Want to Die in the Zombie Apocolypse? Trust Big Data.

I am an avid watcher of The Walking Dead. I love watching how the characters tackle wicked problems.

Nobody is safe.

If you aren’t caught up; stop here. [SPOILER ALERT]

Kind of like things would really be in the zombie apocalypse.

The weekly threat of death (or departure) of the main characters keeps me coming back for more. Even when the departure upsets me, like:

Glenn Rhea…

Rick Grimes…


And the most recent, and most upsetting in recent times…


During the midseason finale, this badass character was killed by a new, terrifying enemy.

The Whisperers.

Jesus was out with a search party, in a cemetery, in the dark…

Rescuing a lost team member when the group was surrounded by what appeared to be a hoard of walkers. Everything Jesus knew about the risks from the dead he had learned from past interactions.

He had a large data set, i.e. Big Data, to help formulate his opinion about walkers.

The way they move…

The way they attack…

The threat they pose…

The problem was, what he was seeing were people dressed up to look like the dead. He was seeing the Whisperers. Jesus was well-prepared and equipped to deal with The Walking Dead; he was a consummate warrior. What he wasn’t prepared to deal with was the Whisperers. The worst part, he didn’t see it coming.

What killed him was The Problem of Induction.

The Problem of Induction

Using data about the past to predict the future is a fallacy. Think of Nassim Taleb’s Thanksgiving Turkey problem.

Every feeding time reinforces the bird’s belief that daily feedings are the general rule of life.

To the turkey, people are there to serve them.

Then, on the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey.

It will incur a revision of belief.

“Consider that [the turkey’s] feeling of safety reached its maximum when the risk was at the highest!” — Nassim Taleb

Wikimedia Commons

Just because something has worked in the past, does not mean that it will work in the future.

Context and situations change. Big data can’t capture this.

Jesus was expecting the creatures he thought were The Walking Dead to behave as they had in the past. So he attacked using the techniques that had worked in the past.

A Whisperer struck out at human speed, catching Jesus off guard and killing him.

The enemy had changed.

A Common and Visible Enemy

No longer was it a common and visible enemy.

Groups like The Saviors led by Neagan (Jeffry Morgan)…

The Walking Dead…

Or the Governor…

Who could have possibly predicted, from past events, that a group of people would wear the skin of the dead and attack the living?

The Blind Spot

To avoid blind spots, you must not depend on one source of information. Research helps to avoid blind spots and costly mistakes.

Businesses often go the way of Jesus. They look at past events and assume everything will keep functioning the same way it has been.

But it doesn’t work that way.

And then they end up like…


Toys ‘R’ Us…

Circuit City…


Or the myriad of other business failures…

I am not saying ignore Big Data. I am saying that using it to predict the future is a mistake. If you want to remain competitive, it is wise to triangulate it with other data sources. A good research function has the expertise to help you do this.

If you don’t, you might die in the zombie apocalypse.

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