How Technology Is Shaping The World Through Algorithms And Complexity

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Sebastian Wernicke: How to use data to make a hit TV show

Dr. Sebastian Wernicke heads the data science department at Solon, a Munich-based consultancy supporting companies and investors in media, entertainment, telecoms, and technology industries. Wernicke originally studied bioinformatics and previously led the strategy and growth of Seven Bridges Genomics, a Cambridge-based startup that builds platforms for genetic analysis.

  • We live in a time where we’re turning to data more and more to make very serious decisions that go far beyond TV and into our everyday life decisions.
  • Even the most data-savvy companies, Amazon and Google, they sometimes get it wrong. And despite all those failures, data is moving rapidly into real-life decision-making — into the workplace, law enforcement, and medicine.
  • Data and data analysis, no matter how powerful, can only help you taking a problem apart and understanding its pieces.It’s not suited to put those pieces back together again and then to come to a conclusion.


Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world

Are you addicted to the dead-simple numbers game Drop 7 or Facebook’s Parking Wars? Blame Kevin Slavin and the game development company he co-founded in 2005, Area/Code, which makes clever game entertainments that enter the fabric of reality. All this fun is powered by algorithms — as, increasingly, is our daily life. From the Google algorithms to the algos that give you “recommendations” online to those that automatically play the stock markets (and sometimes crash them): we may not realize it, but we live in the algoworld.

  • There is the evidence of algorithms in conflict, algorithms locked in loops with each other, without any human oversight, without any adult supervision
  • Algorithms are constantly being uses to predicted our future actions on every aspect of our lives from Netflix to the stock market.
  • We’re designing for machines dialect, yet humans are not capable of understanding the dialect we are creating.
  • Humans are terraforming the earth with algorithmic efficiency, creating passages and data centers to milliseconds over competitors, and creating money from what was previously thought of as impossible.


Eric Berlow: Simplifying Complexity

Eric Berlow is an ecologist and network scientist who specializes in not specializing. A TED Senior Fellow, Berlow is recognized for his research on food webs and ecological networks and for creative approaches to complex problems. He was the founding director of the University of California’s first environmental science center inside Yosemite National Park, where he continues to develop data-driven approaches to managing natural ecosystems. In 2012 Berlow founded Vibrant Data Labs, which builds tools to use data for social good. Berlow’s current projects range from helping spark an egalitarian personal data economy to protecting endangered amphibians in Yosemite to crowd-sourcing novel insights about human creativity. Berlow holds a Ph.D. from Oregon State University in marine ecology.

  • Complex doesn’t always equal complicated.
  • If you want to predict the effect of one species on another, if you focus only on that link, and then you black box the rest, it’s actually less predictable than if you step back, consider the entire system — all the species, all the links — and from that place, hone in on the sphere of influence that matters most.
  • The more you step back, embrace complexity, the better chance you have of finding simple answers, and it’s often different than the simple answer that you started with.
  • In nature, simplicity often lies on the other side of complexity. So for any problem, the more you can zoom out and embrace complexity, the better chance you have of zooming in on the simple details that matter most.