Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Social Credit in China

I can't vouch for the accuracy of this documentary, but I suspect the opinions of the people interviewed -- white collar mom with high social credit core, and blacklisted investigative journalist -- are representative. Probably too much emphasis on cameras and face recognition, when in fact the smartphone each person is carrying generates as much or more data about their activities. See also PanOpticon in my Pocket.

Coming soon to the US?

Black Mirror:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"The Mouthpiece of the Party of Davos": Bannon interview with Economist Editor in Chief

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, interviewed by Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Economist’s Editor-in-chief (Open Future festival in New York on September 15th 2018). In contrast, New Yorker editor David Remnick surrendered to protests and disinvited Bannon from The New Yorker Festival two weeks ago.

For almost two decades I subscribed to The Economist and The New Yorker. But these days I read them only sporadically.

Whether you like or hate Steve Bannon, this interview is worth watching. Beddoes and questioners from the audience attack Bannon vigorously, but mostly allow him time to answer in full. Opening tactic is, no surprise, to insinuate racism, which Bannon explicitly rejects for the millionth time... If your source of information about Bannon is primarily the mainstream media, you might be surprised at what comes from the horse's mouth.

Topics covered: populism, nationalism, economic war with China, immigration, class struggle, tax and tariff policy, and Duty, Honor, Country.

Bannon @15:30 (talking over interruption):
Bannon: ... you keep getting bailed out by the Deplorables -- in World War One and World War Two, in the Cold War and whatever else is in the future it is working men and women that have bailed you out ...

Editor: We have to go on to something else...
Bannon @23:15, as the racism attack morphs into sexism:
... I'm a former naval officer that served in the South China Sea in the Pacific. My daughter is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served with the 101st airborne in Iraq. She's an army captain today after serving in Eastern Europe, probably going to be deployed back to Afghanistan. She's on the faculty at West Point. I know how to help raise an empowered woman ...
General Douglas MacArthur, 1962 speech at West Point:
Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jordan Peterson: Identity Politics, IQ, Harvard and Asian admissions

First ~9min: Trump, the US Left and Right, Identity Politics

@10min: IQ

@24min: Harvard and Asian admissions. "The Asians are the wildcard..."

@37min: Nazism, Communism; UK Leftist: "I don't love Obama. I'm literally a communist, you idiot."

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) I know the room they are sitting in very well. I'll be there later today ;-)

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Illumina International Summit on Population Genomics 2018

Illumina International Summit on Population Genomics 2018

The aim of this meeting is to bring together individuals, initiatives, and projects that are shaping the future of genomics in healthcare. This meeting provides a forum for international networking, shared learning and collaboration to address the challenges in realising the potential of genomics to improve human health. The success and accumulated experience of local programmes provide potentially great synergies around the globe. We hope that you will be able to join us and offer your insights and passion for a future where genomics sits at the innovation centre of global healthcare.
I'm in the UK again for this conference and some secret meetings in London. See also London Calling.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Whisky and Weed with Joe Rogan and Elon Musk

Seems like Elon might have been high before the interview even started 8-) Early discussion focused on AI, Neuralink, Singularity risk, etc. Simulation @43min.

See also:

Don’t Worry, Smart Machines Will Take Us With Them: Why human intelligence and AI will co-evolve (Nautilus)

Living in a Simulation (2007)

Let R = the ratio of number of artificially intelligent virtual beings to the number of "biological" beings (humans). The virtual beings are likely to occupy the increasingly complex virtual worlds created in computer games, like Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft (WOW will earn revenues of a billion dollars this year and has millions of players). In the figure below I have plotted the likely behavior of R with time. Currently R is zero, but it seems plausible that it will eventually soar to infinity. (See previous posts on the Singularity.)

If R goes to infinity, we are overwhelmingly likely to be living in a simulation...

... Think of the ratio of orcs, goblins, pimps, superheroes and other intelligent game characters to actual player characters in any MMORPG. In an advanced version, the game characters would themselves be sentient, for that extra dose of realism! Are you a game character, or a player character? :-)

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

O Brave New World

About one in ten babies born in Denmark now is an IVF baby (8% in 2015). In many countries the fraction is roughly one in twenty. A million embryos per year (worldwide) go through genetic screening. Most of the screening is for aneuploidy (chromosomal normality; Downs Syndrome), but the same biopsy sample can be used for more sophisticated genotyping. Globally about 2 million cycles of IVF are performed each year. These quantities are experiencing ~7% annual growth rates.

