February 5, 2010

Man vs Machine?

This recent article by Gary Kasparov may not touch directly on data-mining or fundraising/development analytics, but I do believe it addresses some larger themes I often see in my work:

Who is better at predicting our next major gift prospects--our most seasoned gift officer or a model built by someone who has never met any of our prospects?

My response is both! But only together...

The theme from Kasparov's article that compelled me to share it was the story about a recent "open" chess tournament. Anyone, or any machine could play. A significant purse was posted so many players from all over the world were drawn, including some of the worlds strongest grand masters, as well as the most advanced chess "computers" (similar Deep Blue).

The winner was a relative chess amateur with three laptops running inexpensive chess software.

The lesson for Kasparov, was that the strongest human minds/intuition/talent, and the strongest computational power from computers, was no match for moderate talent and moderate technology integrated effectively.

In fundraising, I am starting to see more of a natural blending of these two "worlds" that until even recently seemed to be sometimes be in friction with each other.

In my own work I still strive better to integrate other forms of information/analysis and perspective outside of my data sets. Doing so will make my own work better.

The Chess Master and the Computer
Garry Kasparov

In 1985, in Hamburg, I played against thirty-two different chess computers at the same time in what is known as a simultaneous exhibition. I walked from one machine to the next, making my moves over a period of more than five hours. The four leading chess computer manufacturers had sent their top models, including eight named after me from the electronics firm Saitek.

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