Google Scholar Interface Changes

September 23, 2017

Short honk: If you use Google Scholar, you know about the “interesting” interface. Now Google has responded to criticism. The interface changes are available. Details of the “drawer” and other obfuscations are described in “Better Ways of Getting Around.” I am not sure I agree with the Google Scholar team’s improvements. Are there scholars on the team or just engineers?

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2017

Algorithmic Recommendations and Real Journalists: Volatile Combination

September 22, 2017

I love the excitement everyone has for mathy solutions to certain problems. Sure, the math works. What is tough for some to grasp is that probabilities are different from driving one’s automobile into a mine drainage ditch. Fancy math used to figure out who likes what via clustering or mixing previous choices with information about what “similar” people purchased is different. The car is in the slime: Yes or no. The recommendation is correct: Well, somewhere between 70 percent and 85 percent most of the time.

That’s a meaningful difference.

I thought about the “car in the slime” example when I read “Anatomy of a Moral Panic”. The write up states:

The idea that these ball bearings are being sold for shrapnel is a reporter’s fantasy. There is no conceivable world in which enough bomb-making equipment is being sold on Amazon to train an algorithm to make this recommendation.

Excellent point.

However, the issue is that many people, not just “real” journalists, overlook the fact that a probability is not the same as the car in the slime. As smart software becomes the lazy person’s way to get information, it is useful to recall that some individuals confuse the outputs of a statistical numerical recipe with reality.

I find this larger issue a bit more frightening than the fact that recommendation engines spit out guesses about what is similar and the humans who misunderstand.

Stephen E Arnold, September 22, 2017

Google-Publishers Partnership Chases True News

September 22, 2017

It appears as though Google is taking the issue of false information, and perhaps even their role in its perpetuation, seriously; The Drum reveals, “Google Says it Wants to Fund the News, Not Fake It.” Reporters Jessica Goodfellow and Ronan Shields spoke with Google’s Madhav Chinnappa to discuss the Digital News Initiative (DNI), which was established in 2015. The initiative, a project on which Google is working with European news publishers, aims to leverage technology in support of good journalism. As it turns out, Wikipedia’s process suggests an approach; having discussed the “collaborative content” model with Chinnappa, the journalists write:

To this point, he also discusses DNI’s support of Wikitribune, asserting that it and Wikipedia are ‘absolutely incredible and misunderstood,’ pointing out the diligence that goes into its editing and review process, despite its decentralized means of doing so. The Wikitribune project tries to take some of this spirit of Wikipedia and apply this to news, adds Chinnappa. He further explains that [Wikipedia & Wikitribune] founder Jimmy Wales’ opinion is that the mainstream model of professional online publishing, whereby the ‘journalist writes the article and you’ve got a comment section at the bottom and it’s filled with crazy people saying crazy things’, is flawed. He [Wales] believes that’s not a healthy model. What Wikitribune wants to do is actually have a more rounded model where you have the professional journalist and then you have people contributing as well and there’s a more open and even dialogue around that,’ he adds. ‘If it succeeds? I don’t know. But I think it’s about enabling experimentation and I think that’s going to be a really interesting one.’

Yes, experimentation is important to the DNI’s approach. Chinnappa believes technical tools will be key to verifying content accuracy. He also sees a reason to be hopeful about the future of journalism—amid fears that technology will eventually replace reporters, he suggests such tools, instead, will free journalists from the time-consuming task of checking facts. Perhaps; but will they work to stem the tide of false propaganda?

Cynthia Murrell, September 22, 2017

Millennials Want to Keep Libraries

September 22, 2017

Many people think that libraries are obsolete and are only for senior citizens who want to read old paperbacks.  The Pew Research Center says otherwise in the article, “Most Americans-Especially Millennials-Say Libraries Can Help Them Find Reliable, Trustworthy Information.”

Sensationalism in the news is not new, but it has reached extraordinary new heights with the Internet and mass information consumption.  In order to gain audiences, news outlets (if some of them can be called that) are doing anything they can and this has lead to an outbreak of fake news.

The Pew Research Center conducted a test to see if adults would like to be taught how to recognize fake information and discovered that 61% said they would.  They also discovered that 78% of adults feel that libraries can help them find trustworthy information.  An even more amazing fact is that Millennials are the biggest supporters for libraries.

A large majority of Millennials (87%) say the library helps them find information that is trustworthy and reliable, compared with 74% of Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) who say the same. More than eight-in-ten Millennials (85%) credit libraries with helping them learn new things, compared with 72% of Boomers. And just under two-thirds (63%) of Millennials say the library helps them get information that assists with decisions they have to make, compared with 55% of Boomers.

People also use the libraries to receive technology training and gain confidence in these skills.  Other interesting facts are that women are more likely than men to say that libraries help them find reliable information.  Hispanic people also love the library and see it as an essential tool to cope with the busy world.  Also, those without a high school diploma say that libraries help them in more than one way.

