• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, September 8

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ We are enduring the hardest test of our lifetime for national-disaster response efforts.

    Huge Hurricanes Back-to-Back and a Third Looming

    The number of elderly in South Florida only compounds the potential tragedy.

    Comment: So far, I have been impressed by 

    • The high quality of weather forecasts, often 4-5 days out
    • The learning by federal, state, and local authorities after Katrina
    • The much-greater competence of authorities in Texas than in Louisiana, in Houston than in NOLA, and in FEMA today than under Bush. (Granted, being more competent than NOLA officials is a very low bar.)
    • The exceptional contributions by volunteers in Texas. Here’s hoping for the same in Florida.
    • The absence of looting and other predation after Harvey. (Again, a welcome improvement over Katrina.)

    Here’s hoping the worst weather forecasts don’t come true for Florida, the response is as effective as in Texas, and that the long-term recovery effort lets people rebuild their lives.

    The hack of Equifax computers records is the most massive to date

    It exposes sensitive personal data on 44% of the US population.

    To compound the injury, several executives seem to have sold the company’s stock before the hack was publicly disclosed.

    ZipDialog has a separate post on the mess (link here)

     Rules for dealing with  alleged sexual assault on campus to be rewritten by Department of Education 

    The New York Times gets the basic story right (link here):

    Saying that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

    Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights. –New York Times

    Comment: The problem is their headline: “Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault”

    She plans to rewrite the rules on allegations of campus sex assault.

    The key word is “allegation.” That word is missing from the NYT headline.

    The victims deserve thorough, fair investigations, with appropriately harsh penalties for sexual harassment and coercion when those have been proven. At the same time, the accused deserve through, fair investigations and a chance to present their side. The whole point of due process is to sort through the allegations.

    ◆ FIRE, the leading supporter of free speech on campus, uses this headline:

    Education Department says it will finally confront its role in campus due process crisis (FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

    ◆ Competition in Artificial Intelligence: IBM invests $240 million in AI Research Lab with MIT (Forbes)

    Forbes reports IBM is struggling in the area, competing against Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

    The lab will focus on areas like training AI algorithms that don’t require extensive supervision and exhaustive manual labeling of data. Right now, many deep learning systems require people to go through and label each piece of data — like, say, that’s a car in the image.

    In hardware, the lab hopes to move beyond what’s popular in AI today — namely, graphics processors usually made by Nvidia — and start experimenting with processors that don’t rely on traditional chip designs, such as quantum computing, an area IBM has already been pursuing. –Forbes

    Comment: This is another example of how US leadership in basic research in the physical and biological sciences pays off for the larger US economy. A glance at Kendall Square (next to MIT) and Silicon Valley’s close connection to Stanford reinforce this critical point.

    While the Humanities sink into political advocacy, second-rate ideology, and irrelevance to most serious students, the sciences and empirical social sciences continue to advance.

    The Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal continues to unfold (Daily Caller)

    The scandal centers on IT professional, Imran Awan, who (with family members) handled computers and software for lots of Democratic House members, led by DWS.

    Awan was arrested trying to flee to his native Pakistan with significant cash. Federal prosecutors have brought some charges against him and expect to bring more.

    Awan’s wife has already fled to Pakistan.

    Because the family handled sensitive computer work for many Congressmen, they had access to all their computer files.

    Most D’s fired them after the initial investigations turned up serious problems. DWS did not and actually pushed hard against investigators. We still don’t know why.

    It is unclear whether sensitive information was stolen and perhaps sent to overseas entities, used for blackmail, etc.



  • Robots won’t be replacing humans here anytime soon: When “inspirational posters” are designed by Artificial Intelligence, things go badly wrong

    0 No tags Permalink

    Buzzworthy introduces us to Inspirobot, the AI program designed to

    take over the arduous task of creating those ‘inspirational-quotes-on-pretty-pictures’ you often see on your Facebook feed. –Buzzworthy

    The website for this amusing techno-marvel is here. It explains its purpose on earth:

    I am an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence. –Inspirobot

    Here are my two favorites:


    Wise advice, I say.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 22

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The huge marches around the country will undoubtedly energize the anti-Trump movement for months to come.

    Comment: Some pro-Trump publications have emphasized minor violence, either around the marches or the inauguration. Yes, that happened, but that misses the larger point. These were massive demonstrations, organized quickly, and they had virtually no violence. 

     This is an actual NBC headline: “Analysis: Russia’s Mideast Actions Show Bid for Superpower Status”

     A more serious report in the NYT: “Russia Signs Deal for Syria Bases”

     China’s consumer sector is sluggish and likely to get worse, says Gordon Chang in Forbes.

    Chinese consumption grew in absolute terms in 2016 but fell as a percentage of gross domestic product.–Gordon Chang

    Comment: Chang offers interesting, critical comments. To them, I would add one obvious problem: Chinese statistics are not trustworthy. They are tilted toward what the regime wants. So, when they show bad news, the news is really bad.

     Tesla putting second-generation autopilot into Model S and Model X cars  It says it has done so since October. It also says it will limit “autosteer” to 45 mph. (The Verge)

    Comment: The pace of AI in automobiles is staggering and, over the next 5-10 years, will lead to major changes in passenger transportation, public transit, and trucking.

