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Vol 19, No. 10, October 2015   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
COLUMNS
Learning to Code may give you a Vanilla Sky
I have vivid memories of my first Nintendo hand-held gaming device, the infamous GameBoy. My first input computer language was DOS, where users had to punch the keys 'cd blahblah' and backslashes. It did not take too long till I started programming in Perl, Visual Basic and HTML.

Was it difficult to learn a new programming language? It is not a difficult process to learn a new programming language, in fact, it is probably easier than acquiring a new language, say German or Finnish.

The fundamentals of programming run along a simple line; Logic. A good programmer usually possess good organization skills, and hence less coding lines and time required to retrieve the output. Imagine if you were to drop by the cash machine to withdraw a hundred dollars, and the system was programmed in such a mess that it had to take 24-hour to process a hundred dollars request. If such situation were to happen, ultimately, the logic returns to, how much does a 24-hour cost?

It really depends on who, what and where you are. A disruption in hospital work-flow will cost not only money, but also lives. A better management and work-flow in hospital improve the clinical outcome and patients' care. However, the dirty truth is there are still countries where patients who may be living in their teenage years and are admitted in the hospital where medical treatments are available, but are left untreated. Without medical insurance, it is unlikely for these patients, though with a good number of remaining life-expectancy, be receiving treatments as they run a possibility of not able to clear the sky-high medical bills.

Analysts in public health, risk and insurance are in-demand for many good reasons. One of their ultimate goals is to save time and money in both services and operations. Their careers' existence may be credited to the evolution of machine-to-technology. Since 1940s, the speed and efficiency of technology have made drastic improvements, which makes the analysis of large volume of data feasible today; Figure 1. The human brain is highly capable to seek for similarities from visual patterns and music. Pattern recognition is a basic human instinct and it has also been shown in some animals. A newborn child recognizes the mother from her heartbeat; a foetal-maternal imprint since the first trimester of pregnancy. Swans, for example, share high phenotypic resemblance among one another, and yet they are monogamous and die shortly when their partner die.

Big data storage and Cloud technology have given us much convenience in our day-to-day information access. Information has been a key to open up doors of opportunities, and in a downturn it has also been shown as a threat. One of the most unusual experience I ever had was during my career as a doctorate student. It was an evening flight travelling from Frankfurt, Germany to Seoul, South Korea, and my in-flight entertainment was hijacked. While most of the passengers fell asleep, my in-flight screen powered on by its own and broadcast a history of a battle between two football teams in Europe. When the show was done, it switched off and left me with a soothing lullaby. I shrugged off the thought of Cloud hijacked and returned to my sleep. Who would have thought a Cloud hijack be an intention to broadcast football matches anyway? But soon enough and within a period of six months, Cloud hijack was circulating in the news. Would it have made any difference to the Cloud hijack or stolen identities of individuals if I were to have reported the encounter? Most people would have thought I must be out-of-my-mind or gone bonkers whilst living alone in a foreign place and maybe suffering from depression.

As shown in Figure 1, the acceleration in technology performance has certainly encouraged the imagination of life after death for many individuals. It may be a dream come true to the already dead and have cryopreserved their vital organs. Perhaps it will be happening soon enough, and hopefully with no resemblance of the first scene in 'Vanilla Sky' where Tom Cruise was driving and running around Times Square in New York City without a single soul on the streets. It would be a criss-cross between reality and a dream. To reconstruct the above graph, data source: https://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/book98/fig.ch3/p060.shtml

To reconstruct the above graph, data source:
https://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/book98/fig.ch3/p060.shtml

By editor: Yuhui N. Lin

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