Computer 1, Andy 0 and I Couldn't Be Happier

In my own time, I’ve been dabbling with some pretty hardcore machine learning. Trying to answer the question of how a computer can create a relationship between two things, blocks of text in this case. Turns out with a few matrix transpositions, single value decompositions, cosine similiarities, latent semantic index, and a naive Baysian filter to boot, you can get pretty close. And I was just dabbling.

I was blown away by how accurately the computer, when told what kinds of things to look for, could create associations between data for itself. I had to force myself to avoid using my head to solve the problem, and pass the buck to the machines. But this is nothing new - Google has been doing it for a while - and it seems to be a trend, if not a revolution, according to WIRED.

The problem with this whole movement is that unless you’re a math Ph.D., it’s completely counterintuitive. You’ve spent 20-60 years training your brain, and here comes a computer (or a whole bunch of them it turns out) that knows more than you do in the span of a few minutes. How is this possible?

Well, isn’t in the end your brain doing pretty much the same thing, maybe with a dash of evolutionary preprogramming? If you subscribe to theory of tabula rasa, we’re not much further along than a blinking terminal window when we’re born. It’s just a little unnerving that a machine can go from infant to prophet in minutes where it takes humans years. But, hey, we’ve had other problems to deal with, too (balance, speech, survival, etc.) - take that Mr. Fancy Computer.

But this isn’t even about computers. It’s just raw math; the type of math I hope to someday wrap my head around, if only slightly. Humans are selfish, egotistical, and prideful - all things that math could not care less about. You don’t “solve for x” with empathy. And it’s that stark, cold, unforgiving nature of a white board filled head to toe with equations that makes us layman turn to each other and say “pish posh - I’m a human, I’ll always know better than an equation.” But, like I said, in my dabbling, I’ve found that nothing could be further to the truth, and if that means the computer wins, I’m OK with that.

Thanks for reading! I'm Avand.

I’ve been working on the web for over a decade and am passionate about building great products.

My last job was with Airbnb, where I focused on internal products that helped teams measure the quality of the software they were building. I also built internal tools for employees to stay more connected, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, I was lead engineer at Mystery Science, the #1 way in which science is taught in U.S. elementary school classroms. For a while, I also taught with General Assembly, teaching aspiring developers the basics of front-end web development.

I was born in Boston, grew up in Salt Lake City, and spent many years living in Chicago. Now, I call San Francisco my home and Mariposa my home away from home.

I enjoy the great outdoors and absolutely love music and dance. Cars have been an lifelong obsession of mine, especially vintage BMWs and Volkswagens. I’m the proud owner of a 2002 E-250 Sportsmobile van, and he and I have enjoyed many trips to beautiful and remote parts of the West Coast to create good vibes.

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