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Friday, May 31, 2013

Artificial Intelligence Explanation Even I Understand

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I was honored when, earlier this week, my friend Adelson de Brito, a Professor of Physics in Brazil, decided to break down some very scientific information about Artificial Intelligence, in a way that even I, more of an artist than academic, can understand. Here, Adelson (who speaks Portuguese and many other languages) writes simply and beautifully about professor Andrew Ng’s research, AI, and algorithms — concepts I probably would have no hope of grasping had it not been for Adelson's fine craft as a teacher.

Adelson’s students are blessed to have him. Thanks again Adelson!



Here's the article:

[Not long ago] I read [an article about] Dr. Andrew Ng.

When he was a kid, he dreamed of building machines that could think like people, but when he got to college and came face-to-face with the Artificial Intelligence (or simply AI) research of the day, he gave up. Later, as a professor, he would actively discourage his students from pursuing the same dream. Later on, fortunately Professor Ng changed his mind back to his primary visions of AI. He reportedly claims his 180 degree navigation course correction took place when he ran into the “one algorithm” hypothesis, popularized by Jeff Hawkins, an AI entrepreneur who’d dabbled in neuroscience research. And the dream returned.

Well, Andrew Ng (born 1976, Chinese: 吳恩達) is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical Engineering by courtesy at Stanford University, and he works as the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. He also co-founded Coursera, an online education platform, with Daphne Koller. He researches primarily in artificial intelligence machine learning, and deep learning. His early work includes the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter project, which developed one of the most capable autonomous helicopters in the world, and the STAIR (STanford Artificial Intelligence Robot) project, which resulted in a Robot Operation System (ROS), a widely used open-source robotics software platform. Ng is also the author or co-author of over 100 published papers in machine learning, robotics and related fields, and some of his work in computer vision has been featured in a series of press releases and reviews. In 2008, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.

In 2007, Ng was awarded a Sloan Fellowship. For his work in Artificial Intelligence, he is also a recipient of the Computers and Thought Award (Wikipedia, 2013).

Well at this time and place I think of my friend Alicia Benjamin
and will try to explain what is an algorithm.

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure, to be used for calculations as much as a cake recipe is worth for making cakes.

Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning. It is an effective method expressed as a finite, concise list or set of well-defined instructions for calculating, for example, the value of a mathematical function. Starting from an initial state and an initial “input”, the instructions work as a combined set of actions designed to stimulate the whole process to proceed through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing an “output” and terminating at a final ending state.

According to Ng, in the early days of AI, the prevailing opinion was that human intelligence derived from thousands of simple agents working in concert, what MIT’s Marvin Minsky called “The Society of Mind.” In his book Minsky brilliantly portrays the mind as a "society" of tiny components that are themselves mindless.

To achieve AI, engineers believed, they would have to build and combine thousands of individual computing modules. One agent, or algorithm, would mimic language. Another would handle speech. And so on. In short, they believed the brains disposed of one algorithm to be used at a time and each one would deal specifically with the task that fits its particular nature. Well, to “reproduce” such a machine seemed an insurmountable feat.

The good news as seen by Ng is the solidity of the concept introduced by Minsky aside with the concept of “one algorithm” hypothesis popularized by Jeff Hawkins.

Deep Learning is a first step in this new direction. Basically, it involves building neural networks — networks that mimic the behavior of the human brain. Much like the brain, these multi-layered computer networks can gather information and react to it. They can build up an understanding of what objects look or sound like.

Now it is time to raise a simple question: What are the primary ideas behind the quest of men after a society that offers more time to have fun and less time to spend with bothering tasks of a mechanical daily life?

First, it was the Industrial Revolution that brought about the transition to new manufacturing processes. It occurred in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and development of machine tools. The transition also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and within a few decades had spread to Western Europe and the United States.

