Monday, August 27, 2012

Wisdom of Pearl

Excerpts from an interview that Judea Pearl gave for the June 2012 issue of CACM:

On causation and its importance:
Simulating intervention, by the way, was an idea that was thought of by economists in 1943. Trygve Haavelmo had this idea that economics models are a guide to policy-making, and that you can predict what will happen when the government intervenes and raises taxes or imposes duties by modifying the equations in the model. And that was taken on by other economists, but it didn't catch, because they had very lousy models of the economy, so they couldn't demonstrate success. And because they couldn't demonstrate success, the whole field of economics regressed and became a hotbed for statistical predictions. Economists have betrayed causality. I never expressed it this way before, but in all honesty this is what it boils down to. In computer science, we remain faithful to logic and try to improve our models, while economists compromised on logic to cover up for bad models.
 On interfaith dialogue:
... religious myths are just metaphors, or poetry, for genuine ideas we find difficult to express otherwise. So, yes, you could say I use computer science in my religious dialogues, because I view religion as a communication language. True, it seems futile for people to argue if a person goes to heaven from the East Gate or the West Gate. But, as a computer scientist, you forgive the futility of such debates, because you appreciate the computational role of the gate metaphor.

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