Posts Tagged ‘ algorithms ’

My pre-existing United boycott, and some musing on randomness and fairness

April 12, 2017
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You probably already saw the video - if not, do yourself a favor, and search for "man forcibly removed from overbooked United flight." Other than the video evidence, which is damning, we don't have many facts, other than assertions made by various parties, repeated endlessly on social media and mainline media. Some facts, such as the United CEO claiming the passenger was "belligerent," is an assault on the meaning of…

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Confused by machines, or spooked by the machine-makers

March 29, 2017
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This New York Times article draws attention to real trends in the financial investments industry but gets completely lost in the smoke around those pushing "machines" and "data". The trend most concerning to the investments industry is the sustained, large-scale outflow of money from "actively-managed" funds, mutual funds being the biggest category of such. The industry makes loads of money from management fees by promoting the idea that investors are…

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Reading Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts

February 15, 2017
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Reading Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts

In his book, Everything is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): Why Common Sense Fails, Duncan Watts, a professor of sociology at Columbia, imparts urgent lessons that are as relevant to his students as to self-proclaimed data scientists. It takes only nominal effort to generate narrative structures that retrace the past, Watts contends, but developing lasting theory that produces valid predictions requires much more effort than common sense. Watts’s is…

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Pre-processing data is not just about correcting errors

January 30, 2017
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Pre-processing data is not just about correcting errors

Exploration of IMDB rating data, by Kaiser Fung, founder of Principal Analytics Prep

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Good models + Bad data = Bad analysis

January 18, 2017
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Good models + Bad data = Bad analysis

Example showing how to diagnose bad data in data science models

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What do these items have in common?

December 19, 2016
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What do these items have in common?

What do the following items have in common? A. Motion-detection light switch in your office that shuts off while you're typing at your computer B. Automatic flush that turns on while you're seated C. Voice-recognition system that picks up ambient noise and asks you to repeat something you didn't say D. Auto-correct software that flips a correct spelling to the wrong one you didn't anti-auto-correct the last time E. Fuzzy-logic…

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Inspired by water leaks

December 19, 2016
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Inspired by water leaks

For me, 2016 is a year of water leaks. I was forced to move apartments during the summer. (Blame my old landlord for the lower frequency of posts this year!) That old apartment was overrun by water issues. In the past four years, there were two big leaks in addition to annual visible "seepage" in the ceiling. The first big leak ruined my first night back from Hurricane Sandy-induced evacuation.…

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The idol worship of objective data is damaging our discipline

October 28, 2016
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In class last week, I discussed this New York Times article with the students. One of the claims in the article is that the U.S. News ranking of colleges is under threat by newcomers whose rankings are more relevant because they more directly measure outcomes such as earnings of graduates. This specific claim in the article makes me head hurt: "If nothing else, earnings are objective and, as the database…

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Two quick hits: how bad data analysis harms our discourse

October 6, 2016
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I am traveling so have to make this brief. I will likely come back to these stories in the future to give a longer version of these comments. I want to react to two news items that came out in the past couple of days. First, Ben Stiller said that prostate cancer screening (the infamous PSA test) "saved his life". (link) So he is out there singing the praises of…

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Weapons of Math Destruction – A Data Scientist’s Guide to Disarmament

September 11, 2016
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Weapons of Math Destruction – A Data Scientist’s Guide to Disarmament

I’ve had this book on pre-order since spring and it finally arrived on Friday. I subsequently devoured it over the weekend. The book lays out a clear and compelling case for how data-driven algorithms can become — in contrast to their promise of amoral objectivism — efficient means for reproducing and even exacerbating social inequalities […]

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