The Limits of Public Discourse by David Harding

In chapter 25 of The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams, two philosophers try to prevent the introduction of the super computer Deep Thought. They fear it will put them out of a job. As one explains “I mean, what’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives you his bleeding phone number the next morning?”…

Public Advocacy by Heather Feinstein

Recently iRobot, the company which produces Roomba, a popular robotic vacuum, made news when CEO Colin Angle seemed to imply he was open to selling the maps Roomba produces of your home to third parties. This suggestion caused quite a stir amongst consumers and privacy advocates and ultimately lead to a strong recharacterization of the process as a consumer benefit (better integration with IOT!) rather than a profit seeking venture (we are NOT selling maps of your home to Amazon…yet). But why did this issue hit consumers so close to home (no pun intended)? And how can companies avoid this sort of “misunderstanding” in the future?…

To DS or not to DS? by Maya Miller-Vedam

A passing comment in w261 yesterday reminded me of some of our w231 conversations in the past few weeks. We were discussing the benefits of SVMs vs Logistic Regression in different situations and the professor cited ‘heart attacks’ as an example of non linearly separable (i.e. inherently noisy) data. Specifically he said “there are lots of cases where, out of two people who are exactly the same, one has a heart attack and the other doesn’t.” In the context of his point (that sometime both algorithms perform similarly) this was a helpful elaboration. However, it struck me that the statement ‘two people who are exactly the same…’  was also an example of the way that data science can encode assumptions without thinking about them….