Get ready to be sick of machine learning

There is a new programming technique now making the rounds, called ML or machine learning.

This is a highly improved version of a very old technique, whereby you can take very large data samples, and look for patterns in them. Everyone and their brother is now using these techniques to build artificial intelligence. Pattern matching, like matching a face in a set of photographs is indeed an amazing technique. However, matching people’s faces is not a prediction, or understanding. You will see this technique applied to stock picking, business picking, and innumerable business areas. The flaw in all of it is that it is like driving via the rear-view mirror. If you base your prediction on which stock will go up based on Twitter mentions, then people will create Twitter robots (they already have them) to automatically comment on a stock so it zooms up the mention leaderboard. Everyone of these parameters is subject to manipulation, and so it all becomes circular reasoning. 

In 5 years we will be sick of ML and it will have some spectacular mis-predictions. I have no love of statisticians running the world, but every day government policy becomes more statistical in its basis, and i find it deplorable. Creativity and invention are not statistical. They are an abrupt, unpredictable thing, and they have the power to transform the world, not the following of existing patterns, which a machine learning system can only do.

No amount of statistical work could create Beethoven's 9th Symphony. And if you studied his output you would think oh he will make 10 more symphonies.. but he was deaf at the time he wrote the 9th symphony, which makes it the greatest achievement in the history of the arts (the equivalent of Picasso making his greatest painting if had been blind at the end of his life), but a completely un-reproducible, unpredictable event.

When creative people make something new, the world benefits, and we need to stop worshipping statistics, which can only count what exists.