De Econometrist neemt een statistische kijk op de wereld.
Wij Nederlanders staan vaak bekend om onze extreme drang naar goedkoop, het liefst gratis, dingen willen; we zijn gierig. Echter, dezer dagen lijkt deze rationele drang compleet vervaagd te zijn: de supermarkten, bij wie de prijzen van het op het moment zo geliefde wc-papier toch zeker een stijging ondergaan, staan vol, maar de pompstations zijn leeg. Dit, terwijl de brandstofprijs in jaren niet zo laag is geweest! Gemiddeld betaal je op dit moment zo’n 20-30 eurocent minder per liter dan voorheen (lees: voor het Covid-19 virus). Wat is er aan de hand op de oliemarkt? […]
Het is een leuke party trick: het oplossen van een Rubik’s kubus, en dan het liefst zo snel mogelijk. Voor de 23-jarige Mats Valk, tweevoudig wereldrecordhouder en Europees kampioen speedcubing, is het echter wel meer dan dat. Wekelijks is hij urenlang bezig met het bijhouden en perfectioneren van zijn skills. In dit interview (dat wegens het Covid-19 virus via Skype plaatsvond) vertelt hij goedlachs over deze passie, het imago dat speedcubing als sport heeft en de link met econometrie. Laten we beginnen bij het begin: waar is bij jou de fascinatie voor het Rubik’s […]
In the past few weeks, our supermarkets have been swamped by a huge demand for durable goods. This is due to the quarantine measures our government has taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, despite the notion of our prime minister to discourage buying every single roll of toilet paper, people still continued hoarding these goods. This behaviour is very typical in crisis situations and experiments have been conducted to explain the psychology behind peer pressure. Asch conformity A pioneer of social psychology Solomon Asch introduced fundamental concepts in conformity and many other […]
The human brain solves millions of problems daily. To do this, the brain first acquires the necessary information needed to solve any given problem. Then it uses and modifies this information to get a clear assessment of what the problem exactly entails. Once it knows all of this it is (in most cases) able to solve the problem at large. It is able to do so, because of the knowledge about similar problems it has already obtained. Neural networks, named after the neurons in the human brain, work in a very similar way. They consist […]
The shortage of appealing men is a melodrama that is one of the great riddles of social life. These available, sociable and genuinely attractive men are universally highly demanded in our society. Shouldn’t there be about as many highly eligible men as there are attractive, eligible women? Some men claim their love fortune has to to with becoming more attractive with age, but many women give the explanation that male faults have become easier to overlook. When women don’t find The One, they settle for the sociable but unattractive men, the attractive but unsociable or […]
The word ‘algorithm’ can be quite a scary word if one does not know what it actually means. But should we be scared of it? Nowadays, the word is much more frequently used than it was in the past. This is because artificial intelligence (AI) has had a huge rise in the last decade. Algorithms are the building blocks of everything you’re using to read this article.
One definition of an algorithm is a set of steps to accomplish a task. Hence, you might have an algorithm for getting from home to school, for baking a cake or finding the perfect dress for your evening in the store. In computer science, an algorithm is a set of instructions that take an input, A, and provide an output, B, that changes the data involved in some way. So, all that algorithms are, is a set of basic mathematical instructions.
These algorithms are becoming an indispensable part of our lives. However, some view this as dangerous. For example, Elon Musk (@elonmusk) wrote on 12 Augustus 2017,
Besides this, there are many stories about AI having negative consequences: police profiling that reinforces racial stereotypes 21st-century discrimination , acceptance algorithms that deny access despite rightful requesters, unfair rating system algorithms optimized for commercial gain and many other systems that reinforce inequality.
However, to declare that algorithms rule the world is a bit hyperbolic, even though the algorithms are being used more and more every day. This is due to the fact we use computers, laptops and our smartphones so much that they are playing an increasingly more important role in many aspects of our lives. To make all of these devices do anything, you have to write a computer program in which you tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. When you are commanding the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it is going to execute it. This is where the algorithms come in. The algorithm is the basic tool used to get the job done. Nevertheless, this is not how all computer algorithms are designed. In this instance, we have the version described above, with unsupervised learning. This involves data representing situations without independent variables. Because of this, there is no need to know the results of each scenario to use for training, and patterns are simply discerned from the data, where all the data is used for training. Besides that, some algorithms allow computers to learn on their own. This is called supervised learning, which involves having data, based on scenarios or historical events, with both dependent and independent variables. The model is trained using this data with both features (dependent variables) and expected results (independent variables). It is then trained by showing the model the scenario and its corresponding result.
