Home' Technology Review : March April 2014 Contents 66
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
business report — data and decision making
he calls the “AI bias” now dominant in
the tech industry. “We focus on helping
humans investigate hypotheses,” says
Sankar. That’s only possible if analysts
have tools that let them creatively exam-
ine data from every angle in search of
those “aha” moments.
In practice, Palantir’s software gives
the user tools to explore interconnected
data and tries to present the information
visually, often as maps that track to how
people think. One bank bought the soft-
ware in order to detect rogue employees
stealing or leaking sensitive information.
The detective work was guided by when
and where employees badged into build-
ings, and by records of their digital activi-
ties on the company’s network. “ This is
contrary to automated decision making,
when an algorithm figures everything
out based on past data,” says Ari Gersher,
a Palantir engineer. “ That works great.
Except when the adversary is changing.
And many classes of modern problems do
have this adaptive adversary in the mix.”
Palantir’s devotion to human-
computer symbiosis seems to be work-
ing. The nine-year-old company now has
1,200 employees and is expanding into
new industries such as health care. Forbes
estimated that it was on course for rev-
enues of $450 million in 2013.
Zachary Lemnios, director of research
strategy for IBM, is another Licklider fan.
He says that Licklider’s ideas helped shape
IBM’s effort in “cognitive computing,” a
project that includes virtual assistant soft-
ware and chips designed to operate like
brains. “You will have an entirely different
relationship with these machines,” says
Lemnios. He says it’s the most important
change to human-computer interaction
since the graphical user interface was
developed 25 years ago.
Sankar also thinks that Palantir’s suc-
cess shows that large companies are ready
to embrace human-computer symbio-
sis now because of the way people have
struck up symbiotic relationships with
smartphones in their personal lives. “ The
consumer experience has recalibrated
enterprise at large; they’re on the hunt
for something that replicates it,” he says.
— Tom Simonite
by the Numbers
to read their futures, young people mine
a database of 259 million résumés.
● LinkedIn is widely regarded as a social
network for grownups, connecting 259
million people worldwide who put their
résumés on display. It was never intended
to create a teen haven. While parents may
enjoy posting multidecade work histories,
it’s harder to get high-school-age baby-
sitters and burger flippers excited about
documenting part-time jobs.
Enter the data scientists. As early as
2011, LinkedIn began rethinking how it
wanted to interact with the under-18 set.
Teens might not have much to contribute
to LinkedIn’s 20-petabyte trove of career
information, but they could become some
of its most avid data consumers. Specifi-
cally, LinkedIn could build a way for them
to see where alumni of specific colleges
end up working—giving teens a kind of
analytics dashboard to lay odds on their
Take well-known U.S. universities
such as Carnegie Mellon and Purdue.
In each case, LinkedIn has data on the
career paths of more than 60,000 gradu-
ates. That’s a data set big enough to allow
for some fascinating fine-grained distinc-
tions. Type in MIT, and you quickly learn
that graduates are unusually likely to land
jobs at Google, IBM, and Oracle. Plug
in Purdue, and employers such as Lilly,
Cummins, and Boeing predominate.
Such information is a gold mine for
high-school juniors and seniors, says Purvi
Modi, a college advisor in Cupertino, Cali-
fornia, since most high-school students
have only a hazy idea of what careers are
out there. By using LinkedIn’s tool, stu-
dents interested in specialties such as
solar energy, screenwriting, or making
medical devices can pinpoint schools with
the best track records of sending gradu-
ates into those fields. Modi, who advises
about 300 students a year, says about 40
percent of them now cruise through this
part of LinkedIn’s database, known as
University Pages, to get insights. That’s
impressive, given that the data-combing
service has been fully available only since
LinkedIn makes money from its huge
enrollment in two ways. Recruiters pay
as much as $8,500 a year for enhanced
access to job candidates, while members
can buy various premium services that
make it easier to navigate the site. Inves-
tors think LinkedIn could be creating a
near-monopoly in the global market for
talent. As of January, the company was
valued at $24.5 billion (a remarkable 728
Hoping to Work at Google?
Schools are ranked by the percentage of graduates employed at Google;
based on four million résumés.
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