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The Data-Driven Life

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the mining-minutiae dept.

Math 96

theodp recommends a somewhat long and rambling article by Wired's Gary Wolf, writing in the NY Times Magazine, on recording and mining data about your personal life. "In the cozy confines of personal life, we rarely used the power of numbers. The imposition on oneself of a regime of objective record keeping seemed ridiculous. And until a few years ago, it would have been pointless to seek self-knowledge through numbers. But now, technology can analyze every quotidian thing that happened to you today. 'Four things changed,' explains Wolf. 'First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to get an inkling of the rise of a global superintelligence known as the cloud.' And the next thing you know, exercise, sex, food, mood, location, alertness, productivity, even spiritual well-being are being tracked and measured, shared and displayed."

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96 comments

Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Interesting)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059772)

I see it as a rise of the Many-to-Many relationship.

Amazon suggestions, Netflix movies. Facebook.

The many-to-many relationship, long overlooked in database construction because of the complexities it brings with it, has now come onto it's own and is changing our lives.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32059820)

Following that same chain of thought, I think AJAX also has a ridiculous amount to do with it. It seems stupid, but none of this social-networking-track-and-share-everything really came about until it was easy for the average user to built these complex data structures. Loading a new page, or being forced to create your data in a certain order to link it to other data was too complicated or too much of a hassle for most people. Now that everything can easily just be thrown together in a streamlined process, it really took off.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32059894)

That doesn't follow.

These connections can be made without any user input. You visit a product while logged in to a site, record made. Then you visit another, another record made. Connection between the two products is also made, the products can now show up on a "you may also like.. " list. No need for AJAX or other buzzcronyms.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059878)

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me. That's one of the main things I learned watching DS9 (especially with regard to Elim Garak).

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Funny)

dnwq (910646) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059982)

So... did you really watch DS9? ;)

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Funny)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059998)

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me.

Whoah... is that like "This sentence is a lie." Those things always confused me.

*stares at navel* ..

*clicks submit*

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060076)

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me. That's one of the main things I learned watching DS9 (especially with regard to Elim Garak).

And who, exactly, do you think cares enough about you in some nefarious way for this practice to be useful? Odds are you're not a retired spy on the run from old enemies, or anything else that would make you worth keeping tabs on.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060098)

What makes you think I'm not? Besides, it amuses me.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060302)

...who, exactly, do you think cares enough about you in some nefarious way

Nothing intently nefarious is implied. It's simply exploiting aggregate knowledge to the benefit of those with money. As Carl Sagan said: The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32063746)

And who, exactly, do you think cares enough about you in some nefarious way for this practice to be useful?

Oh, I don't know. Off the top of my head, insurance companies, ex-spouses, political opponents (if he ever runs for anything), human resources people, district attorneys, on and on.

No matter how much of a nobody you are, there is always somebody that cares. Interesting, your sig implies a more subtle understanding than your post suggests.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (4, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060184)

"Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?"
"My dear Doctor, they're all true."
"Even the lies?"
"Especially the lies."
- Garak and Bashir (DS9: "The Wire")

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060312)

"I don't appreciate Cardassian mystery novels. The police arrest a suspect, interrogate him, and he confesses. All the suspects are always guilty." "Doctor, we're all guilty. The only question is: of what?"

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060282)

That’s just as dumb if not even dumber than spreading correct information about you.
Why? Because misinformation can bite you back later. And it can be much worse for you.
Say you state that you were in place X, and it happens to be the location of a crime. And that’s a mild one.

The wisest thing is to understand how the human mind works: We only remember differences from normal. That’s even true for the programs that we write. We always seek the differences from normal. Encryption works that way.

The best thing of course, is to not put any information at all out there. But if you got no choice, only putting default Joe Random information out there that everybody expects anyway might be wiser. Even wiser is it, to not make the information too perfectly generic. Because that is a exception again, and therefore will get noticed too.

