Monday, February 29, 2016

Future of AI - Richard Sutton

Quote of the Day

An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. "Can they be brought together?" This is a practical question. We must get down to it. "I despise intelligence" really means: "I cannot bear my doubts.

- Albert Camus

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Predicting Oscar 2016 Winner via Swarm Intelligence

What is Particle Swarm Algorithm? Check out the video

The prediction's are :

  • Best Picture: The Revenant
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Brie Larson (Room)
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Leo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  • Best Director: A.G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
How good are these predictions?
We will know tomorrow am (I don't lose my sleep watching Oscars :-) )

Quote of the Day

One of the paradoxes of life is that being impatient often makes it harder to achieve something. As with any skill, you get better at manifesting the more you practice.

-  Simon Foster, Manifesting Change: How to Manifest Change, Love, Abundance and Prosperity

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

My interest in formal causal analysis was seeded a couple of years ago, with a reading group that was dedicated to Judea Pearl’s work. We didn’t get very far, as I was a bit disappointed with what causal calculus can and cannot do. This may have been because I didn’t come in with the right expectations – I expected a black box that automatically finds causes. Recently reading Samantha Kleinberg’s excellent book Why: A Guide to Finding and Using Causes has made my expectations somewhat more realistic:
Thousands of years after Aristotle’s seminal work on causality, hundreds of years after Hume gave us two definitions of it, and decades after automated inference became a possibility through powerful new computers, causality is still an unsolved problem. Humans are prone to seeing causality where it does not exist and our algorithms aren’t foolproof. Even worse, once we find a cause it’s still hard to use this information to prevent or produce an outcome because of limits on what information we can collect and how we can understand it. After looking at all the cases where methods haven’t worked and researchers and policy makers have gotten causality really wrong, you might wonder why you should bother.
Rather than giving up on causality, what we need to give up on is the idea of having a black box that takes some data straight from its source and emits a stream of causes with no need for interpretation or human intervention. Causal inference is necessary and possible, but it is not perfect and, most importantly, it requires domain knowledge.
Kleinberg’s book is a great general intro to causality, but it intentionally omits the mathematical details behind the various methods. I am now ready to once again go deeper into causality, perhaps starting with Kleinberg’s more technical book, Causality, Probability, and Time. Other recommendations are very welcome!

- Why you should stop worrying about deep learning and deepen your understanding of causality instead

Quote of the Day

However, the one thing I had learned over the years is that perseverance and patience pays off in the long run.

- Catherine Pulsifer

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Short History of Machine Learning

1950 — Alan Turing creates the “Turing Test” to determine if a computer has real intelligence. To pass the test, a computer must be able to fool a human into believing it is also human.

1952 — Arthur Samuel wrote the first computer learning program. The program was the game of checkers, and the IBM IBM +0.30% computer improved at the game the more it played, studying which moves made up winning strategies and incorporating those moves into its program.

1957 — Frank Rosenblatt designed the first neural network for computers (the perceptron), which simulate the thought processes of the human brain.


2015 – Amazon launches its own machine learning platform.

2015 – Microsoft creates the Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit, which enables the efficient distribution of machine learning problems across multiple computers.

2015 – Over 3,000 AI and Robotics researchers, endorsed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak (among many others), sign an open letter warning of the danger of autonomous weapons which select and engage targets without human intervention.

2016 – Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm beats a professional player at the Chinese board game Go, which is considered the world’s most complex board game and is many times harder than chess. The AlphaGo algorithm developed by Google DeepMind managed to win five games out of five in the Go competition.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

A “real” data scientist knows how to apply mathematics, statistics, how to build and validate models using proper experimental designs. Having IT skills without statistics skills makes you a data scientist as much as it makes you a surgeon to know how to build a scalpel.

Lisa Winter, Senior Analyst at Towers Watson

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Something Truly Beautiful Is Happening At This Animal Shelter

An innovative new idea, called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, is already making a huge difference for animals at the Humane Society of Missouri.

The idea is simple: train kids to read to dogs as a way of readying them for forever homes, all while instilling a greater sense of empathy in the youngsters, too.

