Monday, November 30, 2015

Closed Minds on Campus

Any insistence otherwise is religious. The term is unavoidable here. When intelligent people openly declare that logic applies only to the extent that it corresponds to doctrine and shoot down serious questions with buzzwords and disdain, we are dealing with a faith. As modern as these protests seem, in their way, they return the American university to its original state as a divinity school—where exegesis of sacred texts was sincerely thought of as intellection, with skepticism treated as heresy.

The impression that race-related positions are elementary tenets long resolved explains the “safe space” concept so often bandied about at universities today. Commentators harrumph that students who insist on this brand of safety are merely “whining,” but they miss the point; these students assume that any views on race and racism counter to theirs genuinely qualify as benighted and toxic. All of us seek “safety” from genuinely rancid views—how many of us would stay at a party where someone dominated the conversation with overtly racist bloviations? These students have merely overextended the bounds of the conclusively intolerable.


There are useful points in the students’ demands: Historical figures as especially bigoted as Wilson and John C. Calhoun should not have their names on college buildings; student organizations displaying openly racist behavior should not be a part of a college campus experience.

But where the protesters’ proposition is “If I am offended, I am correct,” the proper response is, quite simply, “No.” This and only this constitutes true respect for these students’ dignity. It isn’t an easy answer. The naysayer will be called a racist (or self-hating) on social media and on campus for months. However, adults who know that their resistance to mob ideology is based on logic and compassion will survive emotionally. Of course, such people fear for their jobs. But a true university culture will resist sacrificing professors or administrators who are advocates of reason on the altar of convenient pieties.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

- Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How One Man Made The Leap From Artificial Intelligence To Saxophone

Anton Schwartz abandoned his doctoral thesis on artificial intelligence in order to pursue a career in music.

Schwartz made the decision to leave academia after suffering from chronic fatigue.

This might seem like a drastic career change to most of us, but Schwartz doesn't look at it that way. The way he looks at it, he just consistently followed his passions.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.

- Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

And Centerville High is not alone. Last summer I had a conversation with some boys who attend one of the nation’s top prep schools, in New England. They reported the same thing: as white males, they are constantly on eggshells, afraid to speak up on any remotely controversial topic lest they be sent to the “equality police” (that was their term for the multicultural center). I probed to see if their fear extended  beyond the classroom. I asked them what they would do if there was a new student at their school, from, say Yemen. Would they feel free to ask the student questions about his or her country? No, they said, it’s too risky, a question could be perceived as offensive.

You might think that this is some sort of justice — white males have enjoyed positions of privilege for centuries, and now they are getting a taste of their own medicine. But these are children. And remember that most students who are in a victim group for one topic are in the “oppressor” group for another. So everyone is on eggshells sometimes; all students at Centerville High learn to engage with books, ideas, and people using the twin habits of defensive self-censorship and vindictive protectiveness.


The only hope for Centerville High — and for Yale — is to disrupt their repressively uniform moral matrices to make room for dissenting views. High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify. Schools that value freedom of thought should therefore actively seek out non-leftist faculty, and they should explicitly include viewpoint diversity and political diversity in all statements about diversity and discrimination. Parents and students who value freedom of thought should take viewpoint diversity into account when applying to colleges. Alumni should take it into account before writing any more checks.

The Yale problem refers to an unfortunate feedback loop: Once you allow victimhood culture to spread on your campus, you can expect ever more anger from students representing victim groups, coupled with demands for a deeper institutional commitment to victimhood culture, which leads inexorably to more anger, more demands, and more commitment. But the Yale problem didn’t start at Yale. It started in high school. As long as many of our elite prep schools are turning out students who have only known eggshells and anger, whose social cognition is limited to a single dimension of victims and victimizers, and who demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, it’s hard to imagine how any university can open students’ minds and prepare them to converse respectfully with people who don’t share their values. Especially when there are no adults around who don’t share their values.

- Jonathan Haidt on The Yale Problem Begins in High School

Quote of the Day

Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.

