It seems not a day goes by without an industry leader remarking that machine learning algorithms are the future of everything. Unfortunately, data scientist extraordinaire Hilary Mason is calling bullshit on the whole affair.

Mason is the CEO and founder at Fast Forward Labs, a machine intelligence research company. While speaking to Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOM regarding “new connected products” and how some of them come armed with ML algorithms can “anticipate your needs over time and behave accordingly,” she says: “That’s just a bunch of marketing bullshit.” Quite straightforward.

Mason is also the Data Scientist in Residence at Accel, has been the Chief Scientist at bitly and co-founded HackNY.

As Higginbotham points out, algorithms have gained a new popularity on account of what it is believed can be done with them. Mason, herself a veteran at writing algorithms is “quick to dismantle the cult that has been built up around algorithms and machine learning as companies try to make sense of all the data they have coming in.”

Mason believes an algorithm to be a ‘method’ or a ‘recipe’ – ‘instructions for a computer to follow.’

“It’s just a recipe you type in to get a consistent result. In some ways chocolate chip cookie recipes are my favorite algorithms. You put a bunch of bad-for-you stuff in a bowl and get a delicious result.”

Putting it in perspective, Higginbotham sums it up in the workings of a spam filter where one can build an algorithm picks out spam based on the usage of words common to such mails and then combining that with a statistical distribution of the countries that spam often comes from. What one is left with is mathematics put to good use.


(Image credit: dig.do)

 

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