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Future of Consumer Intelligence 2014: Day 3 Highlights

Highlights from the presentations by Market Research leaders on day 3 of Future of Consumer Intelligence 2014 in Los Angeles.

Understanding PEOPLE (i.e. not shoppers, not consumers, not respondents) - but people - across platforms and touch-points in an increasingly interconnected world threaded together with always-on technology, presents an opportunity for us to know people more deeply - and take strategic action.

Technology is the central driving force amongst the foremost mega and macro trends across industries. It's advancing at such a rapid pace it is not only changing how we do things but changing how we understand the world, business, and people.

The FOCI 2014Future of Consumer Intelligence 2014 (May 19-21, 2014) at Los Angeles explored the emerging role of decision science and the convergence of knowledge points - insights, foresights, social science, marketing science and intelligence with technology a central driving force and profound connector.  This year's theme was "Technology and the Humanization of Data: Synthesizing Insights, Analytics and Relational Database Strategy."

This event was about accelerating disruptive innovators in the research space and pushing people to take risks to think outside of traditional research methods and insights gathering end explore new tools and technologies.

We provide here a summary of selected talks along with the key takeaways.

Highlights from Day 1.

Highlights from Day 2.

Here are highlights from Day 3 (May 21, 2014):

Ray KurzweilRay Kurzweil, Author, Inventor, Director of Engineering, Google gave a keynote titled “The Web Within Us: When Minds & Machines Become One”. He presented an inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny in which we will merge with our machines, can live forever, and are a billion times more intelligent...all within the next three to four decades. “Contrary to popular belief, change is not a constant,” Kurzweil explained, “because it is accelerating. If you plot it on a graph, it isn’t linear.” He explained that since change accelerates exponentially, we have reached a point where the underlying technology that moves our world—it may not be on your radar, yet, but it’s already out there—radically changes every six months, and that rate will only increase.

What may be particularly interesting for researchers, according to Kurzweil is that what’s ahead is relatively predictable. There’s a formula (formulae, actually). For example, using an algorithm he developed based on historical patterns, Kurzweil was able to predict the advent of the Internet when it was limited to a few scientists’ computers talking to each other via modem.

His predictions—many of which were considered quite audacious when he came up with them—have come to pass with uncanny accuracy (~86% as of 2009). “If you look at the world around you and apply the simple laws of exponential change, you can then tell what the world will look like at a specific point in time,” Kurzweil said. “Maybe not to the level of specificity you would like, but you can get very close.”

Kurzweil also noted that people always underestimate the pace of change because “human intuition is linear, not exponential,” he said. “We think in a straight line, so it’s difficult for us to grasp how something that seems absurd or impossible today could become a reality almost overnight.”

Jer ThorpJer Thorp, Co-Founder of the Office for Creative Research gave a keynote on “Making Data More Human”. He taught audience how adding meaning and narrative to huge amounts of data can help people take control of the information that surrounds them, and revolutionize the way we utilize data. Thorp recommended: “think about visualization as problem solving, the act of revealing, not as an end product or a noun, but as a verb.” A self-confessed astronomy geek, Thorp recounted the frustration he felt trying to wrap his brain around the white paper results of NASA’s Kepler Mission—a galactic survey to discover potentially hospitable planets, which has turned up about 4300 exoplanets so far.

“NASA is good at science, but they’re not good at communicating it,” he said. So Thorp created a visualization distilling all of the Kepler data, which is absolutely stunning both aesthetically and in its elegance as a communication solution. He explained: “Visualization is truer to the nature of data than charts and graphs.” Thorp went through several examples to explain how data can be visualized to provide fresh perspective.

Thorp advised companies to start thinking not in terms of data ownership, but in terms of data custodianship and to position themselves as “data ethical”, which entails:
  1. Informed consent
  2. Transparency around how the data will be used
  3. The option for people to have their records terminated (aka “the ability to be forgotten”)

Magnus LindkvistMagnus Lindkvist, Trendspotter & Futurologist delivered a keynote speech on “When the Future Begins: A Guide to Long-Term”. He discussed how technology is not only changing how we do things, but also how we understand the world, business, and people as well as the emerging space of marketing science. He said “In 1800 it took 6 weeks to move an idea from Chicago to New York. Today, anyone can go anywhere within 47 hours, or 47 seconds if you use email”. Time lag is our best friend today as it makes intention easy. He gave full form for abbreviation R&D as “Rip off and Duplicate”.

A good measure of progress is liberation. Only ideas with true potential make you frown or smile. He exhorted to look for secrets, non-articulated needs. We look for ideas in the wrong people sometimes, just focusing on people who say the right things and sound intelligent. He stressed that we should look for secrets, experiment, recycle failures, be patient and persistent. Companies often feed problems and starve opportunities. Keep ‘making enemies’ at the top of the list and remember that ideas that sound strange have potential to succeed.