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 am a full-stack software engineer, product designer, and teacher. I’ve been working on the web for over a decade and am passionate about building great products.

I currently work at Airbnb, where I work on internal products that help the company build quality software that customers love. Before that, I was at Mystery Science, transforming how elementary school teachers teach science. 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.

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 very proud owner of a van, duh, and he and I plan to one day visit all the national parks and baseball stadiums. Then, off to Central America. A man can dream :)

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