Monday, July 24, 2017

What are the algorithms that affect your life?

My colleague, Mark Wilson, brought this news article to my attention; by the ABC titled "How algorithms make important government decisions — and how that affects you"  it describes how computer programs are legally allowed to make decisions in Australia. This is part of an ongoing series, by Simon, titled "The important algorithms we know nothing about — and why we need to know more". Some people will I imagine find this troubling.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How many alien worlds exist?

Have you ever wondered if "we" are alone in the universe, and if not how many alien civilisations may be out there? Well, you'd not be alone. In fact, there's an equation, called the Drake equation, that lets us calculate how many alien civilisations there may be. The BBC has a nice interactive graphic that lets you play with the Drake equation to calculate your own figure. There's also a great TED Talk on the subject.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Exploding the myths of Ada Lovelace’s mathematics

There has been some debate for years as to exactly how "mathematical" Ada Lovelace actually was, with some believing her to be a mere amateur and others a gifted genius. Recent research by Christopher Hollings and Ursula Martin of Oxford Mathematics, and Adrian Rice, of Randolph-Macon College, Virginia, has investigated the archives of the Lovelace-Byron family, held in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In two recently published papers in the Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics and  Historia Mathematica they conclude that: "Lovelace’s keen eye for detail, fascination with big questions, and flair for deep insights, which enabled her to challenge some deep assumptions in her teacher’s work. They suggest that her ambition, in time, to do significant mathematical research was entirely credible, though sadly curtailed by her ill-health and early death." 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse

There has been a lot of talk recently about the soon to happen jobs apocalypse as we are all replaced by robots and AIs (I've been guilty of adding to this). Certainly, it's true that, for example, anyone who drives for a living could lose their job as driverless vehicles take over. The same is true for many other industries and professions. However, others point out that many new and different jobs will be created. A recent article in Quartz titled The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse makes this point very well and shows a fascinating graph that shows that whilst Amazon's robotic workforce rose from 1,400 to 45,000 their human workforce also rose, from just over 100,000 to around 350,00. The robots aren't replacing people, they're making the company more efficient. Let's hope

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On the radio again... twice

I've appeared on Radio New Zealand's National programme twice in the last couple of weeks, both times on the Mediawatch show. There has been a strong interest in Artificial Intelligence in the media recently which is very welcome as it is having a growing impact on society. 
The first radio piece is titled Robots rebooting reporting?
The second interview was about the TV One show What Next, if you don't want to listen to the entire radio show then you can hear me around 15:20 into the show.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Algorithmic bias in word embeddings

As computer science becomes increasingly embedded in all aspects of our modern world people are starting to recognise that computer scientists need training in ethics. This post is titled "algorithmic bias in word embeddings." Do you even know what that means? If not I recommend that you read this article from Wired by Emma Pierson. An example from the world is that a recent study has found that Facebook rejects female engineers’ code more often than males.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What skills do self-taught programmers commonly lack?

My colleague, Mark Wilson, brought this interesting discussion on Quora to my attention. In answer to the question: "What skills do self-taught programmers commonly lack?" There are some really interesting answers.