nhaliday + hn   330

Home is a small, engineless sailboat (2018) | Hacker News
Have also read both; they're fascinating in different ways. Paul Lutus has a boat full of technology (diesel engine, laptop, radio, navigation tools, and more) but his book is an intensely - almost uncomfortably - personal voyage through his psyche, while he happens to be sailing around the world. A diary of reflections on life, struggles with people, views on science, observations on the stars and sky and waves, poignant writing on how being at sea affect people, while he happens to be sailing around the world. It's better for that, more relatable as a geek, sadder and more emotional; I consider it a good read, and I reflect on it a lot.
Captain Slocum's voyage of 1896(?) is so different; he took an old clock, and not much else, he lashes the tiller and goes down below for hours at a time to read or sleep without worrying about crashing into other boats, he tells stories of mouldy cheese induced nightmares during rough seas or chasing natives away from robbing him, or finding remote islands with communites of slightly odd people. Much of his writing is about the people he meets - they often know in advance he's making a historic voyage, so when he arrives anywhere, there's a big fuss, he's invited to dine with local dignitaries or captains of large ships, gifted interesting foods and boat parts, there's a lot of interesting things about the world of 1896. (There's also quite a bit of tedious place names and locations and passages where nothing much happens, I'm not that interested in the geography of it).
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12 days ago by nhaliday
An Efficiency Comparison of Document Preparation Systems Used in Academic Research and Development
The choice of an efficient document preparation system is an important decision for any academic researcher. To assist the research community, we report a software usability study in which 40 researchers across different disciplines prepared scholarly texts with either Microsoft Word or LaTeX. The probe texts included simple continuous text, text with tables and subheadings, and complex text with several mathematical equations. We show that LaTeX users were slower than Word users, wrote less text in the same amount of time, and produced more typesetting, orthographical, grammatical, and formatting errors. On most measures, expert LaTeX users performed even worse than novice Word users. LaTeX users, however, more often report enjoying using their respective software. We conclude that even experienced LaTeX users may suffer a loss in productivity when LaTeX is used, relative to other document preparation systems. Individuals, institutions, and journals should carefully consider the ramifications of this finding when choosing document preparation strategies, or requiring them of authors.

...

However, our study suggests that LaTeX should be used as a document preparation system only in cases in which a document is heavily loaded with mathematical equations. For all other types of documents, our results suggest that LaTeX reduces the user’s productivity and results in more orthographical, grammatical, and formatting errors, more typos, and less written text than Microsoft Word over the same duration of time. LaTeX users may argue that the overall quality of the text that is created with LaTeX is better than the text that is created with Microsoft Word. Although this argument may be true, the differences between text produced in more recent editions of Microsoft Word and text produced in LaTeX may be less obvious than it was in the past. Moreover, we believe that the appearance of text matters less than the scientific content and impact to the field. In particular, LaTeX is also used frequently for text that does not contain a significant amount of mathematical symbols and formula. We believe that the use of LaTeX under these circumstances is highly problematic and that researchers should reflect on the criteria that drive their preferences to use LaTeX over Microsoft Word for text that does not require significant mathematical representations.

...

A second decision criterion that factors into the choice to use a particular software system is reflection about what drives certain preferences. A striking result of our study is that LaTeX users are highly satisfied with their system despite reduced usability and productivity. From a psychological perspective, this finding may be related to motivational factors, i.e., the driving forces that compel or reinforce individuals to act in a certain way to achieve a desired goal. A vital motivational factor is the tendency to reduce cognitive dissonance. According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, each individual has a motivational drive to seek consonance between their beliefs and their actual actions. If a belief set does not concur with the individual’s actual behavior, then it is usually easier to change the belief rather than the behavior [6]. The results from many psychological studies in which people have been asked to choose between one of two items (e.g., products, objects, gifts, etc.) and then asked to rate the desirability, value, attractiveness, or usefulness of their choice, report that participants often reduce unpleasant feelings of cognitive dissonance by rationalizing the chosen alternative as more desirable than the unchosen alternative [6, 7]. This bias is usually unconscious and becomes stronger as the effort to reject the chosen alternative increases, which is similar in nature to the case of learning and using LaTeX.

...

Given these numbers it remains an open question to determine the amount of taxpayer money that is spent worldwide for researchers to use LaTeX over a more efficient document preparation system, which would free up their time to advance their respective field. Some publishers may save a significant amount of money by requesting or allowing LaTeX submissions because a well-formed LaTeX document complying with a well-designed class file (template) is much easier to bring into their publication workflow. However, this is at the expense of the researchers’ labor time and effort. We therefore suggest that leading scientific journals should consider accepting submissions in LaTeX only if this is justified by the level of mathematics presented in the paper. In all other cases, we think that scholarly journals should request authors to submit their documents in Word or PDF format. We believe that this would be a good policy for two reasons. First, we think that the appearance of the text is secondary to the scientific merit of an article and its impact to the field. And, second, preventing researchers from producing documents in LaTeX would save time and money to maximize the benefit of research and development for both the research team and the public.

[ed.: I sense some salt.

And basically no description of how "# errors" was calculated.]

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8797002
I question the validity of their methodology.
At no point in the paper is exactly what is meant by a "formatting error" or a "typesetting error" defined. From what I gather, the participants in the study were required to reproduce the formatting and layout of the sample text. In theory, a LaTeX file should strictly be a semantic representation of the content of the document; while TeX may have been a raw typesetting language, this is most definitely not the intended use case of LaTeX and is overall a very poor test of its relative advantages and capabilities.
The separation of the semantic definition of the content from the rendering of the document is, in my opinion, the most important feature of LaTeX. Like CSS, this allows the actual formatting to be abstracted away, allowing plain (marked-up) content to be written without worrying about typesetting.
Word has some similar capabilities with styles, and can be used in a similar manner, though few Word users actually use the software properly. This may sound like a relatively insignificant point, but in practice, almost every Word document I have seen has some form of inconsistent formatting. If Word disallowed local formatting changes (including things such as relative spacing of nested bullet points), forcing all formatting changes to be done in document-global styles, it would be a far better typesetting system. Also, the users would be very unhappy.
Yes, LaTeX can undeniably be a pain in the arse, especially when it comes to trying to get figures in the right place; however the combination of a simple, semantic plain-text representation with a flexible and professional typesetting and rendering engine are undeniable and completely unaddressed by this study.
--
It seems that the test was heavily biased in favor of WYSIWYG.
Of course that approach makes it very simple to reproduce something, as has been tested here. Even simpler would be to scan the document and run OCR. The massive problem with both approaches (WYSIWYG and scanning) is that you can't generalize any of it. You're doomed repeating it forever.
(I'll also note the other significant issue with this study: when the ratings provided by participants came out opposite of their test results, they attributed it to irrational bias.)

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01796-1
Over the past few years however, the line between the tools has blurred. In 2017, Microsoft made it possible to use LaTeX’s equation-writing syntax directly in Word, and last year it scrapped Word’s own equation editor. Other text editors also support elements of LaTeX, allowing newcomers to use as much or as little of the language as they like.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20191348
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4 weeks ago by nhaliday
One week of bugs
If I had to guess, I'd say I probably work around hundreds of bugs in an average week, and thousands in a bad week. It's not unusual for me to run into a hundred new bugs in a single week. But I often get skepticism when I mention that I run into multiple new (to me) bugs per day, and that this is inevitable if we don't change how we write tests. Well, here's a log of one week of bugs, limited to bugs that were new to me that week. After a brief description of the bugs, I'll talk about what we can do to improve the situation. The obvious answer to spend more effort on testing, but everyone already knows we should do that and no one does it. That doesn't mean it's hopeless, though.

...

Here's where I'm supposed to write an appeal to take testing more seriously and put real effort into it. But we all know that's not going to work. It would take 90k LOC of tests to get Julia to be as well tested as a poorly tested prototype (falsely assuming linear complexity in size). That's two person-years of work, not even including time to debug and fix bugs (which probably brings it closer to four of five years). Who's going to do that? No one. Writing tests is like writing documentation. Everyone already knows you should do it. Telling people they should do it adds zero information1.

Given that people aren't going to put any effort into testing, what's the best way to do it?

Property-based testing. Generative testing. Random testing. Concolic Testing (which was done long before the term was coined). Static analysis. Fuzzing. Statistical bug finding. There are lots of options. Some of them are actually the same thing because the terminology we use is inconsistent and buggy. I'm going to arbitrarily pick one to talk about, but they're all worth looking into.

...

There are a lot of great resources out there, but if you're just getting started, I found this description of types of fuzzers to be one of those most helpful (and simplest) things I've read.

John Regehr has a udacity course on software testing. I haven't worked through it yet (Pablo Torres just pointed to it), but given the quality of Dr. Regehr's writing, I expect the course to be good.

For more on my perspective on testing, there's this.

https://hypothesis.works/articles/the-purpose-of-hypothesis/
From the perspective of a user, the purpose of Hypothesis is to make it easier for you to write better tests.

From my perspective as the primary author, that is of course also a purpose of Hypothesis. I write a lot of code, it needs testing, and the idea of trying to do that without Hypothesis has become nearly unthinkable.

But, on a large scale, the true purpose of Hypothesis is to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new and terrifying age of high quality software.

Software is everywhere. We have built a civilization on it, and it’s only getting more prevalent as more services move online and embedded and “internet of things” devices become cheaper and more common.

Software is also terrible. It’s buggy, it’s insecure, and it’s rarely well thought out.

This combination is clearly a recipe for disaster.

The state of software testing is even worse. It’s uncontroversial at this point that you should be testing your code, but it’s a rare codebase whose authors could honestly claim that they feel its testing is sufficient.

Much of the problem here is that it’s too hard to write good tests. Tests take up a vast quantity of development time, but they mostly just laboriously encode exactly the same assumptions and fallacies that the authors had when they wrote the code, so they miss exactly the same bugs that you missed when they wrote the code.

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization [video]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19945452
- Jonathan Blow

NB: DevGAMM is a game industry conference

- loss of technological knowledge (Antikythera mechanism, aqueducts, etc.)
- hardware driving most gains, not software
- software's actually less robust, often poorly designed and overengineered these days
- *list of bugs he's encountered recently*:
https://youtu.be/pW-SOdj4Kkk?t=1387
- knowledge of trivia becomes more than general, deep knowledge
- does at least acknowledge value of DRY, reusing code, abstraction saving dev time
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reason.com
https://www.dropbox.com/s/al533ecu82w29y1/BusinessCycleFallout.pdf
https://twitter.com/MarkKoyama/status/881893997706399744
This is like a reversal of the industrious revolution studied in my JEBO paper: new consumption technologies are money cheap but time pricey
http://www.nber.org/papers/w23552
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/escape-to-another-world
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13723996
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/07/what-are-young-men-doing.html
https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/08/americas-lost-boys

http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/work-becomes-optional/
participation has changed along an understudied margin of labor supply. I find that “in-and-outs”—men who temporarily leave the labor force—represent a growing fraction of prime age men across multiple data sources and are responsible for roughly one third of the decline in the participation rate since 1977. In-and-outs take short, infrequent breaks out of the labor force in between jobs, but they are otherwise continuously attached to the labor force. Leading explanations for the growing share of permanent labor force dropouts, such as disability, do not apply to in-and-outs. Instead, reduced-form evidence and a structural model of household labor supply both indicate that the rise of in-and-outs reflects a shift in labor supply, largely due to the increasing earnings of men’s partners and the growth of men living with their parents.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:

1. When we think of labor force participation declining, we think of, say, John Smith, deciding to never work again. What this paper is saying is that the statistics reflect something different. One month Smith takes a break, then next month he gets a job and Tom Jones takes a break.

2. I think we have always had a large number of workers who are not fully employed year round. That is, there have always been a lot of workers who take breaks between jobs. This is common in construction work, for example.

3. I don’t know if this matters for the phenomenon at hand, but we used to have inventory recessions. In those cases, workers would be out of a job for a while, but they would still be in the labor force, because they were waiting to be recalled by the firm that had laid them off.

4. It seems to me that this is an important paper. Re-read the last sentence in the quoted excerpt.

Job outlook growing worse for young American men: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/01/02/job-outlook-growing-worse-young-american-men-opinion/996922001/
As one might imagine, the absence of a job, quality education, or spouse has not bred otherwise productive citizens. Multiple studies have found that young men have replaced what would otherwise be working hours with leisure time at a near 1-1 ratio. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, found that young men spent a startling 75 percent of this leisure time playing video games, with many spending more than 30 hours a week gaming and over 5 million Americans spending more than 45 hours per week.

Higher suicide rates, violent crime, and drug addiction among young men have followed. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, with men more than three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than women. Around the United States, violent crimes, homicide in particular, has increased in two-thirds of American cities, with overwhelming young male perpetrators driving the increase. A 2015 Brookings Institute study estimated that nearly half of working-age American men who are out of the labor force are using painkillers, daily.

These problems have been “invisible” for too long.

As video games get better, young men work less and play more: http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/video-games-get-better-young-men-work-less-and-play-more

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?: https://www.kansascityfed.org/~/media/files/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/2018/1q18tuzemen.pdf

Prime-Age Men May Never Return to U.S. Workforce, Fed Paper Says: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/prime-age-men-may-never-return-to-u-s-workforce-fed-paper-says
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Reading | West Hunter
Reading speed and comprehension interest me, but I don’t have as much information as I would like.  I would like to see the distribution of reading speeds ( in the general population, and also in college graduates).  I have looked a bit at discussions of this, and there’s something wrong.  Or maybe a lot wrong.  Researchers apparently say that nobody reads 900 words a minute with full comprehension, but I’ve seen it done.  I would also like to know if anyone has statistically validated methods that  increase reading speed.

On related topics, I wonder how many serious readers  there are, here and also in other countries.  Are they as common in Japan or China, with their very different scripts?   Are reading speeds higher or lower there?

How many people have  their houses really, truly stuffed with books?  Here and elsewhere?  Last time I checked we had about 5000 books around the house: I figure that’s serious, verging on the pathological.

To what extent do people remember what they read?  Judging from the general results of  adult knowledge studies, not very much of what they took in school, but maybe voluntary reading is different.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/reading/#comment-3187
The researchers claim that the range of high-comprehension reading speed doesn’t go up anywhere near 900 wpm. But my daughter routinely reads at that speed. In high school, I took a reading speed test and scored a bit over 1000 wpm, with perfect comprehension.

I have suggested that the key to high reading speed is the experience of trying to finish a entire science fiction paperback in a drugstore before the proprietor tells you to buy the damn thing or get out. Helps if you can hide behind the bookrack.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/early-reading/
There are a few small children, mostly girls, that learn to read very early. You read stories to them and before you know they’re reading by themselves. By very early, I men age 3 or 4.

Does this happen in China ?

hmm:
Beijingers' average daily reading time exceeds an hour: report: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201712/07/WS5a293e1aa310fcb6fafd44c0.html

Free Speed Reading Test by AceReader: http://www.freereadingtest.com/
time+comprehension

http://www.readingsoft.com/
claims: 1000 wpm with 85% comprehension at top 1%, 200 wpm at 60% for average

https://www.wsj.com/articles/speed-reading-returns-1395874723
http://projects.wsj.com/speedread/

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=929753
Take a look at "Reading Rate: A Review of Research and Theory" by Ronald P. Carver
http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Rate-Review-Research-Theory/dp...
The conclusion is, basically, that speed reading courses don't work.
You can teach people to skim at a faster rate than they'd read with maximum comprehension and retention. And you can teach people study skills, such as how to summarize salient points, and take notes.
But all these skills are not at all the same as what speed reading usually promises, which is to drastically increase the rate at which you read with full comprehension and retention. According to Carver's book, it can't be done, at least not drastically past about the rate you'd naturally read at the college level.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  speculation  ideas  rant  critique  learning  studying  westminster  error  realness  language  japan  china  asia  sinosphere  retention  foreign-lang  info-foraging  scale  speed  innovation  explanans  creative  multi  data  urban-rural  time  time-use  europe  the-great-west-whale  occident  orient  people  track-record  trivia  books  number  knowledge  poll  descriptive  distribution  tools  quiz  neurons  anglo  hn  poast  news  org:rec  metrics  density  writing  meta:reading 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Secular decline in testosterone levels - Rogue Health and Fitness
A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1210/jc.2006-1375
Secular trends in sex hormones and fractures in men and women: http://www.eje-online.org/content/166/5/887.full.pdf
https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/984543033285898246
https://archive.is/dcruu
Small n and older sample, but interesting that while testosterone decreases have been large for men they’ve been even larger (in % terms) for women; wonder if this contributes to declining pregnancy and sexual frequency, rising depression.

https://www.labcorp.com/assets/11476
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/sperm-killers-and-rising-male-infertility/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/25/sperm-counts-among-western-men-have-halved-in-last-40-years-study
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/most-men-in-the-us-and-europe-could-be-infertile-by-2060
Strangelove: https://youtu.be/N1KvgtEnABY?t=67

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sperm-count-dropping-in-western-world/
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14855796
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14857588
People offering human-centric explanations like cell phones: Note also that the sperm quality of dogs has decreased 30% since 1988.

mendelian rand.:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28448539
1 SD genetically instrumented increase in BMI was associated with a 0.25 SD decrease in serum testosterone
https://twitter.com/SilverVVulpes/status/857902555489341441

Ibuprofen linked to male infertility: study: https://nypost.com/2018/01/08/ibuprofen-linked-to-male-infertility-study/
http://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/E715.full

Tucker Carlson: "Men Seem To Be Becoming Less Male": https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/03/08/tucker_carlson_men_seem_to_be_becoming_less_male.html
Carlson interviewed Dr. Jordan Peterson who blamed the "insidious" movement being driven by the "radical left" that teaches there a problem of "toxic masculinity." He said ideological policies focus on "de-emphasizing masculinity may be part of the problem."

