“Is Math replacing independent thought”, screams the front page of today’s Globe and Mail (the title has been mercifully changed since this morning!). It is simply hard to believe that such a silly article can be written and published.
Let alone that the author’s definition of “algorithms” is shaky at best, what he really wants us to do is to be scared, scared and scared from this “new strain of Cholera”. Isn’t it the best way to get our attention?
Why should we get scared of math and algorithms?
1. Because they are replacing independent thought “promising to assert mathematical probability into corners of our lives where intuition, instinct and hunches have long held sway”.
* Is it really too hard to argue back that Mathematics is the science of truly independent thought, and that non-mathematical thinking does not have such a great track record in decision making. Are you counting on winning the lottery today?
2. Because “Critics are beginning to wonder if we are surrendering too much human agency to the all-powerful gods of mathematics.”
* Looking at how many generations have surrendered control of their own thoughts to religion, I say that applying rigorous mathematical thinking, or a ready-made algorithm have a far greater chance of success than prayers, fasting, sacrifices, or any other way to cut a deal with a specific god.
3. Ah! and also because “these algorithms remain a mystery to us, their inner workings protected by various intellectual property and trade-secrecy laws”.
* So? Is it the first time in our history that humans have tried to use their brains (a powerful algorithmic machine) to outwit, overtake, and overpower other species, as well as their own.
And we should also know that “Mr. Lanier (whoever he is) urges readers not to succumb to an ideology being peddled by the gurus of Silicon Valley that seeks to devalue human creativity.”
Give us a break!
… and by the way, in spite of all our technological advancement (and Google), the current state of the human race is still quite pathetic. Much more powerful algorithms need to be devised to advance our understanding and our standards of living.