Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quote of the Day

My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Monday, July 27, 2015

Good Bye APJ Abdul Kalam

Popularly called the “Missile Man” of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam rose from humble beginnings and earned the reputation of being the “people’s President” who endeared himself to all all sections, especially the young.

A devout Muslim and son of a boatowner, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, who assumed office as the 11th President on July 18, 2002, was seen as a figurehead who could help heal some of the scars of the communal riots which broke out in Gujarat just a few months before.

The country’s first bachelor President, Kalam, whose flowing grey hair is seen as being at odds with what Indians thought a president ought to look like, was one amongst the most respected people of the country who contributed immensely both as a scientist and as a president.

Acknowledged as the driving force behind India’s quest for cutting-edge defence technologies, Kalam’s contributions to India’s satellite programmes, guided and ballistic missiles project, nuclear weapons programme and the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) project made him a household name.

- More Here

Andrew's 1989 Essay That Started It All

Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence. Since there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social custom. As it has become more acceptable for gay people to acknowledge their loves publicly, more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their families and their friends, A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy social trend. It would also, in the wake of AIDS, qualify as a genuine public health measure. Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be among the first to support it. Burke could have written a powerful case for it.

The argument that gay marriage would subtly undermine the unique legitimacy of straight marriage is based upon a fallacy. For heterosexuals, straight marriage would remain the most significant—and only legal—social bond. Gay marriage could only delegitimize straight marriage if it were a real alternative to it, and this is clearly not true. To put it bluntly, there’s precious little evidence that straights could be persuaded by any law to have sex with—let alone marry—someone of their own sex. The only possible effect of this sort would be to persuade gay men and women who force themselves into heterosexual marriage (often at appalling cost to themselves and their families) to find a focus for their family instincts in a more personally positive environment. But this is clearly a plus, not a minus: Gay marriage could both avoid a lot of tortured families and create the possibility for many happier ones. It is not, in short, a denial of family values. It’s an extension of them.

Of course, some would claim that any legal recognition of homosexuality is a de facto attack upon heterosexuality. But even the most hardened conservatives recognize that gays are a permanent minority and aren’t likely to go away. Since persecution is not an option in a civilized society, why not coax gays into traditional values rather than rail incoherently against them?

- That was Andrew Sullivan's eloquence in 1989 which started the "new" thinking amongst homo sapiens and here's Andrew's reflections now after his dream became a reality within his lifetime.

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation—and every one before mine—lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never be fully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day; who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too—for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death.

Quote of the Day

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

- Gandhi

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Universities Are Increasingly Using Personal Data to Predict Performance.

Behind the innovation is Peter Scott, a cognitive scientist whose “knowledge media institute” on the OU’s Milton Keynes campus is reminiscent of Q’s gadget laboratory in the James Bond films. His workspace is surrounded by robotic figurines and prototypes for new learning aids. But his real enthusiasm is for the use of data to improve a student’s experience. Scott, 53, who wears a vivid purple shirt with his suit, says retailers already analyse customer information in order to tempt buyers with future deals, and argues this is no different. “At a university, we can do some of those same things — not so much to sell our students something but to help them head in the right direction.”

Made possible by the increasing digitisation of education on to tablets and smartphones, such intensive surveillance is on the rise. In the US, the concept has progressed even further: two years ago, an Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College, trialled an app installed on students’ mobile phones which tracks how long they spend working, socialising, exercising and sleeping. GPS technology follows their locations around campus to work out their activities, while a listening function tunes into the noise level around the phone to detect whether its owner is conversing or sleeping. Once analysed by the lab, the information is used to understand how behaviour affects grades, and to tailor feedback on how students can improve their results.

The justification for gathering such large volumes of personal data are that this will help students get the most from the investment they are making in their education. As the UK’s £9,000-a-year tuition fees begin to catch up with average annual course charges of £17,500 in the US, university attendees on both sides of the Atlantic are under financial and academic pressure to do well and complete their degrees.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky - but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.

- Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Taleb never ceases to fascinate me; around 42 to 52 minutes in the Q&A session he covers the precautionary principles that needs to be followed with Big Data:

Big Data inevitably produces "unwanted" correlations (similar to concept of confirmation bias, echo chambers and you will get inevitably what you are looking for and more which translates to bull shit). NSA has the most robust model to handle Big Data since their search criteria is simple - Is the candidate a terrorist - yes or no?

The idea is to first structure what you are looking for in a simplified format and develop a strong stomach not to distracted by unwanted correlations. Again, develop a stomach to drop variables and focus on the problem at hand.   

Higher the numbers of variables, higher the noise and correlations grows non-linearly and shoots up. 

This is a simple but yet powerful concept in machine learning we tend to forget.

This whole speech covers Big Data:

Quote of the Day

Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good, to the praise that deceives them.

- Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nassim Nicholas Taleb @ Tomorrow 2015

Quote of the Day

So my wish is for people in general to remain fools of randomness (so i can trade against them), yet for there to remain a minority intelligent enought to value my methods and hire my services. In other words, I need people to remain fools of randomness, but not all of them.

- Nassim Taleb, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets