The new PBS Frontline documentary, In the Age of AI, is a solid and sometimes scary overview of the near future of self-driving vehicles, facial-recognition technology, cancer detection, and what the researcher and author Shoshana Zuboff calls “the age of surveillance capitalism.” In other words, a little bit optimistic but mostly alarming. (Full transcript here.)
Here’s what I learned:
The h-index is one of several “author-level metrics”—another new term for me, because I don’t wade in academic waters—that, according to a Wikipedia entry, “attempts to measure both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar.” It was first proposed in 2005 by Jorge E. Hirsch, a physicist UC San Diego, in whose honor the h was appended.
The University of Michigan Library website puts it this way:
For example, a scholar with an h-index of 5 had published 5 papers, each of which has been cited by others at least 5 times.
So, yes, an h-index of 151 is the sort of thing one brags about to people who know what an h-index is. According to MILA, the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, as of September 6, 2018, Yoshua Bengio was “the computer scientist with the most recent citations per day (over the last year).”
The h-index isn’t the only author-level metric out there. There’s also the Eigenfactor score, developed by Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom at the University of Washington, which rates the total importance of a scientific journal. (Eigen is a German word meaning “own” that is used in mathematics and physics to signify “proper” or “correct,” as in “Eigenfunction.”)
My conclusions: Glad I watched In the Age of AI. Extremely glad I don’t have an academic job where I have to obsess about a numerical index of my worth.