As more human behaviors are being measured, the line between the quantitative and the qualitative has blurred. I admire Brian Burke, who led the U.S. men's hockey team on an Olympic run in 2010 and who has been an outspoken advocate for gay-rights causes in sports. But Burke said something on the hockey analytics panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last month that I took issue with. He expressed concern that statistics couldn't measure a hockey player's perseverance. For instance, he asked, would one of his forwards retain control of the puck when Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins' intimidating 6' 9" defenseman, was bearing down on him? The thing is, this is something you could measure. You could watch video of all Bruins games and record how often different forwards kept control of the puck. Soon, the NHL may install motion-tracking cameras in its arenas, as other sports leagues have done, creating a record of each player's x- and y-coordinates throughout the game and making this data collection process much easier.
As the availability of data increases beyond comprehension, humans will necessarily turn the effort of analysis over to machines running algorithms. Predictions and simulations will abound and human actions - whether voting for a president or holding on to a hockey puck - will increasingly appear to be predictable behavior. The fact that actions are never fully predictable is already fading from view; we have become accustomed to knowing how things will end before they begin.