Monday, May 14, 2012

Driving while looking at the rear-view mirror

Typically I don't recommend commercial Blogs, but I'll make an exception this time, and cite Mark Palmer's post, since I like the metaphor he made, reflected in this picture.  According to Mark, analytics that refers to the past is like driving by only looking at the rear-view mirror,  which of course can show the road you have already passed.  Since typically we drive forward and not backward it should be more useful to look ahead than to look back.   In many cases the road is fixed, in the sense that the road forward looks exactly like the road backward, and then it might make sense to do it,  however, in other cases, like driving in real traffic and not in a bubble, the road ahead may contain surprises that are not evident from the previous parts of the road. 
The interesting thing is that even law latency event processing system are, in fact, looking at the past,  where the past is almost the present,  looking to the future is not a standard event processing feature.   


Mark Palmer, StreamBase CEO said...

Hi Opher - thanks for this kind reference, glad the metaphor seems to resonate.

Great point that, technically, event processing-based systems are looking at old data too in the sense that its just a few milliseconds behind the actual business event. But the fact that the insight is so close to what lies ahead means knowledge workers can interpret the intelligence in a way that that is essentially "predictive," in the existential sense that a trader can predict his customers will not be happy because, for example, he can see the quality of prices degrading in real-time.

I think this is a big change in the meaning of predictive analytics. More on that over coming months!

- Mark Palmer, CEO, StreamBase

Mate Soos said...

Actually, humans learn how the road behaves in general and then look forward and apply previously learnt patterns to what's ahead. In a way when we are looking forward we are continuously trying to pattern-match what's ahead and anticipate what will happen based on our previous experiences, the "past road" in this metaphor. So, even if we are not constantly looking at the rearview mirror, our heads are, in a sense, constantly projecting a rear-view mirror to what we see in front. A computer system thus needs to perform both, and looking at the rearview mirror is fine -- as long as it looks forward, too.

Opher Etzion said...

Hi Mate.

What happens if the driver tackles a situation that he never experienced before... The point is that looking at the past and believing that the past hold all answers may not be adequate... I don't want to be in a car when the driver looks backwards :-)