognise patterns."

Melmed concluded that data is constantly reminding us that we are human - and is in no fit state to replace humans.

"The data is begging us to treat people as individuals," he said.

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Have something to say? Send us your comments using the form below or contact the writer at

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus