Stop Saying “Machine Learning Algorithm”. Please.

machine learning

“Get properly worried about the things that are worth worrying about,” says Martin Thorn, senior manager: decisioning, analytics & AI at CYBG.

Martin Thorn

The phrase “machine learning algorithm” is terrifying.

It strikes the same fear and dread into people as “we’ve run out of milk”, “let’s solve this with an interactive workshop” and “I don’t think that’s chocolate”. *

To most people, the concept of machines learning, adapting and changing is the stuff of sci-fi nightmares.

Even the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) uses this quote from Intel to define machine learning “…the set of techniques and tools that allow computers to ‘think’ by creating mathematical algorithms based on accumulated data.”

Quite why they chose to quote Intel is beyond me. But there you have it. Read that document and it’s simple. Machine learning = thinking computers.

Everyone knows what happens when you let computers think, learn and evolve. Before you know it they’ve created their own language and they are treating us as an inferior species.

People know the machines START with good intentions. But give them an inch and you know the computers will decide humans are parasites and need to be murdered.

We’ve all seen The Terminator.

We’ve all watched Black Mirror.

Especially the one where some idiot gave the Boston Dynamics robot dog a knife. **

To most people a machine learning algorithm (whatever that is) is the start of the slippery slope towards being replaced by a robot. And no-one in any industry wants to give up control to the robots.

But I’ve a solution……lets go back to calling it “Pattern Recognition”. Pattern recognition sounds as scary as Sudoku. In years to come I can imagine sitting in my favourite chair in my assisted living flat doing “pattern recognition”.

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You can imagine a pattern recognition puzzle being towards the back of the Radio Times. Sounds safe. Let’s do that.

It’s not about lying to people, it’s about making sure we get properly worried about the things that are worth worrying about.

Trying to explain that a machine learning experiment isn’t actually learning all by itself is hard.

The phrase itself implies it’s learning BY ITSELF !

It’s like introducing your mum to someone and saying “This is Steven the cannibal, he’s going to look after your grandchild”. You lost her at cannibal.

It doesn’t matter if Steven isn’t actually a practising cannibal *** the damage has been done and Mum is scared.

So repeat after me…..it’s a pattern recognition experiment.

* One for the parents of toddlers. Stay strong.
** Metalhead : 5th Episode of the 4th Series. Excellent but harrowing.
*** Little known fact. Some cannibals can’t eat people as it gives them digestive issues. I have a similar issue with venison.



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