The future is here
Genomic Prediction: A Hypothetical (Embryo Selection)
Genomic Prediction: A Hypothetical (Embryo Selection), Part 2

The Tempest, William Shakespeare
MIRANDA: O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in it!

PROSPERO: 'Tis new to thee. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

More Khruangbin!

See post from 2016: Khruangbin
... Khruangbin plays a spellbinding twist on surf rock and soul that would be considered trite if it weren’t so appetizing. The band’s origins are delightfully nerdy: Speer bonded with the bassist Laura Lee and the drummer Donald Johnson over lo-fi digital rips of cassette tapes featuring obscure Thai funk bands from the sixties and seventies, which they’d downloaded from the cult blog Monrakplengthai. The cassette tapes catalogue stray releases from Thai musicians who, influenced by imported rock records from bands like Santana and the Shadows, blended the misty, coiling guitars of foundational rock and roll with the melodic sensibilities of their own traditional folk tunes. Many of the songs were used in Bollywood films, reaching wide swaths of Southeast Asian audiences. “Shadow music,” as the sound came to be called, is exhilarating in part for its traceable roots.

Monday, September 03, 2018

PanOpticon in my Pocket: 0.35GB/month of surveillance, no charge!

Your location is monitored roughly every 10 minutes, if not more often, thanks to your phone. There are multiple methods: GPS or wifi connections or cell-tower pings, or even Bluetooth. This data is stored forever and is available to certain people for analysis. Technically the data is anonymous, but it is easy to connect your geolocation data to your real world identity -- the data shows where you sleep at night (home address) and work during the day. It can be cross-referenced with cookies placed on your browser by ad networks, so your online activities (purchases, web browsing, social media) can be linked to your spatial-temporal movements.

Some quantities which can be easily calculated using this data: How many people visited a specific Toyota dealership last month? How many times did someone test drive a car? Who were those people who test drove a car? How many people stopped / started a typical 9-5 job commute pattern? (BLS only dreams of knowing this number.) What was the occupancy of a specific hotel or rental property last month? How many people were on the 1:30 PM flight from LAX to Laguardia last Friday? Who were they? ...

Of course, absolute numbers may be noisy, but diffs from month to month or year to year, with reasonable normalization / averaging, can yield insights at the micro, macro, and individual firm level.

If your quant team is not looking at this data, it should be ;-)

Google Data Collection
Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Vanderbilt University
August 15, 2018

... Both Android and Chrome send data to Google even in the absence of any user interaction. Our experiments show that a dormant, stationary Android phone (with Chrome active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35% of all the data samples sent to Google. In contrast, a similar experiment showed that on an iOS Apple device with Safari (where neither Android nor Chrome were used), Google could not collect any appreciable data (location or otherwise) in the absence of a user interaction with the device.

e. After a user starts interacting with an Android phone (e.g. moves around, visits webpages, uses apps), passive communications to Google server domains increase significantly, even in cases where the user did not use any prominent Google applications (i.e. no Google Search, no YouTube, no Gmail, and no Google Maps). This increase is driven largely by data activity from Google’s publisher and advertiser products (e.g. Google Analytics, DoubleClick, AdWords)11. Such data constituted 46% of all requests to Google servers from the Android phone. Google collected location at a 1.4x higher rate compared to the stationary phone experiment with no user interaction. Magnitude wise, Google’s servers communicated 11.6 MB of data per day (or 0.35 GB/month) with the Android device. This experiment suggests that even if a user does not interact with any key Google applications, Google is still able to collect considerable information through its advertiser and publisher products.

f. While using an iOS device, if a user decides to forgo the use of any Google product (i.e. no Android, no Chrome, no Google applications), and visits only non-Google webpages, the number of times data is communicated to Google servers still remains surprisingly high. This communication is driven purely by advertiser/publisher services. The number of times such Google services are called from an iOS device is similar to an Android device. In this experiment, the total magnitude of data communicated to Google servers from an iOS device is found to be approximately half of that from the Android device.

g. Advertising identifiers (which are purportedly “user anonymous” and collect activity data on apps and 3rd-party webpage visits) can get connected with a user’s Google identity. This happens via passing of device-level identification information to Google servers by an Android device. Likewise, the DoubleClick cookie ID (which tracks a user’s activity on the 3rd-party webpages) is another purportedly “user anonymous” identifier that Google can connect to a user’s Google Account if a user accesses a Google application in the same browser in which a 3rd-party webpage was previously accessed. Overall, our findings indicate that Google has the ability to connect the anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of the user.

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