...

Those are the numbers. They paint a very clear picture: American men are failing, in body, mind and spirit. This is a crisis. Yet our leaders pretend it’s not happening. They tell us the opposite is true: Women are victims, men are oppressors. To question that assumption is to risk punishment. Even as women far outpace men in higher education, virtually every college campus supports a women’s studies department, whose core goal is to attack male power. Our politicians and business leaders internalize and amplify that message. Men are privileged. Women are oppressed. Hire and promote and reward accordingly.

https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:bd7b0a50d741
But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Stanford Professor Loses Battle to Simplify Taxes | Hacker News
It didn't make it into law, partly due to lobbying by the likes of Intuit, but more interestingly, I thought, because Grover Norquist, the well known promoter of the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" took the counterintuitive view that just making the process easier equated to a new tax, since taxpayers might end up paying taxes already on the books that they might have previously unintentionally evaded.
That to me is the most bizarre detail about this entire story. It's likely that it would have passed if not for the strange interpretation of one man to this not-a-new-tax of it effectively being a new tax, and his ability to sway the Republicans due to the political power his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" holds over Republicans.

...

I think that a major component of Norquist's thinking is that the more painful people find taxes (including the process of calculating them) the more they'll support his agenda of "a government so small you could drown it in a bathtub".
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march 2017 by nhaliday
“A state of flow can be achieved by deep work” | Hacker News
When I start my morning, I refused to pick up my phone and check out social media (usually I would take a 45 minute dump just catching up on stuff posted last night). Sure my morning chores became a bit boring, but I also became more efficient (I started getting to work sooner).

Basically, by the time I get to my desk, I am so bored that the most interesting thing I can do is work. And my work (programming) is a very interesting task, it used to keep me engaged for hours and hours, it's just that Social Media defeated it.

https://twitter.com/naval/status/835003743074717700
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Holocene selection for variants associated with cognitive ability: Comparing ancient and modern genomes. | bioRxiv
- Michael Woodley

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13759949

Human populations living in Eurasia during the Holocene experienced significant evolutionary change. It has been predicted that the transition of Holocene populations into agrarianism and urbanization brought about culture-gene co-evolution that favoured via directional selection genetic variants associated with higher general cognitive ability (GCA).
...
These observations are consistent with the expectation that GCA rose during the Holocene.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Mark Zuckerberg: Building Global Community | Hacker News
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13670489
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13666424
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13668310
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13678413
https://www.ft.com/content/b8bbd890-610a-11e7-8814-0ac7eb84e5f1
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product
The view of human nature implied by these ideas is pretty dark. If all people want to do is go and look at other people so that they can compare themselves to them and copy what they want – if that is the final, deepest truth about humanity and its motivations – then Facebook doesn’t really have to take too much trouble over humanity’s welfare, since all the bad things that happen to us are things we are doing to ourselves. For all the corporate uplift of its mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic. It is perhaps for that reason that Facebook, more than any other company of its size, has a thread of malignity running through its story. The high-profile, tabloid version of this has come in the form of incidents such as the live-streaming of rapes, suicides, murders and cop-killings. But this is one of the areas where Facebook seems to me relatively blameless. People live-stream these terrible things over the site because it has the biggest audience; if Snapchat or Periscope were bigger, they’d be doing it there instead.
https://archive.is/4SSUQ
This isnt about whether 'dangerous' speech should be suppressed, but whether to validate tech industry's selfconception as educators of man.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Considerations On Cost Disease | Slate Star Codex
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Overlearning hyperstabilizes a skill by making processing inhibitory-dominant | Hacker News
Usually, learning immediately after training is so unstable that it can be disrupted by subsequent new learning until after passive stabilization occurs hours later. However, overlearning so rapidly and strongly stabilizes the learning state that it not only becomes resilient against, but also disrupts, subsequent new learning. Such hyperstabilization is associated with an abrupt shift from glutamate-dominant excitatory to GABA-dominant inhibitory processing in early visual areas. Hyperstabilization contrasts with passive and slower stabilization, which is associated with a mere reduction of excitatory dominance to baseline levels. Using hyperstabilization may lead to efficient learning paradigms.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Unlearning descriptive statistics | Hacker News
For readers who are OK with some math, I recommend John Myles White's eye-opening post about means, medians, and modes: http://www.johnmyleswhite.com/notebook/2013/03/22/modes-medians-and-means-an-unifying-perspective/. He describes these summary descriptive stats in terms of what penalty function they minimize: mean minimizes L2, median minimizes L1, mode minimizes L0.
hn  commentary  techtariat  acmtariat  data-science  explanation  multi  norms  org:bleg  nibble  scitariat  expectancy 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent
Falling Behind? is a recent (March 2014) book by Michael Teitelbaum of the Sloan Foundation, a demographer and long time critic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) shortage claims. Falling Behind? is an excellent book with a wealth of data and information on the history of booms and busts in science and engineering employment since World War II, STEM shortage claims in general, and lobbying for “high-skilled” immigration “reform”. Although I have been a student of these issues for many years, I encountered many facts and insights that I did not know or had not thought of. Nonetheless the book has a number of weakenesses which readers should keep in mind.