"We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them," program director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. "We launched the program last Christmas, but now we offer it once a month."

Kids age 6 to 15 can sign up for the program online, after which they are trained how to read a dog's body language to tell if they are stressed out or anxious. Those pets, say Klepacki, are the ones most in need of special attention.

The young volunteers are then encouraged to sit in front of a shy dog's kennel with a book and read to them — a simple gesture that can go a long way.

"Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reenforce that behavior by tossing them a treat," said Klepacki. "What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through. They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering".

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tyler Cowen - A Conversation with Nate Silver

That’s part of why even though now we’re very immersed in the election cycle, it’s part of why I wanted to make sure that FiveThirtyEight was not just an election site. We’re going to blow an election sooner or later. We might blow this one. To be doing a whole diverse array of things both intellectually and commercially is important.

The follow-up to that is, “Are there people who have the skills to find the next underweighted opportunity?” Maybe, that’s trickier. I think a lot of people have one or two really good insights, and if you’re very lucky that can take you a long way.


COWEN: Other than skilled with data, what are the personal qualities of good predictors?

SILVER: You have to have a certain mistrust of conventional wisdom, and that’s a tricky thing. On the one hand we know that I’m not that smart, that this room is way way way way smarter than me, and a market is way way way way smarter than me. At the same time people are social beings, and they behave in herds sometimes.

This is easier in politics than almost any other field, because the political press corps literally is kind of a herd. It’s the perfect example of it. You have a few hundred journalists who travel around together, who are all reading one another on Twitter, who are all talking to one another.

It’s not 500 really smart people. It’s one or two really smart people, and 489 followers instead. I don’t know. We get ourselves in a little bit of trouble I think at FiveThirtyEight at times, because we are fairly combative. For a long time I thought, “Well this is kind of part of my personality, and the kind of more happy warrior data side is more part of it too.”

They’re actually kind of sides of the same coin. When you read the New York Times or the Post, not basic factual statements where they say, “Today, Donald Trump was in Arizona,” but when there’s a piece of analysis that isn’t necessarily obvious, to say, “Boy, there might be a 40 percent chance that that’s basically wrong.”

That leaves you in a weird place kind of. But to believe that is, I think, the source of a lot of the healthy skepticism that we have and also some of our failings sometimes.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The mantra of any good security engineer is: 'Security is a not a product, but a process.' It's more than designing strong cryptography into a system; it's designing the entire system such that all security measures, including cryptography, work together.

- Bruce Schneier

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Limits Of The Digital Revolution

Yes, I think what pretty much everybody agrees on is that we simply don’t know what is going to happen, that we have different versions of educated guesses.

I think, actually, where I disagree, I think there’s a lot of arrogance of prediction, a lot of arrogant prediction we won’t solve this problem, that we will not think of things for people to do. That’s certainly what you get from Martin Ford’s book The Rise of the Robots. That’s what you get from Frey and Osborne about the 47% of jobs that will be displaced. It’s basically a very bold prediction on the failure of human ingenuity and creativity to think of new things for people to do, and I would never make such a bet against humanity.

On the other hand, it’s also inaccurate to say that “It’s never been a problem before; therefore, it won’t be a problem this time.” Technological change has always been disruptive, it’s always created winners and losers, and this time could be worse or better than other times.

Let me say I’m much less pessimistic than many. I’ll tell you one reason, actually, that I think is underestimated or underemphasised in this discussion is that the rate of change matters as well. It’s not just where we’re going, it’s how fast we get there, because we can only adapt so rapidly.

If we knew, if we read today in The Guardian or The Wall Street Journal that 15 years from now no-one will be driving vehicles anymore because they’ll all be done by machinery, you’d say, “That’s good, but it’s going to create some challenges. We’d better stop training people to be lorry drivers and get them ready for other occupations,” but we could deal with that.

If it was announced that coming next Monday no-one will be driving vehicles, that would be a much bigger problem – not that it wouldn’t have the same economic benefits of safer, cheaper transportation, but we would have a lot of displaced workers to contend with.

