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Microsoft and corporate activism

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BOSTON — Artificial intelligence needs to eat, breathe and sleep data to be effective. By that measure, the company…

— or country — with the most data should emerge victorious. But Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, said the idea that data accumulators will rule the world and the rest of us will be powerless is a pessimistic take on what’s to come.

He prefers optimism. Indeed, Smith said there are ways to keep, say, China from becoming a global data dictator. His recommendation: Create “a global standard for ethical principles and for the protection of things like privacy so that the price for global admission is adherence to a global standard.”

Such a standard could create a classic data-silo problem for countries that don’t comply. For example, China may have the world’s largest population, but if it can’t access Europe’s data or the United States’ data, it will struggle to uncover patterns on a global, rather than national, scale.

That was one of the points Smith made at HUBweek, an innovation festival in Boston. In a fireside chat with Adi Ignatius, editor in chief of Harvard Business Review, Smith made it clear that Microsoft is participating in a new kind of corporate activism that targets broad societal issues — and it’s using this newly public corporate conscience as an advocacy and marketing tool.

For example, in December, Microsoft publicly supported a giving women and men the right to take a sexual harassment claim to court rather than keep the complaint in arbitration. When North Carolina a that restricted LGBT rights, Microsoft lent its voice to the opposition. More recently, the company launched the Defending Democracy Program, which is aimed at protecting campaigns from hacking, increasing political advertising transparency and defending against disinformation.

The political thread in the examples Smith provided is hardly accidental: Customers are increasingly turning to companies to take on issues they care about because of the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., Smith argued.

“We are living in a time when there are historically low levels of trust in government,” he said. “And so, whereas in the past, people would say, ‘I care about this. I’m going to go to government.’ They are less inclined to do that.”

But jumping into corporate activism and promoting a company’s moral compass can also create wrinkles. Smith said, given the gridlock in Washington, customers are beginning to ask Microsoft to help regulate the very technology it’s developing. One HUBweek attendee raised a question that has become common at tech events: Can government officials craft policy that effectively keeps up with the rapid pace of change in the tech industry? 

Smith shot down the idea, saying that any technology company’s involvement in regulation is inappropriate and restricts progress. “I don’t think it’s viable to ask tech to slow down,” he said. “It is not only appropriate, but it is right to ask government to move faster. And it’s incumbent on those of us in the technology sector to do what we can to share information so that governments can move faster.”

Plus, he said, “it’s important to remember that, in this country and in many others, people elect those who make the laws. People do not elect companies.”

‘Moneyball’ for movies

Legendary Entertainment is using analytics to develop films. Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer for the media company, referred to this as “Moneyball for movies,” referencing the story of how data helped transform a losing baseball team.

The use of data to develop movie products isn’t , but in the past, much of the data was collected through analog methods. These days, the data that Marolda’s applied analytics team uses for analysis comes from a variety of sources — from one-on-one conversations with viewers to digital data such as search queries and Twitter conversations.

The tried-and-true method of testing a film before a live audience is also used — but with a twist. While Marolda’s team tries “to be as unintrusive as possible” during the testing process, it uses iPads to capture facial expressions and wristbands to collect heart rate and other “various signals,” he said. That kind of data is used to determine what’s working and what’s not.

“We try and identify those moments where people are confused, people are rolling their eyes, where they’re really engaged,” Marolda said.

The data can also help pin down much bigger problems such as whether the chemistry between the two leads is believable. Marolda said filmmakers often have a gut answer to human chemistry questions like the latter, but the data can provide solid evidence.

“With that kind of evidence, entire storylines are removed from movies, reshoots might happen to redirect the plot,” he said. “Those indicators are a great way to understand what the opportunities are for improvement.”

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Source: https://searchcio.techtarget.com/news/252450811/Microsoft-and-corporate-activism

Big Data

If you did not already know

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SGAN google


The Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have demonstrated impressive performance for data synthesis, and are now used in a wide range of computer vision tasks. In spite of this success, they gained a reputation for being difficult to train, what results in a time-consuming and human-involved development process to use them. We consider an alternative training process, named SGAN, in which several adversarial ‘local’ pairs of networks are trained independently so that a ‘global’ supervising pair of networks can be trained against them. The goal is to train the global pair with the corresponding ensemble opponent for improved performances in terms of mode coverage. This approach aims at increasing the chances that learning will not stop for the global pair, preventing both to be trapped in an unsatisfactory local minimum, or to face oscillations often observed in practice. To guarantee the latter, the global pair never affects the local ones. The rules of SGAN training are thus as follows: the global generator and discriminator are trained using the local discriminators and generators, respectively, whereas the local networks are trained with their fixed local opponent. Experimental results on both toy and real-world problems demonstrate that this approach outperforms standard training in terms of better mitigating mode collapse, stability while converging and that it surprisingly, increases the convergence speed as well. …