- Lou Holtz

Friday, November 27, 2015

What I've Been Reading

Generations of men establish a growing mastery over the earth, but they are destined to become fossils in its soil. 

The Lessons of History by Will Durant.

I cannot think of anyone else who can write the entire history of Sapiens in 100 pages; a prefect cocktail if read with Yuval Noah Harari's new book Sapiens.

"Nevertheless, know history shows little alteration in conduct of mankind. The Greeks of Plato's time behaved very much like French of modern centuries; and the Romans behaved like the English. Means and instrumentalities change; motives and ends remain the same: to act or rest, to acquire or give, to fight or retreat, to seek association or privacy, to mate or reject, to offer or resent parental care. Nor does human nature alter as between classes: by and large the poor have the same impulses as the rich, with only less opportunity or skill to implement them. Nothing is clearer in history than the adoption by successful rebels of the methods they were accustomed to condemn in the forces they deposed."

Quote of the Day

No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

- CS Lewis

Thursday, November 26, 2015

CRISPR to Eliminate Malaria?

The mosquitoes have two important genetic additions. One is genes that manufacture antibodies whenever a female mosquito has a “blood meal.” Those antibodies bind to the parasite’s surface and halt its development. Yet normally, such an engineered mosquito would pass the genes only to exactly half its offspring, since there’s a 50 percent chance any chunk of DNA would come from its mate. And since the new genes probably don’t help a mosquito much, they’d quickly peter out in the wild.

That’s where CRISPR comes in. In a gene drive, components of the CRISPR system are added such that any normal gene gets edited and the genetic cargo is added to it as well. In James’s lab, practically all the mosquitoes ended up with the genetic addition, a result Esvelt calls “astounding.”

What worries Esvelt is that, in his opinion, the California researchers haven’t used strict enough safety measures. He says locked doors and closed cages aren’t enough. He wants them to install a genetic “reversal drive” so the change can be undone, if necessary. “An accidental release would be a disaster with potentially devastating consequences for public trust in science and especially gene-drive interventions,” he says. “No gene-drive intervention must ever be released without popular support.”

James says the experiment was safe since the mosquitoes are kept behind a series of locked, card-entry doors and because they aren’t native to California. If any escaped, they wouldn’t be able to reproduce.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I would not question the sincerity of vegetarians who take little interest in Animal Liberation because they give priority to other causes; but when nonvegetarians say that "human problems come first" I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.

- Peter Singer

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake you are no longer authentic.

- Jean Paul Sartre

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

Being sad with the right people is better than being happy with the wrong ones.

-  Philippos

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

Retire into yourself as much as possible. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one. People learn as they teach.

- Seneca

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

 -Mark Twain

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

With the assumption that early human hunter-gatherer societies have been fairly egalitarian, Hayek seems in agreement with many anthropologists. Indeed, this feature has recently been explained by Christopher Boehm in his book Hierarchy in the Forest (1999) by the ability of the small bands to spontaneously form coalitions among their members. Through these coalitions, weaker members were able to block stronger individuals when they attempted to gain dominance and to subdue other members. Given the importance of this ability for upholding within-group cooperation, egalitarian preferences that make it easier to form blocking coalitions may well have implied a reproductive advantage at the group level. Over thousands of generations of human existence in hunter-gatherer bands these preferences may therefore have been selected for and may have entered the genetic endowment still present in modern humans as Hayek argued. But are egalitarian preferences indeed dysfunctional today when they induce people to endorse income redistribution in modern capitalist economies?

I think in a broader view on human history we find reason to assume that this is not true. History did not jump from the early hunter-gatherer societies to the conditions of the Medieval Mediterranean city states in which Hayek identifies the nucleus of the extended order of the markets of today. There are some ten to twelve thousand years in between during which agriculture unfolded and drove out hunter gatherers. The new production method resulted in serendipity and population growth. Group size increased far beyond that of the hunter-gatherer bands, making the spontaneous formation of blocking coalitions more difficult. Further, the necessary accumulation of capital in the form of harvested stock, livestock, dwellings etc. became a source of increasingly unequal personal wealth. Huge wealth differences facilitate attempts of individuals or families to gain dominance within their groups. Anti-blocking coalitions can be formed by buying allies.

