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IBM Opens Up Its Watson Supercomputer To Researchers

RandCraw Sounds intriguing to this R&Der (28 comments)

For any R&D company that has a lot of in-house raw data, the Watson Discovery Advisor is likley to generate a lot of interest.

Imagine you're an executive VP in R&D in a board meeting. You receive this challenge from the CEO who hates your guts: "Our R&D productivity continues to decline. What're you doing about this? How are you extracting every last bit of value from our data? Our major competitors are using tools like Watson. Why aren't we?" You damned well better have an answer.

I work for a Fortune 100 R&D company that is *very* interested in improving its R&D ROI. I know for a fact that any opportunity to reevaluate our data to derive additional value (e.g. new prospects) will set off bells among the C suiters. IMHO Watson, and especially Discovery Advisor, is the first system I've seen with that potential.

Of course, IBM is going to have to step up its game in loading and tagging all that data. I suspect that's where most of its new Watson staff will work. I suspect the most fruitful features in data are not readable in natural language (English). Much has been summarized in graphs, or lies in tables, or in addenda. Or it's buried deep in old screening results stored in flat files that were long ago archived to tape. And it's certainly not present in easy-to-access content like online research paper abstracts.

But all it takes is one or two significant new leads to make the millions you spent hiring Watson look like money *very* well spent. And personally, I think that scenario is entirely plausible.

about three weeks ago

Is the Software Renaissance Ending?

RandCraw The Seventh Wave of Computing has Ebbed (171 comments)

This pattern of ebb and flow in the tech world is nothing new. Every decade brings a computing novelty which invites revolutionaries who rethink the user experience. The universe seems to expand. All the developers get excited, jump on the bandwagon, and revel in the myriad possibilities -- for as long as the high lasts. Now the latest bandwagon has slowed and the Next Next Big Thing seems far far away...

1977 brought us the personal computer. 1984 was GUIs and WYSIWYG computing. 1988 was the network (and email and AOL and Usenet). 1994 was the web. 2008 was smartphones. 2010 was social computing. 2012 was The Cloud.

But 2014 is... dullsville. Sherlock is bored. Get used to it. This is the game that never ends.

about 2 months ago

Is Time Moving Forward Or Backward? Computers Learn To Spot the Difference

RandCraw Re:Abrupt transitions in optical flow? (78 comments)

I suspect most events like you describe probably would occur too quickly for conventional cameras to capture, but I see your point. It seems to me that kind of mition would have to take the form of a percussive force that arises without visible warning -- like the launch of an explosive powered bullet, and unlike the launch of a golfball being struck by a moving golf club that rapidly approached the stationary ball before making contact. And as you suggest, I doubt the firing of a bullet is the kind of motion seen most often in videos.

I suspect the vast majority of conventional motion sequences follow a path of 1) slow accel followed by slow decel (providing little clue as to directon of time), or 2) slow accel followed by fast decel (something that occurs often in forward moving time sequences, as a moving object is stopped suddenly by an impact). Thus path #2 is probably frequent enough and visible enough to be the anomaly that lets Freeman's group recognize the backward passage of time.

about 3 months ago

Is Time Moving Forward Or Backward? Computers Learn To Spot the Difference

RandCraw Abrupt transitions in optical flow? (78 comments)

Dr Freeman spoke about this work at CVPR this week. In the videos I saw he identified small markers of temporal transition as indicative of moving forward or backward. Those they labeled as backward appeared to recognize asymmetric movement -- as in gradual acceleration followed by sudden deceleration as uniquely forward flow (as when a hand swings down and strickes a table top) -- an asymmetry that cannot occur in reverse (as in sudden acceleration followed by gradual deceleration).

Dr Freeman did not propose this as the causal phenomenon in question, but that made the most sense to me in light of the motions he identified as evidence for backward motion.

about 3 months ago

The Government Can No Longer Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant

RandCraw Re:A Small Victory (173 comments)

FISA is strictly a federal warrant court. Local police and prosecutions don't use it. This ruling applies principally to local police conduct and evidence, secondarily to federal police conduct and evidence.

Yes, the FBI could still rely on FISA's rubber stamp. But county mounties can't. And it's the sheer number of the latter which pose the greater threat.

about 3 months ago

$10k Reward For Info On Anyone Who Points a Laser At Planes Goes Nationwide

RandCraw Re:Does a laser pointer have any noticeable effect (264 comments)

Yep. Precisely how many planes has any laser brought down so far? Have lasers become a standard military weapon yet? If so I'd expect to see Al Caida and the Taliban routinely using laser pointers to crash US aircraft. But oddly enough, we don't...

Let's get real. Is a laser pointer a mile away going to disable both of a pilots eyes? AND both of a copilot's eyes? And how long were you blinded when a supermarket checkout scanner laser last caught your eye? Did you crash your shopping cart? Did you call in the FBI?

This mountain is such a molehill. It makes me wonder why the FBI is overselling this schtick so hard. It's easier than working for a living, I guess.

about 3 months ago

Agree or Disagree: We are in another tech bubble.

RandCraw Rebound (154 comments)

We're seeing an upswing in the tech economy because the world economy has been depressed since it was shot in the chest by Wall Street in 2008. Enough time has now passed (6 years) that the need to replenish neglected IT infrastructure has finally overcome the blind dumb fear of robotic C suiters. That and they're tired of listening to the shrieks of B suiters that they're sick of struggling along with only half the tech staff they really need.

(On a related note, last year's upswing in US stock values was due *not* to US economic growth but to investor flight from risk, away from stocks in developing countries and back into safe US blue chips.)

about 4 months ago

White House Pressures Legislators Into Gutting USA FREEDOM Act

RandCraw NSA understands NO only when you shout (284 comments)

Unless this law explicitly and forcefully disallows bulk warrantless data collection of the public, NSA's top creeps (like Clapper and Alexander) and unprincipled gov't lawyers (like John Yoo) most certainly will crush the Constitution underfoot at their earliest convenience.

Anything else is just rearranging deck chairs...

about 4 months ago

How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics

RandCraw Re:Cybernetic man? (29 comments)

Good point. Self destruction of errant (or sabotaged) mobile e-devices seems like a very good idea.

Maybe these bacteria could be programmed with a specific behavior, like follow a signal to travel to a specific part of the body, then measure something or deliver a payload. Then self-destruct.

Sounds like "Fantastic Voyage"...

about 4 months ago

How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics

RandCraw Cybernetic man? (29 comments)

If e-proteins can augment electronic devices biologically, can they also augment biological systems electronically? They seem like a natural interface between biological and electrical materials -- perfect for constructing a cyborg. Or if made small enough, they could bypass DNA to synthesize (or inhibit) the right proteins at just the right time, thereby curing disease.

You could basically rewire and/or reprogram any part of an organism at any level: subcellular (e.g. metabolic control networks), tissue, immune, neural, etc. You could add intelligent controls where there are none or override controls already present.

This kind of thing also seems an ideal medium for building junctions between nerves and muscles.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Should Every Programmer Read?

RandCraw Strunk & White: The Elements of Style (352 comments)

The best preparation for becoming a good programmer (or scientist or engineer) is to learn how to organize your thoughts and then address only what is necessary and sufficient to accomplish a given task.

I know no book that teaches clarity of thought better than Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style". Clear writing and great coding share a common wellspring.

about 4 months ago

EU Court of Justice Paves Way For "Right To Be Forgotten" Online

RandCraw The fact is OK, but a link to the fact is not? (199 comments)

If someone wants to escape their past, they need to get a retraction of the DATA itself, not all links to the data.

In the case oif the spaniard who wanted his bankruptcy to go unnoticed, he needs to get the owner of that factoid to remove it. If the fact remains online, then it's most certainly *not* someone else's responsibility to route others around the minefield you've laid.

This ruling is censorship, pure and ugly.

about 4 months ago

The Struggle To Ban Killer Robots

RandCraw Re:Unfortunately, no. (138 comments)

1) Yes. The decision to fire the weapon and authorize lethal force is discrete and binary. That is indeed well defined. By launching it, arming it, and ordering it to engage the "enemy" you have made the decision to kill. Any human private who kills without prior authorization to engage is in violation of the rules of combat. Authorizing him/her to kill *is* the issue here.

2) ??? The technique of projecting force is irrelevant. It's the *authorization* of of autonomous dispatch of lethal force that's the issue.

3) Yes, of course requiring a human to authorize a kill certainly can be implemented. This isn't part of an arms race. It's just a new aspect of any military's "rules of engagement". It's no different from the Geneva Convention's rules on treatment of prisoners of war, or banning the use of chemical or biological (or nuclear) weapons.

about 4 months ago

The Struggle To Ban Killer Robots

RandCraw Re:Machine logic (138 comments)

Why is the cost of one of today's (dumb) Tomahawks relevant? It can't order itself to self destruct. And I can't believe any have ever been ordered (by a human) to self destruct, without *somebody* being busted several ranks.

What's more, an fully autonomous Tomahawk is going to cost a good deal more than $1.45 million. Nobody inferior to a colonel is going to pop that cork, and certainly not the missile itself.

No. That scenario still misfires.

about 4 months ago

The Struggle To Ban Killer Robots

RandCraw Re:Machine logic (138 comments)

This strikes me as a false dichotomy. Nobody is going to launch a million dollar bullet (smart missile) then tell it to self destruct. Until smart bullets drop enormously in cost, this scenario is infeasible.

Assuming the cost of a smart bullet does fall, the initial authorization to fire it is still a decision to kill. The fact that something or someone might later reverse the decision does not mean the initial choice to launch was not a kill.

The goal of this controversy is that no machine should never have the authority to issue the *first* kill command. That responsibility should always lie with a human. With that, I concur.

about 4 months ago

C++ and the STL 12 Years Later: What Do You Think Now?

RandCraw Re:Franken-monster (435 comments)

Like I've never seen a tidy simple language morph into anything so monstrous. C++ comes close, though.

