The uneasy relationship between deep learning and (classical) statistics

An often-expressed sentiment is that deep learning (and machine learning in general) is “simply statistics,” in the sense that it uses different words to describe the same concepts statisticians have been studying for decades. In the 1990s, Rob Tibshirani wrote the following tongue-in-cheek “glossary”:: Something about this table resonates with me.  In fact, as anyone … Continue reading The uneasy relationship between deep learning and (classical) statistics

Philosophy of science and the blockchain: A book review

This blog post is a book review of sorts for the following two books: To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg (2016) The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science by Michael Strevens (2020). Both books cover (in different proportions) the history and philosophy of science. By the end of … Continue reading Philosophy of science and the blockchain: A book review

Physics Envy

There is something cool about physics. Black holes, anti-matter, "God's particle": it all sounds so exciting. While our TCS "mental experiments" typically involve restricting the inputs of constant-depth circuits, physicists talk about jumping into black holes while holding a dictionary. Physicists also have a knack for names: notions such as "uncertainty principle" or "monogamy of … Continue reading Physics Envy

The different forms of quantum computing skepticism

(see also pdf version)   Quantum computing is one of the most exciting developments of computer science in the last decades. But this concept is not without its critics, often known as "quantum computing skeptics" or "skeptics" for short. The debate on quantum computing can sometimes confuse the physical and mathematical aspects of this question, … Continue reading The different forms of quantum computing skepticism

Bayesianism, frequentism, and the planted clique, or do algorithms believe in unicorns?

(See also pdf version , and these lecture notes) The divide between frequentists and Bayesians in statistics is one of those interesting cases where questions of philosophical outlook have actual practical implications. At the heart of the debate is Bayes’ theorem: $latex \Pr[A|B] = \Pr[A \cap B ]/\Pr[B]\;.$ Both sides agree that it is correct, but they disagree … Continue reading Bayesianism, frequentism, and the planted clique, or do algorithms believe in unicorns?

Is computational hardness the rule or the exception?

As a cryptographer, I am used to the viewpoint that computational problems are presumed hard unless proven otherwise. We cryptographers constantly come up with new hardness assumptions, and generally use the heuristic that if a problem doesn't have an obvious algorithm then it must be hard. We've had some interesting failures (see here for a recent example), but this heuristic seems … Continue reading Is computational hardness the rule or the exception?