As a matter of historical fact, in place of the rather egalitarian and participatory organization of human society, agriculture brought hierarchically stratified social formations. With them dominance and subordination, the characteristics of the social interactions of our primate ancestors, returned albeit in despotic and more cruel forms, including slavery and feudal villeinage. Thus, during the agricultural phase, human society took a road to serfdom in a literal, not the fictitious, sense which Hayek feared Western societies would be moving down in the 20th century, driven by a mislead egalitarianism. For that reason, the lesson to be learned from the road to serfdom actually taken in human history is not about how income redistribution threatens liberties that have been gained after a long struggle against feudal tutelage and suppression. To the contrary, it is a lesson about how the extreme income and wealth inequality of emerging despotism and feudalism have demolished the political organization of participatory societies and the personal liberties of their members.

In this light, the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution can be seen as mile stones at which the human kind reclaimed at least in some regions of the world a fairly egalitarian participatory formation. Under the conditions of modern capitalism it is no longer one akin to small bands with their spontaneously forming blocking coalitions. It is a much bigger and more anonymous formation in which individual freedom and egalitarian participation are upheld by institutional rules of the game characterized by checks and balances. But the rules and the checks and balances still need to be stabilized by the formation of coalitions capable of blocking claims to dominance and supremacy of small but powerful other coalitions. Their power grows more as the more extreme inequalities in the wealth distribution become and make it possible, like in the unfortunate past, to bribe and turn around members of blocking coalitions. With our innate egalitarian sentiments we may intuitively feel that income redistribution is not subversive to liberty, but a necessary condition for safeguarding it.

Coming back to the question in the heading: how should Hayek be seen, after all, as an intellectual hero or an ideologue? In my (European) view, the answer would be: Under the historical condition which Hayek developed his liberal social philosophy, his courageous opposition to a fashionable, pro-socialist Zeitgeist made him an outstanding intellectual. However, as I tried to point out, he misunderstood or did not wish to understand the role of income redistribution in a free society. Instead, his continued crusading against allegedly atavistic ideals of material equality puts income redistribution at par with socialist irrationalism. This one-sided interpretation paved the way for his arguments to be over-simplified for political partisanship in the United States. Hayek’s new adherents fail to account for his intellectual stature and make him appear post mortem like an ideologue.

Friedrich Hayek. Intellectual Hero or Ideologue?

Quote of the Day

It was only by escaping into the desert that Moses and the Jews were able to solidify their identity and reemerge as a social and political force.Jesus spent his forty days in the wilderness, and Mohammed, too, fled Mecca at a time of great peril for a period of retreat. He and just a handful of his most devoted supporters used this period to deepen their bonds, to understand who they were and what they stood for, to let time work its good. Then this little band of believers reemerged to conquer Mecca and the Arabian Peninsula and later, after Mohammed's death, to defeat the Byzantines and the Persian empire, spreading Islam over vast territories. Around the world every mythology has a hero who retreats, even to Hades itself in the case of Odysseus, to find himself.

- Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

- St Augustine

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quote of the Day

When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine yourself.

- Confucius

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Single Artificial Neuron Taught to Recognize Hundreds of Patterns

Thanks to the work of Jeff Hawkins and Subutai Ahmad at Numenta, a Silicon Valley startup focused on understanding and exploiting the principles behind biological information processing. The breakthrough these guys have made is to come up with a new theory that finally explains the role of the vast number of synapses in real neurons and to create a model based on this theory that reproduces many of the intelligent behaviors of real neurons.

Real neurons consist of a cell body, known as the soma, that contains the cell nucleus and from which extend a number of nearby, or proximal, dendrites as well as the axon, a fine cable-like projection that can extend many centimeters to connect to other neurons. At the end of the axon are another set of branches, known as distal dendrites because of their distance from the soma..