... The evidence assembled in this book leads inescapably to three core findings:

o First, that the alarms about widespread shortages or shortfalls in the number of U.S. scientists and engineers are quite inconsistent with nearly all available evidence;

o Second, that similar claims of the past were politically successful but resulted in a series of booms and busts that did harm to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise and made careers in these fields increasingly unattractive; and

o Third, that the clear signs of malaise in the U.S. science and engineering workforce are structural in origin and cannot be cured simply by providing additional funding. To the contrary, recent efforts of this kind have proved to be destabilizing, and advocates should be careful what they wish for. ...

https://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2016/08/12/is-there-a-stem-crisis-or-a-stem-surplus/
- “In the academic job market, there is no noticeable shortage in any discipline. In fact, there are signs of an oversupply of Ph.D.’s vying for tenure-track faculty positions in many disciplines (e.g., biomedical sciences, physical sciences).”
- “In the government and government-related job sector, certain STEM disciplines have a shortage of positions at the Ph.D. level (e.g., materials science engineering, nuclear engineering) and in general (e.g., systems engineers, cybersecurity, and intelligence professionals) due to the U.S. citizenship requirement. In contrast, an oversupply of biomedical engineers is seen at the Ph.D. level, and there are transient shortages of electrical engineers and mechanical engineers at advanced-degree levels.”
- “In the private sector, software developers, petroleum engineers, data scientists, and those in skilled trades are in high demand; there is an abundant supply of biomedical, chemistry, and physics Ph.D.’s; and transient shortages and surpluses of electrical engineers occur from time to time.”

The STEM Crisis is a Myth: An Ongoing Discussion: http://spectrum.ieee.org/static/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth-an-ongoing-discussion
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6305671

STEM: Still No Shortage: https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/stem-still-no-shortage-c6f6eed505c1
- Freddie deBoer
https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-college-seniors-are-falling-short-1493118000

Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/education/edlife/stem-jobs-industry-careers.html
The number of graduates with technical majors (shown: bachelor, master and Ph.D. degrees awarded in 2015-16) tends to outpace job openings (shown: 2014-24 projections, annualized). Computer science is the exception.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
How to Get into Natural Language Processing | Hacker News
We’re excited to introduce a new series we’re calling Paths. Each post will outline an emerging technology and give you clear steps on how to get started in that field.
hn  commentary  yc  tech  startups  business  data-science  nlp  ai 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Dgsh – Directed graph shell | Hacker News
I've worked with and looked at a lot of data processing helpers. Tools, that try to help you build data pipelines, for the sake of performance, reproducibility or simply code uniformity.
What I found so far: Most tools, that invent a new language or try to cram complex processes into lesser suited syntactical environments are not loved too much.

...

I'll give dgsh a try. The tool reuse approach and the UNIX spirit seems nice. But my initial impression of the "C code metrics" example from the site is mixed: It reminds me of awk, about which one of the authors said, that it's a beautiful language, but if your programs getting longer than hundred lines, you might want to switch to something else.

Two libraries which have a great grip at the plumbing aspect of data processing systems are airflow and luigi. They are python libraries and with it you have a concise syntax and basically all python libraries plus non-python tools with a command line interface at you fingertips.

I am curious, what kind of process orchestration tools people use and can recommend?

