Miscellaneous

Intelligent assistants are catalysts for digital commerce

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 15:00


Dan Miller, Derek Top, Nicolas De Kouchkovsky, Opus Research, Jul 22, 2016

It's important that  we note that "we are entering a world where an intelligence assistant recognizes our 'intent.' This could spawn a massive consumer behavior shift, as AI-influenced bots would mean far fewer Google searches by humans." I had hoped that by this time our 'personal learning assistant' could have made the list. Alas. Here's a  high resolution version of the image.

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How Companies Are Benefiting from “Lite” Artificial Intelligence

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 15:00


Seth Earley, Harvard Business Review, Jul 22, 2016

Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIAAS) is here. As this article notes, "At the less-expensive end is a knowledge-based approach that organizes data and language into highly malleable and helpful blocks of information." For example, there's "a virtual assistant known as ABIe (pronounced “ Abby” ) to answer questions from its 12,000 agents (for All State). It was a bit like hiring Apple’ s Siri at a sliver of the cost. Mike Barton, the division’ s president, put it this way: 'We think of ABIe as our precursor to cognitive computing on a shoestring.'"

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On the Nature of Mathematical Concepts

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 12:00


Verena Huber-Dyson, Edge, Jul 22, 2016

I studied under  Verena Huber-Dyson when I was in Calgary and was opened to a world where we question assumptions, consider alternative (but complete and consistent) forms of formalization, and a range of reasons why we ought to question our core 'truths' about mathematics and logic. "This century has seen the development of a powerful tool, that of formalization, in commerce and daily life as well as in the sciences and mathematics. But we must not forget that it is only a tool. An indiscriminate demand for fool proof rules and dogmatic adherence to universal policies must lead to impasses," she writes in this article from 1998. "Think of mathematics as a jungle in which we are trying to find our way. We scramble up trees for lookouts, we jump from one branch to another guided by a good sense of what to expect until we are ready to span tight ropes (proofs) between out posts (axioms) chosen judiciously. And when we stop to ask what guides us so remarkably well, the most convincing answer is that the whole jungle is of our own collective making - in the sense of being a selection out of a primeval soup of possibilities. Monkeys are making of their habitat something quite different from what a pedestrian experiences as a jungle."

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The Philosophical Concept of Algorithmic Intelligence

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 12:00


Pierre Levy, Pierre Levy's Blog, Jul 22, 2016

"A science of human intelligence is indeed possible," writes Pierre Levy in a post last year, "but on the condition that we solve the problem of the mathematical modelling of language. I am speaking here of a complete scientific modelling of language, one that would not be limited to the purely logical and syntactic aspects or to statistical correlations of corpora of texts, but would be capable of expressing semantic relationships formed between units of meaning, and doing so in an algebraic, generative mode." I think we can agree that Facebook isn't this. Where the question gets hard is when we ask whether this is what we need. Is a scientific modelling of language, or of thought, possible? Is it desirable? Would we find this language physically instantiated in the human brain? 

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Consciousness is a Big Suitcase

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 12:00


Marvin Minsky, John Brockman, Edge, Jul 22, 2016

Words like like 'intuition' or 'consciousness' are "suitcase words", says Marvin Minsky in this interview from 1998, "that all of us use to encapsulate our jumbled ideas about our minds. We use those words as suitcases in which to contain all sorts of mysteries that we can't yet explain." And in turn, he says, we start to think of these as entities in their own right, as things with no structures we can analyze. But consciousness, he says, "contains perhaps 40 or 50 different mechanisms that are involved in a huge network of intricate interactions...  human brain contains several hundred different sub-organs, each of which does somewhat different things." Or, for example, "A 'meaning' is not a simple thing. It is a complex collection of structures and processes, embedded in a huge network of other such structures and processes." Or memory: "we use... hundreds of different brain centers that use different schemes to represent things in different ways. Learning is no simple thing."

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The (not so) secret life of a networked and networking scholar

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 09:00


Paul Prinsloo, Open distance teaching and learning, Jul 22, 2016

I am increasingly left wondering how long social networks - Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn - can survive. They can disappear absurdly quickly - remember Friendster? MySpace? And I think that dissatisfaction with the existing sites is strong enough that users will quickly drop them if something better comes along. There are several issues. One is the lack of privacy and security. This is what Paul Prinsloo addresses in this article. But there's more. Another are the sorting algorithms that struggle with the basic contradiction between what we want to see and what the social network makes money showing us. Another is the steadily dropping quality of discourse on these sites. The advice to "never read the comments" should now be applied to the daily news.