Proximal and distal dendrites all make thousands connections, called synapses, to the axons of other nerve cells. These connections famously influence the rate at which the nerve cell produces electrical signals known as spikes..

The consensus is that neurons “learn” by recognizing certain patterns of connections among its synapses and  fire when they see this pattern..

But while it’s easy to understand how proximal synapses can influence the cell body and the rate of firing, it’s hard to understand how distal synapses can do the same thing, because they are so far away..

Hawkins and Ahmad now say they know what’s going on. Their new idea is that distal and proximal synapses play entirely different roles in the process of learning. Proximal synapses play the conventional role of triggering the cell to fire when certain patterns of connections crop up..

This is the conventional process of learning. “We show that a neuron can recognize hundreds of patterns even in the presence of large amounts of noise and variability as long as overall neural activity is sparse,” say Hawkins and Ahmad..

But distal synapses do something else. They also recognize when certain patterns are present, but do not trigger firing. Instead, they influence the electric state of the cell in a way that makes firing more likely if another specific pattern occurs. So distal synapses prepare the cell for the arrival of other patterns. Or, as Hawkins and Ahmad put it, these synapses help the cell predict what the next pattern sensed by the proximal synapses will be..

That’s hugely important. It means that in addition learning when a specific pattern is present, the cell also learns the sequence in which patterns appear. “We show how a network of neurons with this property will learn and recall sequences of patterns,” they say..

What’s more, they show that all this works well, even in the presence of large amounts of noise, as is always the case in biological systems..

That’s a significant new way of thinking about neurons and one that reproduces some of the key features of information processing in the human brain. For example, Hawkins and Ahmad show that this system doesn’t remember every detail of every pattern in a sequence but instead stores the difference between one pattern and the next..

So what’s important is not the total amount of information in a pattern but the difference between this pattern and the next.

- More Here

GPS Always Overestimates Distances

If you make a measurement and it is subject to a random unbiased error then you generally are safe in assuming that the random component will make the quantity larger as often as it makes it smaller. This is how it seems to be with GPS  there are errors in positioning that are inherent in the system but certainly don't show any particular bias. Given this observation you would expect the distance between two points located with unbiased random error would also be unbiased, i.e. it would be on average bigger as often as it was smaller than the true value.

However, you would be wrong.

Researchers at the University of Salzburg (UoS), Salzburg Forschungsgesellchaft (SFG), and the Delft University of Technology have done some fairly simple calculations that prove that this is not the case. Irrespective of the distribution of the errors, the expected measured length squared between two points is bigger than the true length squared unless the errors at both points are identical.

That is, if you have two points p1 and p2 and errors in measuring x and y at each, the squared distance measured between them will come out as bigger than the true distance unless the errors are such that they move both points by the same amount - which is highly unlikely in practice.
How can this be?

Consider the two points and the straight line between them. This straight line is the shortest distance between the two points. Now consider random displacements of the two points. The only displacements that reduce the distance are those that move the two points closer together, for example displacements along the line towards each other. The majority of random displacements end up increasing the distance.


This is the reason that unbiased errors end up biasing the distance measurement.
So given that the GPS path is just a sum of distances computed between pairs of points, the total estimated distance is going to be bigger than the true distance because of random errors.
A little more work and the researchers derive a formula for how much of an Over Estimate of Distance OED is produced:

OED= (d+ var - C)1/2 - d

where var is the variance in the GPS position and C is the autocovariance (correlation) between the errors. Notice that the more correlated the errors, the smaller the over estimate.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

- John Wooden

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Analyzing Academic Papers Using Cutting-Edge AI to Find Meaning in Billions of Words

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is working toward this very goal, and has developed a new tool called Semantic Scholar that can search through millions of computer science papers. The tool, launched today, features ways of refining searches based on information extracted from the text of papers.

It is, for instance, possible to narrow a search according to the journal in which a paper was published, or the conference at which it was presented, or by the data set used. Semantic scholar will also show key phrases in a paper.

Many academic search engines already exist, among them Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, PubMed, and JSTOR. But these typically only search through papers using keywords and other information that is clearly categorized, such as the publication date.