It matters how fast things are changing, not just where they’re eventually going to go, and the evidence is not strong that they are changing extremely rapidly, in fact. The productivity statistics don’t show it, the investment statistics don’t show it. I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm and certainly there is no question that progress is occurring, but the sort of singularity thinking that we’re approaching this singularity – you can see it where just the rate of change is accelerating; it’s all Moore’s Law and stuff – that’s just not serious. There’s no serious data that support it.


Because there are ethical, legal, power obstacles of actually implementing this.

Also, you have to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative change. My computer can run Microsoft Word 1,000 times faster than my computer could 20 years ago, but it doesn’t make it 1,000 times more productive; maybe it’s 20% more productive. The point is there’s this false equivalence drawn between computing processor cycles and productivity or output, and it’s really diminishing marginal returns.

To give you an example of this, I was at a conference and an executive from McKinsey got up and said, “Your washing machine today has more processing power than the entire Apollo moon project.” He meant this to demonstrate the great rate of change and the fantastic progress, and to me that just said, “Diminishing marginal returns.” My washing machine is not going to the moon.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.

- Stephen Jay Gould

Monday, February 22, 2016

Complexity Theory and Financial Regulation

Recent research has revealed generic empirical quantitative indicators of resilience that may be used across complex systems to detect tipping points. Markers include rising correlation between nodes in a network and rising temporal correlation, variance, and skewedness of fluctuation patterns. These indicators were first predicted mathematically and subsequently demonstrated experimentally in real complex systems, including living systems (1). A recent study of the Dutch interbank network (2) showed that standard analysis using a homogeneous network model could only lead to late detection of the 2008 crisis, although a more realistic and heterogeneous network model could identify an early warning signal 3 years before the crisis (see the chart).

Ecologists have developed tools to quantify the stability, robustness, and resilience of food webs and have shown how these depend on the topology of the network and the strengths of interactions (3). Epidemiologists have tools to gauge the potential for events to propagate in systems of interacting entities, to identify superspreaders and core groups relevant to infection persistence, and to design strategies to prevent or limit the spread of contagion (4).

Extrapolating results from the natural sciences to economics and finance presents challenges. For instance, publication of an early warning signal will change behavior and affect future dynamics [the Lucas critique (5)]. But this does not affect the case where indicators are known only to regulators or when the goal is to build better network barriers to slow contagion.

- Full Paper here

Quote of the Day

Dogs are minor angels, and I don't mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it's "only" a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being? Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day-- we're just so used to them that we pay no attention.

- Jonathan Carroll

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What UFOs Mean for Why People Don't Trust Science

Many ufologists, Eghigian says, have tried to go about their inquiries logically and systematically, usually by one of two methods. They would either come up with ways to code reports of UFO sightings so they could be statistically analyzed, or they would do detailed case studies.

“These folks were trying to do what scientists do,” he says. “They were trying to model and mimic all the trappings of scientific practice.”

But from the beginning, mainstream science was not welcoming to hypotheses about UFOs, especially not that they could be extraterrestrial in origin. When the first reports of disks and strange lights in the sky appeared in the years after World War II, several governments did collect and analyze these stories. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency theorized that they could be foreign weapons, or maybe a mass hysteria, (“midsummer madness,” officials said in 1952) that could be another kind of security threat.

A few academics engaged with the UFO question (the University of Colorado psychologist David Saunders came up with a widely-used coding system, for one), but not many. For the most part, academia saw the study of UFOs as illegitimate.

This viewpoint was solidified when a University of Colorado commission on UFOs released a report in 1968, writing “nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge.” After that, though not solely because of it, the U.S. Air Force stopped studying UFOs, and with the notable exception of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), the natural sciences mostly left aliens alone, too.

But the human sciences started to take an interest starting in the 1970s (though there had been a few studies in earlier decades), not in identifying the flying objects but in identifying what made people believe in them. I asked Eghigian if it changed at all the nature of the mistrust between the two groups, that ufologists had finally started to get attention from mainstream scientists, but it was their persons rather than their hypotheses that were the objects of study.

