Archive for Estonia

Nature Outlook on AI

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2019 by xi'an

The 29 November 2018 issue of Nature had a series of papers on AIs (in its Outlook section). At the general public (awareness) level than in-depth machine-learning article. Including one on the forecasted consequences of ever-growing automation on jobs, quoting from a 2013 paper by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne [of probabilistic numerics fame!] that up to 47% of US jobs could become automated. The paper is inconclusive on how taxations could help in or deter from transfering jobs to other branches, although mentioning the cascading effect of taxing labour and subsidizing capital. Another article covers the progresses in digital government, with Estonia as a role model, including the risks of hacking (but not mentioning Russia’s state driven attacks). Differential privacy is discussed as a way to keep data “secure” (but not cryptography à la Louis Aslett!). With another surprising entry that COBOL is still in use in some administrative systems. Followed by a paper on the apparently limited impact of digital technologies on mental health, despite the advertising efforts of big tech companies being described as a “race to the bottom of the brain stem”! And another one on (overblown) public expectations on AIs, although the New York Time had an entry yesterday on people in Arizona attacking self-driving cars with stones and pipes… Plus a paper on the growing difficulties of saving online documents and culture for the future (although saving all tweets ever published does not sound like a major priority to me!).

Interesting (?) aside, the same issue contains a general public article on the use of AIs for peer reviews (of submitted papers). The claim being that “peer review by artificial intelligence (AI) is promising to improve the process, boost the quality of published papers — and save reviewers time.” A wee bit over-optimistic, I would say, as the developed AI’s are at best “that statistics and methods in manuscripts are sound”. For instance, producing “key concepts to summarize what the paper is about” is not particularly useful. A degree of innovation compared with the existing would be. Or an automated way to adapt the paper style to the strict and somewhat elusive Biometrika style!


Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by xi'an

I read Purge (Puhdistus in Finnish) by Sofi Oksonen (in French) this summer when flying to San Francisco from Vancouver. This is a strong and gripping novel, as others have noticed before me. It takes place in post-communist Estonia where a widow of a (very lower-ranking) member of the communist nomenklatura is forced into considering her past choices and the lies she made to herself and to others when her grand-niece pops in, pursued by Russian-mafia-style gangsters who had enslaved her into a cruel prostitution scheme in Germany… This may sound like a cheap plot but the slow unravelling of the old woman’s (horrific) deeds and of the compromises she was led to endure makes for a much deeper read. There is also an historical level about Estonia being as ruthlessly occupied by Soviet soldiers as by Nazis, and about the hopeless fight of the local partisans followed by massive deportations to the Russian Far East. The book is thus multifaceted and the end, although predictable, is a nice tale of redemption for the old Aliide Truu who would otherwise appear as a remorseless criminal… An impressive and recommended tour-de-force! (Note that, despite some misguided criticisms found on Amazon, this is not a thriller!)

by Sofi Oksanen
Old Aliide Truu lives alone in a cottage in the woods, pestered by flies she wishes would leave her in peace. Her isolation is interrupted when she spies a young woman under a tree in her garden. The girl is strange; arriving in the dead of night, bruised, dirty and shoeless – why is she at Aliide’s door? Overcome by curiosity the old woman decides, warily, to take her in. Zara is on the run from men who tortured, raped, and sold her into slavery. Her only possession is a tattered photograph of her grandmother and another woman; in which Aliide recognizes herself and her sister. Horrified, she begins to realize that the past she has long tried to forget has finally caught up with her – Purge is a hauntingly intimate portrait of one family’s shame against a backdrop of European war. It is a fiercely compelling novel about what we will accept just to survive and the legacies created by our worst experiences.