A few months after I purchased my previous car, someone hit my door as they were trying to go around me when I was waiting to turn.  The driver didn’t stop, and even though I got his license, he had no insurance and I was out the deductible.  It was quite aggravating at the time, but the minor damage was repaired to the point of being imperceptible and I forgot all about it.

Fast forward nine years to when I went to sell the car, and the dealer wanted to give me less for it because it “had an accident report.”  Yes, it had been in an accident.  Yes, I reported it to the police and insurance because it was a hit and run.  No, it did not impact the car’s current appearance or what it should have been worth.

I imagine that the same is true with credit reports, risk assessments, on-line applications and a host of other functions that have been reduced to X’s and O’s in boxes.  Gone is the personal interaction or human judgment that can evaluate whether the issue at hand is something that matters.  

We gained through automation and electronic record keeping, but we also lost.  I suspect that a conversation with a real banker could have a different outcome than a chart that uses a calculated score off of a questionnaire.  Or the employer may look twice at someone after a face-to-face interview rather than reading about candidates via a report.  Maybe admissions counselors would feel differently about admitting someone if there had been a personal interaction instead of only a credential file.

If you are in the position to make decisions, take care that you are looking beyond the data that a machine provides you.  Information that fits into bytes may make for good sound bites, but not always for good judgments.

— beth triplett

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