Archive for AI

summer internships at Warwick

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2019 by xi'an

fake conference

Posted in Books, Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2019 by xi'an

One of my (former) master students approached me last week for support to attend an AI conference in London next May, as he had been invited there as a speaker with the prospect of publishing a paper in an AI journal. And very excited about it. As the letter of invitation definitely sounded fake to me and as Conference Series LLC did not seem connected to anything scientific, I had a quick check whether or not this was another instance of predatory conference and indeed the organisation is an outlet of the (in)famous OMICS International company. Setting conferences all around the year and all around the world by charging participants a significant amount and cramming all speakers on potentially any topic in the same room of a suburban motel (near Heathrow in that case). It is somewhat surprising that they still manage to capture victims but if they aim wide enough to cover students like the one who contacted me and had no idea of the possibility of such scams, no wonder the operation is still running. Coincidence, I was reading a news article in Nature, while in Seoul, that “South Korea’s education ministry wants to stop academics from participating in conferences that it considers “weak” and of little academic value”. I hope it works better than India’s earlier attempt at banning publications in predatory journals.

Hippocratic oath for maths?

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2019 by xi'an

On a free day in Nachi-Taksuura, I came across this call for a professional oath for mathematicians (and computer engineers and scientists in related fields). By UCL mathematician Hannah Fry. The theme is the same as with Weapons of math destruction, namely that algorithms have a potentially huge impact on everyone’s life and that those who design these algorithms should be accountable for it. And aware of the consequences when used by non-specialists. As illustrated by preventive justice software. And child abuse prediction software. Some form of ethics course should indeed appear in data science programs, for at least pointing out the limitations of automated decision making. However, I remain skeptical of the idea as (a) taking an oath does not mean an impossibility to breaking that oath, especially when one is blissfully unaware of breaking it (b) acting as ethically as possible should be part of everyone’s job, whether when designing deep learning algorithms or making soba noodles (c) the Hippocratic oath is mostly a moral statement that varies from place to place and from an epoch to the next (as, e.g., with respect to abortion which was prohibited in Hippocrates’ version) and does not prevent some doctors from engaging into unsavory activities. Or getting influenced by dug companies. And such an oath would not force companies to open-source their code, which in my opinion is a better way towards the assessment of such algorithms. The article does not mention either the Montréal Déclaration for a responsible AI, which goes further than a generic and most likely ineffective oath.

space opera by John Scalzi [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2019 by xi'an

John Scalzi, author of the memorable Old Man’s War, has started a trilogy of which I only became aware recently (or more precisely became re-aware!), which has the perk of making two of the three books already published and hence available without a one or two year break. And having the book win the 2018 Locus Award in the meanwhile. This new series is yet again a space opera with space travel made possible by a fairly unclear Flow that even the mathematicians in the story have trouble understanding. And The Flow is used by guilds to carry goods and people to planets that are too hostile an environment for the “local” inhabitants to survive on their own. The whole setup is both homely and old-fashioned: the different guilds are associated with families, despite being centuries old, and the empire of 48 planets is still governed by the same dominant family, who also controls a fairly bland religion. Although the later managed to become the de facto religion.

“I’m a Flow physicist.  It’s high-order math. You don’t have to go out into the field for that.”

This does not sound much exciting, even for space operas, but things are starting to deteriorate when the novels start. Or more exactly, as hinted by the title, the Empire is about to collapse! (No spoiler, since this is the title!!!) However, the story-telling gets a wee bit lazy from that (early) point. In that it fixates on a very few characters [among millions of billions of inhabitants of this universe] who set the cogs spinning one way then the other then the earlier way… Dialogues are witty and often funny, those few characters are mostly well-drawn, albeit too one-dimensional, and cataclysmic events seem to be held at bay by the cleverness of one single person, double-crossing the bad guys. Mostly. While the second volume (unusually) sounds better and sees more action, more surprises, and an improvement in the plot itself, and while this makes for a pleasant travel read (I forgot The Collapsing Empire in a plane from B’ham!), I am surprised at the book winning the 2018 Locus Award indeed. It definitely lacks the scope and ambiguity of the two Ancillary novels. The convoluted philosophical construct and math background of Anathem. The historical background of Cryptonomicon and of the Baroque Cycle. Or the singularity of the Hyperion universe. (But I was also unimpressed by the Three-Body Problem! And by Scalzi’s Hugo Award Redshirts!) The third volume is not yet out.

As a French aside, a former king turned AI is called Tomas Chenevert, on a space-ship called Auvergne, with an attempt at coming from a French speaking planet, Ponthieu, except that is should have been spelled Thomas Chênevert (green oak!). Incidentally, Ponthieu is a county in the Norman marches, north of Rouen, that is now part of Picardy, although I do not think this has anything to do with the current novel!

Garrigue administrative

Posted in Books, pictures, University life with tags , , , , on May 20, 2019 by xi'an

A central page in Le Monde of this week (May 08), about the conundrum of dealing with the dozens of thousands of handwritten pages left by Alexandre Grothendiek, from trying to make sense of the contents to assessing the monetary value (!) of such documents. Mentioning that the most reasonable solution would be to extend the numerisation of earlier documents supervised by Jean-Michel Marin. Given the difficulty in reading these pages, as suggested by Le Monde, training an AI to translate them into regular text would make sense, if not helping with evaluating their importance…

the Montréal declarAIon

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2019 by xi'an

In conjunction with Yoshua Bengio being one of the three recipients of the 2018 Alan Turing award, Nature ran an interview of him about the Montréal Déclaration for a responsible AI, which he launched at NeurIPS last December.

“Self-regulation is not going to work. Do you think that voluntary taxation works? It doesn’t.”

Reflecting on the dangers of abuse of and by AIs, from surveillance, to discrimination, but being somewhat unclear on the means to implement the ten generic principles listed there. (I had missed the Declaration when it came up.) I agree with the principles stressed by this list, well-being, autonomy, privacy, democracy, diversity, prudence, responsability, and sustainability, it remains to be seem how they can be imposed upon corporations whose own public image puts more restraint on them than ethics or on governments that are all too ready to automatise justice, police, and the restriction of citizen’s rights. Which makes the construction of a responsible AI institution difficult to imagine, if the current lack of outreach of the extra-national institutions is the gauge. (A striking coincidence is that, when  Yoshua Bengio pointed out that France was trying to make Europe an AI power, there was also a tribune in Le Monde about the lack of practical impact of this call to arms, apart from more academics moving to half-time positions in private companies.) [Warning: the picture does not work well with the dark background theme of this blog.]

Bayesian intelligence in Warwick

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2019 by xi'an

This is an announcement for an exciting CRiSM Day in Warwick on 20 March 2019: with speakers

10:00-11:00 Xiao-Li Meng (Harvard): “Artificial Bayesian Monte Carlo Integration: A Practical Resolution to the Bayesian (Normalizing Constant) Paradox”

11:00-12:00 Julien Stoehr (Dauphine): “Gibbs sampling and ABC”

14:00-15:00 Arthur Ulysse Jacot-Guillarmod (École Polytechnique Fedérale de Lausanne): “Neural Tangent Kernel: Convergence and Generalization of Deep Neural Networks”

15:00-16:00 Antonietta Mira (Università della Svizzera italiana e Università degli studi dell’Insubria): “Bayesian identifications of the data intrinsic dimensions”

[whose abstracts are on the workshop webpage] and free attendance. The title for the workshop mentions Bayesian Intelligence: this obviously includes human intelligence and not just AI!