This is a dense post. Feldman and March, in 1981, wrote “Information in Organizations as Signal and Symbol”. And it makes good predictions about what a management scientist type would say about the purpose of information in an organization. Indeed, just last month, I hyped Carl Anderson’s 2015 original position yet again, in the framing of information as assisting learning. Feldman and March are cited by another piece that’s been weighing heavily since February. Alvesson and Spicer’s 2012 hit “A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations” explains why seemingly intelligent people pretend to be dumber than they are. Please don’t misinterpret this passage. It’s not the case that everybody is stupid. Sometimes people act dumber because they have to go-along-to-get-along. Are you[…]

You may have been to a conference. Ever wonder why they’re the way they are? The Conference Market(s) Different people hire a conference to do different jobs. For some, a conference is a chance to learn, be exposed to new ideas, and exit a comfort zone. Or, to enter a comfort zone to be exposed to new ideas and feel safe enough to learn. For some, it’s entirely about networking with colleagues, or recruiting, or to be recruited. For others, a conference is a chance to spam people with signing authority with their marketing messages. Or to upsell. Or to crossell. Or to retain. For others still, a conference is a reason to visit a city. To get the hell[…]

It was a treat to see these three – Yoshua Bengio, Yann Lecun, and Geoffrey Hinton – for an afternoon. Easily the best three consecutive hours I’ve ever seen at a conference. They remarked that Canada continues to invest in primary research. And this is a strength. Much of the exploratory work these three executed in the 80’s, 90’s and naughties was foundational to industrial applications which came after. Much of reinforcement and deep learning has moved on into industrial application. For the three grandfathers of deep learning, all of these algorithms and methods move into the realm of solved problems. For those of us in industry, there remains a lot of work to realize the benefits of deep learning.[…]

Hinton is quoted as saying, with respect to back propagation, “I don’t think it’s how the brain works”. You can read the full article here. Back Propagation To oversimplify, in Back Propagation, the influence of each neuron is rewarded based on how well it predicts something. Accurate predictions are rewarded with more influence. Bad predictions are punished with less. This is how the machine learns. And there’s a lot of optimism about Back Propagation. It’s really useful and generates fairly predictable machines. As data scientists, we like this. And as data scientists, we should also like what Hinton is hinting at. Kuhn It’s much more likely than not that we’re approaching a local maxima on this thread of research. I’m[…]

An orthodox Software as a Service (SaaS) business is, in part, math that an organization tries its best to manage. Think about all the math that goes into the construction of a typical SaaS firm. At the core there’s some customer with a job: a goal against which the customer wants to make progress. They can have a mathematical representation in a database somewhere. A bunch of technologists write some code, which is all math, and a bunch of creatives take a few photographs, which expresses itself a mathematical representation, and some data is Created Read Updated and Destroyed in a database somewhere, which is all just more math. And it’s all abstracted by yet more math at the processor[…]

The other I likened the process for taking apart a Job To Be Done to taking a part a lobster. There’s a very effective way to decompose any problem with enough energy. And then I watched The Founder on Netflix and admired the McDonald brothers using a classic technique in management science to refine a system on a tennis court. And I loved it. They really refined hamburger and frenched fry delivery. And then this morning I read that Andrew Ng in working on a new coursera course for AI. And I’m thankful for his initiative and optimism. Out of those three threads, this one post. The Assembly Line The assembly line was an American invention for Americans. It could[…]

Earlier in the month, I dined under the space shuttle Endeavour with some of the best minds in marketing science. One mind remarked: “That’s why I bring a glossary with me, oh, you want to do supervised learning? Oh you mean regression? Oh, okay, now we can talk… We’ve been talking to managers about these methods for decades, but it’s just suddenly sexy because it’s all machine learning and deep learning and reinforcement learning.” A lot of the math that underlies much of machine intelligence and artificial intelligence is indeed remarketed marketing science. And, hipsterism aside, the annoyance is understandable. Marketing science started out a bit of a revolt against the Mad Men. Some of the early stories feature post-war[…]

You’re going to hear a lot moreĀ about Artificial Intelligence (AI) more generally, and Machine Intelligence more specifically. Valuation is the core causal factor. Here’s why: We’ve gotten pretty good at training a machine on niche problems. They can be trained to a point to replace a median-skilled/low-motivated human in many industries. Sometimes they can make predictions that agree with a human’s judgement 85 to 90% of the time, and sometimes, it’s the human that’s causing the bulk of the error to disagree with the machine. We’re confident that we can train a machine to learn a very specific domain. And these days we’re in the midst of that great automation revolution. Most of the organization that build those machines can[…]