Expert-Augmented Machine Learning (EAML) google


Machine Learning is proving invaluable across disciplines. However, its successis often limited by the quality and quantity of available data, while its adoption by the level of trust that models afford users. Human vs. machine performance is commonly compared empirically to decide whether a certain task should be performed by a computer or an expert. In reality, the optimal learning strategy may involve combining the complementary strengths of man and machine. Here we present Expert-Augmented Machine Learning (EAML), an automated method that guides the extraction of expert knowledge and its integration into machine-learned models. We use a large dataset of intensive care patient data to predict mortality and show that we can extract expert knowledge using an online platform, help reveal hidden confounders, improve generalizability ona different population and learn using less data. EAML presents a novel framework for high performance and dependable machine learning in critical applications. …

Multiple Independent Subspace Clustering (MISC) google


Multiple clustering aims at discovering diverse ways of organizing data into clusters. Despite the progress made, it’s still a challenge for users to analyze and understand the distinctive structure of each output clustering. To ease this process, we consider diverse clusterings embedded in different subspaces, and analyze the embedding subspaces to shed light into the structure of each clustering. To this end, we provide a two-stage approach called MISC (Multiple Independent Subspace Clusterings). In the first stage, MISC uses independent subspace analysis to seek multiple and statistical independent (i.e. non-redundant) subspaces, and determines the number of subspaces via the minimum description length principle. In the second stage, to account for the intrinsic geometric structure of samples embedded in each subspace, MISC performs graph regularized semi-nonnegative matrix factorization to explore clusters. It additionally integrates the kernel trick into matrix factorization to handle non-linearly separable clusters. Experimental results on synthetic datasets show that MISC can find different interesting clusterings from the sought independent subspaces, and it also outperforms other related and competitive approaches on real-world datasets. …

Fractal AI google


Fractal AI is a theory for general artificial intelligence. It allows to derive new mathematical tools that constitute the foundations for a new kind of stochastic calculus, by modelling information using cellular automaton-like structures instead of smooth functions. In the repository included we are presenting a new Agent, derived from the first principles of the theory, which is capable of solving Atari games several orders of magnitude more efficiently than other similar techniques, like Monte Carlo Tree Search. The code provided shows how it is now possible to beat some of the current state of the art benchmarks on Atari games, without previous learning and using less than 1000 samples to calculate each one of the actions when standard MCTS uses 3 Million samples. Among other things, Fractal AI makes it possible to generate a huge database of top performing examples with very little amount of computation required, transforming Reinforcement Learning into a supervised problem. The algorithm presented is capable of solving the exploration vs exploitation dilemma on both the discrete and continuous cases, while maintaining control over any aspect of the behavior of the Agent. From a general approach, new techniques presented here have direct applications to other areas such as: Non-equilibrium thermodynamics, chemistry, quantum physics, economics, information theory, and non-linear control theory. …

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Source: https://analytixon.com/2021/06/15/if-you-did-not-already-know-1423/

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KDnuggets Top Blogs Rewards for May 2021

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KDnuggets Top Blogs Rewards for May 2021

We announce the winners of the first KDnuggets Top Blog Rewards Program.


Top Blog RewardsCongratulations to winners of KDnuggets Top Blogs Reward Program for May 2021, which will share the total amount of $2,000 (USD) according to the unique page views in the first 21 days starting with the day of publication.

  1. Vaex: Pandas but 1000x faster, by Ahmad Anis (original)
  2. Data Preparation in SQL, with Cheat Sheet!, by Stan Pugsley (original)
  3. A Guide On How To Become A Data Scientist (Step By Step Approach), by Aditya Agarwal
  4. Top Programming Languages and Their Uses, by Claire D. Costa (original)
  5. Essential Linear Algebra for Data Science and Machine Learning, by Benjamin Obi Tayo (original)
  6. Charticulator: Microsoft Research open-sourced a game-changing Data Visualization platform, by Josh Taylor

We started this program to encourage more high-quality and especially original (unpublished) contributions to KDnuggets.

For each month, starting in May 2021, we will determine 6 most viewed blogs published on KDnuggets that month (excluding blogs by KDnuggets Editors Matthew Mayo and Gregory Piatetsky), and will distribute $2,000 (USD) among the authors of these top blogs. If a blog has multiple authors, we will send the payment to the first author and it will be their responsibility to distribute it. If the author declines the monetary reward, the amount will roll over to the next month rewards.

While we appreciate and publish the reposts, the goal of this program is to get more great original publications, which will be rewarded at the rate of 3X the reposts. Note: An original submission first published on KDnuggets may be reposted elsewhere two weeks after KDnuggets publication, provided there is a link to KDnuggets blog and text “Originally published on KDnuggets”.

Here are the details on KDnuggets Top Blogs Reward Program .

To submit a blog to KDnuggets, please follow the submission guidelines.

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Source: https://www.kdnuggets.com/2021/06/top-blogs-rewards-may.html

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Americans are curious about electric trucks, but low cost, durability come first – Reuters/Ipsos poll

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By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – While most Americans expect electric vehicles eventually to dominate the nation’s roadways, many have greeted the first battery-powered models with skepticism, expressing concerns about the potential costs and inconveniences of owning such vehicles, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

Automakers have already recognized the challenge and said they plan to market future battery-powered models by touting their performance and long-term cost savings over environmental benefits.

