Causation vs. Correlation: Be So Careful in This Big-Data World
It seems like so many in the digital trade, press are freaking out about how much time is going to mobile. Many are calling it the death of desktop search. What?
And now, the story is that people are “turned away from browsing the web on their phones because they are using apps more.” What? A media distribution company I have respected for many years says, “mobile web is already dying as people are spending more time in apps like Facebook and Twitter.” What?
In this age of too much data, we have forgotten one thing: Correlation and Causation are not the same thing. The book and radio blog Freakonomics, is full of false or spurious cause-and-effect relationships. For the record, Causation means A causes B; Correlation is that A and B were observed at the same time and there may be some Causation, but you don’t know that.
The fact that I spend more time on Twitter than I do searching in my browser are not related. In fact, the more efficient and accurate with search, the less time I’ll spend searching for what I want. I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time in game apps. Are those related to less time in search? Absolutely not.
I read in a blog by Chris Taylor of “Wired” magazine that, “If big data came in a box, it would be stamped, ‘Warning: Correlation does not imply causation.’” This is especially important when you are making decisions based on the data. Trust, but verify.