Monday, December 26, 2016

Big Data Pyscho

What's going on behind that Facebook quiz? Cambridge Analytica gets a look at personality scores and, thanks to Facebook, gains access to their profiles and real names. The firm sells analytics, data, profiles. It's what they call big data psychographics.

The big data world that I work in has a sort of a hangover going on right now – some dizzy blur after a long period of heady growth. Something happened in the way of a Godsmack, on the road to Antioch, in the shape of Brexit and Donald Trump’s surprising rise. For many a wonks, it is no surprise.

Anyone who looks objectively at the data analytics of this or any day knows there is plenty of room for mistakes. As with any hot technology, there's also a lot of space for hyperbole. The journalists’ job is to keep an eye on the chance of failure at the same time he reports the assertions of people making waves with that hot technology.

It is therefore a good time for us to consider the recent article penned by Sue Halprin for the New York Review of Books, which starts with a vignette describing the number of data points - 98 - that Facebook collects on each of a gazillion members. There is some hilarity, as the writer uncovers the false persona a Facebook might construct about here – or you, or me.

Halpren learns by digging into Facebook that the uber site mistakenly views here a guy, probably a gay guy because she tend to evince gay guy characteristics. That is one that algorithm hath writ because Halpren reads The New York Times (and the New York Review of Books.

She writes that the big data proponents want us to believe that data analysis will deliver to us a truth that is free of messiness or idiosyncrasy. Truth is full of such, but humans are prepared to gloss over.

Data science today tends toward the reductive – it puts people in compartments. Studies prove this! And underlying the whole big data wave is advertising. Which has always had an aspect of whimsy and subterfuge? In the days of old, we sent our children to school to learn this to protect them. To often now the kids are sent to the better schools to figure out how to exploit the subterfuge. According to Halpren, we need to recognize the fallibility of human beings is written into the algorithms that they write. - Jack Vaughan

They Have Right Now Another You -  NYRB

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hedger with time on hands bets he can improve boffin computing

Retired billionaire hedge fund manager James H. Simons will fund a research institute to apply advanced computing techniques to scientific problems.

New York Times story by Kenneth Chang, says Simons feels he has identified a weakness in academia, where science students in research so often turn to computer programming only because it is necessary to their research. 

As they move up or out of their profession their software tool creations go too. No V.2.'s 

The software that derives from the “Flatiron Institute’s” efforts will be made available for all scientists, it is said. Up first: Computational biology. Big data analytics seems to be a special focus. 

I am not sure about the premise. So many great programmers started as students in the sciences! So much in high performance computing was driven by academic scientist too. 

Many of the recent advances in big data have happened beyond the ken of science and academia, it’s true. But Spark? Machine learning? Well, much of that work came out of the academy. 

From a press release:

The FI is the first multidisciplinary institute focused entirely on computation. It is also the first center of its kind to be wholly supported by private philanthropy, providing a permanent home for up to 250 scientists and collaborating expert programmers all working together to create, deploy and support new state-of-the-art computational methods. Few existing institutions support the combination of scientists and programmers, instead leaving programming to relatively impermanent graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and none have done so at the scale of the Flatiron Institute or with such a broad scope, at a single location...The institute will hold conferences and meetings and serve as a focal point for computational science around the world.

Would it be good to have a new effort that served as a new hub for advances in scientific computation? Yes. This will be an interesting development to watch. – Jack Vaughan

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Crunch time, Capt.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Moonshot calculations

Catching up with some reading (They promised us jet packs, New York Times Sunday, July 24, 2016). It is discussing Google’s (Alpha’s) shifting strategy regarding Moonshot VC research endeavors. Scattered about in accompanying pictures are erector sets, oscilloscopes, physical things.

Where fail fast once was the mantra it now is fail faster yet.

Head Xman Astro Teller says:  “If you actually want to make the world better – then do what actually makes the world better – and the technology will take care of itself.”

Mr. teller speaks Ted

The key to technology assessment is to segment according to technology employed, vendor
And end use application. Must important may be end use application. But it is not wholly logical. For Google the end use application of the Killer Kilwauskee variety is still advertising. Which is so very based on psychology, or voodoo economics.