Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Right Thing or the PC Thing?

What do you do when the right thing to do is not the politically correct thing to do?

What do you do when you could reduce the workload of a group people but it will cost money, vs leaving them in their misery and saving money?

Computers can automate things and make peoples work easier, but sometimes creating the automation is more costly than paying someone to do the task.

So what are your thoughts on this?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Intuition vs Super Crunching- two book reviews

I recently finished two books rarely read together:
Incognito by David Eagleman which is all about how the mind works and Super Crunchers by Ian Ayers which is about how the crunching huge data sets gives better results than experts can give. Incognito celebrates our complex mind in all its sundry functions. Eagleman explores the training method that allows trainees to develop the instinct of determine if a chicken is a profitable female or a worthless male by having the trainee work with experts and approving or disapproving their decisions until they get it right 100% of the time.

 Super Crunchers explains that human experts are reliably unreliable. Observing only can't give the expert enough information to make a good decisions in picking baseball players, medical diagnoses, valuable wine, and high earning movie scripts. Super crunching is the technique of data minding huge data sets and using probabilistic equations to make predictions and the reliability of the prediction. Often data is created as part of the Super Crunching, like the way Google will test out two ads and which ever one gets the most click-thrus will become the default. Eagleman will be the first to admit that the mind isn't good at solving all problems, but the problems that Ayers describes would seem to lend themselves to human reasoning such as movie plots. 

My conclusion after reading both is that I can't trust my own reasoning about some decisions, like what I should title my next book. There is a balance of using creativity and super crunching to validate and test.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Three women win Google science fair

I just heard that Google's three winners in their Science Fair are women. I hope this encourages more girls to get into science and engineering. The more diverse a field's contributors the more inventions they'll create that will be useful to more people.

I've been in groups where we created a business case for a new product several times. Recently, I was the only woman on our team. Many of their ideas of how the product would be accepted were unthinkable to me as a woman. I had to keep explaining my own response to the features they were suggesting. They had a very hard time thining like me. I realized that its very important for any project to have a variety set of options early. Otherwise we will end up with a lot of products and services that are terrible.

I personally joined computer science field because my future husband showed me how a program he wrote in BASIC which accepted my name and printed it across the screen in lots of different colors. I was in love. But many girls never get this exposure.

What are some other ways to encourage women to get into science and engineering?