Walter

Oct 142014
 
Socialism and data science

Perhaps the best argument for capitalism is that no central planner can adequately understand the entire economy, however good their intentions. This point is made by Hayek, as Cass Sunstein summarizes in his book Infotopia: Hayek claims that the great advantage of prices is that they aggregate both the information and the tastes of numerous

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  •  October 14, 2014
  •  Posted by at 10:07 pm
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Sep 082014
 

Over the weekend I argued that people are really quite good at making predictions, when you zoom out and think of all the various ways we do so in science and in everyday life. Talk about how “predictions are hard, especially about the future” tends to concentrate on a narrow band of particularly difficult topics.

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Sep 062014
 

Humans are terrible at making forecasts, we’re often told. Here’s one recent example at Bloomberg View: I don’t mean to pick on either of those folks; you can randomly name any 10 strategists, forecasters, pundits and commentators and the vast majority of their predictions will be wrong. Not just a little wrong, but wildly, hilariously

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Sep 022014
 

I’ve written a bunch over the last few years attacking the idea that social media is isolating, causes loneliness, etc. But Technology Review has a piece up on some new and seemingly credible research on the relationship between social media use and reported happiness: But there is growing evidence that the impact of online social

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Aug 282014
 

There’s a great piece in The Atlantic this month on advertising, the internet’s “original sin”, by MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman. Advertising, he argues, has stripped us of our privacy, to the point of normalizing constant online surveillance. Add to that the fact that it’s not yet clear how well even these sophisticated data-heavy ad products are at actually making

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Aug 222014
 

Mobile apps are dominating media consumption, but getting users to use your app is really, really hard: U.S. users are now spending the majority of their time consuming digital media within mobile applications, according to a new study released by comScore this morning. That means mobile apps, including the number 1 most popular app Facebook, eat up

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Aug 052014
 

To hear pundits talk about it, it’s easy to conclude that we have no idea what policies will help with economic growth. After all, we’re debating whether we’re stuck in stagnation or about to witness a new era of technology-led expansion. But there are a set of policies the majority of economists believe will be growth

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Jul 042014
 
Beating the algorithm, for now

The New York Times has a fun interactive that lets you compete against an algorithm designed to predict which tweets will get the most retweets. The Times also has a story about the algorithm and its implications. Its takeaway: That an algorithm can make these kinds of predictions shows the power of “big data.” It

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Jun 282014
 
Our patent problems go way beyond trolls

UPDATE: More recent data documents the serious uptick in patent troll litigation. Likely still true that the patent problem goes way beyond trolls, but they are a problem nonetheless. Recent research is here. I did a Google Hangout with two intellectual property experts this week, and wrote an article to go along with it. The

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Jun 132014
 

Having just finished the Steve Jobs bio, and so freshly reminded of how Apple borrowed the idea of the graphical user interface from Xerox to great effect (only to later turn around and call Microsoft a thief for doing the same), I enjoyed this back and forth on Xerox. It’s a piece of an extremely

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