I read, with glazed eyes, a product announcement that called predictive analytics an ‘extreme’ technology.


It’s the latest buzzword.

It might stick. What comes after Big Data?

Extreme Data.

Thrutch. Gnarly. Grinding.

Both Extreme Data and Extreme Predictive Analytics are in use.

Why does this happen?

It happens because we have to introduce ideas that are old to us to markets where it’s new to them. It’s expedient to present old ideas as new, because novelty spawns excitement and action. And, in many societies, excitement spawns action. It creates demand.

Predictive analytics has been in professional use since at least World War II. Did that keep airlines from adopting the techniques twenty years later? Of course not. And yet, as we trace boom and bust cycles, we see how the old and established is polished up and resold.

Think of buzzwords as the lubricant that helps the demand curve slide to the right.

Why are your jimmies so rustled?

Does it annoy you? Why?

Why can’t people just call things what they are, as they are?

Frequently, when I talk about an old idea, I run into the statement “we tried that in the late nineties”.

I smile. I respect that experience. But it isn’t the late nineties. There were many reasons why technologies failed then. What are the reasons that it could work today? Is past failure a reason to dismiss an old technology entirely?

Couldn’t it have been argued that steam was niche technology in 1750? Steam engines were inefficient because they relied on atmospheric pressure. The cylinders were too large for them to be efficiently transported. Ergo, you’ll never be able to make that power portable. Might as well give up. Right?

Of course not. A few years later they figured out how to pressurize that steam. That pressure boosted the efficiency, enabling it to be portable. Portable energy, without knowledge of the electrical current and the dynamo, enabled locomotion. The third great communication revolution really got going.

I don’t know for sure if the people selling atmospheric pressure steam engines were using buzzwords or not. What is this Watt engine?

Back in my day, we called it the Steam Digester.

Why do we have to call it the Watt Steam Engine for? Bah, humbug. Buzzword!

Is Predictive Analytics really extreme?

Your perception of the differences between 1992 and 2012 depends on where you stand. The same goes with 2006 and 2012. And, even, when it comes to predictive social analytics, 2011 and 2012.

Our knowledge is getting updated all the time, and, much more rapidly. It’s possible, indeed, really likely, that somebody is already living through the era of Extreme Data and Extreme Predictive Analytics, and you just don’t know about it.

They don’t know what they’re missing though.

The next wave after that wave is Ultra Analytics.


I’m Christopher Berry.
Follow me @cjpberry
I blog at christopherberry.ca