Technology should be embraced when it leads to better decision making. Human experts should not be followed blindly.
“The door is closed. The decision was not to use technology at all,” FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke stated in March 2010, as the governing organization of football rejected the use of technology as a support to the referee. Valcke summed up the FIFA’s view by stating: “Let’s keep the game of football as it is.”
Patrick Nelson, chief executive of the Irish FA, stated that, “We very much appreciate the human side of the game, the debate, the controversy.” Nelson seemed to be implying that one of the reasons people liked football was because of the mistakes.
In the year 2010, the above sounds astonishing. It sounds like a comedy sketch. In this comedy sketch you see football officials riding into work on horseback and grabbing a carrier pigeon when they want to send a message.
Pity the poor referees. Those watching TV can see the instant replays that prove beyond a doubt whether the referee has made the right or wrong decision. As the referee’s mistakes are exposed to practically everyone except the referee himself, the integrity of the game is undermined.
It’s not just football officials who live delusional lives. Many ‘creatives’ in the advertising industry greatly resent technology.
“Just as video killed the radio star, metrics are killing creativity,” Patrick Sarkissian writes for AdvertisingAge in March 2010. (Did video actually kill the radio star?) Sarkissan writes about his clients as a teacher talks about an errant pupil. He is a ‘creative’, you see, the rest of us are, by definition, uncreative.
“Recently, I had a wicked battle with a client determined to let the numbers fully dictate a new creative strategy,” Sarkissan writes. “Thing is, you cannot truly quantify creativity.” He then uses metrics to prove his point. He quotes a particular campaign approach that received a 19.5 percent positive response from customers, and then another approach to the same campaign that received an 80 percent positive response. How ironic.
Sarkissian finishes his article by reminding us that “great ideas don’t come from numbers.” I believe it was Charles Babbage (the inventor of the first computer) who once asked: “Did the human make the tool or did the tool make the human?” Good technology extends us, gives us more capabilities. Where would our beloved creatives be without their Apple computers?
We need to resist those who talk about the human as some creative all-knowing entity. We need to embrace technology if it will lead to better decisions. Metrics are not sacrosanct either. But to say that creative ideas never come out of numbers is naïve.
The relentless march of technology-generated evidence is everywhere, from teaching, to medicine, to website management. And what are we learning? That doctors and web managers make much better decisions when they have evidence, data; facts, not opinions. We need to embrace technology and allow it to extend our capabilities. If we resist, and believe in the infallibility of humans, we don’t undermine technology—we undermine ourselves.