Friday, December 19, 2014

Quote of the Day

The distinction between diseases of "brain" and "mind," between "neurological" problems and "psychological" or "psychiatric" ones, is an unfortunate cultural inheritance that permeates society and medicine. It reflects a basic ignorance of the relation between brain and mind. Diseases of the brain are seen as tragedies visited on people who cannot be blamed for their condition, while diseases of the mind, especially those that affect conduct and emotion, are seen as social inconveniences for which sufferers have much to answer. Individuals are to be blamed for their character flaws, defective emotional modulation, and so on; lack of willpower is supposed to be the primary problem.

- Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Machine Learning - The High-Interest Credit Card of Technical Debt

Every ML expert must learn a thing or two from Daniel Kahneman's research. A very important paper, read the whole thing - here:


Machine learning offers a fantastically powerful toolkit for building complex sys- tems quickly. This paper argues that it is dangerous to think of these quick wins as coming for free. Using the framework of technical debt, we note that it is re- markably easy to incur massive ongoing maintenance costs at the system level when applying machine learning. The goal of this paper is highlight several ma- chine learning specific risk factors and design patterns to be avoided or refactored where possible. These include boundary erosion, entanglement, hidden feedback loops, undeclared consumers, data dependencies, changes in the external world, and a variety of system-level anti-patterns.


Traditional software engineering practice has shown that strong abstraction boundaries using en- capsulation and modular design help create maintainable code in which it is easy to make isolated changes and improvements. Strict abstraction boundaries help express the invariants and logical consistency of the information inputs and outputs from an given component.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to enforce strict abstraction boundaries for machine learning systems by requiring these systems to adhere to specific intended behavior. Indeed, arguably the most im- portant reason for using a machine learning system is precisely that the desired behavior cannot be effectively implemented in software logic without dependency on external data. There is little way to separate abstract behavioral invariants from quirks of data. The resulting erosion of boundaries can cause significant increases in technical debt. In this section we look at several issues of this form.

Quote of the Day

The trouble with automation is that it often gives us what we don’t need at the cost of what we do.

- Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street.

Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do: fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary. If and when Americans turn 35, and still wish to work in finance, they will carry with them memories of ordinary market forces, and perhaps be grateful to our society for having created an industry that is not subjected to them. At the very least, they will know that some huge number of people -- their former fellow street performers, say -- will be seriously pissed off at them if they do risky things on Wall Street to undermine the real economy. No one wants a bunch of pissed-off street performers coming after them. To that end ...

- Eight Things I Wish for Wall Street, Mike Lewis

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Century-Long Study of the Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Society

Scientists have begun what they say will be a century-long study of the effects of artificial intelligence on society, including on the economy, war and crime, officials at Stanford University announced Monday.

The project, hosted by the university, is unusual not just because of its duration but because it seeks to track the effects of these technologies as they reshape the roles played by human beings in a broad range of endeavors.

“My take is that A.I. is taking over,” said Sebastian Thrun, a well-known roboticist who led the development of Google’s self-driving car. “A few humans might still be ‘in charge,’ but less and less so.”


Dr. Horvitz will lead a committee with Russ Altman, a Stanford professor of bioengineering and computer science. The committee will include Barbara J. Grosz, a Harvard University computer scientist; Deirdre K. Mulligan, a lawyer and a professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley; Yoav Shoham, a professor of computer science at Stanford; Tom Mitchell, the chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University; and Alan Mackworth, a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia.

The committee will choose a panel of specialists who will produce a report on artificial intelligence and its effects that is to be published late in 2015.In a white paper outlining the project, Dr. Horvitz described 18 areas that might be considered, including law, ethics, the economy, war and crime. Future reports will be produced at regular intervals.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Whenever serious and competent people need to get things done in the real world, all considerations of tradition and protocol fly out the window.

- Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rebirth of an Eagle

Quote of the Day

The word 'risk' derives from the early Italian risicare, which means 'to dare'. In this sense, risk is a choice rather than a fate. The actions we dare to take, which depend on how free we are to make choices, are what the story of risk is all about. And that story helps define what it means to be a human being.

- Peter L. Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Not one of my favorites this year but worth a watch.

"Opinions are irrelevant in Physics"

Quote of the Day

What people do isn't determined by where they live. It happens to be their damned fault. They decided to watch TV instead of thinking when they were in high school. They decided to blow-off courses and drink beer instead of reading and trying to learn something. They decided to chicken out and be intolerant bastards instead of being openminded, and finally they decided to go along with their buddies and do things that were terribly wrong when there was no reason they had to. Anyone who hurts someone else decides to hurt them, goes out of their way to do it. . . . The fact that it's hard to be a good person doesn't excuse going along and being an asshole. If they can't overcome their own fear of being unusual, it's not my fault, because any idiot ought to be able to see that if he just acts reasonably and makes a point of not hurting others, he'll be happier.

- Neal Stephenson, The Big U