Introducing Dr. Algorithm

A couple of years ago Silicon Valley based venture capitalist Vinod Khosla threw the cat amongst the pigeons when he raised the issue in his article “Do we need Doctors Or Algorithms?” While many may not agree with him, one thing is clear the power of the algorithm is here to stay.

Today everyone, from social dating websites & hedge fund trading floors, to online retail and internet searches are working on cracking the next best proprietary algorithm, these algorithms will have a strong say in our future. Bank loan approvals, loyalty cards, job results and more are based on similar codes. Some of the most complex algorithms are seen in science, where they are engaged in the development and design of new drugs or in the modeling of climate variables. In the near future, algorithms will have a strong share of voice in the development of innovative pharmaceuticals.

But, wait a minute, how does one define an algorithm?  Traditionally it has been defined as a set of instructions that helps you solve a problem; it’s a bit like a recipe for baking a cake. Instead of having generic flour or oven temperature, the algorithm will try an array of variations to produce the best cake from the several possibilities and combinations available.

So why do we need algorithms? We are ruined by our own biases. In decision-making, we only see what we need; we overlook probabilities, and dismiss risks that displace our hopes. Human judgment is often clouded by irrationality, emotion and incomplete knowledge. Cognitive algorithm agents free the human mind from the routine and prompt the mind to exalt into advanced value creation, helping the mind focus on the more important aspect of creativity.

Algorithms don’t care a bit if you believe in them or not. They either work or they don’t. In business, if you accept that change is real and inevitable, that ideas always have competition and that augmenting the good stuff works, you can survive. The algorithms almost have a magical quality to them, because they encourage you to be smart about problems you haven’t seen before that too at the click of a button. These algorithms can grind through billions of bits of data, analyze them and produce insights for immediate use. It’s like playing “Moneyball” live.

A key component for an algorithm to work is the data. Big data without the backing of a powerful algorithm or vice-versa is like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. Here is a simplified equation that explains big data.

Big Data = Transactions + Interactions + Observations

The real sweet spot lies in the application of the algorithm to this wealth of data, producing disruptive breakthroughs across healthcare and other industries.

Industry and Academia are already on the move; Technology leader IBM’s Watson in collaboration with New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is employing algorithm-based analytics to aid in cancer care. Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are researching on advanced computational tools to create ‘Doctor-in-a-box’. The promise of this project is to use artificial intelligence to associate the variations in the human genome and help predict which therapies might be most effective or cause the fewest side effects.

Last year’s Hollywood release ‘HER’ based on the premise of Artificial Intelligence, chronicled the romantic relationship between a man played by Joaquin Phoenix, and an intelligent operating system named Samantha in the year 2025. Who knows in the coming years; this could happen with Samantha having a digital body.

Ultimately, the true promise of the algorithm lies in the real time optimization of human experiences, through the creation of amazing and transformative tools that will empower and change human lives.


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