Newsletter 26 – The Inner Limits

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The Inner Limits

Francois Chollet, the creator of Keras, outlines in this thoughtful post some of the limitations of deep learning as a precursor to a post linked to recently in this blog in which he looks ahead to its future.  In exercising caution he provides an important reminder that all humans including those working on technologies that would supplant us and make us redundant have to know their limitations:

deep learning models do not have any understanding of their input, at least not in any human sense. Our own understanding of images, sounds, and language, is grounded in our sensorimotor experience as humans—as embodied earthly creatures. Machine learning models have no access to such experiences and thus cannot “understand” their inputs in any human-relatable way. By annotating large numbers of training examples to feed into our models, we get them to learn a geometric transform that maps data to human concepts on this specific set of examples, but this mapping is just a simplistic sketch of the original model in our minds, the one developed from our experience as embodied agents—it is like a dim image in a mirror.

Watching Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe again reminds us, as does this Guardian article that we are all made of stars.  Or running in someone else’s reality. Cue Dilbert doing Simulation Theory:

Big Data

Collection, Computation and Representation.  These three are the eternal trilogy when it comes to data analysis and it is vital to ensure you retain a whole system perspective when building a data analysis pipeline.

Amazon

Jeff Bezos became for a brief while in July the richest person in the world a development that brings to mind the Latin motto he has bestowed upon Blue Origin of Gradatim Ferociter or “step by step ferociously”.

He has it on his boots:

Motherboard on a hack that turns an Amazon Echo into a spying device that can’t be fixed by a software patch.

Microsoft

Stratechery on Microsoft’s biggest issue in its attempt to pivot the cloud which remains the challenge of changing a culture created in its monopolistic years.

Still, in a remarkable turnaround for anyone who worked in tech in the 90’s, the NYT sees more innovation in a chastened and diminished Microsoft than dominant Apple.

Apple

20 years ago. Steve Jobs responded to an insult thus:

IoT

Will.i.am is bringing his Id to IoT in purchasing Wink, the universal smart home software platform.  Has IdIoT time arrived?

Struggling smart home platform Wink has been acquired by lifestyle and technology company, i.am+, the company owned by musician and hit and miss (but mostly miss) tech entrepreneur will.i.am.

China

WSJ on the rise of Chinese exceptionalism and a new generation of young Chinese who are imbued with nationalistic pride.  This is perhaps a contributory factor in the decline of Apple’s market share in the region as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi clean up.  It is also emboldening the Chinese authorities in continuing their crackdown on the slightest signs of dissidence.  The recent WhatsApp crackdown in China only scratches the surface of internet censorship. VPNs could be next which would make it almost impossible for foreign companies to operate there:

Disruption of virtual private networks (VPNs) — which enable users to tunnel their web traffic through the Great Firewall, effectively browsing as if they’re in another country — has also been ramped up, with both Bloomberg and the Associated Press reporting that a blanket ban on VPN usage may be in the works.  That would be an extreme step, as VPNs are also used by many companies to enable secure networking and file sharing between offices.

The Chinese companies do, however, want to court US companies in order to advance their causes.  Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou seems to have visibly got on board the Trump wagon in promising to create it’s first major American factory in Wisconsin and in the process, 3000 jobs.

Other

Three important lifeskills nobody taught you – i) how to stop taking things personally, ii) how be persuaded to change your mind, iii) how to act without knowing the result.

Dunkirk the film and the delusions of Empire and how it serves the agenda of Brexiteers to promote the Exceptionalist myth it peddles:

‘Dunkirk’ reinforces Britain’s self-image, that it was fighting for freedom all alone in World War II. In not seeing the wider canvas, Britons see a distorted reality.  … A 2014 YouGov poll of 1,741 people across Britain showed that 59% felt that the empire was something to be proud of and only 19% thought it was something to be ashamed of. Almost half the respondents felt that the colonies were better off for being colonized; only 15% felt they were worse off.