Category Archive: Reber’s Randomness

Not so much news as random connections from things in the real world to the kinds of things we actively study in the lab.

Jan 10

Adventures in data visualization

If you happen to be a fan of data-driven political analysis, you are probably also well aware of the ongoing challenge of how to effectively and accurately visualize maps that show US voting patterns.  The debate over how to do this has been going on for decades but was nicely summarized in a 2016 article …

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Dec 12

AlphaZero Beats Chess In 4 (!?) hours

Google’s DeepMind group updated their game learning algorithm, now called AlphaZero, and mastered chess.  I’ve seen the game play and it elegantly destroyed the previous top computer chess-playing algorithm (the computers have been better than humans for about a decade now), Stockfish.  Part of what is intriguing about their claim is that the new algorithm …

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Nov 07

Cognitive Symmetry and Trust

A chain of speculative scientific reasoning from our work into really big social/society questions: Skill learning is a thing. If we practice something we get better at it and the learning curve goes on for a long time, 10,000 hours or more.  Because we can keep getting better for so many hours, nobody can really …

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Aug 30

Evidence and conclusions

I think this should be the last note on this topic for awhile, but since it’s topical a new piece of data popped up related to possible sources of gender outcome differences in STEM-related fields.   The new piece of data was reported in the NY Time Upshot section, titled “Evidence of a Toxic Environment …

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Aug 11

See the problem yet?

The entirely predictable backlash against Google for firing the sexist manifesto author has begun.  Among the notable contributors is the NY Time Editorial page in the form of David Brooks.  In support of his position that the Google CEO should resign, he’s even gone so far as to dig up some evolutionary psych types to …

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Aug 08

Anti-diversity “science”

Somebody at Google wrote a memo/manifesto arguing against diversity (mainly gender), caused something of a ruckus and got himself fired.  The author was clearly either trying to get terminated (as a martyr) or simply not very bright.  A particularly articulate explanation of why it is necessary to fire somebody who did what he did is …

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Jun 26

Confirmation bias

Mistaking data consistent with your hypothesis for data establishing your hypothesis is a surprisingly common mistake, even for highly trained, experienced scientists.  The subjective experience is common: you develop and carry around a theory on some topic and over the course of your day, you run into evidence (anecdotes, or other scientific findings) that would …

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Mar 06

Explaining neuroscience

I ran across this link referenced by its title: A neuroscientist explains a concept at five different levels I was initially worried it would annoy me, but eventually decided to take a look at it anyway, figuring it would be interesting at the level of thinking about your audience when describing a complex scientific …

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Jul 27

Surgical skill

One potential application for our basic studies of skill learning is understanding the development of skill in performing surgery.  So I was intrigued when happening to stumble across the following report of factors predicting successful surgical outcomes: Surgeon specialization and operative mortality in United States: retrospective analysis BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 21 July …

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Jul 15

Dark side of intuition — unconscious bias

The occasion is tragic, but I am happy to see some more public discussion of ‘unconscious bias’ in the context of recent events related to the police shootings of minority ‘suspects.’  I particularly like the title of this piece: “A former officer explains why racist police violence occurs even when cops ‘aren’t racist’” I …

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