The latest edition - Chinese Complex Characters - is now in publication with a striking cover graphic.
Translation by Noriko Sugimori:
We may have a better life [if we] to leave it to AI, which has become more and more [invasive]
By Hashimoto Tsutomu, professor, Hokkaido University Graduate School
We sometimes rely on rankings in deciding which restaurant in front of a station to go or which souvenir to buy at travel destinations. Knowing that ranking is not always reliable, why do we sometimes accept information such as “the best 10 XX” without questioning it? Even chickens decide the order of feed and mating. If the order is disturbed, chickens in higher ranks poke the lower. It is chickens’ wisdom to observe the hierarchy to avoid such a situation. We human beings also pay attention to ranking to smooth interpersonal relationships. It seems that we can explain ranking and hierarchical order biologically.
However, other reasons are also available to explain why contemporary people care [do much about] rankings. Our processing capacity cannot keep up with information overload. It requires time and money to seek out appropriate information. Ranking or search engine by Google reduces the costs and shows us choices.
Even so, rankings may not be reliable. Like rankings of excellent countries, there is no meaning in rankings based on our subjective evaluations. To make convincing a ranking of excellent countries, a system will be needed so that each individual can set their evaluation criteria freely.
Some cases still do not work. Scientists’ research papers are evaluated based on several evaluation criteria. Artists’ income is affected by reputation principles in society. In any case, it is difficult to receive an objective evaluation. According to the author, in the case of artists, to be successful and get high reputation, the first thing to do is to do one’s best, and the second thing to do is to spend 80% of the time on marketing and the remaining 20% on creative activity. Surprisingly, evaluations depend on marketing.
Meanwhile, with the development of AI, matching apps and recommended product functions have also developed. Rather than choosing something for ourselves, we may be able to lead a better life by relying on AI. Actually, the number of marriages based on the help of the [matching] apps has been on the increase. I hear that, Netflix, the streaming service giant, uses five algorithms to suggest customers recommended programs out of countless possibilities. The author’s point is that, if AI progresses, it is fine for us to accept their various recommendations discreetly and optimistically, rather than our making an active role in choosing anything. This book correctly points out the trends in contemporary society, in which AI takes the role of meddling replacing blood relations, local community relations, or company ties.
After the initial print run, Japan has requested a second, larger one and are negotiating the rights for an E-Book. Three of the large daily Japanese newspapers haver reviewed the book: Asahi, Nikkei and Youmiuri (which has the largest paper circulation in the world). The interesting thing about this, as reported by Dr. Erdi's colleague Norkio Sugimori, is that newspapers in Japan are extremely important and the allegiance to a certain publication is strong. It is extremely rare for all three papers to review the same book at the same time. In the words of the translator Prof. Norikazu Takami "After all, your book was quite timely in Japan, too, as it's a proper, scientific discussion of what we encounter every day."
Congratulations Dr. Erdi!
“With healthy doubts” By Kazutoshi Inano, Chairperson of Furusato Foundation
Our days do not pass without seeing rankings in internet as well as in print media. Examples include “the most delicious 20 selected restaurants”, “ranking of towns which are good to live in”, “university rankings”, “hospital rankings” etc. This book explains the mechanism of rankings. Pointing out traps the users tend to fall into, this book teaches us intelligent attitudes towards rankings. All things discussed, including ballot system, quantification of personal assessment process, credit scores, university rankings, scientist rankings, search engine, are interesting.
Rankings are produced based on database and algorithms. By changing algorithma, the resulting ranking also changes. Convenience and operability are side by side. If you consent to the author’s words, “rankings are just subjective expression of opinions of which factors to emphasize and how weighs them”, you will be able to face rankings calmly with healthy doubts. It is as a matter of course that “it is not desirable to decide one’s behaviour based on ready-made rankings only”. If possible, it is effective to use a personalized ranking, for which the weight is changed to one’s preference.
Nowadays, accountability and transparency are emphasized, and society and companies tilt towards measurement and evaluation based on quantified index, including the use of ranking and pursuit of objectivity. This book touches on challenges of being objective consistently, but it does not deny the effectiveness of quantified index. The author advocates the rule of “trust, but carefully”, and this is exactly the behaviour pattern that is required in digital society. The more I examined the meaning of “trust carefully”, I could not help thinking of issues of subjective evaluations. Translated by Takami Norikazu. Peter Erdi: Kalamazoo College Complex System professor, US. Specialization is computational neuroscience.
“Co-existence with numerical evaluation with self-management “ by Sakai Toyoki, Keio University, economics
Democrat Gore was defeated in the US presidential election in 2000. The perennial candidate Nader took some small votes, but it ended up becoming the fatal wound. Republican Bush won. The presence of Nader influenced the ranking of first and second. It is often seen that small factors influence rankings greatly. This makes the change of people who are evaluated. For example, a certain powerful ranking of US universities give high points to classes with nineteen students or fewer. Then, hoping to get the high points, universities make classes with nineteen students or fewer, even if there is no evidence that teaching effectiveness deteriorates when there are twenty students.
People care about rankings, but high ranking and happiness do not always coincide. Silver medalists in Olympics may lament that they could not obtain gold, but bronze medalists are glad because they received medal. Depending on the person to compare with, feeling of happiness also changes. It is not easy to compare oneself with others. Therefore, a certain social psychologist recommends that, if one wants to feel satisfaction, they should compare themselves with those in less advantageous position. If one wants to pressure on oneself, compare with those who are advantageous.
With the spread of internet, occasions to use rankings also increased rapidly. Rankings are often used for products in online stores. Numbers do not represent the products’ characteristics or compatibility with each individual. Even if the rankings are just rough evaluation, people care about them. Rankings are used not only for products, but also for stores. Customers also get credit scores. Although it may contain something stupid, rankings are convenient in their own ways.
Probably we will cope with numerical estimations even more. Therefore, the author recommends that one should change the attitude of “not caring about evaluations.” Whether you like it or not, evaluations are something one needs to self-manage. This book delineates such times and people who sustains the times.
“Mobilizing theories of ‘rankings’” by Kusunoki Ken, business scholar
Rankings begins with comparison. People nowadays always compare themselves with others, and others with others. People are naturally drawn to rankings that decide which is better. This is how listicles become the regular articles in media.
However, the true rankings need to satisfy the following three requirements: Completeness, asymmetry, and transitivity (definitions omitted). Aside from a case such as the largest lake in the world, many actual rankings do not satisfy these requirements. Subjective standards intervene. There is a room to manipulate something to get the higher rankings. It is discernment that matters in handling with abundant rankings around them.
Therefore, this book focuses on rules of social games that is called rankings. This book showcases not only theories that are based on rankings mentioned above, but also findings and discussions from human behaviours, cognition, social psychology, politics, computational neuroscience.
Here I take up the example of bounded rationality theory. When maximization and satifice (definition omitted) are compared, [people with] the latter tends to have higher level of happiness. Logically speaking, it may sound happier to have many choices, but it is cognitively impossible to evaluate every choice consistently. One may regret to not have chosen the best choice, or one may also be tortured by anxiety not to want to miss anything. Rather than making a complete list to weigh up, it follows that one should “marry someone who is not so bad.”
Among a wide variety of theories introduced in this book, I have found the discussion of this bounded rationality the most interesting. The second best is ‘impossibility theorem’ in social selection. The third best is ‘comparability criteria’, which discussed the relationship between qualitative difference and quantitative difference. Of course, this ranking is based on this reviewer’s subjective criteria.