Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Eco Guide to Clean Beauty

The US Environmental Working Group has created the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which lists 78,000 toxic ingredients found in products, but sustainability expert and chemist Dr Richard Blackburn at Leeds University is deeply concerned about our approach to the new global apothecary. “Not all things from nature are safe and not all synthetics are bad,” he says. He’s worried that we confuse organic and natural with non-toxic. Some brands advertise the use of natural ingredients when they are not sustainable. He singles out Aveda as a brand that balances real sustainability with green chemistry. For clean beauty to be more than just a fad, it must be sustainable.

We’ll need more products like the Pure Super Grape skincare range developed by Blackburn’s University of Leeds spinoff, Keracol, with M&S. They contain 95% natural ingredients, sure, but the range uses waste grape skins from M&S English wine production so it has a sustainable supply chain. Clean beauty shouldn’t just be skin deep, but also planet deep.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

In a lovely evocation of that timeless fork in the road between material and spiritual well-being, he spoke of two different roads - one of "proud ambition and ostentatious avidity," the other of "humble modestly and equitable justice" - that await our choice. "Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which fashion our own character and behavior; the one more gaudy and glittering in its coloring; the other more correct and exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other attracting the attention of scare any body but most studious and careful observer. They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, though, I am afraid, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshipers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshipers, of wealth and greatness.

- Steven Hall in his book Wisdom: From Philosophy To Neuroscience captures young Adam Smith's thoughts.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Indifference, however, appears to be the norm. Most of us live in “carninormative” societies where meat eating is so normal that no matter how many qualms we might have about it, it just doesn’t feel wrong to most of us. This is most evident in the mismatch between the almost universal reflective disapproval of inhumane intensive farming and the unreflective buying choices of most consumers. Christopher Belshaw, in his contribution to The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat, is surely too optimistic when he claims it is unnecessary to say anything about factory farming because “there is little point either in defending the indefensible or in attacking a practice that almost every reader here will already condemn”. I am constantly amazed to see well-educated, thoughtful people order meat at restaurants without any questions about its provenance.


Animal ethics debates often end up posing challenges like this. “There is no consistent solution to the problems we are discussing that does not involve biting at least one bullet”, says Peter Singer in an afterword to The Ethics of Killing Animals. Belshaw bites one himself, conceding that it is not bad for a baby to die, at least not for the baby itself. That last qualification is critical. To think that we can settle big issues of morality on the basis of just one principle is absurd. We have innumerable reasons to treat the lives of babies and the severely mentally impaired with deep respect, but these need not be the same reasons why we generally place more value on human lives. Ethical dilemmas are complex and multi-factorial and it is hopeless to try to resolve them by appeal to a single, simple criterion.
Too often animal ethics flattens to one dimension. Bernstein, for example, often addresses the issue of whether humans have moral priority over animals by considering choices about which we should give pain relief to first. But this is a very specific problem which doesn’t reveal anything about moral value in general. I might, for example, choose to relieve the pain of my cat before that of my own, not because I consider his life to be more valuable than mine but because, like a child, the cat cannot deal with it by being aware that the pain is not a serious threat to its life and will pass.

- More equal than others by Julian Baggini. He reviews 3 books and dismisses them and implies more or less than realism = part of animal suffering. He conveniently assumes human induced suffering is part of "nature". Pure bull shit but I am not surprised.

Quote of the Day

Hiding within those mounds of data is knowledge that could change the life of a patient, or change the world.

- Atul Butte, Stanford

Friday, July 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

Failure of second-order thinking: he tells you a secret and somehow expects you to keep it.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Concrete Problems in AI Safety


Rapid progress in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) has brought increasing attention to the potential impacts of AI technologies on society.  In this paper we discuss one such potential impact:  the problem of accidents in machine learning systems, defined  as unintended and harmful behavior that may emerge from poor design of real-world AI systems.  We present a list of  ve practical research problems related to accident risk, categorized according to whether the problem originates from having the wrong objective function (avoiding side effects" and avoiding reward hacking"), an objective function that is too expensive to evaluate frequently (scalable supervision"), or undesirable behavior during the learning process (safe exploration" and distributional shift").  We review previous work in these areas as well as suggesting research  directions  with  a  focus  on  relevance  to  cutting-edge AI  systems. Finally, we  consider the high-level question of how to think most productively about the safety of forward-looking applications of AI.

