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.

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