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TagBayes’ Theorem

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Consensus Gives Us Information Only If We Are Free to Doubt

There are so many credentialed people on the internet with sufficiently differing views that it sometimes seems as if we could find an expert somewhere to support almost any harebrained idea. So how does a non-expert figure out the truth? Most of us lack the time, training, and inclination to investigate most subjects sufficiently so we are often urged to adopt the consensus opinion. While an individual expert may have wild and crazy ideas, the consensus will most likely be an average informed view. But it’s not that simple. Most of the time it is impossible for the public to determine the consensus opinion. What is usually labeled as consensus opinion is what media believe it to be. And the…

probability likelihood

How Bayes’ Math Rule Can Counter Unreasonable Skepticism

Mathematics is much more interesting if we know a bit about the players and their positions

Yesterday, we discussed the importance of Bayes’ rule in statistical reasoning. We used the example of a person who goes for a battery of screening tests and comes up positive for HIV. Let’s say she is surprised (and alarmed) because she is not at any known risk for HIV. But, it turns out, the risk of false positives for the test is several times greater than the incidence of HIV in the population. In that case, it is reasonable for her to suspect—on a statistics science basis, not just wishful thinking—that the test is a false positive. The formula we used is part of Bayesian reasoning, originally developed by an eighteen-century British clergyman and mathematician Thomas Bayes (1702–1761), but now…


AI: Think About Ethics Before Trouble Arises

A machine learning specialist reflects on Micah 6:8 as a guide to developing ethics for the rapidly growing profession
To love mercy sometimes means to give up efficiency. It could mean losing a few points of model accuracy by refusing to take into account features that invade privacy or are proxies for race, leading to discriminatory model behavior. But that’s OK. The merciful are willing to give up some of their rights and advantages so they can help others.   Read More ›