Backpropagation in the Brain?

Ask and ye shall receive :-) In an earlier post I recommended a talk by Ilya Sutskever of OpenAI (part of an MIT AGI lecture series). In the Q&A someone asks about the status of backpropagation (used for training of artificial deep neural nets) in real neural nets, and Ilya answers that it’s currently not …

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Physics as a Strange Attractor

Almost every student who attends a decent high school will be exposed to Special Relativity. Their science/physics teacher may not really understand it very well, may do a terrible job trying to explain it. But the kid will have to read a textbook discussion and (in the internet age) can easily find more with a …

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The French Way: Alain Connes interview

I came across this interview with Fields Medalist Alain Connes (excerpt below) via an essay by Dominic Cummings (see his blog here). Dom’s essay is also highly recommended. He has spent considerable effort to understand the history of highly effective scientific / research organizations. There is a good chance that his insights will someday be put …

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Scientists of Stature

The link below is to the published version of the paper we posted on biorxiv in late 2017 (see blog discussion). Our results have since been replicated by several groups in academia and in Silicon Valley. Biorxiv article metrics: abstract views 31k, paper downloads 6k. Not bad! Perhaps that means the community understands now that genomic …

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LATTICE 2018 at MSU

The 36th Annual International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory begins tomorrow, hosted by MSU. My opening remarks are below. No peeking if you are an attendee! LATTICE 2018 Opening Remarks 7/23/2018 Good morning. I’d like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you on behalf of Michigan State University. We are very pleased and …

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ICML notes

It’s never been a better time to work on AI/ML. Vast resources are being deployed in this direction, by corporations and governments alike. In addition to the marvelous practical applications in development, a theoretical understanding of Deep Learning may emerge in the next few years. The notes below are to keep track of some interesting …

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Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

Roger Penrose writes in the Guardian, providing a scientifically precise summary of Hawking’s accomplishments as a physicist (worth reading in full at the link). Penrose and Hawking collaborated to produce important singularity theorems in general relativity in the late 1960s. Here is a nice BBC feature: A Brief History of Stephen Hawking. The photo above …

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Risk, Uncertainty, and Heuristics

Risk = space of outcomes and probabilities are known. Uncertainty = probabilities not known, and even space of possibilities may not be known. Heuristic rules are contrasted with algorithms like maximization of expected utility. See also Bounded Cognition and Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision (Ellsberg). Here’s a well-known 2007 paper by Gigerenzer et al. Helping Doctors and …

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Better to be Lucky than Good?

The arXiv paper below looks at stochastic dynamical models that can transform initial (e.g., Gaussian) talent distributions into power law outcomes (e.g., observed wealth distributions in modern societies). While the models themselves may not be entirely realistic, they illustrate the potentially large role of luck relative to ability in real life outcomes. We’re used to …

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Big Tech compensation in 2018

I don’t work in Big Tech so I don’t know whether his numbers are realistic. If they are realistic, then I’d say careers in Big Tech (for someone with the ability to do high level software work) dominate all the other (risk-adjusted) options right now. This includes finance, startups, etc. No wonder the cost of …

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How NSA Tracks You (Bill Binney)

Anyone who is paying attention knows that the Obama FBI/DOJ used massive government surveillance powers against the Trump team during and after the election. A FISA warrant on Carter Page (and Manafort and others?) was likely used to mine stored communications of other Trump team members. Hundreds of “mysterious” unmasking requests by Susan Rice, Samantha …

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Steve Pinker and Joe Rogan

I’ve just started watching this so I can’t give you an evaluation of the whole conversation. Looks promising — they jump right in on topics like sex differences, political correctness, internet flame wars, the Trump candidacy, social media, … (I’m skipping the Super Bowl, by the way. I stopped watching the NFL and NBA years …

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The Content of their Character: Ed Blum and Jian Li

See 20 years @15 percent: does Harvard discriminate against Asian-Americans? The excerpt below is from the Harvard lawsuit brief, recalling the parallel between what had been done to limit Jewish enrollment in the early 20th century, and the current situation with Asian-Americans. … Harvard is engaging in racial balancing. Over an extended period, Harvard’s admission and enrollment …

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Institute for Advanced Study: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits (seminar)

Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits After a brief review (suitable for physicists) of computational genomics and complex traits, I describe recent progress in this area. Using methods from Compressed Sensing (L1-penalized regression; Donoho-Tanner phase transition with noise) and the UK BioBank dataset of 500k SNP genotypes, we construct genomic predictors for several complex traits. Our …

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Gork revisited, 2018

It’s been almost 10 years since I made the post Are you Gork? Over the last decade, both scientists and non-scientists have become more confident that we will someday create: A. AGI (= sentient AI, named “Gork” :-)  See Rise of the Machines: Survey of AI Researchers. B. Quantum Computers. See Quantum Computing at a Tipping …

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Low SES does not decrease heritability of cognitive ability (N=300k)

These researchers, from Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Florida, analyze a large population of twins and siblings (~24k twins and ~300k children in total, born 1994-2002 in Florida). They find no evidence of SES (Socio-Economic Status) moderation of genetic influence on test scores (i.e., cognitive ability). The figure above shows the usual pattern of lower pairwise …

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Quantum Computing near a Tipping Point?

I received an email from a physicist colleague suggesting that we might be near a “tipping point” in quantum computation. I’ve sort of followed quantum computation and quantum information as an outsider for about 20 years now, but haven’t been paying close attention recently because it seems that practical general purpose quantum computers are still …

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100 Billionaires In Beijing Alone

Real talk from former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating on the strategic outlook for Australia in Asia, the rise of China, and the likely future military balance of power in the Pacific region. More from the Australian strategic viewpoint. Balance of power in the Western Pacific. From the YouTube transcript: 29:18 [Eventually… Total] Chinese GDP is twice as …

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Big Ed

Today I came across a recent interview with Ed Witten in Quanta Magazine. The article has some nice photos like the one above. I was struck by the following quote from Witten (“It from Qubit!”): When I was a beginning grad student, they had a series of lectures by faculty members to the new students about …

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IQ (Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering) at MSU

  Chris Contag is the founding director of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering and the chairperson of the new Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Contag was previously a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Radiology, Bioengineering and Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University. He held the titles of …

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DOJ invokes Title VI against Harvard admissions

“Elections have consequences…” — Barack Obama See 20 years @15 percent: does Harvard discriminate against Asian-Americans? CNN: The Justice Department is actively investigating Harvard University’s use of race in its admissions policies and has concluded the school is “out of compliance” with federal law, according to documents obtained by CNN. … [Click through for DOJ …

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Behold, the Super Cow

Hmm… how do they compute the Net Merit and GTPI? (But, but, what about all of that missing heritability?) See also Applied genomics: the genetic “super cow” Genomic prediction: no bull. Attention climate virtue signalers: more efficient cows produce less methane per liter of milk! Drink milk from genetically engineered cows :-) Tweet

23andme

I’m in Mountain View to give a talk at 23andMe. Their latest funding round was $250M on a (reported) valuation of $1.5B. If I just add up the Crunchbase numbers it looks like almost half a billion invested at this point… Slides: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits Abstract: We apply methods from Compressed Sensing (L1-penalized regression; Donoho-Tanner …

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