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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell On Generalization & Profiling

Long long back, while studying computer science, I had read Douglas Hofstadter’s masterly book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,one of the all time inspiring reads . While the book is known for many many things, the one thing that remains fresh in my memory is his characterization of intelligence:

- Ability to find similarities in seemingly different situations and ability to find differences in seemingly similar situations (essentially contextualization & discrimination characterize in large measures what is seen as intelligence).

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is another book widely read that focuses on the cognitive abilities to look at the first two seconds of viewing -the decisive glance that knows in an instant, snap judgments and mind reading. He now questions in a wonderfully well written article the perils of generalization and profiling as is being practiced today across the world. He sees sterotypes as another word for generalization, though, stereotypes are usually not considered desirable dimensions of our decision-making lives. The process of moving from the specific to the general is both necessary and perilous. A doctor could, with some statistical support, generalize about men of a certain age and weight. But what if generalizing from other traits—such as high blood pressure, family history, and smoking—saved more lives? Behind each generalization is a choice of what factors to leave in and what factors to leave out, and those choices can prove surprisingly complicated. Worth a good read and reflection.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"