Thus meaning, there are uses for machine learning, including data mining and pattern recognition. For example, these mathematical creations determine what you see in your Instagram feed, what movies Netflix recommends you and what ads you see in your Gmail.
But are these algorithms is some way good or evil? As mathematical equations, they are not. However, both people with good and bad intentions can use and have used algorithms. For this, AI models are trained using datasets. The person training the algorithms can select the events that are used to train the models, which is called Feature Engineering. This ‘Feature Engineering’ can be done for many reasons. For example, it can allow algorithms to be used with limited or incomplete data. Besides that, it can improve training by using less or only relevant data. This can improve the accuracy of a model or simplify the maintenance of the model. On the other side, Feature Engineering cannot only bring us good things. It can introduce a bias to the data, which will most likely happen unintentionally. This bias is introduced by the people who select the data, but the technology itself does not have any bias.
To summarize this, one can say that algorithms and AI do not have either morals or ethics, which makes it neither good nor evil. However, since the algorithms are a tool used by people, it can be misused by people. To stop the misuse of AI technology, spreading awareness of how to use it ethically is needed. The reason for this is because it is the people who have biases, morals and ethics. So, should we be scared of AI? No, we should not, but we should be aware that there are people who can and most likely will misuse it.
This article is written by Deirdre Westenbrink
For professional athletes, the goal of running a marathon is to complete it as fast as possible. However, this does not mean that the athletes are running as hard as they can all the time, as one cannot maintain this pace the entire marathon. Hence they need to find a maintainable pace at which they finish the marathon as fast as possible: the optimal pace problem. It turns out that this very general problem is occurring far more often in normal day life and in business than most of us realise. Furthermore, it turns out […]
Veel mensen maken zich zorgen over de gevolgen van automatisering. Deze mensen zijn bang dat hun banen vervangen zullen worden door robots en dat zij daardoor in de toekomst werkloos zullen worden. Betekent automatisering echter wel werkloosheid? Een tegenstrijdig voorbeeld hiervan is de uitvinding van de geldautomaat in het jaar 1939. Het aantal bankbedienden (mensen die achter het loket of de balie werken) is namelijk in 1970 verdubbeld ten opzichte van het jaar 1939, oftewel voor de automatisering. Verrassend genoeg zorgde deze uitvinding dus voor meer werkgelegenheid. Wat doen deze bankbedienden nu dan? Hebben zij […]
Reality is probably not what it seems. The simulation hypothesis proposes that all of reality, including the earth and the universe, is in fact, a computer simulation. This proposition is, in fact, based on fundamental principles of human reasoning. Billions of years have passed since the formation of the earth. Early carbon-based life forms have had compelling experiences, to say the least. Imagine for a second, that the senses we experience, the things we observe, are all but a simulation, in which we are the “sims”. Computational power is increasing at an unprecedented rate, unlike […]
With over 86,000 people infected and around 3,000 people killed, the new Coronavirus is something to be taken very seriously. The new virus which has been called Covid-19 was discovered in Wuhan, China earlier this year. Not only has it taken a big toll on the Chinese economy, other countries in the world are being affected by the virus as well. In order to tackle the virus, several organisations have volunteered to help China with the fight against the virus. Moreover, several scientists are coming up with models to predict where and when the virus […]
Ciara, Dennis en Ellen. Over het algemeen niet de namen die bijzondere emoties aanwakkeren, maar toch zijn ze al weken het onderwerp bij menig ‘koffiezetapparaat gesprek’. Wie de laatste tijd het nieuws heeft gevolgd, zal het vast niet ontgaan zijn dat Nederland geteisterd is door een aantal stormen. Dit is niet anders dan andere jaren, echter zijn de stormen door de stormnaamgeving wel een stuk beter te bespreken. Sinds september 2019 heeft Nederland zich aangesloten aan een stormnamen systeem van EUMETNET, een netwerk van Europese Nationale Meteorologische Diensten. Nederland maakt deel uit van de […]
“Why is playing darts even called a sport? I could do this with my eyes closed!”: just one of the many prejudices a lot of people have when speaking about the oh-so controversial ‘sport’ darts. The fact that most of us only play darts when we are drunk and that most of the professional darts players you see on television are not in great shape does not really help getting these stereotypes out of the world. But trust me on this one: for mathematicians and statisticians, analysing the game of darts is a real sport! […]
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