Algorithms

Storytelling with Data
Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. 11/2/2015. Storytelling with Data. 1st ed., Pp. 288. Wiley. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Don't simply show your data—tell a story with it! 

storytelling with data teaches you the fundamentals of data visualization and how to communicate effectively with data. You'll discover the power of storytelling and the way to make data a pivotal point in your story. The lessons in this illuminative text are grounded in theory, but made accessible through numerous real-world examples—ready for immediate application to your next graph or presentation.

Storytelling is not an inherent skill, especially when it comes to data visualization, and the tools at our disposal don't make it any easier. This book demonstrates how to go beyond conventional tools to reach the root of your data, and how to use your data to create an engaging, informative, compelling story.

Specifically, you'll learn how to:

  • Understand the importance of context

  • Determine the appropriate type of graph

  • Recognize and eliminate the clutter

  • Direct your audience's attention

  • Think like a designer when visualizing data

  • Leverage the power of storytelling to help your message resonate with your audience

Together, the lessons in this book will help you turn your data into high-impact visual stories that stick with your audience. Rid your world of ineffective graphs, one exploding 3D pie chart at a time. There is a story in your data—storytelling with data will give you the skills and power to tell it!

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Embedding Ethics in Computer Science Curriculum
Paul Karoff. 1/25/2019. “Embedding Ethics in Computer Science Curriculum.” The Harvard Gazette. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Barbara Grosz has a fantasy that every time a computer scientist logs on to write an algorithm or build a system, a message will flash across the screen that asks, “Have you thought about the ethical implications of what you’re doing?”

Until that day arrives, Grosz, the Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), is working to instill in the next generation of computer scientists a mindset that considers the societal impact of their work, and the ethical reasoning and communications skills to do so.

“Ethics permeates the design of almost every computer system or algorithm that’s going out in the world,” Grosz said. “We want to educate our students to think not only about what systems they could build, but whether they shouldbuild those systems and how they should design those systems.”

At a time when computer science departments around the country are grappling with how to turn out graduates who understand ethics as well as algorithms, Harvard is taking a novel approach.

 

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The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You
Scott E. Page. 11/27/2018. The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You, Pp. 448. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Many-Model Thinker 

This is a book about models. It describes dozens of models in straightforward language and explains how to apply them. Models are formal structures represented in mathematics and diagrams that help us to understand the world. Mastery of models improves your ability to reason, explain, design, communicate, act, predict, and explore.

This book promotes a many-model thinking approach: the application of ensembles of models to make sense of complex phenomena. The core idea is that many-model thinking produces wisdom through a diverse ensemble of logical frames. The various models accentuate different causal forces. Their insights and implications overlap and interweave. By engaging many models as frames, we develop nuanced, deep understandings. The book includes formal arguments to make the case for multiple models along with myriad real-world examples.

The book has a pragmatic focus. Many-model thinking has tremendous practical value. Practice it, and you will better understand complex phenomena. You will reason better. You exhibit fewer gaps in your reasoning and make more robust decisions in your career, community activities, and personal life. You may even become wise.

Twenty-five years ago, a book of models would have been intended for professors and graduate students studying business, policy, and the social sciences along with financial analysts, actuaries, and members of the intelligence community. These were the people who applied models and, not coincidentally, they were also the people most engaged with large data sets. Today, a book of models has a much larger audience: the vast universe of knowledge workers, who, owing to the rise of big data, now find working with models a part of their daily lives.

Organizing and interpreting data with models has become a core competency for business strategists, urban planners, economists, medical professionals, engineers, actuaries, and environmental scientists among others. Anyone who analyzes data, formulates business strategies, allocates resources, designs products and protocols, or makes hiring decisions encounters models. It follows that mastering the material in this book—particularly the models covering innovation, forecasting, data binning, learning, and market entry timing—will be of practical value to many.

Thinking with models will do more than improve your performance at work. It will make you a better citizen and a more thoughtful contributor to civic life. It will make you more adept at evaluating economic and political events. You will be able to identify flaws in your logic and in that of others. You will learn to identify when you are allowing ideology to supplant reason and have richer, more layered insights into the implications of policy initiatives, whether they be proposed greenbelts or mandatory drug tests.

