Gary Smith concludes, “Computers are much better than humans at curve fitting but still far worse at devising models that help us understand and predict the world.”
If regression toward the mean is a nearly universal tendency, how could evolution proceed via sexual selection? Outliers would tend to get reabsorbed far more often than not.
It’s one of the biggest problems in science—and computers are part of the problem.
Smith: When I was a young assistant professor at Yale, one of my senior colleagues, Nobel Laureate James Tobin, wryly observed that the bad old days when researchers had to do calculations by hand were actually a blessing. The effort was so great that people thought hard before calculating. They put theory before data. Today, with terabytes of data and lightning-fast computers, it is too easy to calculate first, think later.
Statistics analyst Gary Smith: Even if COVID-19 deaths are randomly distributed among the population (and they surely aren’t), data mining will, more likely than not, discover a geographic cluster of victims… (Lots of things can start to appear meaningful.)
”As Smith observes, a computer can be programmed to detect instances of the word “betrayal” in scanned texts, but it lacks the concept of betrayal.”
Statistician Gary Smith thinks the real danger today is not that computers are smarter than us, but that we think computers are smarter than us.