What’s the point of all that data, anyway? It’s to make decisions.
By Antonio Regalado on January 22, 2014
Big data is changing forever how businesses decide what to do.
Back in 1956, an engineer and a mathematician, William Fair and Earl Isaac, pooled $800 to start a company. Their idea: a score to handicap whether a borrower would repay a loan.
It was all done with pen and paper. Income, gender, and occupation produced numbers that amounted to a prediction about a person’s behavior. By the 1980s the three-digit scores were calculated on computers and instead took account of a person’s actual credit history. Today, Fair Isaac Corp., or FICO, generates about 10 billion credit scores annually, calculating 50 times a year for many Americans.
This machinery hums in the background of our financial lives, so it’s easy to forget that the choice of whether to lend used to be made by a bank manager who knew a man by his handshake. Fair and Isaac understood that all this could change, and that their company didn’t merely sell numbers. “We sell a radically different way of making decisions that flies in the face of tradition,” Fair once said.