Then the Information Age, that I will refer to by the acronym “IA” was advanced by a society marked by the capitalization on the computer microminiaturization advances, with a transition spanning from the advent of the personal computer in the late 1970s, to the Internet's reaching a critical mass in the early 1990s, and the adoption of such technology by the public in the two decades after 1990. Bringing about a fast evolution of technology in daily life, as well as of educational life style, the Information Age has allowed rapid global communications and networking to shape modern society.

Next will be the Artificial Intelligence “AI” Revolution with its machines or software, and is also a branch of computer science that studies and develops intelligent machines and software. As we have seen by the topics we discussed above, the central problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects.

At the end of the day, industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labor and capital-intensive. This trend has important implications for the workforce; workers are becoming increasingly productive as the value of their labor decreases. However, there are also important implications for capitalism itself; not only is the value of labor decreased, the value of capital is also diminished. In the classical model, investments in human capital and financial capital are important predictors of the performance of a new venture. However, as demonstrated by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, it now seems possible for a group of relatively inexperienced people with limited capital to succeed on a large scale.

To see Adelson's original blog post, along with references used for the piece, click here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The People's Report: Wilmington, Delaware

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Yasser Payne
This documentary is a long time coming. For those who know all of the shades of Wilmington, Delaware, UP CLOSE, the devastating effects of an ineffective education system and lack of job opportunities in the city is not news. Now the documentary, The People's Report, brings the despair and dichotomy between the haves and have nots in Wilmington to light in a most provocative way.
Kudos to Yasser Payne, University of Delaware Associate Professor of Black American Studies, who put a lot of work, research, and passion into helping to get this film made.

The People’s Report, a Teleduction/Hearts and Minds film production that reveals the in-depth details about the prolific violence and apathy in Wilmington, will be shown at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts next week on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 12 p.m.

Doubling as a research project and film, The People’s Report, includes data collected by Payne and 15 Wilmington residents (21 to 48 years old) from Southbridge and the East Side that Payne trained to participate in the project. Payne and these community recruits created a survey, conducted more than 500 interviews, and analyzed their findings. His process, called participatory action research (PAR), involves using members of the target population, as part of the research team.

“We equipped them all with a skill set,” Payne told radio station WDDE. “They received two months of training, the same as doctoral students get, and they were paid $17 an hour.” Payne, who grew up in Harlem and Englewood, N.J., told WDDE that the PAR approach is effective because “the people in the community that is being studied are also experts.” Their lives are invested in the communities and so they are vigorously motivated to gather information and ultimately, to help implement change.

The opening of the film gives an overview of what’s to come, as these words are shown on the screen:

“Wilmington, Delaware is a small city of 73,000 people.”

“Its violent crime rate per capita is among the worst in the nation.”

“In 2010 a team of 15 researchers, part of a Participatory Action Research project took to the streets, armed with cameras and clipboards to find out why.”

Here are some of the gripping questions the PAR survey asks:


-- How many times have you yourself actually been shot with a gun? -- How many times have you heard about someone else getting shot with a gun? -- Have you ever had a relative killed with a gun?
A majority of the survey respondents reported losing at least one family member (55 percent) and/or at least one friend (59 percent) to gun violence. About 25 percent indicated that they had been attacked or stabbed with a knife at least once, and another 20 percent reported that they had been shot at least once.

The survey also found that 44 percent of the respondents did not have a high school diploma, 64 percent total (70 percent of the men), were unemployed, and 64 percent of the respondents lived in low-income housing.

We also learn from the film that for the first time in three years, a male student from South Bridge graduated from high school.

“The loss of jobs and quality school opportunities is predicative of physical violence,” Payne says. “We are advocating for Wilmington and the state of Delaware to find innovative ways to bring more high quality jobs and better educational opportunities to these communities.”

But Payne hopes that the intervention in the lives of the PAR team members and the issues that the film raises will help to turn things around in Wilmington.

“The PAR team is required to organize an action agenda to complement the data analysis,” Payne said. In other words, the PAR team is expected to formulate ways to make their communities better.

If you plan to be in the Wilmington area on Wednesday, May 29 — Go see this film!