- Full paper here

Quote of the Day

Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.

- Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Digital Is Just Getting Started - Kevin Kelly

We are at the beginning of the beginning — the first hour of day one. There have never been more opportunities. The greatest products of the next 25 years have not been invented yet.

You‘re not late.

- Kevin Kelly's talk at Long Now Foundation

Quote of the Day

Just hearing about patience does not mean you are experiencing it now or will easily develop it. To lay the ground for training the mind, you must first tame the mind. To tame the mind, it is extremely important to do the basic shamata [tranquility meditation, calm abiding] practice, which develops calmness and tranquility. Then you can add the practice of patience, understanding the benefits of patience and reminding yourself to take advantage of the available antidotes.

- From Dharma Paths by Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Questions That Matter And The Questions That Don’t

Basic questions are good questions. They matter. We learn from them.

Yet people often apologize for — or don’t bother — asking them. What’s more, we malign basic questions as dumb or stupid. Inquiries so simple, it’s a waste of time to contemplate them. That’s prompted the popular defense of the basic question, which is the aphorism “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”

But there are stupid questions, or at least questions that don’t matter. These are questions people ask when there is little chance that they will learn something from the answer. They include leading questions, preening questions, and statements disguised as questions. And while they can sound harmless, they prevent us from obtaining a better understanding of the world around us.


Fortunately, there are a few CEOs who see through this malarkey. One is Steve Wynn, head of an eponymous hotel and casino company. On his company’s third quarter 2012 call, for example, Wynn was asked by an analyst to expound on how stable the economic situation in Macau would be over the next few months. His response was that he didn’t know because “that’s not a question we ever deal with except during a call like this.”

On the second quarter 2013 call, that same analyst followed up with a question about go-forward 90-day market share. But Wynn exposes the farce of it all in his answer:

It’s hard to give you — to quantify this. I know we try all the time, but to tell you the truth, Robin, it’s sort of a waste of time for all of us…It’s the kind of super detail that seems to matter on these kinds of calls, but really amounts to nothing in the long run.

Like my question about the cash conversion cycle, the answer to a question about market share over the next 90 days is not material to any rational analysis of Wynn’s long-term prospects. Wynn at that time was a company with an enterprise value of more than $20 billion and revenues of more than $5 billion and plans to open a massive new resort in Macau in just a few years time.

But the analyst sounded on top of things — smart and observant with a keen eye for detail.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.

- Warren Buffett

Monday, July 25, 2016

Story of Americas First Inhabitants May Have Started From a Land Bridge Between Siberia and Alaska

The name Beringia was originally used by Swedish botanist Erik Hultén to mean the land that lies beneath the shallow waters of the Bering Strait. In 1937, he pointed out that approximately 20,000 years ago, when global sea levels were hundreds of feet below today’s levels, Siberia and Alaska were joined by a land bridge dissected by meandering rivers. About 12,000 years ago, after the oceans rose as post–ice age temperatures warmed, the land bridge mostly vanished. Beringia in the strict sense ceased to exist.

A handful of scholars still believe that the first settlers crossed oceans to arrive in the Americas. Some theorize that late ice age hunter-gatherers from Western Europe traveled by canoe along northern coastlines and ice sheets to North America. Other outlying theories hold that the first Americans crossed from Japan or some other part of Asia, or even Polynesia. There is scant evidence, however, to support any transoceanic theory. Almost every scientist agrees that the primordial Native Americans arrived from Siberia. In recent years, both molecular biology and dental research have confirmed this Siberian ancestry.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I’m sick and tired of this block universe, I don’t think that next Thursday has the same footing as this Thursday. The future does not exist. It does not! Ontologically, it’s not there.

- Avshalom Elitzur, A Debate Over the Physics of Time

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Quantifying Probabilities for Gambling System Strategies

That brings us back to this notion that chance is both something that can’t be explained away any further, and yet there’s something deeply human about the desire to create a story to explain why things happen. Computers are now showing us strategies and explanations we never could have arrived at on our own; as you say, they’re outpacing their creators. What are some of the ramifications of that process?

One of the things that really surprised me in writing the book is how quickly these developments are happening. Even the Go victories this year: I think lots of people didn’t expect it to happen that suddenly. And likewise with poker: last year some researchers found the optimal solution for a two-player limit game. Now you got a lot of bots taking on these no-limits stakes games—where you can go all-in, which you often see in tournaments—and they’re faring incredibly well.

