Machine Learning and Cell Phone Stores

Every now and then I do some semi-random searches on the Internet. My search term is usually generated by a news headline. The idea is to find unexpected areas for machine learning. For example, I recently read a story about researchers who were able to accurately predict how a town would vote in an election, based on street-map images. My reaction was, “Cool idea! Why didn’t I think of that?”

So, I’ll do a random Internet search occasionally, hoping to get some sort of inspiration or insight. Naturally, the vast majority of these Internet searches turn up absolutely nothing of interest.

A few days ago, a local news headline was something about a store employee being shot during a cell phone store robbery. I was puzzled and mildly distrubed– why would anyone rob a cell phone store in the first place, and then why would they try to shoot someone? It just made no sense at all to me.

So, I searched the Web for “cell phone store robbery”. I expected to get close to zero hits. But there were hundreds of thousands of image results. I was very surprised. Unfortunately though, examining the images didn’t yield any interesting insights — they were just images of criminals and robberies, nothing more.

The moral of the story: There’s no algorithm for generating inspiration. And I’m glad I don’t work at a cell phone store.

“Night of Inspiration” – Leonid Afremov

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