Software Creation Mystery -

Weekly Digest: Computers vs. Humans, Thoughts: Remember or Forget?

Computers carry 70% of foreign currency trades (need subscription)
Computers make one third of all trading decisions in US markets. Experts predict that more than 50% will be done by 2010. Machines can make multiple trades and monitor thousands of stocks at breakneck speed. They can use tactics that makes trades indistinct and hide their intent; for example, by spreading the deal over many small trades. There are big profits to be made before market realizes these opportunities. Companies are moving their servers as close as possible to stock exchange systems to reduce order time: milliseconds matter in competition of computers. There is a new arm race between trading “algos” (algorithms) – they now try to guess and sneak signs of other algos trading. David Cliff designed one of the first commercially successful algos in mid 90s. Human traders still have place on less understood and illiquid markets where instinct and experience are still important; software helps them with simulations and test of ideas. People are still much better in predicting market trends. How much longer?

Comment: First, people, who try competing with these machines for day trading, have less and less chances. Second, the most important that another intellectual human area is given up to computers along with chess and drug creation. What is next? Computers can became smarter than people in the next 20-30 years. They just need to learn how to write programs for themselves.

Human-Aided Computing
Researchers at Microsoft are trying to tap into some of the specialized–and often subconscious–computing power in the human brain, and use it to solve problems that have so far been intractable for machines. Today it takes relatively large supercomputers many hours to recognize faces–something a human can do almost instantly. One application for this face-recognition technique could be to use it for quickly sorting snapshots from surveillance videos to find frames with faces and those without. This strategy could be useful for identifying other types of objects, such as dogs or cats, and different types of words. Subconscious brain power could therefore improve automated image search by preclassifying objects to help a computer more accurately identify pictures.

Comment: Now Microsoft evil guys 🙂 teach computers how to use our brains. If it will go further computers will not only become smarter (see previous comment), but also hungry for our brain power.

Forgetting helps you remember the important stuff
Bruce Kuhl and Anthony Wagner at Standford University have discovered that the brain’s ability to suppress irrelevant memories makes it easier for humans to remember what’s really important. This function, which is carried out in the prefrontal cortex region behind the forehead, helps the brain; it doesn’t have to work as hard in the future when it tries to remember an important memory because the competing but irrelevant memories have been weakened.
Memory allows humans to be predictive about what’s likely to be relevant to them as they go through life, Wagner explained. “What forgetting does is allow the act of prediction to occur much more automatically, because you’ve gotten rid of competing but irrelevant predictions,” he said. “That’s very beneficial for a neural information processing system.”

Comment: I knew this before – brain automatically forget irrelevant memories! You can read and learn as much as you want, but you’ll forget most of it. It doesn’t make sense for us to learn all the language constructs syntax, all the classes in framework and read so many books. We’ll forget if it is irrelevant. Now the most important question is how to make this information relevant. I believe the best way to do this – create abstractions, actively aggregate in your head conceptual pictures or just practically use it.

Mind Control: Unwanted Thoughts
Now if you want to forget something 🙂
Trying hard not to think about something almost guarantees that it will pop up in your consciousness. When you are actively avoiding a thought, one part of your brain is busily working to keep the upsetting thought at bay. It’s searching out distractors—something else to focus on that will protect you from the idea you’re trying to avoid.

At the same time, another part of the mental machinery has to keep checking to make sure that the job’s being done properly. Inadvertently, this monitoring process calls attention to the unwanted thought, and makes you more vulnerable to the very ideas you’re fleeing from. Article gives 2 advices: make secret preoccupation open or do the opposite of the thing you want to do.

Comment: These facts show again power of our automatic brain systems over our conscious mind and importance of cooperating with unconscious mind. You can try 2 additional things when you build program and you have unwanted thoughts:

  • don’t program at all – quality of your work will be low
  • or find most interesting problem in the program and you’ll quickly forget your thoughts

New approaches to software development
Scott Berkun provides information about the new (or reinvented) systems for software project management: Asshole Driven development (ADD) , Cognitive Dissonance development (CDD), Cover Your Ass Engineering (CYAE) and many others.

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Software Creation Mystery -
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