In many cases, these poker bots are turning up with strategies that humans would never have thought to attempt.

The developments are happening a lot faster than we expected and they’re going beyond what their creators are capable of. I think it is a really exciting but also potentially problematic line, because it’s much harder to unpack what’s going on when you’ve got a creation which is thinking much further beyond what you can do.

I think another aspect which is also quite interesting is some of the more simple algorithms that are being developed. Along with the poker bots which spend a huge amount of time learning, you have these very high-speed algorithms in gambling and finance, which are really stripped down to a few lines of code. In that sense, they’re not very intelligent at all. But if you put a lot of these things together at very short time scales—again, that’s something that humans can’t compete with. They’re acting so much faster than we can process information; you’ve got this hidden ecosystem being developed where things are just operating much faster than we can handle.

This goes beyond simply teaching bots to play poker or Watson winning at Jeopardy! There are wider ramifications.

Yes. And I think the increasing availability of data and our ability to process it and create machines that could learn on their own, in many ways, it’s challenging some of those early notions about learning machines. Even some of the criticisms and limitations that Alan Turing put forward when they were first coming up with these ideas, they’re now being potentially surpassed by new approaches to how machines could learn.

You have these poker bots, instead of learning to play repeatedly, they’re developing incredibly human traits. Some of these bots, people just treat them like humans: they refer to them in human terms because they bluff and they deceive and they feign aggression. Historically, we think of these behaviors as innate to our species, but we’re seeing now that potentially these are traits you could have with artificial intelligence. To some extent it’s blurring the boundaries between what we think is human and what’s actually something that can be learned by machine.

- Interview with Adam Kucharski author of The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling

What is Artificial Intelligence?

International Data Corp. predicts the worldwide market for cognitive software platforms and applications, which roughly defines the market for AI, to grow to $16.5 billion in 2019 from $1.6 billion in 2015 with a CAGR of 65.2%. The market includes offerings from both established tech giants and AI startups.

But many technology leaders don’t have clear ideas about the role of AI in their business, or how to maximize its value. “The number one issue for CIOs is how can I invest anything in artificial intelligence without having clear visibility into real business results,” Gartner Inc. fellow and research vice president Tom Austin said.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.

- Voltaire

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Why explore extraterrestrial caves? Partly for the same reasons scientists venture into caves on Earth. They’re protected from weather and (on other worlds) from meteoric bombardment, so their geological formations serve as frozen records of the planet’s past. Then there’s the life question. Liquid water on Mars is likely to exist underground, at depths where ice is melted by warmth from the planet’s interior. In caves, the temperature stays relatively stable, so they would also offer refuge from the 200-degree Fahrenheit day-night swings on the surface. Most important, they offer protection from radiation. Since Mars’ protective magnetic field flickered out eons ago, the constant barrage of cosmic rays on the surface likely would have destroyed any exposed critters. If life moved underground to escape, caves are a good place to look for fossil evidence of their tenancy. It’s even possible that in some Martian caves, life still exists.

“This is where the action is in terms of exploration,” says Penny Boston, a veteran cave scientist who just left the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to become director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the agency’s focal point in the search for extraterrestrial life. Recently she’s been a leading advocate for what may strike many as a novel idea: that the ideal place to search for alien biology is not on the Martian surface, where NASA’s rovers have been looking, but beneath it.

- Mars, Underground: Looking for life on other planets? Go deep

Quote of the Day

Friday, July 22, 2016

Nation's first Vegetarian Drive-Through Opens In California

The crowds have been non-stop during the first week of business at a California fast food restaurant, with a twist. It's a drive-through that is actually good for you.

It is the nation's first organic drive-through restaurant. It has only been open five days and already it is struggling to keep up with demand.

Hungry customers at the new Amy's drive thru were patient and determined to order lunch. The wait is really long. Some said they heard the wait was 20 minutes long.

The line inside the restaurant was almost out the door, all for a chance to try organic, vegetarian fast food.

Kelsea Baraga is trying a veggie Amy burger and brought her mom along to try it too.

"Processed foods definitely are big on my mind. My daughter keeps bugging me about going vegetarian," customer Amy Braga said.


