We live in the era of Big Data. Never in modern human history have companies and individuals had more (and more complex and reliable) numbers, statistics, and metrics at their disposal: from box scores to earnings reports to housing prices to placement-test results, we are at sea in an ocean of numbers and awash in spreadsheets. As artificial-intelligence pioneer Kris Hammond explains in this film, the great challenge in the Big Data era is understanding the stories those numbers tell and, just as important, connecting the right people with the right stories. This is what Hammond and his company, Narrative Science, do: create fluidly written, micro-targeted news stories from massive amounts of raw data—and do it hundreds of thousands of times, and slightly differently for each reader or listener. The recipient could be a fast-food franchisee seeking to understand what menu item sells best at what moment of the day, at what time of year, even in what weather, so he can optimize point-of-sale strategies. Or, says Hammond, maybe it’s the parents of a little league slugger who want to share the story of their kid’s big game with friends and family: the software Hammond helped create can process game stats in real time and generate a compelling, eminently readable 150-word summary of the game before the players have left the field. Using narrative and stylistic parameters developed by a team of real writers, this software can narrowcast and granularize news literally for an audience of one—something no number of human journalists could ever do. “Our entire job,” says Hammond, “is to humanize data. It is to be a communication bridge between the numbers and the knowing.”
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