But I just prefer the 3-identity lifestyle online.
1. My very private identity. Only available to people I know in real life *and* trust.
2. My official online identity. Available to all people in real life and online that I know personally.
3. My anonymous online identity. Not known to anyone but me. Completely distinct from everything up there, yet not suspicious. Only linked by a single mailinator-like e-mail address. The trick to keep you from revealing that this is you, is to name your user and e-mail address after something you don’t want anyone in RL to ever know. A weird sexual fetish will do very well. But I bet you know your secret. :)

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32062034)

If you truly don't want or intend for anybody in real life to ever learn your sexual fetish, then you truly deserve to be pitied.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 4 years ago | (#32086190)

unless that situation is his fetish

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062826)

The wisest thing is to understand how the human mind works: We only remember differences from normal. That's even true for the programs that we write. We always seek the differences from normal. Encryption works that way.

Steganography works by disguising things as other, mundane things. Encryption simply renders the original message incomprehensible without the proper key, and is extremely noticeable, unless you think it's normal to send messages composed of white noise.

Vernor Vinge science fiction (3, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060284)

This idea is in Vinge's work. A group called the Friends of Privacy tries to dilute the flood of accurate information about people by spreading erroneous information, making net searches on people less useful.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060286)

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me.

That's interesting. Generally, I just try to seminate as much as possible.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060390)

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me.

I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about you too.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060846)

> I make it a point to disseminate misinformation about me.

Wow!

Must moderate as troll, no, Insightful, no, Off-topic, no, funny, no, Informative, no...

WARNING!

QUANTUM STATE REACHED!

SINGULARITY TO START IN T-5... 4...3...2...1... System going for reboot NOW

Why is this shit on Slashdot? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32059962)

I expect to see a stupid or shitty article linked to here on Slashdot every so often. It happens. But the presence of this article here is just absurd!

It's bullshit from top to bottom. When it's not delivering outright misinformation, it's making baseless assumptions, or misusing common terms.

Seriously, what the fuck does "rise of a global superintelligence known as the cloud" mean? Aside from the obvious misuse of "cloud" since it's just the buzzword-of-the-day, there is no "global superintelligence". Facebook and twitter are made up of the same morons and dumbfucks we deal with every day. If there's a "global" anything, it's a global idiocy.

Re:Why is this shit on Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060300)

It is a time when, even if nets were to guide all consciousness that had been converted to photons and electrons toward coalescing, standalone individuals have not yet been converted into data to the extent that they can form unique components of a larger complex.

Re:Why is this shit on Slashdot? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062406)

You must be new here. Anything theodp posts is either buzzword infested hype or hysterical overreaction based of misinformation and hearsay.

I think he's a sockpuppet manipulated by some researcher in social psychology or the like; that makes us the rats.

Re:Why is this shit on Slashdot? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32063218)

there is no "global superintelligence". Facebook and twitter are made up of the same morons and dumbfucks we deal with every day. If there's a "global" anything, it's a global idiocy.

Mod parent Insightful. The intelligence of crowds is not cumulative. The article summary was like goatse, but with words.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32061130)

Neo4j graph database: Where relationships are frist class citizens.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

lonecrow (931585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32068850)

This was rated 4 interesting? Since when have many-to-many relationship been overlooked or difficult in databases? Granted I find change the brakes on my Sabaru dificult but thats because I am not a mechanic. However many-to-many relationships are trivially easy but I guess thats because I am a DBA. So please don't confuse the fact that you don't know something with that thing being difficult.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32069330)

Correction: My post is rated "5, Interesting" not "4, Interesting". Please check your facts before posting.

Re:Rise of the Many-to-Many (1)

lonecrow (931585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32069440)

Failure to display timestamps on mod point assignments does not denote a failure of my fact checking team. I keep them well fed and trained.

the pythagoreans called (2, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059782)

they want their rationality back...

Re:the pythagoreans called (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059866)

It's a good thing IEEE 754 can't represent irrationals...

Re:the pythagoreans called (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32059934)

it's a good thing NIGGERS can't represent constructive contributions to society. unless homie-g thug culture is your idea of constructive or unless you really like peanuts

Re:the pythagoreans called (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060162)

Black people like Charlie Brown cartoons?

Re:the pythagoreans called (4, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060116)

Funny story. The Pythagoreans in fact believed(religiously) that all numbers were in fact rational; that is very number can be expressed as a/b, where a and b are integers. When a mathematician called Hippasus proved (using the Pythagorean theorem) that the square root of 2 was irrational, the Pythagorean were so offended, they killed him.

Having digressed, I will return to the topic at hand by saying that most people often for get that just because you can do something, that doesn't mean that you should. Just because we now have the technology to tag, monitor, follow and record everyone at all times, it is not necessarily going to be good for anyone if we do so.

This and many similar suggestions are based on what Edmund Burke--writing in the wake of the French Revolution--called "levelling reason". Without some kind of grounding; without a philosophical or moral compass, people and societies can lose their way particularly when enabled by new technologies. Ridiculous ideas and notions, contrary to all prior reason, are lauded as rational, neccessary and beneficial developments and will indeed may appear as such especially to those devoid of any real education or philosophical grounding. Unfortunately, this group now encompasses the majority of those entrusted with making decisions in society, as well as their backers. No one listens to calm thinkers anymore; everyone just listens to PR men.

We are turning into the society Burke feared. One dominated by emotive, shallow views which applies naive levelling reason to all problems it encounters. This is why our prisons are filling up as crime goes down; why our internet is being censored even as our society becomes more tolerant; why our politics becomes more polarised even as our political parties become more homogeneous. And it is why we seek to gather vast, unprecedented amounts of data about ourselves without bothering to really try and use it, or to consider the consequences of doing so.

For most stories like this, despite the modern age and technologies involved, ninety percent of these--usually negative--consequences can be discovered by a simple reading of Aesop's Fables. Not that anyone--particularly the people who report them--will bother to. As a society, uur reasoning remains at a primary school level and rationality is something we can only apply to numbers, not ourselves.

Re:the pythagoreans called (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060656)

We are turning into the society Burke feared. One dominated by emotive, shallow views which applies naive levelling reason to all problems it encounters

I blame Fox News.

Re:the pythagoreans called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32061592)

We are turning into the society Burke feared. One dominated by emotive, shallow views which applies naive levelling reason to all problems it encounters

I blame Fox News.

Why bother? That's just a symptom.

Re:the pythagoreans called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060926)

It's true that there are dangers associated with sharing so much information, but that misses the point of the QS movement. QS, like FOSS, is about sharing anecdotes about their data at this point because they're trying to make progress on building tools and techniques that can benefit everyone. For example, anyone can write their own program to do calculations, but until VisiCalc came along most people didn't do very complicated calculations. QSers don't insist that everyone makes their data available, only that we each have a right to our own data: "information wants to be free" and all that. QSers make an active choice to share their experiences, despite the privacy concerns.

It's also not true that no one is thinking about the security and privacy implications of this movement. Any technology at an early enough stage lacks real security in exchange for being able to make progress in usability (Internet, anyone?). It's fun and easy to criticize ideas that make compromises, but seriously, if the folks at ARPA had followed your advice we would (still) be waiting for a fully deployed public key infrastructure before the Internet technologies were allowed out of academic institutions.

Re:the pythagoreans called (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062256)

And yet, ironically, you have railed at this use of reason without applying any of your own. You wail that people embracing new technologies do so without and moral guidance or grounding, implicitly crying wolf. Yet you fail to point out any specific danger. Where is the potential harm in the behaviour described in the article?

Your third paragraph in particular is worthy of an astologer or palm reader. Vague, generic alarm backed up by wooly thinking.

Re:the pythagoreans called (1)

javilon (99157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062382)

Well, what really happens is that if something can be done, there is always someone willing to do it. This is a consequence of the current diversity in cultures, politics and individual views of the world (which I take to be a good thing overall).

So if information can be shared easily, there is going to be people using P2P. If personal information is easy to record and share, there is going to be people doing it.

At the end of the day, morality is just a set of frozen rules that used to work. But this days our world is changing fast.

Now, what the consequences of this are, we don't know. We are close to the sigularity and things are going to be getting more unpredictable as time goes on.

You are dimmer than an eco lightbulb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32071018)

The very fact that the data can be gathered and exchanged between organisations in exchange for money tells us that it is possible to stop the data falling into the hands of the many (why would anyone pay for it otherwise). With the right laws and a will to police those laws a powerful organisation (such as a government) can ban pretty much anything if it wants to. The problem is that the government is often working hand in hand with business and makes laws to suit them rather than the people who they are supposed to represent.

Air force personnel working together could steal a nuclear weapon and bomb the Isle of Wight (on the south coast of England). They could, but they haven't. Just because it can be done, it does not mean that it will be done.

Stop being dim.

Don't feel a need to share (3, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059816)

I have not joined the need-to-share-everything-about-my-life-with-the-world bandwagon. In fact, I have taken steps backward, such as deactivating my Facebook account (good luck trying to actually delete your account). In the data-driven future I plan to be Blank Reg (look it up). Or possibly a new riff on Luddite could be applied to people like me. Social-site Luddite?

Of course, the article is about much more than that and it's very interesting, but that's just my mini-rant.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059932)

I plan to be Blank Reg

Blank is beautiful!

Re:Don't feel a need to share (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060044)

I plan to be Blank Reg

Blank is beautiful!

glad you said blank. black definitely is not so beautiful except in rare cases. the poofy wooly nappy hair and the bigass flat almost jew-like noses just don't do it for me and neither does the greasy hair. you gotta think about "black is beautiful" like all other marketing. if it was really so beautiful they wouldn't need to keep telling you how beautiful it is and make a catch phrase out of it.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060036)

> In the data-driven future I plan to be Blank Reg (look it up).

But you had a FaceSpace account, which you admit cannot be undone. You probably have a Google account as well. Too late for you.

BTW unsurprisingly the concept is not original with Max Headroom. You should be saying "My Name Is Legion", but, as I noted, it's too late for you. It may be too late for me as well, but I'm closer than you are.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060742)

The worst is when someone finds out you exist.

I'm running out of places to hide the bodies of the people that deliver the mail.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061116)

> The worst is when someone finds out you exist.

It only counts if they tell the computers.

> I'm running out of places to hide the bodies of the people that deliver the
> mail.

They're ok: computers are their enemies too. Just make sure all your mail is hand-written and hand-addressed. As soon as you receive anything machine printed you have to move (and don't give a forwarding address: they use computers for that).

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061454)

No Google accounts except for whatever they call their Jabber client, and I have used that exactly once.

"It may be too late for me as well, but I'm closer than you are."

I hope that nick is not your real name.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32065202)

I hope that nick is not your real name.

Of course not. I'm actually a cat. The Naming of Cats [wikipedia.org]

Re:Don't feel a need to share (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060052)

TFA actually talks very little about sharing your data with others (FB etc.) It's about collecting data on yourself, and using that data for your own purposes. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if the people who do this also tend to be people who blog compulsively about their personal lives, but you could certainly do one without the other.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061462)

Well, yes, which is why I mentioned that in my original post and stated that I was just off on a mini rant.

Re:Don't feel a need to share (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061330)

> In the data-driven future I plan to be Blank Reg (look it up).

But the REAL Blank Reg is using that identity. You will have to be Blank "Concerned Onlooker" or something.

Article needs a course in experimental design (3, Interesting)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059836)

Each little personal anecdote in the article makes my inner statistician scream.

Barooah wasn’t about to try to answer a question like this with guesswork. He had a good data set that showed how many minutes he spent each day in focused work. With this, he could do an objective analysis. Barooah made a chart with dates on the bottom and his work time along the side. Running down the middle was a big black line labeled “Stopped drinking coffee.” On the left side of the line, low spikes and narrow columns. On the right side, high spikes and thick columns. The data had delivered their verdict, and coffee lost.

Lookie! I made a graph and it shows something! It MUST be causation, there is no other explanation.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059946)

Lookie! I made a graph and it shows something! It MUST be causation, there is no other explanation.

He made a graph. That's more than most people do. And yes, its enough to move from 'anecdote' to 'supporting data'. Is it enough to make a general conclusion about the effect of coffee on society? No. Is it enough to make a limited conclusion about the effect of coffee on him? Still no.

But is it enough to suggest maybe he should continue avoiding coffee? Sure. Why not?

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060128)

I guess it's unclear that i'm not trying to criticize the experimenter. It's the authors use of phrases like "good data set", "objective analysis", and "the data had delivered a verdict" that anger me.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (2, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060330)

It's the authors use of phrases like "good data set", "objective analysis", and "the data had delivered a verdict" that anger me.

If that's enough to anger you, may I suggest laying off the coffee?

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060756)

Lay off coffee?

Are you trying to make him angry?

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32061576)

You won't like him when he's angry.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060406)

Let me boil that down:

He made a graph. That's more than most people do.

Ad populum fallacy [wikipedia.org] .

And yes, its enough to move from 'anecdote' to 'supporting data'.

This is just a statement about “something’s enough”. Ok, but without arguing why, it’s worthless.

Is it enough to make a general conclusion about the effect of coffee on society? No.

While I agree, this is another statement without any arguments supporting it, still hanging freely in the air. We’ll see...

Is it enough to make a limited conclusion about the effect of coffee on him? Still no.

I also agree on this. But it is a third statement awaiting supporting arguments. Let’s hope that now they’ll come...

But is it enough to suggest maybe he should continue avoiding coffee? Sure.

Oh no. You blew your last line on yet another castle in the clouds. Where’s the "why"?

Why not?

Well, the GP comment already made the point why not. And since your answer only consisted of a logical fallacy, and four empty statements without anything backing them up, let alone common paradigms to start from, that point still stands. :)

(Btw: GP’s point was paraphrased, so I’ll repeat it in a direct way, to avoid confusion: Correlation is not causation [wikipedia.org] . Which is a reaction to the logical fallacy with the same name [wikipedia.org] , that is so well known around here. Unfortunately he also missed to point out, why that is true. He just assumed, being parroted around that much, we all knew it anyway. But since that is clearly not good enough, here’s the explanation why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation [wikipedia.org] )

In short: Unless you eliminate the billion other variables, you will never know for sure. :)

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

Truth is life (1184975) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060834)

However, there's no practical way for him to get data that would allow him to conclude causation. With only one test subject, and presumably being aware of the differences between regular and decaf coffee, he cannot perform a blinded study. In this case, the best he can do (without getting very silly) is to look at the data, see if it has a strong correlation (which apparently it did), and examine if there were any confounding variables that might have altered. For example, he might have changed jobs from one allowing little sleep, and much of that irregular, to one allowing much more regular sleep, which might cause similar effects. In the event that there aren't any confounding variables he can detect, then that correlation is the best evidence he can get that whatever he happens to be doing (in this case, not drinking coffee) is better than whatever else he could be doing.

(BTW, the fallacy is actually reverse ad populum. After all, he was arguing that everyone not doing it meant it was better.)

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061908)

Frankly, I'm not even sure what you are arguing here. It seems like you are arguing he should draw no conclusion from his efforts, due to its lack of rigor, and unexplored limitations...

But people MUST make countless decisions each day based on far less than that. So having even this little serves as very convincing evidence in a world that usually gives you far less. It is entirely rational for him to lay off the coffee based on his experiment.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

welcher (850511) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061924)

The guy doesn't need to prove causation to give up coffee, he just needs to show strong correlation with what he want's to achieve an giving up coffee. The actual, physical cause may be interesting to find but is not what the guy is aiming for -- he just wants to concentrate better. In many cases correlation provides a very good proxy for causation.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32062524)

He made a graph. That's more than most people do.

Ad populum fallacy [wikipedia.org].

If he'd said "Making a graph must be good, everybody does it!" you might have a point. Read again, and weep, moron.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (2, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060112)

So if you wanted to know the effect of coffee intake on your productivity -- not the population in general, but you personally; remember that caffeine is a drug to which many people react idiosyncratically -- how would you suggest designing the experiment? Speaking as a fellow statistician, I'd say it sounds like the guy's doing the best he can with what he's got to work with.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (2, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060370)

> So if you wanted to know the effect of coffee intake on your productivity --
> not the population in general, but you personally; remember that caffeine is
> a drug to which many people react idiosyncratically -- how would you suggest
> designing the experiment?