Schiefer says the local company, which has been making frozen organic foods for years, never dreamed the restaurant would be such a hit.

"So many people have shown up and it's giving us a lot of hope that this is a concept that works," Schiefer said.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peter Webster, The Meteorologist Who Saves Lives

How does Big Data enable you to do that?
To do a one- to two-day forecast for a country like India, you just need to develop a forecasting model that covers India and its immediate neighbors. But as the forecast horizon increases, the influence of weather events thousands of miles away also become important. So for a 10-to 15-day forecast, we have to use a global model. We use the rainfall forecasts from the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast model in the United Kingdom. The model has grid points every 25 km over the globe and 130 levels in the vertical. Each day, the model is run twice and integrated out to 15 and 30 days. At these two points, the model is run 51 times with slightly different initial data to simulate the uncertainty in what we know about the state of the atmosphere and the physics of how the atmosphere works. Terabytes of data are generated each day and streamed to Georgia Tech where we stream it to obtain a regional forecast over Bangladesh, where we eventually stream the data via cellphone.

Do you have trouble convincing people who might not understand these complex models?

These people are living on the edge. They realize how vulnerable they are, so they’re accepting these forecasts.

It also helps that you’ve been correct?

In our first year there, 2007-08, we forecast all three major floods. There were no false positives. More importantly, there were no false negatives—a flood never came when we didn’t predict one.


You can’t talk about Big Data without talking about privacy, can you?

There are issues with privacy when it comes to meteorological data. Some nations sell their data. Some nations believe that data belongs to them. We wanted to give India a flood forecasting scheme for the entire Ganges, and all we needed was their river data at a few points, and they wouldn’t give it to us. They wouldn’t give us sea-level data. That makes it very difficult.

Yet you’ve been able to help India, right? 

Ahmedebad, a city of 4 million people, is impacted adversely by extreme heat waves that occur in the months before the monsoon rains. They wanted to be able to forecast these waves in advance so that they could allocate their scant resources optimally and develop a heat action plan.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Never respond to an angry person with a fiery comeback, even if he/she deserves it, don't allow their anger to become your anger.

- via Reddit

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

It was Darwin’s chief contribution, not only to Biology but to the whole of natural science, to have brought to light a process by which contingencies a priori improbable are given, in the process of time, an increasing probability, until it is their non-occurrence, rather than their occurrence, which becomes highly improbable.

- Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

Over the past few decades, the GOP has remained largely white, less educated and older while the numbers of minorities in the country soared, college attainment rose and the millennial generation came of age politically. Alienating the country’s growing ranks of minorities is unwise on the sheer face of the numbers, and bad reputations can stick around for years; like sports teams and baldness, our political beliefs are passed down through generations and familial connections.

- FiveThirtyEight

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Laborious Delivery of Markram’s Brainchild

So much for Markram the Entrepreneur and Inventor. But he is first and foremost a scientist, whose research proposal received the biggest research funding grant in history: one billion Euros from the European Union, for his “brainchild” (as journalists dubbed it), the Human Brain Project. The modest promise Markram originally made to secure this mind-boggling mountain of cash: he intended to simulate the entire human brain in his supercomputer by 2023, the possibility of artificial consciousness specifically not excluded. Now however, his consortium partners took over, Markram was dethroned in a scientists’ coup and pushed aside to tinker on his seemingly less ambitious, but just as science-fictionary mouse Blue Brain simulation. Once in control of almost everything and everyone, with all the big money going through his hands, Markram is now only one of 12 project leaders and far from being the boss. The Human Brain Project (HBP) became instead a kind of funding network without any properly defined orientation, not even the new leaders could convincingly describe any defined goals. Instead, its main purpose seems to be now set on keeping the EU funding of almost €50 Million per year flowing. Remarkably, all this was achieved after an allegedly independent mediation by the director of an HBP-consortium partner institute; coincidentally a member scientist from this Jülich Research Centre (Forschungszentrum Jülich, located in a rural triangle between German cities Düsseldorf, Cologne and Aachen) is now the new scientific director of HBP.

This is how the dream of the brain-in-the-box grew, prospered and imploded.