Oren Etzioni, executive director of the Allen Institute, says a lot of pertinent information found in research papers is presented in different ways. The software behind Semantic Scholar was trained to extract different concepts using a variety of machine-learning techniques. “With millions of papers appearing every year, you just can’t keep up with them,” Etzioni says. “So you need some level of understanding.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete.

- Epictetus

Monday, November 16, 2015

An Instant Classic: Rochet & Tirole, Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets

The press release announcing that Jean Tirole had been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences noted that he had “made important theoretical research contributions in a number of areas.” One of his most important contributions was the discovery and pioneering analysis of multi-sided platforms in his 2003 paper with Jean-Charles Rochet, Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets. According to Google Scholar, this paper has been cited over 1800 times, fourth among Jean’s many papers.

The Rochet &Tirole paper has spawned an enormous literature in a very short time—over 200 papers by the end of 2012, and the economics of multi-sided platforms is now a standard component of graduate courses in industrial organization. The RT paper is the first post-2000 academic paper to be deemed a classic by Competition Policy International, an honor it richly deserves….

- Full paper here

Quote of the Day

The first step in changing someone’s mind is to know where that mind is.

- William Ury, Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote of the Day

Wisdom is not the same thing as information. Wisdom is information + experience + context, and only a human can do that. Wisdom is information you can actually use.

- Tucker Max, The Book In A Box Method: The New Way to Quickly and Easily Write Your Book (Even If You're Not a Writer)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

The idea of a learning machine may appear paradoxical to some readers. How can the rules of operation of the machine change? They should describe completely how the machine will react whatever its history might be, whatever changes it might undergo. The rules are thus quite time-invariant. This is quite true. The explanation of the paradox is that the rules which get changed in the learning process are of a rather less pretentious kind, claiming only an ephemeral validity. The reader may draw a parallel with the Constitution of the United States.

An important feature of a learning machine is that its teacher will often be very largely ignorant of quite what is going on inside, although he may still be able to some extent to predict his pupil's behavior. This should apply most strongly to the later education of a machine arising from a child machine of well-tried design (or programme). This is in clear contrast with normal procedure when using a machine to do computations one's object is then to have a clear mental picture of the state of the machine at each moment in the computation. This object can only be achieved with a struggle. The view that "the machine can only do what we know how to order it to do,"' appears strange in face of this. Most of the programmes which we can put into the machine will result in its doing something that we cannot make sense (if at all, or which we regard as completely random behaviour. Intelligent behaviour presumably consists in a departure from the completely disciplined behaviour involved in computation, but a rather slight one, which does not give rise to random behaviour, or to pointless repetitive loops. Another important result of preparing our machine for its part in the imitation game by a process of teaching and learning is that "human fallibility" is likely to be omitted in a rather natural way, i.e., without special "coaching." (The reader should reconcile this with the point of view on pages 23 and 24.) Processes that are learnt do not produce a hundred per cent certainty of result; if they did they could not be unlearnt.

It is probably wise to include a random element in a learning machine. A random element is rather useful when we are searching for a solution of some problem. Suppose for instance we wanted to find a number between 50 and 200 which was equal to the square of the sum of its digits, we might start at 51 then try 52 and go on until we got a number that worked. Alternatively we might choose numbers at random until we got a good one. This method has the advantage that it is unnecessary to keep track of the values that have been tried, but the disadvantage that one may try the same one twice, but this is not very important if there are several solutions. The systematic method has the disadvantage that there may be an enormous block without any solutions in the region which has to be investigated first, Now the learning process may be regarded as a search for a form of behaviour which will satisfy the teacher (or some other criterion). Since there is probably a very large number of satisfactory solutions the random method seems to be better than the systematic. It should be noticed that it is used in the analogous process of evolution. But there the systematic method is not possible. How could one keep track of the different genetical combinations that had been tried, so as to avoid trying them again?

We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields. But which are the best ones to start with? Even this is a difficult decision. Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. Again I do not know what the right answer is, but I think both approaches should be tried.

