if I only knew, what I do…

if I only knew, what I don’t already know

I am now on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/geolytica Ervin Ruci ‏ @geolytica

they used analytical thinking to find that analytical thinking makes one believe less

Here is a new “discovery”

“A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers. The study, which will appear in tomorrow’s issue of Science (abstract), finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief.”

I am now expecting a counter-finding to say something along the lines that “those who think like that will burn in hell.”

It is a free world where everyone can think whatever he/she wants, so, what the heck!

The law must be hacked

I recently read a post about using a time honored IT technique for improving a largely flawed system, namely the legal system. Normally geeks like us would not bother with such boring subjects, but since these subjects routinely bother us and with us, it is perhaps time to take a look at it and try to fix what’s broken and buggy.

The solution that has been put forward by the Brooklyn Law school’s incubator and policy clinic (BLIPin their ‘legal hackathon’ is this:

Instead of hacking computer code, attendees — mostly lawyers, law students, coders, and entrepreneurs — used the hacking ethos to devise technologically sophisticated solutions to legal problems. These included attempts to crowdsource mayoral candidacies in New York City and hacking model privacy policies for ISPs.”

Now, that’s something I’d really cheer for! A versioning control system for laws, along with a requirements spec for each law and a wikipedia like system for citizen participation would be a good start.

It has been a while, but now thanks to technology perhaps democracy will be back at work where it has recently failed most miserably. Laws should be made by people not lobbyists.

And technology will help that process along.

the future belongs to those who want to learn

Studying for the sake of studying has always had its dedicated band of followers. Since the time of self-taught Michael Faraday to the modern times it is those that learn for fun who become the main motor of invention and innovation.

This practice is set to become a lot more easier. This is what I read today:

“Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford University announced a major expansion in the catalog of free, massive, open online courses being offered by the company they founded, Coursera. The subject areas include computer science, mathematics, and business. The providers include Stanford, Princeton, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. Even more courses are expected to be announced by competitors such as Udacity, MITx, Minerva, and Udemy — perhaps soon. Is this the future of education?”

I’d like to answer that question with a “Yes.” A high education is now neither a right nor a privilege.

Quit quitting. The time is now to learn whatever you want.

not guilty as charged

Back in the free world and back at it.

It was only two weeks after I returned to Ottawa (after a long stint of 4 years abroad), that I got served papers on a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Being no stranger to legal persecution (still on trial in Albania for allegedly being part of a “plot” that denied the son of a prominent local judge a bachelor degree from the university of Vlora), I felt a dejavu. Of sorts.

There has been a lot of discussion on the web regarding this lawsuit so I will keep my take on it to a bare minimum.

Let’s say that Canadapost is right, and I was wrong to crowdsource the generation of a postal code file based on street addresses. They say nothing about the crowdsourced data itself, which is available to you all. (you can download it here, about 11M records collected over the course of the last 6 months)

Maybe you can process this data and generate a postal code file that is better than what I was able to come up with (occasionally I get one or two complaints regarding a postal code location being in the wrong city or the wrong street). That’s the way it goes when you have inexact information and need to make best guesses. It is tough. But you should try anyways, even if they sue you 8 years down the road.

At any rate, I am hoping to put this story behind and get back on what I enjoy doing – creating stuff that works.

I see the major challenge of the future in the task of separating correct information from incorrect information. Or significant information from insignificant information. Depending on a function of “significance”. Data in itself takes on different forms and value depending on what angle it is viewed upon. Other than facts, everything else needs a probabilistic evaluation. As to the facts themselves, we need to build systems for discarding wrong facts.

The idea is simple. If I can let you chose the “significance” function, then my software can only feed you information that is most likely of value to you. Isn’t everybody trying to do that these days?

For example, you want to go to a website and get some idea on “what would be a fun thing to do in Ottawa today?”

That depends on two things, 1. the type of person you are, 2. what is going on today.

The #2 will depend on how much relevant data we can get from the public internet or other sources of public information.

That, is the real challenge. On top of that, I really hope also, that someone does not sue.