“Once science starts to talk about UFO believers as subjects for analysis that’s when you start to see more strings of reports of alien abduction, which tend to involve what? Human experimentation.”

“It’s a good question to ponder,” he says. “Offhand my initial instinct would be to say that all it did was to reinforce a sense of frustration.”

“I do think it’s very interesting,” he adds, “that the phenomenon of talking about alien abduction by and large really only takes shape and gets any kind of momentum in the 1970s and 1980s … Once academic science starts to talk about believers as subjects for experimental investigation or clinical analysis that’s when you start to see more strings of reports of alien abduction, which tend to involve what? Human experimentation.”

So while it would be wrong to say that ufologists were anti-science, they had plenty of reason not to trust scientists and scientific institutions. Being written off as delusional, and only interesting because you’re delusional is surely frustrating. And the “institutional isolation” of ufologists, Eghigian writes, “has only served to reinforce their view that academic and political authorities are, at best, narrow-minded or, at worst, engaged in a deliberate attempt to hide information.”

The secrecy with which the U.S. government and others conducted their initial UFO investigations, while understandable considering their worries that the objects were a national security threat, may have only made believers think there was something to hide.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Good Bye Umberto Eco

Last summer was first time I ever read his book and was hooked. He is the one who coined the term anti-library which was popularized by Taleb.

Sir, we will miss you and we will continue conversing through your works.

Wisdom Of The Week

Mulder: What is this God thing? Worship me in my great anger...


Scully: A child is not a tool for hatred

Mulder: Where does the hatred end?

Scully: Maybe it will end where it began.. by finding a common language again. Maybe that's God's willMulder: How can we really know? He is absent from the stage

Scully: Maybe it's beyond words... maybe we should do like the prophets do and open our hearts and truly listen.

I am loving the new season of X-files !! On the surface it might look immature but Chris Charter is back with a bang of immense maturity. We don't have to look at aliens and non-human animals for terror and horror but just know thyself.

- Watch the show here

Quote of the Day

Nature is infinitely rich and diverse in her ways. She can be seen to break her most unchanging laws. She has made self-interest the motive of all human action, but in the great host of men she produces ones who are strangely constituted, in whom selfishness is scarcely perceptible because they do not place their affections in themselves. Some are passionate about the sciences, others about the public good. They are as attached to the discoveries of others as if they themselves had made them, or to the institutions of public welfare and the state as if they derived benefit from them. This habit of not thinking of themselves influences the whole course of their lives. They don't know how to use other men for their profit. Fortune offers them opportunities which they do not think of taking up.
In nearly all men the self is almost never inactive. You will detect their self-interest in nearly all the advice they give you, in the services they do for you, in the contacts they make, in the friendships they form. They are deeply attached to the things which affect their interests however remotely, and are indifferent to all others. When they encounter a man who is indifferent to personal interest they cannot understand him. They suspect him of hidden motives, of affectation, or of insanity. They cast him from their bosom, revile him.

- Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa

Friday, February 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals, that what can be imagined can be achieved, that you must dare to dream, but that there's no substitute for perseverance and hard work and teamwork because no one gets there alone; and that, while we commemorate the... the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.

- Chris Carter

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Happiness Hack

If the food of friendship is time together, how do we make the time to ensure we’re all fed? My friends and I have recently come across a way to keep each other close. It fits into our lifestyles despite busy schedules and a surfeit of children. We call it the “kibbutz.”

In Hebrew, the word means “gathering,” and for our gathering, four couples meet every two weeks to talk about one question — sort of like an interactive TED Talk over a picnic lunch. The question might range from a deep inquiry, like “What’s one thing your parents taught you that you want to pass on to your children?” to a lighter, more practical question, like “How do you disconnect from your iPhone on weekends?”

Having a topic helps in two ways. For one, it gets us past the small talk of sports and weather, and helps us open up about stuff that actually matters. Second, it prevents the gender split that happens when couples convene in groups — men in one corner, women in another. The question of the day gets us all talking together.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.

Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me, Kate Bowler

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quote of the Day

I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Interview with Demis Hassabis

“We’re really lucky,” says Hassabis, who compares his company to the Apollo programme and Manhattan Project for both the breathtaking scale of its ambition and the quality of the minds he is assembling at an ever increasing rate. “We are able to literally get the best scientists from each country each year. So we’ll have, say, the person that won the Physics Olympiad in Poland, the person who got the top maths PhD of the year in France. We’ve got more ideas than we’ve got researchers, but at the same time, there are more great people coming to our door than we can take on. So we’re in a very fortunate position. The only limitation is how many people we can absorb without damaging the culture.”

That culture goes much deeper than beanbags, free snacks and rooftop beers. Insisting that the Google acquisition has not in any way forced him to deviate from his own research path, Hassabis reckons he spends “at least as much time thinking about the efficiency of DeepMind as the algorithms“ and describes the company as “a blend of the best of academia with the most exciting start-ups, which have this incredible energy and buzz that fuels creativity and progress.” He mentions “creativity” a lot, and observes that although his formal training has all been in the sciences, he is “naturally on the creative or intuitive” side. “I’m not, sort of, a standard scientist,” he remarks, apparently without irony. Vital to the fabric of DeepMind are what he calls his “glue minds”: fellow polymaths who can sufficiently grasp myriad scientific areas to “find the join points and quickly identify where promising interdisciplinary connections might be, in a sort of left-field way.” Applying the right benchmarks, these glue people can then check in on working groups every few weeks and swiftly, flexibly, move around resources and engineers where required. “So you’ll have one incredible, genius researcher and almost immediately, unlike in academia, three or four other people from a different area can pick up that baton and add to it with their own brilliance,” he describes. “That can result in incredible results happening very quickly.” The AlphaGo project, launched just 18 months ago, is a perfect case in point.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

- Via here

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

The remedy lies, indeed, partly in charity, but more largely in correct intellectual habits, in a predominant, ever-present disposition to see things as they are, and to judge them in the full light of an unbiased weighing of evidence applied to all possible constructions, accompanied by a withholding of judgment when the evidence is insufficient to justify conclusions.

I believe that one of the greatest moral reforms that lies immediately before us consists in the general introduction into social and civic life of that habit of mental procedure which is known in investigation as the method of multiple working hypotheses.

- T. C. Chamberlin

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Despite the small impact this Neanderthal DNA has on us today, it’s possible that it was very useful tens of thousands of years ago. By the time our ancestors arrived in the Eurasian continent, Neanderthals had been living there for hundreds of thousands of years, and had adapted to the colder climate. It’s likely that breeding between the two species allowed our ancestors to hijack the genetic advantages Neanderthals had developed over time to cope with their environment. "Perhaps spending a night or two with a Neanderthal was a relatively small price to pay for getting thousands of years of adaptations," said John Capra, the study's senior author, at a press conference.

These adaptations might have included changes to the skin. When the presence of this Neanderthal DNA was first discovered in the human genome, it was often showed up near genes for making keratin, a protein found in our nails, hair, and skin. This new study shows that the presence of certain Neanderthal genetic variants is associated with the development of actinic kerastoses — a condition where exposure to the Sun causes patches of dry, scaly skin. This suggests that although the Neanderthal variants that were inherited were useful 50,000 years ago, they're not so helpful now.

Another condition that's more likely to occur when an individual possesses certain bits of Neanderthal DNA is increased blood coagulation. It's thought that this trait might have been useful for our scrappier ancestors, helping keep wounds free from the Eurasian pathogens that their bodies had not encountered before. However, in modern humans, it's more likely to increase the risk of strokes.

The study was able to prove the effects of Neanderthal DNA thanks to a large database of linked genetic data and medical records known as eMERGE (the the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network). Using eMERGE, researchers were able to cross-reference the presence of traits and diseases with the appearance of known Neanderthal genetic variants. They studied anonymized data from a total of 28,416 adults of European ancestry living in the US. "Having both disease information and Neanderthal DNA present in these individuals enabled us to test for relationships between the two," said doctoral student Corinne Simonti, the first author of the paper.

