Ethical Analytics

The best way to make money off a patent is to wait for someone to infringe and then sue the organisation for damages. This seems to be the order of the day across the globe and a lot of media time and attention is being spent on reporting such cases. There has been a lot of discussion and debate making the rounds about the need to ban software patents specifically because the effort and money required creating one in many instances is a miniscule fraction of the total money spent or lost in stopping its usage and fighting lawsuits. More importantly because of the way patents are filed and worded it becomes very difficult to differentiate one from the other. It is more of an ethical debate rather than a rational one that business would like to get into. We however cannot generalise based on the events in the recent past since a lot of good inventions have been put to a lot of good use across the world. It is however worthwhile to introspect as to whether the inventor of the patent should be given rights to decide for what purpose the patent can or cannot be used.

With the advent of analytics or rather predictive analytics, the use of complex mathematical algorithms and the availability of large, cheap and powerful computational power, technologists are talking about predicting future events with a very high degree of accuracy. This has been used effectively in the credit card industry whereby fraud has been caught or avoided and in the banking sector where banks have been able to safeguard their money against default and rightly so. There are however other industry sectors where this kind of analytics can be put to either good or not so good (trying to avoid the word bad here) use. A case in point is the healthcare industry. What should a hospital do if they find out that a particular patient based on past history has a high chance of becoming ill in the next three months? Does it inform the patient upfront and provide preventive care and make less money or wait for the patient to become ill and then provide corrective care and make more money.

These kinds of debates might have already started or will do so in the near future giving enough reason for the law firms to make more money or the politicians to make this a winning theme for their election campaigns. Can the providers of these kinds of service ask themselves instead whether their work is going to be put to good or not so good use and close the debate before the world spends many more million dollars on a not-so-worthy cause.