Gwonsang Shin

Air Traffic Control Specialist, Republic of Korea Air Force

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Could algorithmic approaches control all of the variables in reality?

I've always been interested in mathmatical approaches for solving business problems (Operation Researches, Management Science). Meanwhile, I saw a TED talk named 'How algorithms shape our world'. I partially agree with Kelvin Slavin. Algorithms are useful and effective. But, I want to ask something about it. Are they perfect?

Algorithms are also 'man-made' methods for solving problems or implementing methodology, even predicting the future (proficiency, feasibility of business investment, etc). There are tons of variables in reality and algorithmic apporaches couldn't calculate all the variables I guess. And there are also variables that couln't even be digitized. And algorithmic approaches have flaws in themselves. They could crash each other.

I'm not speciallized in computer engineering, so I'd appreciate any info you might have. Thank you! :)

  • Oct 15 2012: We are still struggling with creating a good model to predict the weather. :)

    Good luck with more complex problems.
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      Oct 17 2012: Are there any algorithms with forecasting the weather?? i thought that forecasting the weather is related to mechanical things like buoy, weather radar...
      • Oct 17 2012: After you have collected the data with the mechanical devices, you use a computer, which is programed with algorithmic software to compute a weather prediction.The probabilities for predicting the weather are pretty good over a large land or water mass but falls off as the area becomes smaller.

        The simple answer to your question "Could algorithms control all the variables in reality is, I think, no, unless reality is just a computer program itself.

        Maybe you should try to define what an algorithm is, as you see it? It's really hard to determine what it is you are asking. Sorry if I'm no help. :)

        I will add something. When I used to go sailing, there were two moments I noticed that were very intriguing to me. The first was when I would stand at the edge of the dock and wait for the sun to come up. Always, just before the sun broke over the horizon, there was this small rush of wind I could feel. It was always there. I think it was the wind that runs just in front of the sun as it is chased by the heat of the sun. The other moment is when I step off the dock. For some reason, all my problems, all the complexities of the world stay on the dock and fail to follow me on board the boat. I feel detached from the idea of complexity, that algorithmic world, spoken of in the TED videos.

        The world of the algorithms, is just an illusion that has no real basis in reality. It's just information and information has no weight nor does it occupy space. It's just an illusion that has no meaning outside of what our minds give to it. Reality is the wind filling my sails and taking me to new adventures.
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          Oct 20 2012: Well thanks a lot. I am interested in your sailing, cause I am Korean NAVY officer candidate.
  • Oct 20 2012: "Could algorithmic approaches control all of the variables in reality?"

    No, at a fundamental level the uncertainty principle prohibits this and you'll run into computing power problems long before you reach that level of accuracy.
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    Oct 19 2012: can't, assumptions based on zero cannot exist
  • Oct 18 2012: I finally realize what bothers me about your question.

    Years ago I was a better-than-average computer programmer.

    Variables control algorithms, not the other way around.
  • Oct 18 2012: Only if you considered reality to be an algorithmic approach.

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    Oct 16 2012: If by the word "control" you mean know the future, the answer is no.
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    Oct 15 2012: i dont know whether it can or not ,cause my math is very poor in my school life ,and i seldom talk about math

    while i always use physic to direct my life .

    i put many physic theories to my life and recently i find a formula which is

    matter+time +energy =life .

    very useful one ,how can you direct your life with math can you give me a formula?
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      Oct 15 2012: I have one powerful formula that is going through our lives. That is, Life = 1/2 Happiness + 1/2 Sadness.
      Have a happy day :)
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        Oct 15 2012: really ? i think most of people do not agree with you ,because many people are optimisc .they have much more happinese than sadness .dont you think so .

        i think i am a person of that ,because when i laugh,i dont not cry to equal it ,lol.
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          Oct 15 2012: Good to hear that! But I'm not that kind of optimistic person I guess.. ?! :) Well, I prefer focusing on the reality of the society (even the dark sides of the society) to thinking brightly.
          This world is double-faced like Janus!

          I envy your optimism!
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    Oct 15 2012: algorithms are good if

    1, we have data, and
    2, the problem space is reasonably small, that is, we can calculate it within a satisfactory time frame

    with the former being the stronger limitation
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      Oct 15 2012: Oh, I see... Then, commercial market is reasonably small(for calculating) but, there are also uncountable variables too. Is that right?
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        Oct 15 2012: the market seriously lacks data. the most important question on the market is how will it react to a new product or a new price. we don't have reliable data about how the human mind reacts to stimuli. we don't even scratch the surface, despite the vast amount of effort and experiments. and we don't hope for a breakthrough in the field either.
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          Oct 15 2012: There are lots of different humans and different demands. How will these demands(humans) react to economic stimuli should be hard-to-predict. (maybe impossible..?)I've been really interested in demand forecating. Some day, I hope me to predict quantitative & qualitative reaction of the market. Well, this dream can be a vapor in the air.let me see this. Thanks for your kind reply. I understand the imperfection of the argorithms thanks to you.
        • Oct 15 2012: I agree with this. Also, until we become more globalized and open with our data, we are a long way off from creating or implementing a lot of interesting algorithms
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          Oct 15 2012: Come on guys, it was human error at not wanting to see actual unfolding of the real time data that lead to the crash in 07'

          The entire system was built on a few stating that this is a good possible bet so we recommend it with the highest result possible, a certain amount of greed is good but what we just went through made idiots out of the planet that delved into it while ignoring the few warning bells that came along.

          We tend to ignore history.
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          Oct 17 2012: @brown. I agree with you, but there are beneficial points of algorithm also.
  • Oct 15 2012: I think the game changers for AI will be rationalizing, recognizing context, situational awareness, and applying lessons learned to present situations. It almost requires a machine to have an underlying philosophy of human interaction that is constantly updated based on sensory data collected. It a machine can achieve this, it may learn. It may be coming to one conclusion on the spot, then later get more information and learn the decision was incorrect, then learn to be less confident about a decision or to ask additional questions at a later time. Machines need to also understand the potential of their own bad decisions and bad sensor data, particularly when the decisions being made are radically different than past knowledge and experience. Machines need to develop a threshold for confidence in decisions relative to risk analysis. Saying nothing may be wiser than making the best guess at a given time. Machines need to be able to put situations in the context of nature, for example weather and he biological needs of humans.

    I think there are many areas where just a problem solving algorithm is not enough.

    Watson is headed down the right path.
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    Oct 15 2012: Beware the Unknown Variable!
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      Oct 15 2012: You probably agree that algoritms contain imperfect factors in it, don't you?
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        Oct 15 2012: A "perfect" world would need no algorithms, so, yes, I agree that, philosophically, all algorithms are inherently imperfect.
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          Oct 15 2012: Imperfect algorithms... well, supposing that imperfection is a humanism, algorithms are humane. :)
          Algorithms are useful, but finally people should focus on the humane factors...

          Thanks a lot.