Vehicle manufacturers need to win over more rural Americans and Republicans, with the survey showing those groups express less enthusiasm than others for electric vehicles.

Vehicle electrification, particularly of the most popular large, fuel-intensive light trucks and SUVs, has become a central part of U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. In the Reuters/Ipsos national poll of around 1,005 adults from June 3-4, 67% of all respondents agreed in a bipartisan consensus that pickup trucks are the American way of life, underscoring the focus on electrifying those vehicles to reach climate goals.

Rural consumers in so-called red states or Republican strongholds are a key demographic for pickup trucks, the auto industry’s most profitable vehicle segment, challenging automakers to navigate an electric future without alienating those customers.

Several automakers, including Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co, are planning to release all-electric trucks in the coming years. But no electric pickup truck is yet available, which means consumer attitudes about them are largely based on second-hand knowledge.

Graphic-What do you want in a truck? https://graphics.reuters.com/AUTOS-ELECTRIC/SURVEY/qzjpqrgynvx/chart_eikon.jpg

A majority of 65% agreed that electric vehicles are the future of the auto industry, the poll showed. While there were clear divisions along party lines – with 53% agreeing among Republicans, compared with 78% among Democrats – the issue is less partisan than other contentious U.S. political topics.

Nearly half of Americans – 46% – believe EVs are not worth the cost, the survey showed, with opinions again reflecting a political divide. EVs have a higher sticker price than comparable gasoline models, largely due to costly batteries.

When asked to consider buying a new truck, only a minority said they would search for one that minimizes its impact on the environment. Thirty-eight percent said they would look first for an efficient truck that costs less to operate. Another 34% said they wanted a durable truck, and only about 19% said they wanted an environmentally friendly one.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Jim Richman, a window installer in Austin, Texas, who owns a 2018 Ford F-150, said he is also concerned about the reliability of electric trucks and the hassle of charging them.

“I just want to know my truck is ready whenever I need it, and also for longer trips,” Richman said, echoing a sentiment among a majority of survey respondents who said EVs generally were inconvenient because of their need for charging.

The auto industry is trying to alleviate those concerns with technological innovations, including reductions in battery costs and longer driving ranges.

GM, which plans to start selling an all-electric version of its Hummer pickup by the end of next year, said more consumers will consider EVs as they become familiar with battery-powered vehicles. GM is also trying to emphasize economic benefits of going electric.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to help consumers understand that benefits of driving electric aren’t just related to the environmental benefits, but performance and capability that EVs offer,” said Darryll Harrison, a GM spokesman.

Researchers expect EVs to reach price parity with fuel-powered counterparts around 2030, and EVs also provide long-term cost savings due to lower maintenance costs and the lower cost per mile of refueling with electricity instead of gasoline.

Ford said its research had shown consumer demand for an e-truck, especially among younger truck owners. The company plans to release its all-electric F-150 Lightning truck next year, for which it has received some 100,000 reservations to date.

“By 2030 we expect 40% of our global mix to be fully electric and we’ll achieve that by electrifying our most popular name plates,” said Darren Palmer, Ford’s North America EV general manager.

Chris Sherman, general manager of a Ford dealership in rural Paris, Texas, said he has been surprised by the positive response to the Lightning so far.

“These are pretty much diehard gas and diesel pickup owners,” Sherman said. “Lot of people here are blue-collar, and they tow utility trailers. They want to know how much of a day’s work they can do with their truck.”

Sherman said he had so far received 10 reservations for the electric truck and that he fields up to 40 phone calls per day about it.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,005 adults, and the results have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Joe White, Chris Kahn and Matthew Lewis)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/americans-curious-electric-trucks-low-cost-durability-come-first-reutersipsos-poll/15475

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GM’s self-driving car unit Cruise to access $5 billion credit line

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BERKELEY, California (Reuters) -General Motors Co’s majority owned Cruise self-driving car subsidiary said on Tuesday it would gain access to a multi-year $5 billion line of credit with GM’s finance arm to fund its purchase of Origin vehicles starting in early 2023.

“This bumps up Cruise’s total war chest to over $10 billion as we enter commercialization,” Dan Ammann, chief executive of the Cruise unit, which also counts Softbank and Honda as minority investors, said in a blog posting.

Self-driving startups are racing to build warchests to develop and scale up technology, an expensive and time-consuming process.

This past month, General Motors began assembling the first of about 100 pre-production Cruise Origin all-electric vehicles to be built this summer for validation testing, Cruise said.

Cruise, which has been testing driverless GM Chevy Bolt electric vehicles in San Francisco, plans to commercialize the technology in the densely populated city “in months, not years,” spokesman Ray Wert said.

Reuters last month reported that Cruise and rival Waymo, a unit of Alphabet Inc’s, have applied for permits needed to start charging for autonomous rides and delivery in San Francisco.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Gregorio)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/gms-self-driving-car-unit-cruise-access-5-billion-credit-line/15474

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