What an 8 year old learnt from Star Wars and grown-up should too?

Recently, my 8 years old son found his liking for Star Wars movies. It was a delight for me as Sci-fi fan. After watching the series, he had two takeaways. First was:

“There is always a bigger or smaller fish than us.”

As an analytics professional, always thinking in probability terms, this was heartening to hear from my son. We are always somewhere in the middle or near Average. The outlier edges are tempting, though, always unlikely. Extremes of 0 and 1 never exist. Normal Distribution captures this beauty very well.

As a business strategy, most of the analytics work revolves around increasing revenue or profits while minimizing cost or effort, be it marketing, sales, acquisition, supply chain, manufacturing or even frauds. Cost is contained through simple principle of ‘Loss Avoidance’. The principle works by removing outliers from the normal, leading to increase in focus and productivity of the company. We define limits of acceptance and call it ‘Norm’. This is the same way our human Emotional Algorithm works.

The Emotional Algorithm emphasizes ‘Conformity’ with the norm or the mean. Analytics helps in deciding the cut-offs by quantifying the potential costs and benefits. Focus is built on either revenue or profit or market share targets. Whatever be the target metric, there is always an economic incentive and time constraint. Scarcity is created which further narrow down the focus. The pressure gets created for conformity. It is beneficial economically as well as politically, to narrow down the definitions.

There are many doubters too, though, with their ‘Gut Feeling’ as the only argument against it. Everyone have their own perceived Mean of this distribution. Though the real argument is about who holds the power to define the boundaries and how much do they trust him. This is fear of being ‘left out’ of the acceptance limits. The degree of trust is inversely proportional to the scale of doubt; higher the trust, lower the doubt. Analytics done in objective manner does have ability to bridge the trust gap.

Consider an example, where my left hand is Leftist and right hand Rightist. For my left hand, my head is in right, whereas, my right hand can claim my head being in left. This is the beauty of diverse perspectives. I do wonder, what may happen if one of my hands get the power to define the limits. It can claim other hand as ‘Outliers’ or ‘Anti-body’ and start destroying it!! Even worse, what if they claim my rest of the body as threat or terrorist? After Luke’s right hand got cut, all drinks were on left hand. Left hand had a party time, though alone!!

Time has its own effect on distribution. What if I tell you the entire normal distribution can move? Human nature, as well as of society is dynamic. It goes through continuous process of adjustments; experiences, beliefs and even people get added and dropped. Emotional Algorithm, at the end, is an iterative process. The distribution shifts.

After the shift, the market and society gets disrupted; new products, brands or ideology take over the huge gap left behind by the old Norm. The more inclusive and well defined the Norm, stronger the urge for conformity. A successful definition, when becomes old, creates a feeling of Nostalgia in the core group. This is even stronger human emotion. We Fear of losing the old definition, our old identity. Don’t forget fear of being ‘left-out’ of new definition.

In contrast, for the groups not included in earlier Norm, the absence of inclusion itself magnifies the need to confirm to new Normal. The dissonance between these two groups has power to pull apart any structure, any company, any market or any society. This is what leaders should worry about most. The analytics models are based on choices or behavioral patterns. Behaviors should not be taken as preferences. Choices depend on many factors, which are part of Situation. This is what strategy makers should be wary about and analytics practitioners should be careful about.

The second takeaway for my son was:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda

After this, my son asked, “If Jedi’s were so knowledgeable then why they become extinct?”

The Jedi Council scene was replayed from Star Wars — Episode 2.

Yoda: “Blind we are, of creation of this clone army we could not see.”
Mace Windu: “I think it is time we inform the senate that our ability to use the force has diminished.”
Yoda: “Only a Dark Lord of the Sith knows of our weakness. If informed the senate is, multiply our adversaries will.”

Prediction models are based on data. If data is not reliable or uncertain, predictions out of it are also not reliable. How many data scientist can claim their prediction is not to be relied upon? Pressure of expectations and managing perceptions hold data scientists to emphasize this point. Yoda showed his fear of losing trust among senate. That was his undoing. And well, fear leads to the dark side.

This is where father-son conversation broke. My son shouted, “How can you say that? Yoda can’t make mistake. He is a The Master Jedi.”

Well, my son does have time on his side to learn more. Fear of uncertainty is human. We hide it under our confidence or arrogance. Though a delusion,Certainty is very seductive. Jedi council and the Dark side, both are political idealists, one is confident and calm, other is frustrated and arrogant. I hope, my son does learn to differentiate between disagreement and ridicule. I hope, he will learn to differentiate between debating and bullying.