--

Exactly our experience too, from complex machine learning workflows in various aspects of drug discovery.
We basically did not really find any of the popular DSL-based bioinformatics pipeline tools (snakemake, bpipe etc) to fit the bill. Nextflow came close, but in fact allows quite some custom code too.

What worked for us was to use Spotify's Luigi, which is a python library rather than DSL.

The only thing was that we had to develop a flow-based inspired API on top of Luigi's more functional programming based one, in order to make defining dependencies fluent and easy enough to specify for our complex workflows.

Our flow-based inspired Luigi API (SciLuigi) for complex workflows, is available at:

https://github.com/pharmbio/sciluigi

--

We have measured many of the examples against the use of temporary files and the web report one against (single-threaded) implementations in Perl and Java. In almost all cases dgsh takes less wall clock time, but often consumes more CPU resources.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
China invents the digital totalitarian state | The Economist
PROGRAMMING CHINA: The Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security: https://www.merics.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/171212_China_Monitor_44_Programming_China_EN__0.pdf
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a form of authoritarianism that cannot be measured through traditional political scales like reform versus retrenchment. This version of authoritarianism involves both “hard” and “soft” authoritarian methods that constantly act together.
...
- To describe the social management process, this paper introduces a new analytical framework called China’s “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS). This approach explains China’s social management process through a complex systems engineering framework. This framework mirrors the CCP’s Leninist way of thinking.
- The framework describes four key parts of social management, visualized through ANS’s “self-configuring,” “self-healing,” “self-optimizing” and “self-protecting” objectives.

China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3175792

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12771302
https://twitter.com/Aelkus/status/873584698655735808
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/06/face-recognition-applied-at-scale-in.html
The Chinese government is not the only entity that has access to millions of faces + identifying information. So do Google, Facebook, Instagram, and anyone who has scraped information from similar social networks (e.g., US security services, hackers, etc.).

In light of such ML capabilities it seems clear that anti-ship ballistic missiles can easily target a carrier during the final maneuver phase of descent, using optical or infrared sensors (let alone radar).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-all-seeing-surveillance-state-feared-in-the-west-is-a-reality-in-china-1498493020
https://twitter.com/0xa59a2d/status/880098750009659392
https://archive.is/zHmmE
China goes all-in on technology the US is afraid to do right.
US won't learn its lesson in time for CRISPR or AI.

https://www.acast.com/theeconomistasks/theeconomistasks-howdoyouwintheairace-
Artificial intelligence is developing fast in China. But is it likely to enable the suppression of freedoms? One of China's most successful investors, Neil Shen, has a short answer to that question. Also, Chinese AI companies now have the potential to overtake their Western rivals -- we explain why. Anne McElvoy hosts with The Economist's AI expert, Tom Standage

the dude just stonewalls when asked at 7:50, completely zipped lips

http://www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/this-scary-chinese-surveillance-video-is-serious-cause-for-concern-but-just-not-why-you-think-330530.html
What you’re looking at above is the work of SenseTime, a Chinese computer vision startup. The software in question, called SenseVideo, is a visual scenario analytics system. Basically, it can analyse video footage to pinpoint whether moving objects are humans, cars, or other entities. It’s even sophisticated enough to detect gender, clothing, and the type of vehicle it’s looking at, all in real time.

https://streamable.com/iyi3z

Even China’s Backwater Cities Are Going Smart: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001452/even-chinas-backwater-cities-are-going-smart

https://twitter.com/ctbeiser/status/913054318869217282
https://archive.is/IiZiP
remember that tweet with the ML readout of Chinese surveilance cameras? Get ready for the future (via @triviumchina)

XI praised the organization and promised to help it beef up its operations (China
Daily):
- "China will 'help ... 100 developing countries build or upgrade communication systems and crime labs in the next five years'"
- "The Chinese government will establish an international law enforcement institute under the Ministry of Public Security which will train 20,000 police for developing nations in the coming five years"

The Chinese connection to the Zimbabwe 'coup': http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/17/africa/china-zimbabwe-mugabe-diplomacy/index.html

China to create national name-and-shame system for ‘deadbeat borrowers’: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2114768/china-create-national-name-and-shame-system-deadbeat-borrowers
Anyone who fails to repay a bank loan will be blacklisted and have their personal details made public

China Snares Innocent and Guilty Alike to Build World’s Biggest DNA Database: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-snares-innocent-and-guilty-alike-to-build-worlds-biggest-dna-database-1514310353
Police gather blood and saliva samples from many who aren’t criminals, including those who forget ID cards, write critically of the state or are just in the wrong place

Many of the ways Chinese police are collecting samples are impermissible in the U.S. In China, DNA saliva swabs or blood samples are routinely gathered from people detained for violations such as forgetting to carry identity cards or writing blogs critical of the state, according to documents from a national police DNA conference in September and official forensic journals.

