Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagJay Cordes

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Interview: New Book Outlines the Perils of Big (Meaningless) Data

Gary Smith, co-author with Jay Cordes of Phantom Patterns, shows why human wisdom and common sense are more important than ever now

Economist Gary Smith and statistician Jay Cordes have a new book out, The Phantom Pattern Problem: The mirage of big data, on why we should not trust Big Data over common sense. In their view, it’s a dangerous mix: Humans naturally assume that all patterns are significant. But AI cannot grasp the meaning of any pattern, significant or not. Thus, from massive number crunches, we may “learn” (if that’s the right word) that Stock prices can be predicted from Google searches for the word debt. Stock prices can be predicted from the number of Twitter tweets that use “calm” words. An unborn baby’s sex can be predicted by the amount of breakfast cereal the mother eats. Bitcoin prices can be…

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New Book Takes Aim at Phantom Patterns “Detected” by Algorithms

Human common sense is needed now more than ever, says economics professor Gary Smith

Pomona College economics professor Gary Smith, author with Jay Cordes of The Phantom Pattern Problem (Oxford, October 1, 2020), tackles an age-old glitch in human thinking: We tend to assume that if we find a pattern, it is meaningful. Add that to the weaknesses of current artificial intelligence and “Houston, we have a problem,” he warns: The scientific method tests theories with data. Data-mining computer algorithms dispense with theory and search through data for patterns, often aided and abetted by slicing, dicing, and otherwise mangling data to create patterns. Gary Smith, “Phantom patterns: The big data delusion” at IAI News (August 24, 2020) Many of the patterns so detected are obviously spurious, for example: A computer algorithm for evaluating job…

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Which Career-Limiting Data Mistake Are YOU Most at Risk For?

Award-winning data science author Gary Smith says the odds depend on your relationship to the data

Dr. Smith thinks that the most dangerous error is putting data before theory. Many data-mining algorithms that are now being used to screen job applicants, price car insurance, approve loan applications, and determine prison sentences have significant errors and biases that are not due to programmer mistakes and biases, but to a misplaced belief in data-mining.

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