Will curious computers replace curious mind? #MRSlive @TweetMRS #MRX 


Live blogged at the MRS conference in London. ANy errors or bad jokes are my own.

Chair: Elina Halonen. Panel: Colin Strong, Nick Baker, Cat Wiles, Nick Bonney 

  • Half of people in the room think their jobs won’t be replaced by computers [for me, yes, large parts of my job but definitely not all of it]
  • Most professions think technology will disrupt someone else’s profession
  • Most #MRX is quite custom, fairly hierachical structure, managed by individuals, this models exists everywhere
  • More people will be figuring out how can we streamline our work, how we can streamline our systems, and our research
  • Are the innovations so far sustaining innovations or are they genuinely innovate? Balance is more towards sustaining innovations, not disrupting innovations
  • Rise of cognitive computing, Google computers win human games [but do they chit chat over coffee? Chuckle with you? Empathize? ]
  • Rise of anticipatory computing [do computers kiss booboos on the knees of toddlers?]
  • Rise of personality computing, musical tastes, sexual preferences, data trails reveal all. Do we really need to ask questions? [do computer know when an effect size of 0.69 is more meaningful than an effect size of 0.73?]
  • Software can now analyze the data and tell the story [can it start with an interesting anecdote about my dad that pulls everyone in and puts them on my side?]
  • What used to be a huge multi country study is now simply a Google search
  • Qual is at risk also, needs and attitudes based on pictures etc scraped online
  • The rise of machines will happen [because people like me demand it]
  • There will always need to be a human touch whether through curation or creating
  • Creativity is scrappy and raw and joins things that aren’t obvious
  • Computers are always programmed and told by people, they lack the cultural framework that people learned
  • What is the trade off? Researcher goes through data and pulls out their favorite bits [based on p-values or effect sizes? Yes computers do that, but humans see WHY]
  • Maybe junior researchers should be worried about automating taking their jobs
  • Will automating give us more time to think except what happens is that everything is just more sped up
  • Is our thinking now programmed into how to make a PowerPoint slide out of the info? [this is what I saw all around London this weekend. Everyone has a fancy camera now and it’s turned into “here is a thing that could have a picture taken of it” rather than “oh my god this is amazing, I want to remember it]
  • Life would be boring and predictable if it was all automated? Like a Disney movie? [yet more foreshadowing for my presentation!]
  • We tend to define ourselves by the research method and tools we use, but those tools are becoming rapidly out of date even though we’re improving them, they are sustaining innovations 
  • Now you need a black belt in analytics
  • Need more diverse teams, journalists, facilitators, designers, analytics all in the research department
  • Cadbury’s gorilla would never come out of a computer [nor the old spice dude or the geico commercials!]
  • [Brands are all about empathy, can a computer be sufficiently empathetic S when it truly matters?]
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