Making Computers Make Decisions

by Luke 14. December 2009 12:11

The most valuable work that people do is make judgments. We decide what we want. We decide how to make it. We decide when we're happy with the result.

The problem we have today is complexity. The things that we want (from fancy cell phones to space satellites) require so many decisions that it takes huge teams of people to make sure they all get made. But many of those decisions aren't very interesting and, while necessary, don't add much value.

Any time I see a situation like that, my first thought is to make a computer make the decision. There are a number of approaches you can take. Decision tables and decision trees are straightforward tools that most engineers with some software skills can implement. Moving up the difficulty scale is implementing a rule-based system for your project. Beyond that, you'll be moving into the hard AI arena.

There are a lot of decisions that you can automate using the more basic tools and you should do some research and give those a try. Mostly I want to encourage you to think in terms of making decisions rather than crunching numbers. There are plenty of number-crunching tools but few decision-making tools. If you exhaust your options and are looking for other approaches, let me know and I can point you to some of our work or point you in the direction of some other experts that may be able to help you.

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