Comment: Why Fairy Dust?

I was reading a blog post about maching learning and fairy dust:

It prompted me to make the following comment as I am a general critic of the “fairy dust” approach to problem solving. Of course – it is just a rant (one of my more light-hearted rants).

The problem is all wrapped up in how funding / opportunities are distributed. The folks with money who want to affect the future positively are generally not brilliant in any domain other than making money. So they consult “experts” as to what is the “next big awesome thing” – or as you put it, what is the “next fairy dust”. Once an expert convinces a person with the money of the veracity of the particular brand of dust – it becomes dogma. And those who want money salute the the “fairy dust” and make loud protestations as to the general amazingness of “fairy dust”. They also shout down “non-believers” to show their undying loyalty to the fairy dust. They give invited keynote speeches about the future of dust.

By doing these things, they get funding. And because they are funded – the market assumes they must be right because no one would fund a “bad idea”. Slowly public opposition to fairy dust goes underground until the funds are exhausted (usually having virtually no impact). Since everyone is so ashamed at the amount of waste in the name of “fairy dust”, no one ever goes back and checks who was wrong and where they went wrong. It is just easier for the “dust riders” to lay low for a while and then re-emerge to flow to the next source of funding “fairy dust”.