Libraries are far from obsolete.  Libraries are epicenters for technology training and finding reliable and trustworthy information in world hooked on sensationalism.

Whitney Grace, September 22, 2015

 

AI Will Build Better Chatbots

September 21, 2017

For better or worse, chatbots have well and truly supplanted the traditional customer service role. Sure, one can still reach a human at many companies with persistence, but it is the rare (and appreciated!) business that assigns a real person to handle point-of-contact. Geektime ponders, “What is the Future of Chatbot Development and Artificial Intelligence?” Writer Damian Wolf surveys chatbots as they now exist, and asserts it is AI that will bridge the gap between these simple systems and ones that can realistically replicate human responses. He writes:

The future of AI bots looks promising and exciting at the same time. The limitation in regards to accessing big data can be eradicated by using AI techniques. The ultimate aim for the futuristic chatbot is to be able to interact with users as a human would. Computationally, it is a hard problem. With AI evolving every day, the chances of success are already high. The Facebook AI chatbot is already showing promises as it was able to come up with negotiation skills by creating new sentences. E-Commerce will also benefit hugely with a revolution in AI chatbots. The key here is the data  collection and utilization. Once done correctly, the data can be used to strengthen the performance of highly-efficient algorithm, which in turn, will separate the bad chatbots from the good ones. … Automation is upon us, and chatbots are leading the way. With a fully-functional chatbot, e-commerce, or even a healthcare provider can process hundreds of interactions every single minute. This will not only save them money but also enable them to understand their audience better.

In order for this vision to be realized, Wolf insists, companies must invest in machine learning infrastructure. The article is punctuated with informative links like those in the quotation above; one I’m happy to see is this guide for non-technical journalists who wish to write accurately about AI developments (also good for anyone unfamiliar with the field). See the article for more useful links, and for more on chatbots as they currently exist.

Cynthia Murrell, September 21, 2017

Trust the Search Black Box and Only the Black Box

September 21, 2017

This article reads like an infomercial for a kitchen appliance.  It asks the same, old question, “How much time do you waste searching for relevant content?”  Then it leads into a pitch for Microsoft and some other companies.  BA Insights wrote, “The Increasingly Intelligence Search Experience” to be an original article, but frankly it sounds like every spiel to sell a new search algorithm.

After the “hook,” the article runs down the history of Microsoft and faceted search along with refiners and how it was so revolutionary at the time.  Do not get me wrong, this was a revolution move, but it sounds like Microsoft invented the entire tool rather than just using it as a strategy.  There is also a brief mention on faceted navigation, then they throw “intelligence search” at us:

Microsoft’s definition of “intelligence” may still be vague, but it’s clear that the company believes its work in machine-learning, when combined with its cloud platform, can give it a leg up over its competitors. The Microsoft Graph and these new intelligent machine-learning capabilities provide personalized insights based on a user’s personal network, project assignments, meeting schedule, and other search and collaboration activities. These features make it possible not only to search using traditional methods and take action based on those results, but for the tools and systems to proactively provide intelligent, personalized, and timely information before you ask for it – based on your profile, permissions, and activity history.

Oh!  Microsoft is so smart that they have come up with something brand new that companies which specialize in search have never thought of before.  Come on, how many times have we seen and read claims like this before?  Microsoft is doing revolutionary things, but not so much in the field of search technology.  They have contributed to its improvement over the years, but if this was such a revolutionary piece of black box software why has not anyone else picked it up?

Little black box software has their uses, but mostly for enterprise and closed systems-not the bigger Web.

Whitney Grace, September 21, 2015

NLP Noise Almost Swamps a Google Reshuffle

September 20, 2017

Natural language processing. Understanding human utterance. Sensitivity to human emotion. I have heard this before. Does Google have “real” NLP processing for cloud applications? Maybe. The news sites this morning fill my digital skies with chaff about smart software. Is the core technology Google’s or is a third party’s contribution? Google’s innovation track record makes fewer headlines than its legal struggles.

My radar picked up a blip of a more interesting development. Let’s face it. The NLP thing is not exactly a new new thing. Google’s alleged shake up in the team working on the European Union litigation seems to be a “real real” thing.

I noted an article called “Google Shuffles Top Policy Team Amid Ongoing EU Antitrust Row.” I noted this statement:

The staffing shakeup comes as the Alphabet Inc unit negotiates terms in the European Union in the aftermath of a record antitrust fine and big technology companies face rising regulatory scrutiny in the US, including a renewed call for tougher competition enforcement.

So management fancy dancing.

And tucked into the article was this statement:

In the wake of the EU ruling, some Google critics have called on US enforcement agencies to investigate the the company over its dominance in online search. Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, said in a tweet on Monday that she had visited her counterparts at the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. “Good, constructive cooperation,” Vestager wrote.

