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The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible Hardcover – June 6, 2017
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"Shrewd corporate executives are realigning their organizations to harness the burgeoning power of cyberintelligence. ... Nonetheless, both corporate executives and government leaders still need inquisitive and creative humans ... A lucid overview of the management principles rapidly moving that world forward."―Booklist (starred review)
"Much has been written recently about the ability to reach better decisions by application of big data. However, Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern take us a step beyond by introducing The Mathematical Corporation. Leaders of mathematical corporations combine data analytics with the mathematical intelligence of machines and their own creativity to enhance the quality of current and future decisions. A must read for leaders striving to stay contemporary in a rapidly evolving world."―Larry Bossidy, retired chairman and CEO of Honeywell, co-author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done and Confronting Reality
"In this interesting and accessible book, Sullivan and Zutavern challenge us to reconsider assumptions about machines 'taking over,' relegating the human factor to a bygone era. Their hopeful alternative scenario for the future instead clearly shows the importance of leaders and employees who work creatively in symbiosis with machines to achieve greater productivity, better innovation and higher profits."―Amy Webb, founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute and author of The Signals are Talking
"Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern offer a riveting account of the explosive new combination of machine intelligence and executive imagination. Company managers are solving stubborn problems as never before in areas as diverse as health, mobility and security, and The Mathematical Corporation is a compelling call for the digital mastery of market complexity-now."―Michael Useem, professor of management, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China's Great Global Companies
About the Author
Dr. Josh Sullivan is senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton and one of the world's leading experts in data science and machine intelligence.
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In reading this, I was reminded of "The Machine" from Person of Interest, but the real Machine hasn't been built by one Mr. Finch. It's continually being built by all of us every day. The benefits are exciting to imagine. The leaders who will excel are those who ask great questions, impossible questions, mysterious questions. That resonates with me! Questions, here we come!
The first ~third of the book was so bad I'd like to give it one star.
It's quite clear the authors do not have hands-on experience with machine learning or AI, which the book focuses on. While attempts are made to discuss some details, everything is eventually clumped together into the very fluffy concept of "the machine".
Worse, there are some downright dangerous mischaracterizations and blatant factual errors. To point out a few:
- calling machine learning models inherently "more impartial", claiming that bias in the models only exists "if the data scientists writing the algorithms inject it"
- that with the help of AI/ML, leaders will be able to "unravel the mysteries of all the most inscrutable, inaccessible, unmanageable, or unthinkably complex systems in work and nature"
- on page 27 there is a hockey stick graph on computing power that is entirely void of context, dates, data, definitions, depth or anything that would make it useful - and yet the authors claim computing speed increases are "not because of so-called Moore's Law"
- treating machine learning, deep learning and reinforcement learning as discrete, separate things
- while waxing lyrical about the advancements of "the machine", categorically stating there are areas that people will "always" excel in
- highlighting the supposed efficacy of the now-proven-false emotion classification model from the 70's
- claiming increased data storage capability is a "feat possible thanks to the legions of cloud computers linked with new, cheap software"
.. and so on. Really an unnerving amount of cringe-worthy errors, mistakes, misunderstandings or something.
The book redeems itself, to a modest extent, in the latter part where it turns to leadership lessons. None of them are particularly new, but the Lean Startup-methods (which aren't called that in the text btw) are a valid approach, as are some of the attitude adjustments required of leaders. The book does also discuss the potential ethical dilemmas at some length and recommends - at a very high level - sensible privacy approaches.
So, in summary - what to expect:
- a leadership pep talk with some valid very high-level points
- anecdotes from primarily half a dozen companies
- dangerous mischaracterization of AI and machine learning
- "inspirational", highly vague statements of both existing and dawning capabilities of "the machine"
- sensible views on privacy
What NOT to expect:
- any actual frameworks or prescriptions on how best to work with "the machine"
- technical accuracy, or even accurate higher-level technical descriptions
- hard data and proof on pretty much anything