Friday, October 31, 2014

Google Is Not What It Seems

In this extract from the book When Google Met WikiLeaks Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views:

There was nothing politically hapless about Eric Schmidt. I had been too eager to see a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast. But that is not the sort of person who attends the Bilderberg conference four years running, who pays regular visits to the White House, or who delivers “fireside chats” at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s “foreign minister”—making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines—had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within U.S. establishment networks of reputation and influence.

On a personal level, Schmidt and Cohen are perfectly likable people. But Google’s chairman is a classic “head of industry” player, with all of the ideological baggage that comes with that role. Schmidt fits exactly where he is: the point where the centrist, liberal and imperialist tendencies meet in American political life.

By all appearances, Google’s bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the “benevolent superpower.” They will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but all perspectives that challenge the exceptionalist drive at the heart of American foreign policy will remain invisible to them. This is the impenetrable banality of “don’t be evil.” They believe that they are doing good. And that is a problem.

[---]

Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of U.S. power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity. Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community.

In 2003, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had already started systematically violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) under its director General Michael Hayden. These were the days of the “Total Information Awareness” program. Before PRISM was ever dreamed of, under orders from the Bush White House the NSA was already aiming to “collect it all, sniff it all, know it all, process it all, exploit it all.”

During the same period, Google—whose publicly declared corporate mission is to collect and “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”—was accepting NSA money to the tune of $2 million to provide the agency with search tools for its rapidly accreting hoard of stolen knowledge.

[---]

In 2012, Google arrived on the list of top-spending Washington, D.C., lobbyists—a list typically stalked exclusively by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, military contractors, and the petro-carbon leviathans. Google entered the rankings above military aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, with a total of $18.2 million spent in 2012 to Lockheed’s $15.3 million. Boeing, the military contractor that absorbed McDonnell Douglas in 1997, also came below Google, at $15.6 million spent, as did Northrop Grumman at $17.5 million.



Quote of the Day

It is not the soft power of humanity, it is not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lighted up in the human heart, that is thus capable of counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love.

- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Flaw Lurking In Every Deep Neural Net

On a more broader analysis we know that DL networks are not at all like the neural networks in biological brains.  Anyone who says that ANNs and DL networks are similar to biological neural networks doesn’t know much about brains.  The biological and DL networks are so different that the brittleness they are seeing almost certainly does not exist in biological brains.

In a couple of recent talks I have started to point out the difference between ANNs and biological networks to drive home that HTM networks are much closer to biology.

  • biological and HTM neurons have active distal dendrites, ANN neurons don’t
  • biological and HTM neurons have thousands of synapses, typical ANN neurons have dozens
  • biological and HTM neurons have unreliable, low precision, synapses, most ANN neurons rely on synaptic weight precision
  • biological and HTM neurons learn mostly by forming new synapses, ANN neurons only learn by synaptic weight modification

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The New York City subway has more than four hundred stations, eight hundred miles of track, six thousand cars, and, on any given weekday, five million passengers. It’s an anti-terrorism unit’s nightmare. To sweep this teeming labyrinth for bombs would take an army of explosives experts equipped with chemical detectors. Instead, the city has gone to the dogs. Since 2001, the number of uniformed police has dropped by seventeen per cent. In that same period, the canine force has nearly doubled. It now has around a hundred dogs, divided among the narcotics, bomb, emergency-response, and transit squads.

A good dog is a natural super-soldier: strong yet acrobatic, fierce yet obedient. It can leap higher than most men, and run twice as fast. Its eyes are equipped for night vision, its ears for supersonic hearing, its mouth for subduing the most fractious prey. But its true glory is its nose. In the nineteen-seventies, researchers found that dogs could detect even a few particles per million of a substance; in the nineties, more subtle instruments lowered the threshold to particles per billion; the most recent tests have brought it down to particles per trillion. “It’s a little disheartening, really,” Paul Waggoner, a behavioral scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute, at Auburn University, in Alabama, told me. “I spent a good six years of my life chasing this idea, only to find that it was all about the limitations of my equipment.”


Can New York’s canine units keep the city safe from terrorism?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wisdom Of Peter Singer

For the record, I don't go to any place where Max cannot go except rare occasional visits to restaurants. It was nauseating to see how people misuse the phrase emotional-support animals and I cannot agree with Peter Singer more:

Reflecting on whether it is reasonable to be this inclusive of man’s best friends, I called the Australian philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer, who is best known for his book “Animal Liberation,” which makes a utilitarian argument for respecting the welfare and minimizing the suffering of all sentient beings. Singer takes a dim view of the emotional-support-animal craze. “Animals can get as depressed as people do,” he said, so “there is sometimes an issue about how well people with mental illnesses can look after their animals.” He went on, “If it’s really so difficult for you to be without your animal, maybe you don’t need to go to that restaurant or to the Frick Museum. ”

Quote of the Day

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Monday, October 27, 2014

Computational Journalism


"Computational journalism is more about computing and information technologies has impacted civic responsibility"





Quote of the Day

There's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater,you realize that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.

- Dave Barry