- Computing Machinery and Intelligence  paper by Alan Turing

Quote of the Day

I would like us to think about it more explicitly, and not take our intuitions as the given of ethics, but rather to reflect on it, and be more open about the fact that something is an ethical issues and think what we ought to do about it.

- Peter Singer

Friday, November 13, 2015

Complexity & Work

Radical unpredictability is a characteristic of (organizational) life. One can no longer count on a certain input leading to a certain given output. The way complexity works is to escalate small changes, breaking any direct link between input an output.

There is no option but to act and learn.

Effective decision making in conditions of uncertainty would require a constant, active search for unintended developments, errors in thinking, wrong assumptions and willingness to respond, to learn from the consequences of our own actions.

This entails a huge change when it comes to our thinking about leaders and managers. Most of us are used to being judged on whether we made the right choice. If it turns out to be wrong, we assign time and energy to concealing the fact, or to justifying our original decision. “I was right; I did the right thing.” “It was a good strategy but the implementation sucked.”

Applying mainstream management approaches in conditions of uncertainty leads us unintentionally to avoid the search for learning and positive change. Being wrong is a common but very difficult proposition in organizations. Instead of seeing learning as a process of closing the gap between not-knowing and knowing, acknowledging being wrong might be the most important starting point for learning — because we mostly are!

The learning we need today starts from what we did yesterday and changes what we do today.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.

- Immanuel Kant

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Google Is Willing to Give Away Its Latest Machine-Learning Software

“It’s not a suicidal idea to release this,” said Nello Cristianini, a professor of artificial intelligence at the U.K.’s University of Bristol. “Deep learning is not plug-and-play. It needs a lot of testing, tuning and adapting.”

Deep-learning systems have to be built to perform specific tasks and trained with massive amounts of data, said Dr. Cristianini and others. Several years ago, Google researchers taught a system to recognize cats by loading about 10 million images from its YouTube online-video service into a network of 16,000 computer processors

The systems can have millions of parameters, or “knobs” as Dr. Cristianini calls them, that must be adjusted. Without smart engineers to do this, the deep-learning algorithms Google released are of limited use.

“Tweaking the parameters and having experience from trial and error in the past — that’s something you need expertise on,” said Patrick Ehlen, chief scientist at machine-learning startup Loop AI Labs. “People who come to this for the first time will need to spend a lot of time on this.”

By releasing the software, Google hopes to attract more researchers contributing ideas to improve the software and apply it in new ways.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

- Voltaire

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Rational Case for Emotions

This obsession with purely rational efficiency began in business, and so it is perhaps no surprise that numbers-only analysis, strict hierarchies, and the elimination of inefficiencies have become the cornerstones of the corporate world. While a rational, impersonal management style can certainly reduce costs, it comes at the expense of what corporations (and governments) desire more than anything else: innovation. In his book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of Innovation, Ed Catmull, who co-founded Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, had this to say:
“…The best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know— not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur. I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear.”
Catmull’s emphasis on humility is striking and fits exactly with the vast body of research on innovation. Humility makes space for everyone to share their ideas. It allows for the collective intelligence of the group. On the other hand, hierarchical systems where CEOs expect their employees to do only what they’re told, where the government prescribes exactly what teachers must do, and where armies give soldiers on the ground no discretion leave room for the intelligence of only one person: the leader. Pixar has created an environment that uses emotional and psychological motivators for its employees in order to pursue their core principle: that two heads really are better than one. Whether you measure their success financially or based on how their stories move you, Pixar’s approach clearly works.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Without virtue, it is hard to bear the results of good fortune suitably. Those who lack virtue become arrogant and wantonly aggressive when they have these other goods. They think less of everyone else, and do whatever they please. They do this because they are imitating the magnanimous person though they are not really like him.

- Aristotle on the Megalopsychos

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TensorFlow - Google's ML for Masses

TensorFlow is a machine-learning system that can run on anything from a single smartphone to thousands of data-center computers. It builds upon DistBelief, the deep-learning infrastructure Google developed back in 2011, but takes that first generation several steps further.