Click here for more information about The People’s Report, directed by Sharon Baker and produced by Daniel Collins.

Go here to register to see The People’s Report and attend the lecture following the film.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Peace I Give To You

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"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -- John 14:27

Gullah version:

"Now dat A da gwine way fom yah, A da gii oona peace een oona haat. Me own peace A da gii oona. A ain da gii oona de kind ob peace dat de people an de ting een dis wol yah da gii. Oona mus dohn leh oona haat be hebby bout nottin. Mus dohn be scaid."

oona means you

Thursday, May 09, 2013

If Somebody Hurts You: Message for Children Only

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What they're doing in Spain to help child abuse victims:

Child Abuse Hotline Ad Uses Photographic Trick That Makes It Visible Only To Children From The Huffington Post, May 6:

A Spanish organization called Fundación ANAR, or Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk, created a bus-stop advertisement in April that features the group's hotline number for children to report abuse. But by using a process called lenticular photography, the company made the hotline number, and much of the ad's content, visible only to those under a certain height -- presumably children.

Lenticular photography allows companies to create an image in a way that lets viewers see one of several different photos, depending on where they're standing. In the case of ANAR's ad, anyone taller than 4 feet 5 inches -- the average height of a 10-year-old, according to the group -- would see a picture of a boy with an unmarked face and the following message: "Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it." Anyone under that height would see an image of the boy with a bruised face, the organization's hotline number (116-111) in white text, and the message, "If somebody hurts you, phone us and we'll help you."



Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Children and Guns

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Children and Guns -- Should those two words go together?

From Harper's Weekly Review (May 7, 2013):

A five-year-old Kentucky boy shot his two-year-old sister with a .22-caliber Crickett youth rifle, and a 13-year-old Florida boy shot his six-year-old sister with a handgun. “The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun,” said a Kentucky coroner. “The little boy just sat there rocking back and forth,” said a Florida neighbor.

Monday, May 06, 2013

No Moor by Shafiq Husayn

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Here's a strange, but rejuvenating and funky tune by Shafiq Husayn:


(This song really did change my mood.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Italian Racists and Cecile Kyenge

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New Black Appointment Showcases Racist Italy
by The Associated Press, May 1 2013

ROME — It was hailed as a giant step forward for racial integration in a country that has long been ill at ease with its growing immigrant classes.

But Cecile Kyenge’s (pictured) appointment as Italy’s first Black Cabinet minister has instead exposed the nation’s ugly race problem, a blight that flares regularly on the soccer pitch with racist taunts and in the diatribes of xenophobic politicians – but has now raised its head at the center of political life.
One politician derided what he called Italy’s new “bonga bonga government.”

On Wednesday, amid increasing revulsion over the reaction, the government authorized an investigation into neo-fascist websites whose members called Kyenge “Congolese monkey” and other epithets.
Kyenge, 48, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Italy three decades ago to study medicine. An eye surgeon, she lives in Modena with her Italian husband and two children. She was active in local center-left politics before winning a seat in the lower Chamber of Deputies in February elections.
Premier Enrico Letta tapped Kyenge to be minister of integration in his hybrid center-left and center-right government that won its second vote of confidence Tuesday. In his introductory speech to Parliament, Letta touted Kyenge’s appointment as a “new concept about the confines of barriers giving way to hope, of unsurpassable limits giving way to a bridge between diverse communities.”
Unfortunately, his praise and that of others has been almost drowned out by the racist slurs directed at Kyenge by politicians of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, an on-again, off-again ally of long-serving ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, and members of neo-fascist Internet groups.
In addition to his “bonga bonga” slur, Mario Borghezio, a European parliamentarian for the League, warned in an interview with Radio 24 that Kyenge would try to “impose tribal traditions” from her native Congo on Italy.
Kyenge on Tuesday responded to the insults, thanking those who had come to her defense and taking a veiled jab at the vulgarity of her critics. “I believe even criticism can inform if it’s done with respect,” she tweeted.