A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 18, 2019

The Reason Explainable AI Is the Next Crucial Frontier

Humanity has come a long way from 'theirs is not to reason why...'

Adoption, trust and scale will depend on explanations. JL

Thomas Hornigold reports in Singularity Hub:

Machine learning algorithms are starting to exceed human performance in narrow and specific domains, such as image recognition and medical diagnoses. They’re also improving in more complex domains such as generating human-like text. We increasingly rely on machine learning algorithms to make decisions on a wide range of topics. But machine learning algorithms cannot explain the decisions they make.How can we justify putting these systems in charge of decisions that affect people’s lives if we don’t understand how they’re arriving at those decisions? This has led to a focus algorithms that make a decision or take an action, and tell you the reasons.

Briefcase-Sized Labs Make Pharma Portable And Inexpensive

Speed and personalization may be the answer to delivering affordable healthcare. JL

Carrie Arnold reports in Nature:

Pharmaceuticals on demand requires rethinking drug manufacturing. (Spurred by) DARPA’s interest in on-demand biologics, continuous-flow synthesis,  involves pumping two or more reagents through microchambers connected by tubes. This creates uninterrupted reactions as the chemicals move through the system. Sensors monitor the progress and purity of the reactions, altering the flow and amounts of reagents to optimize conditions, comparable to the assembly line. Drugs on demand reduce the need for refrigerated delivery and storage chains

The Reason Police Can Access Consumer DNA To Solve Crimes Despite User Objections

Judges rulings on warrants assert that consumer DNA testing and social media companies have no legal standing to object to use of such personal data - even if users have signed statements saying they do not want their information used - because the companies which collect and store the data are not the subject of the search. JL

Aaron Mak reports in Slate:

Law enforcement has accessed genetic information (through) GEDmatch that finds relatives by uploading DNA profiles. Warrants overrule any companies’ policies—and consumers’ clearly stated preferences—about how their data can be used. Even if companies wanted to challenge a warrant that violated users’ Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches, a judge ruled that because Facebook was not the subject of the criminal probe, the company had no standing to assert this constitutional right (so) DNA companies might not be able to use constitutional justifications to challenge warrants for their users’ genetic information.

Males and Females Have Equal Aptitude In Math.Why Are So Few STEM Jobs Held By Women?

Nurture is beating nature. JL

Brett Arends reports in Market Watch:

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal “Science of Learning” found the brains of boys and girls react the same to mathematics problems. "We found statistical equivalence between boys and girls throughout the brain.” And yet women make up 26% of people in computer and mathematical occupations, 21% of programmers and 16% of those in architecture and engineering. By middle and high school, boys outperform girls in math — and that is the top reason boys are more likely to pursue STEM careers. "The challenge is to address the cultural barriers that women and under-represented minorities face in the STEM fields."

How Cities Are Being Forced To Reimagine Their Relationship With Cars

Even as young people flock to cities and are stimulating their economies, the air quality is literally killing them. The question is whether that will eventually end the growth that major urban areas have enjoyed for the past decade. JL

Somini Sengupta and Nadja Popovich report in the New York Times:

City dwellers want cleaner, healthier air and less traffic. Transportation emissions account for a fourth of all greenhouse gases. Exposure to (London)’s polluted air resulted in 9,000 premature deaths in 2010. (Beijing's) air quality still fails to meet national standards for pollution and far exceeds levels the World Health Organization deems safe to breathe. New Delhi’s air quality is today as notorious as Beijing. Cities account for a large majority of global emissions, are dangling both carrots and sticks to persuade their residents to get out of their cars — or into cleaner ones.

67 Percent Of Corporate Buybacks Used To Offset Employee Stock Dilution

The significance is that both employee equity compensation and stock buybacks are as much forms of hedging as of rewards. JL

Michael Batnick reports in the Irrelevant Investor and Barry Ritholtz reports in The Big Picture:

Buybacks are misunderstood both by politicians who argue that it exacerbates income inequality, and bears who argue that it is manipulating the market higher. “Most companies don’t view buybacks as a means of returning cash to shareholders but as offsetting the dilution caused by stock compensation. The source of funds for most stock buybacks is the employee compensation expense item on corporate income statements.” “The current source for equity issuance data in the Financial Accounts of the United States does not fully incorporate issuance to employees by public corporations.”

Why Research Says It Is More Productive To Praise People Than Correct Their Mistakes

Embracing failure as a learning tool has become a by word of tech success.

But as virtually every organization becomes tech driven, new research on the economics of behavior suggests a focus on correcting failure is less productive than praise because it reduces the capacity to learn. For optimal outcomes, positive feedback delivers measurably better results. JL

Mark Travers reports in Forbes:

Which form of managerial feedback produces better outcomes? Overwhelmingly, management via encouragement was the more effective method. “Our society celebrates failure as a teachable moment. (But) failure feedback undermines learning because it causes participants to stop processing information. People find failure feedback ego-threatening, which leads them to tune out, and miss the information it offers. Tuning out from a pursuit in the moment of failure could be the first step in a chain reaction that distances and discourages people from the goal they are pursuing.”