NLP is fine, but the management shifts at Google suggest that moe practical considerations related to business practices are evident. NLP is easy to talk about. Dealing with government inquiries may be more difficult.

Stphen E Arnold, September 20, 2017

Is This the End of the Middleman?

September 20, 2017

The introduction of the internet began to reduce the need for professional intermediaries back in the 1990s, but that trend has accelerated with today’s AI capabilities. The Korea Times examines the matter in, “AI Invigorates ‘Scissors Economy’.”  The term “scissors economy” harkens back to 1999’s Market Shock by Todd Buchholz, in which that author coined the phrase to describe the shrinking reliance on go-betweens prompted by online technologies.

Some of the businesses that have been affected by these changing circumstances included brick-and-mortar stores, travel agents, stockbrokers, and insurance agents. It should come as no surprise– technologies that give consumers more direct control necessarily abridge nearly any transaction, cutting out professional intercessors. Writer Yoon Sung-won observes:

Expectations are that the phenomenon of the scissors economy will gain more strength as industries expedite introducing AI technologies in actual businesses. For instance, financial institutions such as banks, brokerage houses and insurance companies have started to use AI-based technologies not just to recommend optimal financial products to their clients but also to make decisions such as whom to grant loans to and where to invest. In the process, less and less human intervention is needed. Online shopping malls are also rushing to adopt new type of services, also based on AI technologies. Upon the customers’ agreement, online shopping platform operators collect information on their preferences to recommend products for customers to purchase. Internet and gaming service providers also use AI technologies to analyze their users to understand consumption patterns. Advanced medical institutions such as cancer centers are also tapping into AI technologies. In Korea, multiple hospitals including Gachon University Gil Medical Center have introduced IBM’s Watson AI system to give medical advice.

Yoon cites an “industry source” when noting that not many workers have been directly replaced by AI systems yet, but that it is only a matter of time. We’re also cautioned—maybe those humans-in-the-middle are actually beneficial. What world will we create when we hand as much decision-making to algorithms as possible?

Cynthia Murrell, September 20, 2017

Alexa Gets a Physical Body

September 20, 2017

Alexa did not really get physical robot body, instead, Bionik Laboratories developed an Alexa skill to control their AKRE lower-body exoskeleton.  The news comes from iReviews’s article, “Amazon’s Alexa Can Control An Exoskeleton With Verbal Instructions.”

This is the first time Alexa has ever been connected to an exoskeleton and it could potentially lead to amazing breakthroughs in prosthetics.  Bionik Laboratories developed the exoskeleton to help older people and those with lower body impairments.  Users can activate the exoskeleton through Alexa with simple commands like, “I’m ready to stand” or “I’m ready to walk.”

As the population ages, there will be a higher demand for technology that can help senior citizens move around with more ease.

The ARKE exoskeleton has the potential to help in 100% of all stroke survivors who suffer from lower limb impairment. A portion of wheelchair-bound stroke survivors will be eligible for the exoskeleton. For spinal cord injury patients, Bionik Labs expects to treat 80% of all cases with the ARKE exoskeleton. There is also potential for patients with quadriplegia or incomplete spinal cord injury.

Bionik Laboratories plans to help people regain their mobility and improve their quality of life.  The company is focusing on stroke survivors and other mobile-impaired patients.  Pairing the exoskeleton with Alexa demonstrates the potential home healthcare will have in the future.  It will also feed imaginations as they wonder if the exoskeletons can be programmed not only walk and run but search and kill?  Just a joke, but the potential for aiding impaired people is amazing.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2015

Security: Whom Does One Trust?

September 19, 2017

I read “The Market Can’t – and Won’t – Deal with IT Security, It Must Be Regulated, Argues Bruce Schneier.” The write up is about online, which is of interest to me. I found the summary of the remarks of Bruce Schneier, a security expert, interesting.

The main point is that government must regulate security. I highlighted this passage:v”The market can’t fix this. Markets work because buyers choose between sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. In case you didn’t notice, you’re not Equifax’s customer. You’re its product.

Several questions occurred to me:

  1. Which government? Maybe the United Nations?
  2. What’s the enforcement mechanism? Is after-the-fact “punishment” feasible?
  3. What’s the end point of security regulation?

Here in rural Kentucky security boils down to keeping an eye on the two brothers who live in a broken down trailer next to the crazy people who have a collection of wild animals. The wild animals are less threatening than these fine examples of Appalachian oak.

In the larger world which includes a number of nation states which are difficult to influence, how are the regulations to be enforced. What if one of these frisky nation states is behind the headline making security breaches?

Answers to this question are likely to be cause for discussion. Talk is easy. Remediation may be a bit more difficult. Perhaps the barn has burned and the horses already converted to glue and dog food?

Fixes are hard. Talk, well, just talk.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2017

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