     Tech giants Amazon and Google battle to be first in voice recognition  Google Home versus Amazon Echo, which launched two years earlier.

    Why should Google care about Amazon? Because voice is seen as the next big field for computer interaction, and the home is a far better environment for voice detection than the great outdoors. Research company Gartner reckons that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice-based, because people can speak up to four times faster than they can type, and the technology behind voice interaction is improving all the time. –The Guardian



  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, January 11

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ She broke the biggest news scoop of all: the opening of World War II in Europe  Clare Hollingworth was a young English reporter, new to the job on August 28, 1939. She was near the German-Polish border that day, when a gust of wind blew back the tarpaulin the Germans had erected to obscure their side. What Hollingworth saw was stunning: massive German forces, ready to attack (which they did on September 1). She wired her paper, The Daily Telegraph, that a great war was about to begin. The Guardian later called it “probably the greatest scoop of modern times.” She went on to become a great war reporter for decades.

    Now, at age 105, Clare Hollingworth has died. (Obituary in the New York Times)

    ◆ China sends aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits Taiwan responds by scrambling its jets and navy. (Reuters)

    Comment: The carrier itself is an old Soviet model, restored.  But it’s the thought that counts. And the thought is that Beijing is angry at the election of a new Taiwanese president who is less committed to the old idea that Taiwan is an integral part of China, angry at Donald Trump and US politicians welcoming the Taiwanese leader on a stop-over this week, and acting increasingly aggressive in the South China Seas.

    My judgment: China is sending a signal that Taiwan’s moves are unacceptable and threaten war.

    ◆ Related Story: President Xi Jinping becomes first Chinese leader to attend World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland  The Bloomberg story is here. 

    Comment: The Chinese economy has been very shaky, with tight controls on getting money out of the country. Xi is sending a signal that his country welcomes new investments. The question is whether he intends to change any of the policies that are discouraging them.

    ◆ Obamacare will not be repealed without a replacement, Speaker Paul Ryan says.  Republican congressmen have resisted repeal until a replacement was ready. (NY Post)

    Comment: Once the GOP touches healthcare, they know they will own it politically, for better or worse. They understandably fear a leap into the unknown. The problem is that, although the overall Obamacare program is not popular, many of its individual features are–and they are expensive to pay for. So, the Republicans have to figure out a way to keep the features without blowing out the federal budget. That is no easy task.

    ◆ Artificial Intelligence: Two interesting, accessible articles (both from The Economist)

    ◆ Will artificial intelligence help to crack biology?

    ◆ How voice technology is transforming computing




  • Artificial Intelligence for business Some progress, some limitations

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    ◆ Artificial intelligence making progress in business, but it still has a long way to go, says Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal. 

    Mims highlights three main limitations:

    1. Most businesses don’t collect enough data to feed into AI systems
    2. Most businesses don’t have enough processes where the cost savings would justify the AI investment
    3. AI programmers and engineers are in short supply, making them expensive

    Of course, all these limitations can–and will–change. So will the availability of off-the-shelf AI systems, which will be much cheaper to use.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, Dec. 8

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Jill Stein’s chances of winning the presidency decline slightly. Federal judge, appointed by Obama, says “no” to Michigan recount. (The Hill)

    ◆ Artificial intelligence making progress in business, but it still has a long way to go, says Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal. 

    Mims highlights three main limitations:

    1. Most businesses don’t collect enough data to feed into AI systems
    2. Most businesses don’t have enough processes where the cost savings would justify the AI investment
    3. AI programmers and engineers are in short supply, making them expensive

    Of course, all these limitations can–and will–change. So will the availability of off-the-shelf AI systems, which will be much cheaper to use.

    ◆ Sharp opponent of Obama environmental initiatives picked to head Environmental Protection Agency. He is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has spent a lot of time suing the very agency he will head. (The Hill)

    ◆ Another day, another general in the Trump cabinet. This time, it is retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly for Homeland Security (Washington Post)


    ◆ The Washington Post runs news articles against Trump each day. Today’s says that “Paul Ryan’s attacks on Hillary Clinton could come back to haunt him.” How?

    With each passing day, Trump is tangling himself in a knot of potential business and family conflicts of interest while he runs the country. That means Republicans in Congress could soon find the tables turned: Democrats clamoring for ethics investigations of the president. And what’s more, they’d be able to point to Ryan’s own argument — that no one should be above the law — to make their case. –Washington Post

    Comment: Right and wrong. It’s certainly right that Trump’s business entanglements could become problems. In fact, I’m sure they will be. Political opponents have already started using them against him.

    But to say that Ryan will be hurt by those attacks is a stretch. Ryan said “no one should be above the law.” He’s right. That ought to include Trump, Clinton, and everyone else. (Charles Lipson comment)

    If Ryan meant only that no Democrats should be above the law but it’s ok if Republicans are, then he ought to be attacked. Maybe the WaPo should wait and see before judging him guilty.

    ◆ Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, installs three sculptures to honor Hillary Clinton. (Fox News) Entitled “Red, White, and Hillary Blue Diamonds,” the installations include a placard saying they are:

    Dedicated to former Senator Hillary Clinton, who is the beacon of dignity and guiding light, as a thank you for her strength as we move forward.–Fox News

    Comment: The committee said the sculptures replace those honoring Thomas Dewey.





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    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com