These benefits will accrue from an engagement with a variety of models—not hundreds, but a few dozen. The models in this book offer a good starting collection. They come from multiple disciplines and include the Prisoners’ Dilemma, the Race to the Bottom, and the SIR model of disease transmission. All of these models share a common form: they assume a set of entities—often people or organizations—and describe how they interact.

The models we cover fall into three classes: simplifications of the world, mathematical analogies, and exploratory, artificial constructs. In whatever form, a model must be tractable. It must be simple enough that within it we can apply logic. For example, we cover a model of communicable diseases that consists of infected, susceptible, and recovered people that assumes a rate of contagion. Using the model we can derive a contagion threshold, a tipping point, above which the disease spreads. We can also determine the proportion of people we must vaccinate to stop the disease from spreading.

As powerful as single models can be, a collection of models accomplishes even more. With many models, we avoid the narrowness inherent in each individual model. A many-models approach illuminates each component model’s blind spots. Policy choices made based on single models may ignore important features of the world such as income disparity, identity diversity, and interdependencies with other systems.1 With many models, we build logical understandings of multiple processes. We see how causal processes overlap and interact. We create the possibility of making sense of the complexity that characterizes our economic, political, and social worlds. And, we do so without abandoning rigor—model thinking ensures logical coherence. That logic can be then be grounded in evidence by taking models to data to test, refine, and improve them. In sum, when our thinking is informed by diverse logically consistent, empirically validated frames, we are more likely to make wise choices.

 

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A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay
Noam Scheiber. 12/6/2018. “A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay.” The New York Times. Publisher's VersionAbstract

One day this fall, Ashutosh Garg, the chief executive of a recruiting service called Eightfold.ai, turned up a résumé that piqued his interest.

It belonged to a prospective data scientist, someone who unearths patterns in data to help businesses make decisions, like how to target ads. But curiously, the résumé featured the term “data science” nowhere.

Instead, the résumé belonged to an analyst at Barclays who had done graduate work in physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Though his profile on the social network LinkedIn indicated that he had never worked as a data scientist, Eightfold’s software flagged him as a good fit. He was similar in certain key ways, like his math and computer chops, to four actual data scientists whom Mr. Garg had instructed the software to consider as a model.

The idea is not to focus on job titles, but “what skills they have,” Mr. Garg said. “You’re really looking for people who have not done it, but can do it.”

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Predicting students' happiness from physiology, phone, mobility, and behavioral data
Natasha Jaques. 2015. “Predicting students' happiness from physiology, phone, mobility, and behavioral data”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In order to model students' happiness, we apply machine learning methods to data collected from undergrad students monitored over the course of one month each. The data collected include physiological signals, location, smartphone logs, and survey responses to behavioral questions. Each day, participants reported their wellbeing on measures including stress, health, and happiness. Because of the relationship between happiness and depression, modeling happiness may help us to detect individuals who are at risk of depression and guide interventions to help them. We are also interested in how behavioral factors (such as sleep and social activity) affect happiness positively and negatively. A variety of machine learning and feature selection techniques are compared, including Gaussian Mixture Models and ensemble classification. We achieve 70% classification accuracy of self-reported happiness on held-out test data.

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Meet Your New Boss: An Algorithm
Sam Schechner. 12/10/2017. “Meet Your New Boss: An Algorithm.” The Wall Street Journal. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Uber Technologies Inc. and other pioneers of the so-called gig economy became some of the world’s most valuable private companies by using apps and algorithms to hand out tasks to an army of self-employed workers. Now, established companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and General Electric Co. are adopting elements of that model for the full-time workforce.

Companies say the new tools make them more efficient and give employees more opportunities to do new kinds of work. But the software also is starting to take on management tasks that humans have long handled, such as scheduling and shepherding strategic projects. Researchers say the shift could lead to narrower roles for some managers and displace others.

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