DistBelief was narrowly focused on neural networks, difficult to configure and tightly linked to Google’s internal infrastructure, making it "nearly impossible to share research code externally," explained Jeff Dean, a senior Google Fellow, and Rajat Monga, technical lead, in a separate post on the Google Research blog.

TensorFlow is twice as fast as DistBelief on some benchmarks, they said. It can also be used to build and train neural nets as much as five times faster than DistBelief could.


Featuring a Python interface, TensorFlow is now available under an Apache 2.0 license as a standalone library along with associated tools, examples and tutorials. The current release reportedly runs only on a single machine, but expanded functionality is on the way.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation, or of protesting against their condition with votes, demonstrations, or bombs. Human beings have the power to continue to oppress other species forever, or until we make this planet unsuitable for living beings. Will our tyranny continue, proving that we really are the selfish tyrants that the most cynical of poets and philosophers have always said we are? Or will we rise to the challenge and prove our capacity for genuine altruism by ending our ruthless exploitation of the species in our power, not because we are forced to do so by rebels or terrorists, but because we recognize that our position is morally indefensible? The way in which we answer this question depends on the way in which each one of us, individually, answers it.

- Peter Singer

Monday, November 9, 2015

Craig Venter's Health Nucleus

Last year, at age 67, Venter cofounded Human Longevity, a company based in San Diego with branches in Mountain View, Calif., and Singapore that is building the largest human genome-sequencing operation on Earth, equipped with massive computing resources to analyze the data being generated. The firm’s database now contains highly accurate genome sequences from 20,000 people; another 3,000 genomes are being added each month.

Franz Och, the former head of Google Translate and an expert on machine learning, is leading a team that’s teaching computers to recognize patterns in the company’s databases that scientists themselves may not be able to see. To demonstrate the power of this approach, Human Longevity researchers are using machine learning to discover how genetic variations shape the human face.

“We can determine a good resemblance of your photograph straight from your genetic code,” said Venter.

Venter and his colleagues will be publishing the results of that study soon — most likely generating another round of headlines. But headlines don’t pay the bills, and at a company that’s got $70 million in funding from private investors, bills matter. The company is now exploring a number of avenues for generating income from its database. It has partnered with Discovery, an insurance company in England and South Africa, to read the DNA of their clients. For $250 apiece, it will sequence the protein-coding regions of the genome, known as exomes, and offer an interpretation of the data.

Health Nucleus could become yet another source of income for Human Longevity. The San Diego facility can handle eight to 12 people a day. There are plans to open more sites both in the United States and abroad. “You can do the math,” Venter said.

- Carl Zimmer

Quote of the Day

If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.

- Paul Watson

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ethics in Business - Jonathan Haidt

I set up the argument by quoting Buddha’s version of the business case:

Set your heart on doing good.
Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.
A fool is happy until his mischief turns against him.
And a good man may suffer until his goodness flowers.

I then organized the recent evidence into three categories:

  • A good reputation is extremely valuable
  • Illegal conduct can be extremely costly
  • Ethical companies are more efficient
- More Here

Quote of the Day

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

- Albert Camus

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Although I disagree with some of his views, I highly respect him some of the core values I share with him like Morality, Humility etc. Great piece on The Transformation of David Brooks by Danny Funt:

In general, Brooks contends, journalists balk at sharing moral viewpoints, and readers bristle upon receiving them. His critics find him an insufferable scold, a pompous sermonizer. “I think there is some allergy our culture has toward moral judgment of any kind,” he reflects. “There is a big relativistic strain through our society that if it feels good for you, then who am I to judge? I think that is fundamentally wrong, and I’d rather take the hits for being a moralizer than to have a public square where there’s no moral thought going on.” There is at least marginal evidence that this is changing. His book, published in April, spent 22 weeks on the Times best-seller list.

Writing in 2001 for The Atlantic Monthly, where he regularly contributed, his first sense of a decline in moral dialogue came from a visit to Princeton and led to “The Organization Kid.” The students he encountered lacked “a vocabulary of virtue and vice.” After talking to them about character, Brooks noticed, “they’re a little nervous about the subject. … When I asked about moral questions, they would often flee such talk.”