Why did EU politicians and bureaucrats fall for such naive science fiction as HBP in the first place? There was one important promise Markram made which everyone could get behind: abolishing invasive animal experiments, and in neuroscience this often means the ethically highly sensitive issue of non-human primates. Not only basic science, also future human medicine development was to be done using his in silico models of human brains (plus those of “mice, rats, cats, and monkeys”, probably also badgers and giraffes as well, time permitting). Reducing animal experimenting is indeed a very noble goal, and one can understand (up to a degree) why so many became excited by the unscientific bigmouth proposal. If nothing else, the lack of sufficient life science education among our politicians, bureaucrats and unfortunately also science journalists is to blame for this. Markram declared in his TED-Talk:
“We cannot keep doing animal experimentation forever, and we have to embody all our data and all our knowledge into a working model. It’s like a Noah’s Ark”.
Later on, when HBP criticisms became serious, the Swiss visionary insisted he never said that his virtual brain would make animal experiments obsolete.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

However, the small probability of a similar encounter [of the earth with a comet], can become very great in adding up over a huge sequence of centuries. It is easy to picture to oneself the effects of this impact upon the Earth. The axis and the motion of rotation changed; the seas abandoning their old position to throw themselves toward the new equator; a large part of men and animals drowned in this universal deluge, or destroyed by the violent tremor imparted to the terrestrial globe.

- Pierre-Simon Laplace

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why It Took Social Science Years to Correct a Simple Error About ‘Psychoticism’

In the course of laying out their argument, Verhulst, Hatemi, and Martin noted that their data showed a positive relationship between a trait called psychoticism and conservatism. Ludeke found that Verhulst and Hatemi, working with the behavioral geneticist Lindon J. Eaves, had made a similar claim in a paper they published in the American Journal of Political Science, one of the top journals in that field, in 2012, based on a different set of data.

If you just perked up in your seat a little — Conservatives are psychotic? — that’s part of the problem. “Psychoticism,” an idea introduced by the German psychologist Hans Eysenck, sounds a lot more intense than it is. Basically, Eysenck had a model of personality which included three traits: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Psychoticism, the only one relevant for this discussion, is a cluster of concepts related to people’s level of individuality and penchant for falling in line — it’s measured using questions like “Do you prefer to go your own way rather than act by the rules?” Being high in psychoticism means you have less respect for rules and for order in general — it doesn’t mean you are psychotic or otherwise mentally ill. Researchers sometimes call psychoticism P, with italics, to prevent this misunderstanding.

Eysenck’s personality model is no longer in vogue — these days, the favored framework is the so-called Big Five, which in addition to conscientiousness and openness includes extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness. But since Verhulst and Hatemi had access to large survey data sets in which respondents answered Eysenckian questions, that was what they used.


However you evaluate the sniping between these two research groups, some things about this episode are pretty clear: It’s clear that on four different occasions, including once in a top journal, research findings were published that don’t make sense in light of decades of research about personality and political preferences, and that these errors got through many reviewers. It’s also clear that when the authors of these papers were informed about what they had likely done wrong, they either ignored the warnings or lacked the expertise to understand them, and that their data weren’t shared.

What should we make of all of this? Partly, of course, this is a story of conflicting personalities, of competitiveness between researchers, of academics acting — let’s be frank — like dicks.

One obvious question, then, is how institutional structures and incentives can be tweaked to account for the universal human potential for dickishness. The simple answer is: openness and transparency. “You should get a gold star when you make your data and the code to analyze that data available,” said Ludeke. That isn’t always possible, he allowed, but “if you do everything right, you should get into a better journal than if you’re not willing to [share] data.”

- More Here

Summer Reading List Finalized

Finally - narrowed down on the summer reading list which includes half-read books, books on wish list for a long time - 8 days, 8 books.

Quote of the Day

Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.

- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week


(1) Order of Magnitude — “An order-of-magnitude estimate of a variable whose precise value is unknown is an estimate rounded to the nearest power of ten.” (related: order of approximation, back-of-the-envelope calculation, dimensional analysis, Fermi problem)

(1) Major vs Minor Factors — Major factors explains major portions of the results, while minor factors only explain minor portions. (related: first order vs second order effects — first order effects directly follow from a cause, while second order effects follow from first order effects.)

(1) False Positives and False Negatives — “A false positive error, or in short false positive, commonly called a ‘false alarm’, is a result that indicates a given condition has been fulfilled, when it actually has not been fulfilled…A false negative error, or in short false negative, is where a test result indicates that a condition failed, while it actually was successful, i.e. erroneously no effect has been assumed.”

(1) Confidence Interval — “Confidence intervals consist of a range of values (interval) that act as good estimates of the unknown population parameter; however, the interval computed from a particular sample does not necessarily include the true value of the parameter.” (related: error bar)

(2) Bayes’ Theorem — “Describes the probability of an event, based on conditions that might be related to the event. For example, suppose one is interested in whether a person has cancer, and knows the person’s age. If cancer is related to age, then, using Bayes’ theorem, information about the person’s age can be used to more accurately assess the probability that they have cancer.” (related: base rate fallacy)

(2) Regression to the Mean — “The phenomenon that if a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement.”

(2) Inflection Point — “A point on a curve at which the curve changes from being concave (concave downward) to convex (concave upward), or vice versa.”

(3) Simpson’s Paradox — “A paradox in probability and statistics, in which a trend appears in different groups of data but disappears or reverses when these groups are combined.”

- Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful

Quote of the Day

You must know the big ideas in the big disciplines and use them routinely--all of them, not just a few. Most people are trained in one model--economics, for example--and try to solve all problems in one way. You know the old saying: To the man with a hammer, the world looks like a nail. This is a dumb way of handling problems.

You need a different checklist and different mental models for different companies. I can never make it easy by saying, "Here are three things." You have to derive it yourself to ingrain it in your head for the rest of your life.

You can't learn those one hundred big ideas you really need the way many students do--where you learn 'em well enough to bang 'em back to the professor and get your grade, and then you empty them out as though you were emptying a bathtub so you can take in more water next time. If that's the way you learn the one hundred big models you're going to need, [you'll be] an "also ran" in the game of life. You have to learn the models so that they become part of your ever-used repertoire.

By the way, there's no rule that you can't add another model or two even fairly late in life. In fact, I've clearly done that. I got most of the big ones quite early [however].

The happier mental realm I recommend is one from which no one willingly returns. A return would be like cutting off one's hands.

- Charlie Munger on Importance of Multiple Mental Models, Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

Friday, July 15, 2016

Quote of the Day

You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing.

- Warren Buffet

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Code That Took America To The Moon Was Just Published To GitHub

When programmers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory set out to develop the flight software for the Apollo 11 space program in the mid-1960s, the necessary technology did not exist. They had to invent it.

They came up with a new way to store computer programs, called “rope memory,” and created a special version of the assembly programming language. Assembly itself is obscure to many of today’s programmers—it’s very difficult to read, intended to be easily understood by computers, not humans. For the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), MIT programmers wrote thousands of lines of that esoteric code.

Here’s a very 1960s data visualization of just how much code they wrote—this is Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering for the project, standing next to a stack of paper containing the software:

The AGC code has been available to the public for quite a while–it was first uploaded by tech researcher Ron Burkey in 2003, after he’d transcribed it from scanned images of the original hardcopies MIT had put online. That is, he manually typed out each line, one by one.

“It was scanned by a airplane pilot named Gary Neff in Colorado,” Burkey said in an email. “MIT got hold of the scans and put them online in the form of page images, which unfortunately had been mutilated in the process to the point of being unreadable in places.” Burkey reconstructed the unreadable parts, he said, using his engineering skills to fill in the blanks.

“Quite a bit later, I managed to get some replacement scans from Gary Neff for the unreadable parts and fortunately found out that the parts I filled in were 100% correct!” he said.

- More Here and code on Github

Quote of the Day

Gaiety is a quality of ordinary people. Genius presupposes some disorder in the machine.

- Denis Diderot

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Quote of the Day

Because we have viewed other animals through the myopic lens of our self-importance, we have misperceived who and what they are. Because we have repeated our ignorance, one to the other, we have mistaken it for knowledge.

- Tom Regan

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

For centuries poets, some poets, have tried to give a voice to the animals, and readers, some readers, have felt empathy and sorrow. If animals did have voices, and they could speak with the tongues of angels—at the very least with the tongues of angels—they would be unable to save themselves from us. What good would language do? Their mysterious otherness has not saved them, nor have their beautiful songs and coats and skins and shells and eyes.

