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Comment: Re:Good read (Score 1) 71

by Phil Urich (#49132849) Attached to: Facebook AI Director Discusses Deep Learning, Hype, and the Singularity

I enjoyed what this guy had to say, too, but I was curious about what he is going to do for facebook. For that matter, what AI can do for facebook. The closest I could find was this:

Facebook can potentially show each person on Facebook about 2,000 items per day: posts, pictures, videos, etc. But no one has time for this. Hence Facebook has to automatically select 100 to 150 items that users want to see -- or need to see.

I thought the whole point of facebook was to keep up with your friends. *shrug*

This is a "yes, but..." kind of situation. Yes, the point is to keep up with your friends (and to pay for this by interjecting ads inbetween), but the problem is once you cross a certain threshold, trying to read a strictly chronological timeline on your screen can become quite impractical. To make matters worse, people who use Facebook can have dramatically different levels of output; while some folks will only ever post text or a picture when it's truly important and/or generally interesting, others post everything that occurs to them from memes to cute things their boyfriends said. To make matters even worse than that, the people reading these posts may vary wildly in what things shared by their ostensible friends they actually care about.

So in practice, especially as/if folks' online output grows in volume, to keep up with your friends may (and for most people definitely does) require something more than the pure firehose of the chronological stream. At least, that's definitely the perspective Facebook is coming from here, and what AI can definitely help them with, because if there's anything more annoying than being overwhelmed by useless information, it's being denied the useful information, so a bad choice in what not to display to someone can leave the user quite upset with the 'dumb computer'. In a sense, the AI has to have learned enough to never make sure a mistake before it can truly prune down and tune the information presented to the user, and so investing in such AI research is a rather prudent move on Facebook's part.

In many respects, Twitter has succeeded because it's artificially limited in the size of the data packets you can throw out into everyone's timelines; additional data is offloaded to links. Facebook wants to be more multifaceted in the types and scopes of the data over its network, with the desire of being the underlying network for all communication, so they're (quite reasonably) very focused on how to intelligently predict and pick what to present to people.

Comment: Re: Feminism HURTS families (Score 1) 126

by Phil Urich (#49116435) Attached to: Inside the Business of Online Reputation Spin

Once violence is initiated, the original victim has the legal right (in all civilized countries) to defend oneself by stopping the threat violence. That always requires an escalation.

How does that always require an escalation? A person can threaten you with a knife while you're out around the BBQ and you can run inside and lock them out of the house, for example.

Comment: Re:Bill Nye, the Dogma Guy! (Score 1) 672

by Phil Urich (#49116317) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge

The usual defence seems to mostly be pointing towards historical data and towards the relatively well-understood nature of atmospheric CO2. Also, the vested interests in quickly burning through fossil fuels (way better returns for the next quarter than any sort of long-term investment in renewable technologies) makes me skeptical of the motives underlying the so-called skeptics.

Honestly, though, do we really think spewing tons of extraneous particles into the air is going to be a good thing? The Earth is a complex, chaotic system, we're not likely to stabilize it or make it more hospitable through these emissions. If throwing all that CO2 into the air ends up being better for the world and/or humanity it'd be like winning the lottery while being struck by lightning on your birthday.

Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 1) 672

by Phil Urich (#49116197) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge
What alternate measures and models would you propose, though? I wasn't really aware of a great debate between "anglo-american" models and others in the present world. I'm not saying that the system in question is unquestionably the best (far from it, I think there are serious and systemic issues starting even just from how we conceptualize what 'education' is and does), but if there are alternate models out there that are considered by some to be successful then there must be justifications for their approaches, and I would honestly be interested to at least be pointed in the general direction.

Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 1) 672

by Phil Urich (#49116167) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge
It's definitely part of the education system here in Alberta, Canada. IIRC it was during Junior High, although I forget which grade, but I distinctly remember "learning" about it (being someone who was interested in science fiction, astronomy, and physics, I had learned about it on my own long beforehand).

Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 1) 672

by Phil Urich (#49116153) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge
Once, while I was working at a health food store, I trolled a demo lady who was trying to hawk "chemical-free root beer". She had nabbed someone she thought was a random customer but was actually one of the accountants working upstairs (this was the original store of a chain, and corporate headquarters was on the floor above).

"Chemical free? Hardly!" I proclaimed, smiling as I strolled up. "Why, for example, that root beer is chalk full of dihydrogen monoxide!" Confusion and concern on both their parts ensued, as did a growing anger on the part of the demo lady, who became very agitated.

"No, there's no chemicals in this! Look at the ingredients, water---"

"Exactly", I said, "water!"

Blank looks from both of them. "You know, H20." Still a blank and angry face on the demo lady, but flickers of recognition on the part of the upstairs accountant. "Two hydrogen, one oxygen..." I said while probably a smug grin spread across my face, and the accountant laughed and nodded, but this just appeared to make the demo lady angry and she suddenly stormed off, which made the accountant chuckle again before she wandered off to get back to work.