“Even back then, you find David beginning to develop this central interest of his own life’s work,” says George, who was heavily quoted in that article, and whom the Times later called “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.”


Whatever forces led to his transformation, it seems at least partly propelled by his disillusion with politics. Brooks was once infatuated with Capitol Hill. An unexpected bond formed between Brooks and the president, and he estimates that he visited the White House on 40 occasions during Obama’s tenure. But over time, Brooks came to find traditional political analysis to be trivial. “Who the hell cares about what Trump said to Ted Cruz?” he says.

A career immersed in those issues, even at the highest levels of journalism, was not as fulfilling as planned. One close friend is Yuval Levin, whom the New Republic calls “the right’s new favorite intellectual” and who Brooks calls a mentor. Levin says Brooks has come to believe “ultimately, it isn’t really politics that shapes an advance toward justice. It’s moral improvement.”

Quote of the Day

The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.

- Marcus Aurelius

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quote of the Day

It is the good children, Madame, who make the most terrible revolutionaries. They say nothing, they do not hide under the table, they eat only one sweet at a time, but later on, they make Society pay dearly for it!

- Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mains sales

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Quote of the Day

When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.

- Confucius

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Quote of the Day

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

-  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coywolf - A New American Animal

I guess one of them has found way near our home; I heard "them" and neighbor have seen one !!

Interbreeding of wolves, coyotes and dogs in North America has created “an extraordinarily fit new animal”, called here the coywolf, though it has yet to acquire a scientific name. Coywolves have “twice the heft of purebred coyotes”, and jaws large enough to “take down small deer”. A pack of them can kill a moose. They don’t mind city noise, and they know the Highway Code, “looking both ways before they cross a road”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Monday, November 2, 2015

What a Deep Neural Network Thinks About Your #selfie

Convolutional Neural Networks are great: they recognize things, places and people in your personal photos, signs, people and lights in self-driving cars, crops, forests and traffic in aerial imagery, various anomalies in medical images and all kinds of other useful things. But once in a while these powerful visual recognition models can also be warped for distraction, fun and amusement. In this fun experiment we're going to do just that: We'll take a powerful, 140-million-parameter state-of-the-art Convolutional Neural Network, feed it 2 million selfies from the internet, and train it to classify good selfies from bad ones. Just because it's easy and because we can. And in the process we might learn how to take better selfies :)


To take a good selfie, Do:
  • Be female. Women are consistently ranked higher than men. In particular, notice that there is not a single guy in the top 100.
  • Face should occupy about 1/3 of the image. Notice that the position and pose of the face is quite consistent among the top images. The face always occupies about 1/3 of the image, is slightly tilted, and is positioned in the center and at the top. Which also brings me to:
  • Cut off your forehead. What's up with that? It looks like a popular strategy, at least for women.
  • Show your long hair. Notice the frequent prominence of long strands of hair running down the shoulders.
  • Oversaturate the face. Notice the frequent occurrence of over-saturated lighting, which often makes the face look much more uniform and faded out. Related to that,
  • Put a filter on it. Black and White photos seem to do quite well, and most of the top images seem to contain some kind of a filter that fades out the image and decreases the contrast.
  • Add a border. You will notice a frequent appearance of horizontal/vertical white borders.
- More Here

Quote of the Day

Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.

– Dan Ariely

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quote of the Day

...[H]uman beings are neurologically ill-designed to be modern Americans. The human brain evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in an environment defined by scarcity. It was not designed, at least originally, for an environment of extreme abundance... Even a person on a diet who sensibly avoids coming face-to-face with a piece of chocolate cake will find it hard to control himself if the chocolate cake somehow finds him... When faced with abundance, the brain's ancient reward pathways are difficult to suppress. In that moment the value of eating the chocolate cake exceeds the value of the diet. We cannot think down the road when we are faced with the chocolate cake.

- Michael Lewis, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World