- Joy Williams

Sunday, July 10, 2016

K-Means Used to Predict Spots Depression in Speech Patterns

Reduced frequency range in vowel production is a well documented speech characteristic of individuals with psychological and neurological disorders. Affective disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are known to influence motor control and in particular speech production. The assessment and documentation of reduced vowel space and reduced expressivity often either rely on subjective assessments or on analysis of speech under constrained laboratory conditions (e.g. sustained vowel production, reading tasks). These constraints render the analysis of such measures expensive and impractical. Within this work, we investigate an automatic unsupervised machine learning based approach to assess a speaker's vowel space. Our experiments are based on recordings of 253 individuals. Symptoms of depression and PTSD are assessed using standard self-assessment questionnaires and their cut-off scores. The experiments show a significantly reduced vowel space in subjects that scored positively on the questionnaires. We show the measure's statistical robustness against varying demographics of individuals and articulation rate. The reduced vowel space for subjects with symptoms of depression can be explained by the common condition of psychomotor retardation influencing articulation and motor control. These findings could potentially support treatment of affective disorders, like depression and PTSD in the future.

- Full Paper Here

Quote of the Day

We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

- Henry Beston

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

What's a IYI?

Intellectual Yet Idiot: semi-erudite bureaucrat who thinks he is an erudite; pathologizes others for doing things he doesn't understand not realizing it is his understanding that may be limited; imparts normative ideas to others: thinks people should act according to their best interests *and* he knows their interests, particularly if they are uneducated "red necks" or English non-crisp-vowel class.

More socially: subscribes to the New Yorker; never curses on twitter; speaks of "equality of races" and "economic equality" but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver; has considered voting for Tony Blair; has attended more than 1 TEDx talks and watched more than 2 TED talks; will vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable; has The Black Swan on his shelves but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence; is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist uses statistics without knowing how they are derived; when in the UK goes to literary festivals; drinks red wine with steak (never white); used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; takes statins because his doctor told him so; fails to understand ergodicity and when explained forgets about it soon later; doesn't use Yiddish words; studies grammar before speaking a language; has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; has never read Frederic Dard, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, or Joseph De Maistre; has never gotten drunk with Russians and went breaking glasses; doesn't know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; doesn't know that there is no difference between "pseudointellectual" and "intellectual"; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past 5 years; knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: doesn't deadlift.

- Nassim Taleb

Quote of the Day

"I just don't like to see you make a fool of yourself."

"Oh!" MacBride stopped, glared. "I just should be a strong, silent guy, huh? Well, listen to me, Harry. I've noticed that a strong, silent guy is usually that way because he don't know anything. I'm willing to beef around, talk my head off, make a fool of myself—if it'll get me anywhere."

- Frederick Nebel, Doors in the Dark

Friday, July 8, 2016

Quote of the Day

If you wish to diagnose an illness, design a computer, or discover a new scientific law, you do not do it by picking a dozen people at random, forming them into a committee, and demanding that they give you an answer.

- David Friedman

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

It is more important to prevent animal suffering, rather than sit to contemplate the evils of the universe praying in the company of priests.

- Buddha

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Generative Adversial Networks Explained

To gain some intuition, think of a back-and-forth situation between a bank and a money counterfeiter. At the beginning, the fakes are easy to spot. However, as the counterfeiter keeps trying different kinds of techniques, some may get past the check. The counterfeiter then can improve his fakes towards the areas that got past the bank's security checks.

But the bank doesn't give up. It also keeps learning how to tell the fakes apart from real money. After a long period of back-and-forth, the competition has led the money counterfeiter to create perfect replicas.

Now, take that same situation, but let the money forger have a spy in the bank that reports back how the bank is telling fakes apart from real money.

Every time the bank comes up with a new strategy to tell apart fakes, such as using ultraviolet light, the counterfeiter knows exactly what to do to bypass it, such as replacing the material with ultraviolet marked cloth.

The second situation is essentially what a generative adversial network does. The bank is known as a discriminator network, and in the case of images, is a convolutional neural network that assigns a probability that an image is real and not fake.

The counterfeiter is known as the generative network, and is a special kind of convolutional network that uses transpose convolutions, sometimes known as a deconvolutional network. This generative network takes in some 100 parameters of noise (sometimes known as the code) , and outputs an image accordingly.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

History repeats itself, in part because the genome repeats itself. And the genome repeats itself, in part because history does. The impulses, ambitions, fantasies, and desires that drive human history are, at least in part, encoded in the human genome. And human history has, in turn, selected genomes that carry these impulses, ambitions, fantasies, and desires. This self-fulfilling circle of logic is responsible for some of the most magnificent and evocative qualities in our species, but also some of the most reprehensible. It is far too much to ask ourselves to escape the orbit of this logic, but recognizing its inherent circularity, and being skeptical of its overreach, might protect the week from the will of the strong, and the 'mutant' from being annihilated by the 'normal'.

- Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Meta-Distribution of Standard P-Values


We present an exact probability distribution (meta-distribution) for p-values across ensembles of statistically iden-tical phenomena, as well as the distribution of the minimump-value among
mc independents tests. We derive the distribution for small samples as well as the limiting one as the sample size n becomes large. We also look at the properties of the "power" of a test through the distribution of its inverse for a given p-value and parametrization.P-values are shown to be extremely skewed and volatile,regardless of the sample size n, and vary greatly across repetitions of exactly same protocols under identical stochastic copies of the phenomenon; such volatility makes the minimum p value diverge significantly from the "true" one. Setting the power is shown to offer little remedy unless sample size is increased markedly or the p-value is lowered by at least one order of magnitude.The formulas allow the investigation of the stability of there production of results and "p-hacking" and other aspects of meta-analysis.From a probabilistic standpoint, neither a p-value of .05 nora "power" at .9 appear to make the slightest sense.

- Full paper by Nassim Taleb Here

Quote of the Day

The mind is not designed to grasp the laws of probability, even though the laws rule the universe.

- Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Quote of the Day

The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?"

- Jeremy Bentham

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Beautiful July !!

Wisdom Of The Week

It's like obesity. The NHS is thinking about charging people to be fat because, like smoking, they say it's your fault. Weight is not as heritable as height, but it's highly heritable. Maybe 60 percent of the differences in weight are heritable. That doesn't mean you can't do anything about it. If you stop eating, you won't gain weight, but given the normal life in a fast-food culture, with our Stone Age brains that want to eat fat and sugar, it's much harder for some people.

We need to respect the fact that genetic differences are important, not just for body mass index and weight, but also for things like reading disability. I know personally how difficult it is for some children to learn to read. Genetics suggests that we need to have more recognition that children differ genetically, and to respect those differences. My grandson, for example, had a great deal of difficulty learning to read. His parents put a lot of energy into helping him learn to read. We also have a granddaughter who taught herself to read. Both of them now are not just learning to read but reading to learn.

Genetic influence is just influence; it's not deterministic like a single gene. At government levels—I've consulted with the Department for Education—I don't think they're as hostile to genetics as I had feared, they're just ignorant of it. Education just doesn't consider genetics, whereas teachers on the ground can't ignore it. I never get static from them because they know that these children are different when they start. Some just go off on very steep trajectories, while others struggle all the way along the line. When the government sees that, they tend to blame the teachers, the schools, or the parents, or the kids. The teachers know. They're not ignoring this one child. If anything, they're putting more energy into that child.

It's important to recognize and respect genetically driven individual differences. It's better to make policy based on knowledge than on fiction. A lot of what I see in education is fiction. In education, part of the reason people shy away from genetics is because they think it's associated with a right-wing agenda. It's so important to emphasize that scientific facts are neutral. It's the values that you apply to them that should determine policy.

- Why We're Different, Edge - A Conversation With Robert Plomin

Friday, July 1, 2016

We're Rarely Rational When We Vote Because We're Rarely Rational, Period

Probably the most striking thing about any of these biases is that they are already in place long before we understand the first thing about economics or geopolitics. This was shown in a 2009 paper published in the prestigious journal Science, a paper that should be required reading just before election day each year. Show kids pairs of faces of candidates from various obscure elections. Tell them that they are about to take a long journey by boat; which of these two people would they want as their captain? And kids, ages 5 through 13, picked the winner a boggling 71% of the time.

Think about that. The automatic biases we bring to voting are already falling into place in 5-year olds considering who should captain their boat on a voyage with the Teletubbies to stop the pirates menacing to Candyland. Subterranean, unconscious forces are constantly percolating up to influence our decision-making, and yet research also indicates that the more we're aware of it, the more we can resist it. Try to remember that as you cast your ballot this year: You may be falling for the crunching sounds in the background.

- Robert M. Sapolsky

Quote of the Day

Our patience will achieve more than our force.

- Edmund Burke