## the DeepMind debacle

Posted in Books, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2017 by xi'an

“I hope for a world where data is at the heart of understanding and decision making. To achieve this we need better public dialogue.” Hetan Shah

As I was reading one of the Nature issues I brought on vacations, while the rain was falling on an aborted hiking day on the fringes of Monte Rosa, I came across a 20 July tribune by Hetan Shah, executive director of the RSS. A rare occurrence of a statistician’s perspective in Nature. The event prompting this column is the ruling against the Royal Free London hospital group providing patient data to DeepMind for predicting kidney. Without the patients’ agreement. And with enough information to identify the patients. The issues raised by Hetan Shah are that data transfers should become open, and that they should be commensurate in volume and details to the intended goals. And that public approval should be seeked. While I know nothing about this specific case, I find the article overly critical of DeepMind, which interest in health related problems is certainly not pure and disinterested but nonetheless can contribute advances in (personalised) care and prevention through its expertise in machine learning. (Disclaimer: I have neither connection nor conflict with the company!) And I do not see exactly how public approval or dialogue can help in making progress in handling data, unless I am mistaken in my understanding of “the public”. The article mentions the launch of a UK project on data ethics, involving several [public] institutions like the RSS: this is certainly commandable and may improve personal data is handled by companies, but I would not call this conglomerate representative of the public, which most likely does not really trust these institutions either…

## Series B’log

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on May 31, 2017 by xi'an

Since the above announcement in the RSS newsletter a few months ago, about the Series B’log coming to life, I have received exactly zero comments from readers, despite several authors kindly contributing an extended abstract of their paper. And announcements to various societies…

Hence I now seriously wonder at the survival probability of the blog, given this collective lack of interest. It may be that the information did not reach enough people (despite my mentioning its existence on each talk I give abroad). It may be that the blog still sounds like “under construction”, in which case I’d like to hear suggestions to make it look more definitive! But overall I remain fairly pessimistic [even conditional on my Gallic gloom] about our chances of success with this experiment which could have turned every Series B paper into a potential discussion paper!

## an elegant result on exponential spacings

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2017 by xi'an

A question on X validated I spotted in the train back from Lyon got me desperately seeking a reference in Devroye’s Generation Bible despite the abyssal wireless and a group of screeching urchins a few seats away from me… The question is about why

$\sum_{i=1}^{n}(Y_i - Y_{(1)}) \sim \text{Gamma}(n-1, 1)$

when the Y’s are standard exponentials. Since this reminded me immediately of exponential spacings, thanks to our Devroye fan-club reading group in Warwick,  I tried to download Devroye’s Chapter V and managed after a few aborts (and a significant increase in decibels from the family corner). The result by Sukhatme (1937) is in plain sight as Theorem 2.3 and is quite elegant as it relies on the fact that

$\sum_{i=1}^n y_i=\sum_{j=1}^n (n-j+1)(y_{(j)}-y_{(j-1)})=\sum_{j=2}^n (y_{(j)}-y_{(1)})$

hence sums up as a mere linear change of variables! (Pandurang Vasudeo Sukhatme (1911–1997) was an Indian statistician who worked on human nutrition and got the Guy Medal of the RSS in 1963.)

## beyond objectivity, subjectivity, and other ‘bjectivities

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2017 by xi'an

Here is my discussion of Gelman and Hennig at the Royal Statistical Society, which I am about to deliver!

## objective and subjective RSS Read Paper next week

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2017 by xi'an

Andrew Gelman and Christian Hennig will give a Read Paper presentation next Wednesday, April 12, 5pm, at the Royal Statistical Society, London, on their paper “Beyond subjective and objective in statistics“. Which I hope to attend and else to write a discussion. Since the discussion (to published in Series A) is open to everyone, I strongly encourage ‘Og’s readers to take a look at the paper and the “radical” views therein to hopefully contribute to this discussion. Either as a written discussion or as comments on this very post.

## a somewhat hasty announcement

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2017 by xi'an

When I received the above RSS newsletter on Thursday, I was a bit shocked as I had not planned to make the existence of the Series B’log known to the entire Society. Even though it was already visible and with unrestricted access. The reason being that experimenting with authors and editors was easier without additional email and password exchanges…

Anyway, now that we have jumped that Rubicon, I would more than welcome comments and suggestions to make the blog structure more efficient and readable. I am still confused as to how the front page should look like, because I want to keep the hierarchy of the Journal, i.e., volume/issue/paper, reflected in this structure, rather than piling up comments and authors’ summaries in an haphazard manner. I have started to tag entries by the volume/issue tag, in order to keep some of this hierarchy respected but I would like to also provide all entries related to a given paper without getting into much extra-work. Given that I already have to process most entries through latex2wp in the best scenario.

## RSS 2017 in Glasgow

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , on March 10, 2017 by xi'an