A friend of mine (who is an engineer) told me that he bought an administrator’s guide to Cisco routers. Amazon concluded that he might also be interested in “Cooking for one”. I, on the other hand, recently browsed the excellent Cambridge “Dictionary of Statistics” and also had a look at “All of Statistics” (preposterous title, but an interesting book – incidentally, it tries to convey statistical basics to engineers interested in machine learning). Amazon suggested to round off my order with – drum roll – “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I’m sure my students would agree that there is an intimate link between these three titles.
Every sentient and internet enabled being in the Western world has by now noticed that Amazon’s “customers who bought this item” algorithm is one of the most successful exercises in machine learning. Like various algorithms used by Google, it is oftentimes accurate as well as slightly frightening.