Others aren’t suspected of any crime. Police target certain groups considered a higher risk to social stability. These include migrant workers and, in one city, coal miners and home renters, the documents show.

...

In parts of the country, law enforcement has stored DNA profiles with a subject’s other biometric information, including fingerprints, portraits and voice prints, the heads of the DNA program wrote in the Chinese journal Forensic Science and Technology last year. One provincial police force has floated plans to link the data to a person’s information such as online shopping records and entertainment habits, according to a paper presented at the national police DNA conference. Such high-tech files would create more sophisticated versions of paper dossiers that police have long relied on to keep tabs on citizens.

Marrying DNA profiles with real-time surveillance tools, such as monitoring online activity and cameras hooked to facial-recognition software, would help China’s ruling Communist Party develop an all-encompassing “digital totalitarian state,” says Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information.

...

A teenage boy studying in one of the county’s high schools recalled that a policeman came into his class after lunch one day this spring and passed out the collection boxes. Male students were told to clean their mouths, spit into the boxes and place them into envelopes on which they had written their names.

...

Chinese police sometimes try to draw connections between ethnic background or place of origin and propensity for crime. Police officers in northwestern China’s Ningxia region studied data on local prisoners and noticed that a large number came from three towns. They decided to collect genetic material from boys and men from every clan to bolster the local DNA database, police said at the law-enforcement DNA conference in September.

https://twitter.com/nils_gilman/status/945820396615483392
China is certainly in the lead in the arena of digital-biometric monitoring. Particularly “interesting” is the proposal to merge DNA info with online behavioral profiling.

https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/949730145195233280
https://archive.is/OCsxs

https://www.techinasia.com/china-citizen-scores-credit-system-orwellian
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/news/world/chinese-blacklist-an-early-glimpse-of-sweeping-new-social-credit-control/article37493300/

https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/952263056662384640
https://archive.is/tGErH
This is the thing I find the most disenchanting about the current political spectrum. It's all reheated ideas that are a century old, at least. Everyone wants to run our iPhone society with power structures dating to the abacus.
--
Thank God for the forward-thinking Chinese Communist Party and its high-tech social credit system!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Credit_System

INSIDE CHINA'S VAST NEW EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL RANKING: https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/chinese-government-social-credit-score-privacy-invasion

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/24/chinese-citizens-want-the-government-to-rank-them/
The government thinks "social credit" will fix the country's lack of trust — and the public agrees.

To be Chinese today is to live in a society of distrust, where every opportunity is a potential con and every act of generosity a risk of exploitation. When old people fall on the street, it’s common that no one offers to help them up, afraid that they might be accused of pushing them in the first place and sued. The problem has grown steadily since the start of the country’s economic boom in the 1980s. But only recently has the deficit of social trust started to threaten not just individual lives, but the country’s economy and system of politics as a whole. The less people trust each other, the more the social pact that the government has with its citizens — of social stability and harmony in exchange for a lack of political rights — disintegrates.

All of which explains why Chinese state media has recently started to acknowledge the phenomenon — and why the government has started searching for solutions. But rather than promoting the organic return of traditional morality to reduce the gulf of distrust, the Chinese government has preferred to invest its energy in technological fixes. It’s now rolling out systems of data-driven “social credit” that will purportedly address the problem by tracking “good” and “bad” behavior, with rewards and punishments meted out accordingly. In the West, plans of this sort have tended to spark fears about the reach of the surveillance state. Yet in China, it’s being welcomed by a public fed up of not knowing who to trust.

It’s unsurprising that a system that promises to place a check on unfiltered power has proven popular — although it’s… [more]
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january 2017 by nhaliday
How Social Isolation Is Killing Us | Hacker News
But more structured programs are arising, too. For example, Dr. Paul Tang of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation started a program called linkAges, a cross-generational service exchange inspired by the idea that everyone has something to offer.

The program works by allowing members to post online something they want help with: guitar lessons, a Scrabble partner, a ride to the doctor’s office. Others can then volunteer their time and skills to fill these needs and “bank” hours for when they need something themselves.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
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