Neanderthal DNA can influence everything from your skin to your cigarette habit

Quote of the Day

I have had my mother's wing of my genetic ancestry analyzed by the National Geographic tracing service and there it all is: the arrow moving northward from the African savannah, skirting the Mediterranean by way of the Levant, and passing through Eastern and Central Europe before crossing to the British Isles. And all of this knowable by an analysis of the cells on the inside of my mouth.

I almost prefer the more rambling and indirect and journalistic investigation, which seems somehow less… deterministic.

- Christopher Hitchens,  Hitch-22: A Memoir

Friday, February 12, 2016

Quote of the Day

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Auditing Algorithms: Research Methods for Detecting Discrimination on Internet Platforms

We take the perspective that virtually any algorithm may deserve scrutiny. In the popular mind, algorithms like the Google search engine algorithm exist in order to satisfy their users, and so Crandall’s pessimistic perspective that all algorithms are probably rigged might seem counter-intuitive. However, while it is true that a search algorithm that did not satisfy its users would be unlikely to continue operation for very long, it is important to note that most situations in which algorithms are employed permit the algorithms to satisfy multiple goals simultaneously. There are also many ways an algorithm might be “rigged” that are normatively problematic. We argue that public interest scrutiny of algorithms is required that will focus on subtle patterns of problematic behavior and that this may not be discernable directly or via a particular instance.

- Full Paper Here

Quote of the Day

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.

- Camille Pissarro

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quote of the Day

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled — whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others — to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.

- Harry Frankfurt

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I Miss Barack Obama

As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama. Now, obviously I disagree with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. I’ve been disappointed by aspects of his presidency. I hope the next presidency is a philosophic departure.

But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.


No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

- That's from David Brooks

Wolves Howl In Different 'Dialects,' Machine Learning Finds

Differentiating wolf howls with human ears can prove tricky, so researchers have turned to computer algorithms to suss out if different wolf species howl differently. They think that understanding wolf howls could help improve wolf conservation and management programs. In a study published in the journal Behavioural Processes, a group of international researchers describe using machine learning for the first time to analyze 2,000 wolf howls gathered from both wild and domesticated wolves and their subspecies from around the world.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Attempts to defend amusement parks and circuses on the grounds that they 'educate' people about animals should not be taken seriously. Such enterprises are part of the commercial entertainment industry. The most important lesson they teach impressionable young minds is that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity for human amusement.

Peter Singer

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Ethical Data Scientist

The ethical data scientist would strive to improve the world, not repeat it. That would mean deploying tools to explicitly construct fair processes. As long as our world is not perfect, and as long as data is being collected on that world, we will not be building models that are improvements on our past unless we specifically set out to do so.

At the very least it would require us to build an auditing system for algorithms. This would be not unlike the modern sociological experiment in which job applications sent to various workplaces differ only by the race of the applicant—are black job seekers unfairly turned away? That same kind of experiment can be done directly to algorithms; see the work of Latanya Sweeney, who ran experiments to look into possible racist Google ad results. It can even be done transparently and repeatedly, and in this way the algorithm itself can be tested.

The ethics around algorithms is a topic that lives only partly in a technical realm, of course. A data scientist doesn’t have to be an expert on the social impact of algorithms; instead, she should see herself as a facilitator of ethical conversations and a translator of the resulting ethical decisions into formal code. In other words, she wouldn’t make all the ethical choices herself, but rather raise the questions with a larger and hopefully receptive group.

This issue is on the horizon, if it’s not already here. The more processes we automate, the more obvious it will become that algorithms are not inherently fair and objective, and that they need human intervention. At that point the ethics of building algorithms will be taught alongside statistics and computer programming classes.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Never complain, never explain. Resist the temptation to defend yourself or make excuses.

Brian Tracy

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Never Give Up , Believe In Yourself

Wisdom Of The Week

For thousands of years, the dreams and visions of the dying have captivated cultures, which imbued them with sacred import. Anthropologists, theologians and sociologists have studied these so-called deathbed phenomena. They appear in medieval writings and Renaissance paintings, in Shakespearean works and set pieces from 19th-century American and British novels, particularly by Dickens. One of the most famous moments in film is the mysterious deathbed murmur in “Citizen Kane”: “Rosebud!”

