Suppose you are told you must marry, and that you must choose your spouse out of 100 applicants.
You may interview each applicant once. After each interview you must decide whether to marry that person.
If you decline, you lose the opportunity forever. If you work your way through 99 applicants without choosing one, you must marry the 100th. You may think you have 1 in 100 chance of marrying your ideal partner, but the truth is that you can do a lot better than that.
The Little Prince, in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic novel, summed it up nicely: “Grown-ups love figures.
When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters.
They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’
Instead, they demand:
How old is he?
How many brothers has he?
How much does he weigh?
How much money does his father make?
‘ Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
Filed under: Behavioural Targeting, Numerati, Predicitive Modelling, Search | Tags: Algorithm, Google, Predictive Modeling
Concerned a brain drain could hurt its long-term ability to compete, Google Inc. is tackling the problem with its typical tool: an algorithm.
The Internet search giant recently began crunching data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula Google says can identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit.
Google officials are reluctant to share details of the formula, which is still being tested. The inputs include information from surveys and peer reviews, and Google says the algorithm already has identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving.
Filed under: Analytics, Numerati | Tags: Algorithms, NY Times, Quants, Subprime mortgage debt
Here is a link to a great article in the Sydney Morning Herald on quantities analysts, often referred to simply as “quants”. These are the crew who are being laid blame on the global financial crisis. They are generally physics and mathematics graduates working in risk management – calculating whether a given deal is a good idea – and derivatives prices, which entails putting a figure on trades that in effect bet on other trades.
As Richard Dooling wrote in the New York Times: “Somehow the genius quants – the best and brightest geeks Wall Street firms could buy – fed $US1trillion in subprime mortgage debt into their supercomputers, added some derivatives, massaged the arrangements with computer algorithms and – poof! – created $US62 trillion in imaginary wealth.”
Those algorithms were based on risk assessments that were seriously flawed, based only on the risk to the market at that moment, rather on cold, hard empirical data about a person’s ability to pay and what would happen if a lot, rather than a few of them, stopped.
Filed under: Data, Numerati | Tags: Data, Future, Numerati, Srtephen Baker
The Numerati, by Stephen Baker is a book about how data play a huge role in our future. Indeed, it does. Stephen also keeps an interesting blog, and I encourage you to check it out.