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Positive, Negative or Neutral? Crucial Conversations on Digital Citizenship

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 19:00


George Couros, Connected Principals, Jul 21, 2016

Me: Have you been told not to do bad things online?
Student: Yes.
Me: How about good things?
Student: Never.

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The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 19:00


Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, Brian Resnick, Vox, Jul 21, 2016

These problems are nothing we haven't seen before, but this article makes a good case for each, plus some good discussion on proposed remedies (quoted):

  • Academia has a huge money problem
  • Too many studies are poorly designed. Blame bad incentives.
  • Replicating results is crucial. But scientists rarely do it.
  • Peer review is broken
  • Too much science is locked behind paywalls
  • Science is poorly communicated to the public
  • Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful

Science, they say, is "ripe for disruption". But what would that even look like?

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4 reasons 4 billion people are still offline

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/20/2016 - 17:00


Donald Armbrecht, World Economic Forum, Jul 20, 2016

This is a summary of a study from Facebook, and it's important to keep in mind that Facebook is lobbying for a limited Facebook-only version of the internet in poorer countries. This is why it makes sense to say, for example, that "75% of the unconnected had never heard of the word 'internet.'" It's like they won't know what they're missing if they get only Facebook. That said, it is unacceptable that 4 billion don't have access to internet. And it's not because the internet isn't relevant ('reason 3') for these people, nor is it because they are not ready ('reason 4') for the internet. It has everything to do with a global model of resource distribution where the necessities of life and the means of producing them - not only internet, but food, energy, housing, and the rest - are provided only to those who can pay for them. Facebook's wealth, and the system that produced it, is the reason 4 billion people are offline.

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In the future you will own nothing and have access to everything

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/20/2016 - 17:00


Kevin Kelly, BoingBoing, Jul 20, 2016

Kevin Kelly has a long history of being wrong about the future and his streak will continue with this article. The world he depicts here is not some sort Star Trek Federation economy or  socialist ideal - it's an end-state for a capitalist dream, where all ownership has been consolidated in corporations and individual people have nothing of their own. It's a world where, if you don't pay, you don't have anything, which means that (as today) social control and individual labour will be secured by corporations through the threat of cutting access to food, housing, entertainment, and more. Security, continuity, affinity - these are important to people, and physical objects are tangible instances of them.

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The next wave of disruption: Graph-based machine learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/19/2016 - 13:00


Kathryn Cave, IDG Connect, Jul 19, 2016

"It's at the intersection of machine learning and graph technology where the next evolution lies and where new disruptive companies are emerging," according to this article. These are neural network technologies, and they work by analyzing connections, not contents. But there's a difference between 'machine learning' and 'graph technologies'. "machine learning takes large quantities of data to make predictions about future events. While graph technology is more concerned with the relationship between different data points... Some ML methods use ‘ graphs’ to represent the learnings while others don't.” "

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Metaknowledge

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 18:00


George Musser, Aeon, Jul 18, 2016

This essay makes one good point and a bunch of bad points. The good point is that the 'wisdom' in the wisdom of crowds isn't going to be taken merely by counting votes or taking averages. There's plenty of evidence that this is the case. The bad points are made around the idea that "some people’ s judgments deserve greater weight than others," based on what the author calls "metaknowledge". The mistake being made here is in assuming that the purpose of the crowd is to 'select' some 'right answer' from a range of possibilities put forward by its members. But the wisdom of the crowd isn't in doing things like predicting winners of elections, counting jelly beans or even guessing correct scientific theories. The crowd has different knowledge from an individual's knowledge; it isn't just a reification some one smart person's point of view.

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Want a Deep Dive on How Silicon Valley's Best Will Fix Education? Here's The Full Interview With Max Ventilla, CEO and Founder, AltSchool

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 18:00


John Battelle, LinkedIn, Jul 18, 2016

That moment when things go off the rails: "There was a little bit of an 'Aha' moment, that wait a moment, this thing that I want personally actually calls out for the kind of solution, like a platform solution, a systemic solution, a network solution, that I kind of know how to build, that I’ ve built many times and this team has built many times before." Thanks, Norm.

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MIL-CRED

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 15:00


Advanced Distributed Learning, Jul 18, 2016

"Imagine how helpful a fully vetted, fully automated, personally controlled digital resume would be for both the individual as well as potential hiring managers in military, academic, and corporate organizations," says the invitation to this webinar (register here). This work is very similar to the personal learning records project we were running. "Rhe Military Micro-Credentials (MIL-CRED) project aims at designing, developing, and testing a standardized micro-credential model that facilitates transition of military personnel to civilian careers and educational opportunities.   MIL-CRED features multi-level granularity and relational nesting of macro-credentials, tracking of in-progress credential requirements, and a taxonomy of links to facilitate competency equivalency across domains.   This work will produce a fully vetted, fully automated, personally controlled digital resume."

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Guidelines for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of MOOCs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 12:00


Allison Littlejohn, Nina Hood, Commonwealth of Learning, Jul 18, 2016

Report (36 page PDF) providing "a set of guidelines designed to support decision making about the sorts of quality measures that are appropriate in different contexts." The report includes input from a 2016 experts meeting, in which I took part. Importantly, "The starting point for MOOC QA is to consider the purpose of a MOOC." MOOCs are not simply replacements for existing courses; "they are viewed by governments across the Commonwealth as a way to extend access to higher education." Others may view them as a way to provide practice, a way to spread a message, or a way to publicize an institution or an issue. So different stakeholders view the question of quality in MOOCs from different perspectives.

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Bridge International Academies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 09:00


Bridge International Academies, Jul 18, 2016

This appears to be a prospectus (11 page PDF) for Bridge International Academies, a global education company specializing in offering low-cost learning to impoverished children. It operates in Kenya ("total of 359 academies and over 100,000 pupils!") and Uganda with plans to expand into Nigeria and India. It is not without its critics, including Graham-Brown Martin: "We wouldn’ t accept a healthcare system where 'Big Pharma' also owned the hospitals and employed all the doctors but that’ s exactly the kind of closed loop system that’ s happening with 'Big Edu'." The model is essentially based on 'scripted schooling', "asystem in which every step of the learning process is remotely dictated." Public investment in the agency has been criticized. "'Aid is being used as a tool to convince, cajole and compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help big business, but which undermine public services emerging or thriving,' Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said in criticism of the World Bank’ s $10m investment in Bridge."

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Empirical proof that Terms of Service are "the biggest lie on the Internet"

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/17/2016 - 11:00


Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, Jul 17, 2016

This article makes the oft-made point that few people read terms-of-service. And that's why they are called "the biggest lie on the Internet" - "they are based on the idea that the people who trade their privacy and rights in exchange for a service are making a bargain that they understand and agree to." But suppose people took the hour or so required to read the terms-of-service for these web services. What would change? Could they ever enforce any of their own rights in these terms? If ey are accused of violating a term, could they ever defend themselves in court? Of course not. The "lie" in terms and service agreements is that this is any sort of contract at all. No enforcement means no contract. People know that companies are just going to do whatever they want, and that's why they don't bother reading the terms.

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Memory Machines: Learning, Knowing, and Technological Change

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/17/2016 - 11:00


Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 17, 2016

Good post from Audrey Watters representing a step forward in her thinking (as we write more, these steps become smaller and less frequent, and harder to take). She talks about the fragility of memory, even in the age of information, and challenges the assumption that new inventions are being more and more quickly adopted. From my perspective, being long in the tooth, the future seems to move forward at an agonizingly slow pace. I was ten years old, five decades ago, when we first stepped on the moon. The major incurable diseases of my childhood are the ones that loom over me today. Most of the information I have ever created was created, and stored, in my own brain, and it goes when I go. So much of my own digital legacy is already lost (it's absurd to say that the internet is a permanent record!). But - publishing isn't memory, and memory isn't knowledge.

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Authenticity and Co-Opting Voices of Color without Permission

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/17/2016 - 11:00


Rafranz Davis, Jul 17, 2016

I think there's some pretty good advice in this post, and it goes well beyond the warning in the title. It's this: "Do the work. Do it with complete and total commitment which means truly facing your truths through time, discussion and effort. You need to find your own voices… not ours." The same point should be applied to educators in general. As an educator, your only voice is your own voice, not that of your students. You can't 'give' them an education. They have to create their own education, and find their own voice, for themselves. Doing it for them disempowers them, and makes their own efforts less legitimate.

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Are those hearts strings connected? – the power of fleeting connections in a digital pedagogy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/17/2016 - 11:00


Peter Bryant, digital stranger, Jul 17, 2016

Good post looking at the concept of 'fleeting connections' in some detail. As suggested by  VTE Live, one of the purposes of a MOOC, as opposed to a community of practice, is to create short-term low risk temporary networks where people can benefit from the diversity and interaction without making a lifelong commitment. As well, temporary networks are less intimidating to join, because they haven't developed in-groups, jargon and norms of practice yet. Peter Bryant says "t is in the fleeting connections that you are exposed to the ‘ something different’ that are these newer, brighter contexts.   They represent a sense of randomness, uniqueness and sometimes disquiet and discomfort that challenge the constructed reality of knowledge handed down through the generations."

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