Even the law reveres a dying person’s final words, allowing them to be admitted as evidence in an unusual exception to hearsay rules.

In the modern medical world, such experiences have been noted by psychologists, social workers and nurses. But doctors tend to give them a wide berth because “we don’t know what the hell they are,” said Dr. Timothy E. Quill, an expert on palliative care medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Some researchers have surmised that patients and doctors avoid reporting these phenomena for fear of ridicule.

Now a team of clinicians and researchers led by Dr. Kerr at Hospice Buffalo, an internist who has a doctorate in neurobiology, are seeking to demystify these experiences and understand their role and importance in supporting “a good death” — for the patient and the bereaved.

These events are distinct from “near-death experiences,” such as those recalled by people revived in intensive care units, said Pei C. Grant, the director of the research team. “These are people on a journey towards death, not people who just missed it.”

Hospice Buffalo, in Cheektowaga, N.Y., cares for 5,000 patients a year, mostly with visits to private homes and nursing facilities. After doctors, nurses, social workers or chaplains ask patients, “How have you been sleeping?” they often follow up with, “Can you recall any dreams?”

- A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying

Quote of the Day

Friday, February 5, 2016

Declassified CIA X-File Dcouments

Philosopher Kings

Quote of the Day

There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.

-  Mark Rippetoe

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Is The Google Knowledge Graph Killing Wikipedia?

When Google introduced the Knowledge Graph back in 2012, a product described as its own vault of online information, I wondered whether this would have an effect on the amount of traffic moving from Google SERPs to actual websites. For example, if a user was looking for information on a specific movie, instead of visiting your website, that user could instead rely only on the Knowledge Graph information immediately presented to them at the top of the search results.

The business owner’s solution to this is relatively straightforward; instead of using content marketing to provide straightforward, generic information that the Knowledge Graph can get for itself, start writing about more complex, niche, specific topics that won’t get such love. Most websites aren’t focused on providing this information directly, so they can find ways around it. Wikipedia isn’t so fortunate. Wikipedia exists solely to give people this information, and if the Knowledge Graph is consistently beating them to the punch, what does that mean for the website’s future?


Jimmy Wales, co-founder and public face of Wikipedia, denied such claims, stating that there have been no sudden or dramatic drop-offs in traffic over the past few months and years. However, he also stated that there is a clear “long-term issue” with Google slowly encroaching on its territory (though Wales used less inflammatory language).

He went on to say that Wikipedia isn’t wholly dependent on clicks from Google SERPs, the way an ad-based site or e-commerce platform would be. The majority of Wikipedia users are so familiar with the platform and so committed to the community that a drop in search traffic won’t have a substantial impact on the health of the site.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Rather the pain of discipline, than the pain of regret.

- Bob Andrews

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Quote of the Day

Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.

Jon Katz

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Animal Soul Project

- KickStarter Campaign Here

Quote of the Day

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.

- Pythagoras

Monday, February 1, 2016

Scientists open the ‘black box’ of schizophrenia with dramatic genetic discovery

The researchers, chiefly from the Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, found that a person's risk of schizophrenia is dramatically increased if they inherit variants of a gene important to "synaptic pruning" -- the healthy reduction during adolescence of brain cell connections that are no longer needed.

In patients with schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in the DNA sequence marks too many synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control. The result is an abnormal loss of gray matter.

The Institute's founding director, Eric Lander, believes the research represents an astonishing breakthrough. "It’s taking what has been a black box...and letting us peek inside for the first time. And that is amazingly consequential," he said.

The timeline for this discovery has been relatively fast. In July 2014, Broad researchers published the results of the largest genomic study on the disorder and found more than 100 genetic locations linked to schizophrenia. Based on that research, Harvard and Broad geneticist Steven McCarroll analyzed data from about 29,000 schizophrenia cases, 36,000 controls and 700 post mortem brains. The information was drawn from dozens of studies performed in 22 countries, all of which contribute to the worldwide database called the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson