"Intellectual Debt": It's bad enough when AI gets its predictions wrong, but it's potentially WORSE when AI gets it right

Jonathan Zittrain (previously) is consistently a source of interesting insights that often arrive years ahead of their wider acceptance in tech, law, ethics and culture (2008's The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it) is surprisingly relevant 11 years later); in a new long essay on Medium (shorter version in the New Yorker), Zittrain examines the perils of the "intellectual debt" that we incur when we allow machine learning systems that make predictions whose rationale we don't understand, because without an underlying theory of those predictions, we can't know their limitations. Read the rest

Hedge funds killed the newspaper industry, not the web

The web came of age with no-holds-barred finance capitalism, so it's hard to decide which of the last twenty years' worth of changes are the result of the tech industry, or of financialization, or a toxic mix of both. Read the rest

Black voter registration is inversely correlated with black death at police hands

Correlation is not causation, and the data-set is awfully small (39 incidents), but computational epidemiologist Maimuna Majumder is working with what's available, because the federal government won't fund research into gun fatalities, and does not require states to gather data on police use of force. Read the rest

Spurious correlations: an engine for head-scratching coincidences

The Spurious Correlations engine helps you discover bizarre and delightful spurious correlations, and collects some of the most remarkable ones. For example, Per capita consumption of sour cream (US) correlates with Motorcycle riders killed in noncollision transport accident at the astounding rate of 0.916391. Meanwhile, but exploring the engine, I've discovered a surprising correlation between the Age of Miss America and Murders by steam, hot vapours and hot objects (a whopping 0.870127!).

Spurious Correlations

(via Waxy) Read the rest

Correlation between autism diagnosis and organic food sales

Redditor Jasonp55 has a neat demonstration of the perils of confusing correlation with causation, and his well-chosen example makes this a potentially useful chart for discussing this issue with friends who won't vaccinate themselves and their kids.

/r/skeptic, I was practicing GraphPad and I think I may have discovered the 'real' cause of autism... (imgur.com)

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest