#50: Problem solving: Peer networks

18th century Europe was a particularly exciting time if you were in the seafaring business. There were multiple ventures, several with vast capital investment attempting some very bold goals (most of these ventures would be outright illegal or egregious by today’s standards or ethical standards of any age – colonial ambitions, slave trade et al.... Continue Reading →

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Update your priors!

The other day, I saw a t-shirt slogan – ‘Update your priors!’ These nerdy t-shirt slogans are not uncommon in the Silicon Valley. This one caught my eye – to me, it has never been more relevant given the current swirl of data and analysis around Covid-19, now that epidemiologists and statisticians are in a... Continue Reading →

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Complex Systems: Limits to our understanding

Over the last several weeks, I have been writing about decision making, with the focus being how to get better at navigating VUCA environments. This has been rooted in the paradigm of reasoning and a deterministic view of the world. Which to be sure, works pretty well in most situations. And then we got hit... Continue Reading →

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Problem Solving: Learning from other disciplines

Richard Feynman Richard Feynman (he doesn’t need an introduction) was a consummate problem solver. When asked about his problem-solving techniques, his colleague Murray Gell-Mann (a Nobel Laureate himself) defined the ‘Feynman Problem Solving Algorithm’: Write down the problemThink very hardWrite down the answer While this was partly in jest, this to me captures why it... Continue Reading →

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Navigating extreme events with small data

Here’s a thought experiment: Fred and Bay want to run a coin toss experiment. They want to make sure that the coin is completely unbiased – so they go to the US Mint and get a quarter that has passed all its tests (i.e. there is no manufacturing defect[1]); toss the coin 100 times. They... Continue Reading →

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Designing a Learning System

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes wrote, “reason … is nothing but reckoning (that is, Adding and Subtracting) of the Consequences of generall names agreed upon.” It is widely accepted that with this, he laid the foundation for the Computational theory of the mind. And as often happens in science, one thing led to the other and... Continue Reading →

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#64. Maker Mindset (Continued)

A few weeks ago, I had talked about building an IoT device (Air Quality Index monitor) and how easy the process has become. In the last couple of weeks, I have been working with my 12-year old daughter to build another device – she wanted to build a sensor that would alert when someone walked... Continue Reading →

#63 – Causation and Correlation

Some of you reached out to ask me how the idea of Natural Experiments is any different from the standard experiments (test/control, A/B testing  et al). The latter (let’s call them Controlled experiments) differ in two critically important ways: Controlled experiments have the ability to define the relevant populations upfront. This is a huge advantage... Continue Reading →

#62: Natural Experiments

October is the Nobel Prize month – and most years, we really don’t pay all that much attention (except perhaps the Peace Prize where everyone seems to have an opinion). But then, every once in a while, the Nobel Committee ends up landing on a body of work that you can directly see around you.... Continue Reading →

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