Friday 6th December 2019
  • The Economics Of Artificial Intelligence- How Cheaper Predictions Will Change The World

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a lot of things. It's a game changer for business, it can enable humans to work smarter and faster than ever before, and it could potentially have a significant impact on economies and the labor market.

    But at the root of it all - the function which gives AI value - is the ability to make predictions. Calculating - more quickly and accurately than has ever been possible - what the likelihood is of a particular outcome, is the fundamental advance which AI brings to the table.

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  • This tech company is aiming to plant 500 billion trees by 2060- using drones

    Dendra estimates it would take just 400 teams of two drone operators, with 10 drones per team, to plant 10 billion trees each year - and at a much lower cost than the traditional method of planting by hand.

    The target is to plant 500 billion trees by 2060, in often hard-to-reach places.

    Susan Graham, CEO of Dendra Systems, says, "The challenge that we're tackling is a complex one and working with a team of passionate engineers, plant scientists, drone operators, we came up with this idea to use automation and digital intelligence to plant billions of trees."

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  • The Ethical Dilemma at the Heart of Big Tech Companies

    If it seems like every week there's a new scandal about ethics and the tech industry, it's not your imagination. Even as the tech industry is trying to establish concrete practices and institutions around tech ethics, hard lessons are being learned about the wide gap between the practices of "doing ethics" and what people think of as "ethical". This helps explain, in part, why it raises eyebrows when Google dissolves its short-lived AI ethics advisory board, in the face of public outcry about including a controversial alumnus of the Heritage Foundation on it, or when organized pressure from Google's engineering staff results in the cancellation of military contracts.

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  • Survivorship Bias: The Tale of Forgotten Failures

    Survivorship bias is a common logical error that distorts our understanding of the world. It happens when we assume that success tells the whole story and when we don't adequately consider past failures.

    There are thousands, even tens of thousands of failures for every big success in the world. But stories of failure are not as sexy as stories of triumph, so they rarely get covered and shared. As we consume one story of success after another, we forget the base rates and overestimate the odds of real success.

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  • The Bus Ticket theory of Genius

    Everyone knows that to do great work you need both natural ability and determination. But there's a third ingredient that's not as well understood: an obsessive interest in a particular topic.

    To explain this point I need to burn my reputation with some group of people, and I'm going to choose bus ticket collectors. There are people who collect old bus tickets. Like many collectors, they have an obsessive interest in the minutiae of what they collect. They can keep track of distinctions between different types of bus tickets that would be hard for the rest of us to remember. Because we don't care enough. What's the point of spending so much time thinking about old bus tickets?

    Which leads us to the second feature of this kind of obsession: there is no point. A bus ticket collector's love is disinterested. They're not doing it to impress us or to make themselves rich, but for its own sake.

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  • 13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings

    Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for "negative capability." We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our "opinions" based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It's enormously disorienting to simply say, "I don't know." But it's infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right - even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

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  • How to Talk to Someone Who Refuses to Accept Reality, According to Behavioral Science

    Ohio State University behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky points out that while conspiracy theories might be fringe examples, denialism itself isn't at all uncommon. One four-year study that involved interviews with more than 1,000 board members, found that, when a CEO is ousted, 23 percent of the time it's because he or she was unwilling or unable to accept some basic aspect of reality. When faced with threatening information, people often stick their heads in the sand.

    Knowing that you have company in your misery might provide some comfort when faced with a reality denier, but how do you actually confront one? Tsipursky's first and most important bit of advice is to forget facts. The problem is almost certainly one of emotions, not knowledge.

    He offers a down-to-earth example to illustrate: "At a company where I consulted, a manager refused to acknowledge that a person hired directly by her was a bad fit, despite everyone else in the department telling me that the employee was holding back the team." Why? "Facing facts would cause the CEO or the manager to feel bad."

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  • Jarhead author: Drones and robots won't make war easier- they'll make it worse

    The greatest weapons race of all is among academic scientists trying to win DARPA funding for new warfighting technology they insist will require scant human interface with the killing act, thus relieving the combatant of the moral quandary and wounds of war. Private-sector startups sell a myth of smart war through AI, or robotic soldiers. In labs where the newest and cleanest ways to kill are being invented, the conversation is not about the morality of going to war, but rather the technology of winning. But when you rely on a myth of technology and distance killing to build a rationale for easy war, your country will lose its soul.

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  • Keep your identity small

    I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.

    As a rule, any mention of religion on an online forum degenerates into a religious argument. Why? Why does this happen with religion and not with Javascript or baking or other topics people talk about on forums?

    What's different about religion is that people don't feel they need to have any particular expertise to have opinions about it. All they need is strongly held beliefs, and anyone can have those. No thread about Javascript will grow as fast as one about religion, because people feel they have to be over some threshold of expertise to post comments about that. But on religion everyone's an expert.

    Then it struck me: this is the problem with politics too. Politics, like religion, is a topic where there's no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion. All you need is strong convictions.

    Do religion and politics have something in common that explains this similarity? One possible explanation is that they deal with questions that have no definite answers, so there's no back pressure on people's opinions. Since no one can be proven wrong, every opinion is equally valid, and sensing this, everyone lets fly with theirs.

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  • A Few Principles for Thinking Clearly

    Czech-Canadian polymath Vaclav Smil was a little-known academic until he rose into public awareness thanks to Bill Gates. Gates has read all of Smil's books (there are over 30 of them) and goes as far as to say, "I learn more by reading Vaclav Smil than just about anyone."

    Many of Smil's books focus on environmental themes such as population growth, climate change, and energy transitions. These fields are rife with political bias and emotional reasoning, but Smil manages to say important, interesting things in a way that is neither deluded nor dogmatic.

    Here are a few things I'm learning from him on how to think clearly.

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