Frankenly, I'm forever amazed at how low the standard is for programming language enrapture. I'm sure it's due partly to 1) a lack of experience with other languages, and 2) a lack of imagination.

Sadly, I suspect the biggest source of this pathology is that most programming tasks are mindblowingly dull: load/unload a form, query a RDBMS, check for bad data, etc). Developers inevitably want a way to spice up deadend tasks like these (which admittedly is a better response than suicide). So they willing adopt / invent wildly overcomplex tools in the hopes that their humdrum existence will gain meaning. Or distraction at least.

Many less mainstream languages are *far* smaller, more legible, and sufficiently expressive as those at the Top of the Pops (e.g. C++, Java, Python), but they don't receive the needed mindshare (or libraries) needed to compete. Perhaps they just need their syntax to be a *bit* more Kafkaesque. (So what *is* Larry Wall doing these days?)

Or I suppose they could just add pointers...

about 5 months ago

Mathematicians Push Back Against the NSA

RandCraw Re:Fight your own battles (233 comments)

I strongly agree with most of your post, but direct democratic governance is an invitation to manipulate the uninformed voter. Left to a direct democratic vote, we'd have dozens of added fatuous amendments, like outlawing flag burning, embracing christianity over other religions, and requiring onerous voter ID enforcement.

A preferable alternative might be to ask registered voters to take a knowledge test that apportions a greater/lesser weight to their vote in proportion to their score. That way the informed electorate would have greater impact on policy and the clueless something less.

A thorny problem. But almost any change would be an improvement over today's status quo.

about 5 months ago

Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

RandCraw Reading papers or math or code *is* harder now (224 comments)

I don't tweet or text, but I skim through a lot of online news and articles. In the past couple of years, I've found it increasingly difficult to work my way through serious technical writing (e.g. research papers), math, or worse yet, my old code.

Yes, science & engineering papers are notoriously tersely (badly) written, as are most math and eng books. But these days I find myself almost unable to slow down and step through difficult passages. I gloss over the sticky stuff much more than I did maybe 20 years ago.

Maybe my brain is getting old. Maybe not.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: the State of Open CS, IT, and DBA Courseware in 2014?

RandCraw Colorado State or CU (84 comments)

Consider Colorado State. They offer numerous on-line-only degree programs. Look at their Master's program in Computer Science.

(There's no point in earning another bachelor's when a MS is just as fast and requires only 10 semester courses. It's done all the time. I did it with a BS in zoology. You usually take a couple prerequisite courses at a local comm college then enroll as a grad student.)

I assume you live in Colorado and would pay a lot less for in-state tuition there. That's why I suggest CSU. Or University of Colorado.


I strongly recommend Georgia Tech's new MS in CS too. For the price, I'm confident you can't do better, although it will take several years before GT can offer courses on the full range of CS topics.

If you could pony up $50k somehow, you might also consider Stanford or Columbia, both of whom offer excellent MS in CS programs entirely on-line.

Personally I would stay VERY FAR away from schools that are on-line ONLY. AFAIK, all major tech employers have no respect for them. If you compare the workload (difficulty of textbooks, homework, and exams) with those at excellent state schools (like Georgia Tech), they do not compare well.

If you do consider such a school, I strongly recommend you contact several managers at companies you respect (via LinkedIn?) and ask if they hire graduates from those schools. Don't just assume that they do. And avoid HR staff. They know little about assessing candidate abilities.

about 5 months ago



IPad and Goodreader

RandCraw RandCraw writes  |  about 3 years ago

RandCraw (1047302) writes "I don't read PDFs extensively (when i do, it's CS and image processing), but I've enjoyed goodreader's ability to trim away the margins of a page, thereby enlarging the font and allowing the document to be read in portrait mode without scrolling."

'We Have Learned Nothing from the Genome': Venter

RandCraw RandCraw writes  |  more than 4 years ago

RandCraw (1047302) writes "Der Spiegel recently interviewed Craig Venter (founder of Celera, sequencer of most of the first human genome — his own) on his role in the Human Genome Project . Never one to mince words, Venter was quick to dismiss the project as practically useless:

Venter: ...what else have I learned from my genome? Very little. We couldn't even be certain from my genome what my eye color was. Isn't that sad?...

SPIEGEL: So the Human Genome Project has had very little medical benefits so far?

Venter: Close to zero to put it precisely."

Link to Original Source

Fighting Child Porn, ISPs Block Newsgroups

RandCraw RandCraw writes  |  more than 6 years ago

RandCraw (1047302) writes "In yet another example of a ton of censorship for an ounce of safety, four large ISPs have vowed to significantly reduce their support for Usenet newsgroups. In response to NY State Attorney Andrew Cuomo's mandate to fight child porn, the NY Times reports that Verizon, Sprint, Nextel, and Time Warner have taken steps toward closing down Usenet, ranging from blocking all alt.* groups to shutting off Usenet access altogether. What's next? Stamping out all forms of anonymity everywhere?

C/Net has more at"

Link to Original Source


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