Later, i got called in by a supervisor. "One of the demo ladies says you lied to a customer about there being chemicals in the pop she was demoing?"

"Oh, hah! No, wasn't even a customer, it was one of the accountants from corporate. And I was talking about Dihydrogen Monoxide, which the accountant totally clued into after a bit."

My supervisor got it immediately and giggled a bit, but then turned mock-stern. "I get that it was all in fun, but you shouldn't do that again," she told me. "It's mean to make fun of people that dumb."

Comment: Re:Long live the Terminator! (Score 1) 261

by Phil Urich (#49114851) Attached to: Linux Kernel Switching To Linux v4.0, Coming With Many New Addons
In the (excellent) Sarah Connor Chronicles, SPOILERS the AI the main characters thought was going to become Skynet was actually working against another AI who seems more likely to have become Skynet. What I'm saying is, the true nature of systemd won't be apparent for another few twists and turns of time travel at least . . .

Comment: Re:Slippery Slope (Score 1) 231

by Phil Urich (#49022783) Attached to: Canadian Supreme Court Rules Ban On Assisted Suicide Unconstitutional

I believe poptarts are a renewable resource.

Possibly, but if that drives the price up due to increased demand, I'm gonna have to hurt someone.

Economy of stoned scale? Also, you seem to be an angry person. Here, I have a prescription for something to calm you down, although I should warn you that there are certain side-effects for at-risk groups like those who really enjoy poptarts, as this medicine has been known to amplify the consumption thereof.

Comment: I guess physics isn't a "real science" then. (Score 1) 493

That's not really true at all. Many sociologists, economists, etc throughout history have made explicit predictions that could be then evaluated in the face of further evidence. That sometimes people continued to argue after things appear to have been disproven, or when what the evidence actually implied was disputed, hardly makes the social sciences categorically different than "real science". Otherwise, we'd have had to conclude that physics was a fake science after people kept piling on explanations for how the luminferous aether existed. Every time something would seem to falsify it, nope, that just showed some other aspects of the properties of the aether that our celestial bodies move through . . .

It reminds me of one of the only really good jokes The Big Bang Theory ever had. Someone asked one of the main characters "So what's new in . . . uhh . . . physics?" and he replied "nothing really for the past few decades, unless you count String Theory, and they're just like 'ooooh, our theories have internal consistency!'". That some people create a theory, cling to it, and adapt it just barely to accommodate new evidence is sadly a facet of science as it's long been practiced. It's bad science, sure, but "real science" fields have examples of it littering their history.

Meanwhile, examples of hypotheses proven or disproven abound in sociology, for instance Durkheim's claims that it was not the mere tenant of prohibiting suicide that made people statistically less likely to kill themselves if they were devoutly religious, and this hypothesis was proven by comparing the rates of suicide between otherwise demographically similar people and playing with two variables when examining the data: integration within a religious community and the specific religion at play. He showed through the data that the tenants of the religion don't make a statistical difference, but how integrated a person is in the religious community does make a difference. In other words, it wasn't the beliefs of the religion that prevented people from committing suicide, it was their ties to a community. And if you want to try and prove that wrong, all you need to do is find significant evidence of equivalent religious communities whose difference is merely in whether or not they prohibit suicide as part of their doctrine. Sure, that's far more complex and full of hard-to-isolate variables than colliding two particles together tends to be, and skews more to field work than replication in a laboratory---but even our proof of General Relativity relies on observing light in the universe well away from Earth itself.

Are there people who take advantage of the complexity and breadth of potential variables and influences in social science data and hypotheses and push out junk academic works? Oh, definitely. And I'd even agree that it's probably worse in many of the social sciences than many of the hard sciences. But taking such a general trend and pretending it's an absolute and categorical result is, ironically, precisely the kind of junk science you're accusing the social sciences of. I mean, surely you appreciate the irony of claiming

The primary distinction between the social "sciences" and real science is that real science is based on predictions. It is falsifiable by experiment. On the other hand, the social "sciences" are all about interpretation. They make no real prediction that can shoot down their theory.

while you've offered no data to back up your hypothesis..

Comment: Re:The problem is the "social sciences". (Score 1) 493

You've been lucky; half the medical research I peruse seems to suffer in exactly that way (as well as other, sometimes more pernicious ways that also create results that sound valid in abstract but fall apart upon even a cursory examination of the experimental design).

Comment: Mod points to parent (Score 1) 493

Seriously, AC here deserves upvotes. Sadly I have none. But parent deftly illustrates why the difficulty of getting valid scientific results in the social sciences in no way proves that it's categorically impossible; I suppose though some people would rather write things off as impossible when they can't get quick, easy results, which says far more about the people being so dismissive than the nature of such intellectual endeavours.

Even bytes get lonely for a little bit.