Introduction to Decision Intelligence

Blog post by Cassie Kozyrkov: “…Decision intelligence is a new academic discipline concerned with all aspects of selecting between options. It brings together the best of applied data science, social science, and managerial science into a unified field that helps people use data to improve their lives, their businesses, and the world around them. It’s a vital science for the AI era, covering the skills needed to lead AI projects responsibly and design objectives, metrics, and safety-nets for automation at scale.

Let’s take a tour of its basic terminology and concepts. The sections are designed to be friendly to skim-reading (and skip-reading too, that’s where you skip the boring bits… and sometimes skip the act of reading entirely).

What’s a decision?

Data are beautiful, but it’s decisions that are important. It’s through our decisions — our actions — that we affect the world around us.

We define the word “decision” to mean any selection between options by any entity, so the conversation is broader than MBA-style dilemmas (like whether to open a branch of your business in London).

In this terminology, labeling a photo as cat versus not-cat is a decision executed by a computer system, while figuring out whether to launch that system is a decision taken thoughtfully by the human leader (I hope!) in charge of the project.

What’s a decision-maker?

In our parlance, a “decision-maker” is not that stakeholder or investor who swoops in to veto the machinations of the project team, but rather the person who is responsible for decision architecture and context framing. In other words, a creator of meticulously-phrased objectives as opposed to their destroyer.

What’s decision-making?

Decision-making is a word that is used differently by different disciplines, so it can refer to:

  • taking an action when there were alternative options (in this sense it’s possible to talk about decision-making by a computer or a lizard).
  • performing the function of a (human) decision-maker, part of which is taking responsibility for decisions. Even though a computer system can execute a decision, it will not be called a decision-maker because it does not bear responsibility for its outputs — that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the humans who created it.

Decision intelligence taxonomy

One way to approach learning about decision intelligence is to break it along traditional lines into its quantitative aspects (largely overlapping with applied data science) and qualitative aspects (developed primarily by researchers in the social and managerial sciences)….(More)”.