Don't be surprised if your bank knows not just who but also what you are in the future

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10 August 2015
Zilvinas Bareisis
We all know personality tests can be a little hit and miss - some are serious, long and can be scarily accurate. Others you do for fun on a Saturday afternoon whilst reading a magazine, and you never take the results too seriously. I just came across a new type of personality test, Personality Insights powered by IBM's Watson. According to the description, the test "uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more." Interestingly, it claims to be able to reach conclusions just from a text of 100 words. I was curious to see what the tool would say about me based on some of my blogs. I entered one of the recent texts and I got this back:
You are inner-directed and skeptical.You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. And you are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself.You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of connectedness.You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.
As always with these things, you never entirely agree, but I could recognise some of my personality there, so I was intrigued. I wanted to try it more and started entering other blogs written by me and my colleagues on this site. Most of the results turned out to be remarkably similar, suggesting that we are "shrewd, skeptical, imaginative, philosophical, driven by a desire for prestige, relatively unconcerned with tradition, etc." Well, it is possible that we are a fairly homogeneous bunch - as analysts we often talk about new technologies, so we are "relatively unconcerned with tradition", yet we can't afford to succumb to the latest hype, so can come across as "skeptical." But the homogeneity of results made me rather suspicious, so "for something completely different", I entered an article on English football by a broadsheet journalist. While his profile turned out to be a bit more different, he was also "inner-directed, skeptical, empathetic, and philosophical." Not surprisingly, I wasn't the first person to try out the tool with the extremes. A Mashable article described someone submitting "a 1919 letter from Hitler explaining his anti-Semitic agenda to a well-wisher" for analysis. Apparently, Hitler was also "shrewd, skeptical, imaginative, philosophical, laid back, appreciating a relaxed pace in life" and someone who thinks "it is important to take care of people around you." Now, it's easy to show how something new is not yet perfect, but there is serious science behind the service. And even though this particular tool still needs to learn and improve, we are convinced that artificial intelligence and Watson-type technologies will have a big impact on customer servicing in Banking and other industries. Implementing and making use of these technologies is not easy, but there is no doubt that in the future more decisions will be driven by data and analytics. So, don't be surprised if the next time you call up your bank to discuss the latest transactions or the new product you want to buy, you realise they know instantly not just who you are (e.g. via voice biometrics), but also what you are. P.S. I just did sort of a "meta-test" by entering the above text into the service. The tool called me "unconventional" and suggested that I am "intermittent" and "have a hard time sticking with difficult tasks for a long period of time." Is it not just smart, but potentially vindictive as well? :)


  • […] it claims to be able to reach conclusions just from a text of 100 words. (Zil’s blog is here: Don’t be surprised if your bank knows not just who but also what you are in the future.) Following Zil’s lead, I copied an extract from the Aware Machine report into the system to find […]

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