It is often celebrated that big tech companies hire sociologists, data historians, or AI teams, assuming in practice that empathy cannot be taught to physicists or engineers. For some, the image of a wonderful pair may be a young mathematician, clever but inhuman, writing furiously under the suspicious gaze of a philosopher, responsible for observing algorithms he neither understands nor appreciates. But what would that ideal team be? We don’t have to mix human letters and numbers, as if they were different types. This classification is artificial and ineffective.
What we need is more bilingual people. We need people who can talk about numbers and also about ideas. People who are immersed in a problem and who enjoy solving it to meet the challenge of doing it, but who also think about the consequences of what they do, whether social or economic, positive or negative. If you are a psychiatrist concerned about the effect of Likes About teens, you need to understand how the pieces below work. And if you’re an engineer who wants to make good video games, you still want to think like a psychologist, even if just a little bit, To prevent addiction to your game.
It seems obvious to me. If my team is working on making song recommendations, for Spotify or Apple Music, I want every member to understand the equations that are able to suggest songs that I will like with a probability of 83%. But I also want you to weigh the value of sometimes surprising me, or even letting others down. What do you miss when you never listen to a song you don’t like? Or to be more clear: What would I give up if it was Google News or financial times Never give me ideas that I don’t agree with?
There are two reductive views that bother me equally. On the one hand, I’m afraid to have tech optimists fickle, does not think about the harmful effects of any new technology. They fall into a fallacy: they do it One-sided bets, looking at only one basket of Libra, the basket of virtuous use of innovation, and ignoring the prices to be paid. But I am also bored by the old intellectuals – some very young – who devote themselves to judging social changes and new tools out of ignorance and without a trace of curiosity. The fear of the new is an understandable conservative motive, even useful, but so pervasive in our educated souls.
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I don’t think the future belongs to this or that. I hope a mixed outlook prevails, neither emotionally nor just technically. The first is not enough: good faith was not enough to prove it Vaccines against COVID-19 On their way to work, controlled and random experiments had to be carried out. But the second thing is not so: any related problem needs a humanistic perspective. Autonomous cars They will have to resolve ethical disputes – “Should I change lanes and crash into the oncoming vehicle to avoid any unaware pedestrians who could cross without looking at a 30% probability?”. Dilemmas are inevitable.
The intersection of these two cultures is the fertile valley of the future. That’s why I think we should all develop both sides of the sciences and the humanities, starting with the one we’ve often given up on.
Since I was educated in an engineering college and visit often, I can say with the knowledge that our system needs to be humane, which sounds like a joke, but it’s true. I’m not just referring to seeing the social aspects of the technical problem you’re working on, but I’m referring to something general. For example, I think physicists, mathematicians, and engineers don’t pay enough attention to communication. Since my polytechnic days, I remember an almost proud attitude of being incomprehensible, as if it was a sign of intelligence that you are incomprehensible! On the contrary. Explaining something complex clearly and efficiently is a virtue and not seeing it is a fatal mistake in today’s world: because attention is one of our rarest commodities.
But I also spent years in and around the world of literature and journalism, where my shortcomings are numerical. Many genius people limit themselves because they do not trust their quantitative or analytical abilities. This is a shame. First, because this insight is useful to anyone: It doesn’t matter if you want to choose your children’s school or understand social changes, in this age of data it’s essential to decipher what the numbers say. And secondly, because these skills are not exclusive to anyone. Knowledge of mathematics is not something that is innate to some people; It is something that is learned. It’s like speaking in Spanish. It comes to you naturally, but you start to gossip.
You don’t even need to know a lot of math. In fact, the key is to think slowly, about what we call analysis, that precise daily task of observing certain things and drawing some conclusions about the world, avoiding biases, traps, and errors. I like to mention eight rules when I talk about this, what I call “clear thinking”:
1. Accept the complexity of the world.
2. Think in numbers.
3. Protect your samples from bias.
4. Suppose that attributing causes is difficult.
5. Do not despise chance.
6. Anticipate without denying uncertainty.
7. Acknowledge the dilemmas.
8. Don’t trust your intuition.
It is the principles of logic, above all, that transverse knowledge has always been judged. Medieval studies had a first course called trivium Since classical times. This is why we say a thing is “trivial” when it is simple, because it was studied in the beginning. In the trivium The pillars of education were covered, which the ancients considered three: the first is grammar, the art of combining symbols to express thought, and the third is the art of rhetoric, the art of conveying ideas from one mind to another. And what was between them? In the middle was Logic: The Art of Thinking.
Fortunately, the hybrid look is becoming more prevalent. She has villains, like a group of old-fashioned NBA scouts who ignored the statistic who wanted to sign Mark Gasol. They nicknamed him, nicknamed his uncle’s boobs because of his boyish looks, and this prejudice prevented them from seeing how cool he was. But it also has heroes. loves people Barack Obamafor me is a striking hybrid: a human politician, a law graduate, used a trick to rule half the world: he thought of the possibilities.
He explains it in his memoirs. Soon after taking office, Obama discovered that none of the problems that landed on his desk were really solvable. “If I had it, someone else below me in the chain of command would have already figured it out.” We all face problems that do not have a clear and clear answer. It does not matter if you choose a profession or if you are considering applying for a mortgage. We live in uncertainty, and although we don’t like it, we have to deal with it. But how do you act in the fog of doubt? As Obama explains, waiting for the optimal solution “is paralyzed,” but going with your intuition is also not enough, because that means letting your decisions be guided by “preconceptions and a path of least resistance.” His alternative was to think in numbers and choose: “I was constantly dealing with possibilities[:] 55% chance that one method without another will solve the problem; A 30% chance that nothing we choose will ever work, along with a 15% chance of actually exacerbating the problem.”
Obama, perhaps the most lifeless person on his hands, made firm decisions and then rested for the night, not because he felt infallible, but because he relied on a combination of goodwill and cold style. He had a sophisticated view of the world, which was neither science nor literature, but rather mixed.
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