Buy a can of decaf, a can of regular, and two containers. Label one container "A" and one "B". Have an assistant put the decaf in one and the regular in the other out of your sight and record which is which without letting you see the record. Toss a coin and swap the labels if it comes up heads without letting the assitant see whether you do so or not. Record this, without letting the assistant see. Now no one knows which container has the regular. Drink coffee from "A" for six weeks, recording whatever objective measures you are interested in. Switch to "B" and repeat. Do this three or four times. Analyze your data for systematic differences between "A" and "B". Now compare your assitant's record of which container she put the regular in with your record of whether or not you swapped the labels to determine which data pertains to regular and which to decaf.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (2, Funny)

AndrewBC (1675992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060704)

Experiment log, day 1:
Slapped assistant for taking too long hiding the coffee; Assistant left. Drinking blend of both. It's the only way to be sure.

Experiment conclusions:
I need my coffee.

Mod parent up. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060738)

n/t

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

Truth is life (1184975) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060760)

The problem is that he is very likely to be able to recognize regular versus decaf from their differing effects on his nervous systems, which would render the elaborate (maybe overelaborate--does remixing the labels serve a purpose, since the assistant isn't part of the experiment after that? I don't see how it could improve the blinding, since you're both the subject and the observer) blinding you have proposed useless. In this case, it shows a correlation, possibly quite a strong one, and that is enough for him to keep doing what he's doing.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060784)

It won't work. The amount of caffeine in a couple of cups of coffee isn't something someone who is acclimated can pretend to have consumed.

Before you tell me to try it, try it yourself.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061180)

When researchers doing a double-blind study of the efficacy of a drug notice that half the subjects appear to have been cured of the target disease by the end of the first week they do not declare the study a failure. The point is to have no a priori knowledge as to which is placebo and which is real.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062842)

I understand the point of it. I'm saying (with near certainty) that the research subject would see through the blinds about 1 hour into the study, so they are so much puffery, he might as well just spend 6 weeks drinking his coffee and then spend 6 weeks not drinking coffee (or just drinking decaf), perhaps with a cooling off period in-between to make sure that withdrawal is not impacting the clean period.

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060420)

If you read the original article, linked to from the NYT one:
http://www.kk.org/quantifiedself/2009/10/the-false-god-of-coffee.php

He says:
"Causality is a complex issue. Obviously this is an n=1 experiment and I am intentionally doing other things that may well be improving my concentration, but one thing is very clear; the amount of time I spend concentrating has not deteriorated since I quit coffee, so I can easily reject the hypothesis "I need coffee to help me concentrate.""
Oct 19th 2009.

So, actually, he is way ahead of you on that one.

correlation is so y2k (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060978)

the internet has moved on it.
If you want points for correlation/causation comments go to digg or reddit ;)

Re:Article needs a course in experimental design (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062920)

Each little personal anecdote in the article makes my inner statistician scream.

No they don't. Your inner statistician just happened to cry at the same time you read these anecdotes. Correlation is not causation, and personal anecdotes prove nothing :p.

Lookie! I made a graph and it shows something! It MUST be causation, there is no other explanation.

Oh, I'm sure that there are plenty of possible explanations; however, since he has a priori knowledge that caffeine has an effect on central nervous system, it's entirely reasonable - that is to say, the simplest explanation - ro say that it's the lack of caffeine that's causing the differences in behaviour.

It just goes to say that unthinking adherence to any ideology, even the scientific method, will sometimes make you jump to really dumb conclusions. You must think, consider, ask yourself if your objection is applicable to the situation. Otherwise it is you who are committing an error, the error being that you misapplied a rule where it did not hold.

Also, I shouldn't have watched a Powerpuff Girls marathon before posting :). Which is to say, the Powerpuff Girls marathon has made me write in a not so short, concise, and to the point fashion, due to the lingering effects it has had on my central nervous system, due to causation, not mere correlation, which is to say it has caused them rather than just happening to have happened at the same time by random coincidence or some third, unknown factor that has caused both.

How retarded. (4, Insightful)

sudog (101964) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059844)

"Superintelligence" known as the cloud?

There's not even any need to read such tripe. In fact, I hate everyone who read that story after seeing the word "superintelligence" linked with "cloud."

There is no bound to the contempt writers of pieces like this should be shown, nor to all of the idiots who were involved in reposting it here.

Re:How retarded. (1)

donotlizard (1260586) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059912)

"Superintelligence" known as the cloud?

There's not even any need to read such tripe. In fact, I hate everyone who read that story after seeing the word "superintelligence" linked with "cloud."

There is no bound to the contempt writers of pieces like this should be shown, nor to all of the idiots who were involved in reposting it here.

Awesome! Also, I'm not sure anyone has the time and/or desire to analyze their daily routines, including coffee consumption.

Re:How retarded. (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060298)

Indeed, it seems the most likely effect is that, if the data-collection becomes easy, they'll outsource the data-analysis to someone else. It won't be empowering people to make decisions about their own lives with more information than they had before. Rather, it'll just strengthen the tendency many people already have to abdicate responsibility for their own lives, and expect someone else to tell them what they should do. In this glorious future, they can collect a bunch of data about all aspects of their life, and someone will tell them what they're doing right/wrong, and what they should change.

Re:How retarded. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060810)

> In this glorious future, they can collect a bunch of data about all aspects
> of their life, and someone will tell them what they're doing right/wrong,
> and what they should change.

No. They won't collect the data. They'll "outsource" that to: they'll buy a dohicky from Apple (or Google will give them one). It will upload the data to "the cloud"[1] and they will get back "suggestions"

[1] "The cloud" is going to become the popular term for any sort of off-site processing or storage regardless of whether it involves Amazon's EC2 or a mainframe in a basement in Chicago.

great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32059846)

constant surveillance of your life, data stored in the cloud and all of that without an orwellian government pushing you to do that / ok not until a terrorist attack which justifies total surveillance.
Who controls the controllers, again...

Consillyness & FiSci (0, Offtopic)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059904)

The word consilience [wikipedia.org] was apparently coined by William Whewell, in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 1840. In this synthesis Whewell explained that, "The Consilience of Inductions takes place when an Induction, obtained from one class of facts, coincides with an Induction obtained from another different class. Thus Consilience is a test of the truth of the Theory in which it occurs."

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge [wikipedia.org] is a 1998 book by biologist E. O. Wilson. In this book, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences and might in the future unite them with the humanities. Wilson prefers and uses the term consilience to describe the synthesis of knowledge from different specialized fields of human endeavor. ... . ... "Definition of consilience "Literally a 'jumping together' of knowledge by the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation.""

Biologist E.O. Wilson Pens Fiction Science: FiSci on Wednesday April 14, @06:05AM mindbrane Submitted by mindbrane on Wednesday April 14, @06:05AM mindbrane writes "Wired is running a short interview with noted naturalist and biologist E.O. Wilson as he speaks to the publication of his first novel. "Anthill [wwnorton.com] tells the parallel stories of Raff Cody, a southern lawyer trying to preserve the wilderness of his youth, and the epic territorial wars among the ants that inhabit that land. Wilson has argued that our behavior is governed by genetics and evolutionary imperatives. In Anthill, he turns that conviction into a narrative technique, writing about human nature with the same detachment he uses when explaining how worker ants lick the secretions of their larvae for nourishment. But Wilson's novel is also an emotional plea to safeguard wild landscapes. Wilson talked to Wired about ants, evolution, and the creative aspects of the scientific process."

"The mind is just the brain doing its job." is a quote from an American neuroscientist, S. Levy (i think). The brain is stupefyingly complex. It seems to be widely distributed in terms of nodes and massively parallel processed. For example, a well known experiment had subjects meet a potential significant other in two settings. In one setting the meeting took place in mundane surroundings. In another setting the meeting took place on a high suspension bridge. In the second instance the same potential significant other was seen as much more attractive. The conclusion was drawn that the brain layers experiences and stuff leaks from one layer to another. If your in an exciting circumstance it's likely someone you meet there will appear more interesting. Just from this one experiment and the known complexity of our brains it should be at least likely that attempts to quantify our existentialist experience is doomed, happily in my opinion. It's not unlikely that if you subscribe to such a method and submit to a data driven religious experience then, more likely in the company of others who share your methods and beliefs, you'll get a rewarding experience, but it'll be a belief driven quasi religious experience none the less.

no, i did not RTFA.

Re:Consillyness & FiSci (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060152)

If you decided not to RTFA or say anything even remotely close to commenting on the subject, why the hell did you post?

Re:Consillyness & FiSci (0, Flamebait)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32066754)

why the hell did you post?

really, why the hell did you post? i'm not looking for any guidance from an asshole like you so why don't you just fuck off.

Re:Consillyness & FiSci (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32067238)

i really didn't know so many jerk off little moderators were paying so much attention to me. you can fuck off too or just go fuck yourselves collectively.

Huh (4, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059924)

How about pretentious writing about the future. Is anyone tracking that?

Easy (3, Informative)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060074)

Ask the megacloud to track the writing pretention quotient rate of change across social networking superintelligence thegoogle synergy.

Re:Huh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060276)

Yes, we're archiving Slashdot posts.

Re:Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060812)

My BS detector exploded on reading (1)

yellowstone (62484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060172)

"global superintelligence known as the cloud."

Re:My BS detector exploded on reading (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060340)

"global superintelligence known as the cloud."

What, you haven't joined SkyNet yet? Get with the times, man

Not a good article, source is a lot better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060254)

This blog post which was linked by the ridiculous times article is significantly better than the article itself. http://www.kk.org/quantifiedself/2009/10/the-false-god-of-coffee.php [kk.org]

seems like it'll enable more cargo-cult stuff (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060258)

One of the natural brakes on ridiculous cargo-cult self-help, diet, motivation, and other such fads is that nobody bothers to follow them too religiously. Now it'll be easier than ever to actually know for sure if you're following the latest pseudoscientific fad, because you'll have the data right there to validate! Hey, my friend John told me you should make sure your Baz data reading always stays under 7.2, except in the evenings it's okay if it goes up!

Green Diamond (1)

JDark (512354) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060376)

I just want to know when I will be getting the green diamond over my head.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060452)

Fuck the cloud!

It's on tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060884)

I haven't lost my mind. I'm sure I've got a backup around here somewhere.

Summary is very misleading (3, Informative)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 4 years ago | (#32061318)

From the quotation given, you might think TFA was about "the cloud" and sharing data in it. It's not, despite the fact that many posts in response seem to think it is.

Basically, the article is about people who collect data about their own lives and then analyze it. Most of the anecdotes given in the article have nothing to do with online communities, media, etc. If you're a person who has tracked your finances, weight, exercise, etc., you know what this is. The anecdotes give some more extreme versions of this tendency to collect data and analyze things about one's own life.

There is some reflection on how more people can do this now with greater ease because technology facilitates it -- both in data collection and in data representation/analysis. But the "sharing," mobile devices, "social media," "cloud," and such stuff mentioned in the summary quote are barely addressed elsewhere in the article... except as vehicles for personal (i.e., primarily private) data collection.

Quotidian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32064738)

I consider myself to be well-read, but was amazed that I had to look up "quotidian." I'd have more respect for the OP if he had just used the simpler term "daily." Jeez, how obnoxiously highbrow can you go?

Re:Quotidian? (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 4 years ago | (#32065262)

I consider myself to be well-read, but was amazed that I had to look up "quotidian." I'd have more respect for the OP if he had just used the simpler term "daily." Jeez, how obnoxiously highbrow can you go?

"Quotidian" is rarely used outside of technical discourse to mean "daily" anymore. It usually carries more particular connotations -- i.e., stuff that could happen on an average day, but not remarkable. I might say the banal stuff of ordinary life, but I suppose I'd risk being called "obnoxiously highbrow" for using a word like "banal."

Anyhow, most words have specific connotations that differentiate them from similar words. In this case, the writer might have used "ordinary" or "commonplace" or "everyday," but quotidian also carries a connotation of occurring frequently in addition to being (usually) unremarkable -- something that's perfect for the present discussion.

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