# The Peril and Promise of Historians as Data Creators: Perspective, Structure, and the Problem of Representation

[This is a working draft of a chapter in progress for an edited collection.] Data-Driven History Digital historians are well-familiar with notion that the larger community of historians generally has been skeptical of and cautious about data-driven scholarship. The controversies surrounding Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s 1974 work, Time on the Cross: the Economics of American …

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# AI in the Multiverse: Intellects Vast and Cold

In quantum mechanics the state of the universe evolves deterministically: the state of the entire universe at time zero fully determines its state at any later time. It is difficult to reconcile this observation with our experience as macroscopic, nearly classical, beings. To us it seems that there are random outcomes: the state of an …

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# Brainpower Matters: The French H-Bomb

Michel Carayol, father of the French H-Bomb. The article below illuminates several mysteries concerning the French development of thermonuclear weapons. Why did it take so long? Did the French really need help from the British? Who had the crucial idea of radiation compression? The original inventors were Ulam and Teller. In the USSR it was Sakharov. The …

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# Interview with Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Polygenic Risk Scores and Genomic Prediction: Q&A with Stephen Hsu In this exclusive interview, Stephen Hsu (Michigan State University and co-founder of Genomic Prediction) discusses the application of polygenic risk scores (PRS) for complex traits in pre-implantation genetic screening. Interview conducted by Julianna LeMieux (GEN). GEN: What motivated you to start Genomic Prediction? STEVE …

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# Precision Genomic Medicine and the UK

I just returned from the UK, where I attended a Ditchley Foundation Conference on machine learning and genetic engineering. The attendees included scientists, government officials, venture capitalists, ethicists, and medical professionals. The UK could become the world leader in genomic research by combining population-level genotyping with NHS health records. The application of AI to datasets …

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# He did it: He Jiankui talk at HKU conference on gene editing

This is He’s talk from a conference on gene editing, in progress now in HK. (Should start at 1h09.) This article describes serious discussions between He and bioethicists over the last year. It’s important to note that CapEx required for this process is quite modest — not beyond the capability of a medium-sized IVF clinic. …

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# Generation CRISPR?

Very strange. This guy left his university a few years ago to concentrate on this research. Are his claims real? Genome-edited baby claim provokes international outcry (Nature News) The startling announcement by a Chinese scientist represents a controversial leap in the use of genome-editing. A Chinese scientist claims that he has helped make the world’s …

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# Population-wide Genomic Prediction of Health Risks

The UK is ahead of the US in the application of genomics in clinical practice. Part of this is due to their leadership in projects like the UK Biobank (500k genomes with extensive biomedical phenotyping), and part is due to having a single-payer system that can adopt obviously beneficial (and cost-beneficial) practices after some detailed …

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# Adding Items to a Sequence

A question posed on OR-Exchange in 2017 asked the following: Given a tour of nodes, how does one best add two new nodes while respecting the ordering of the original tour. Specifically, the author began with a tour 0 – 1 – 2 – 4 – 6 – 0 (where node 0 is a depot) …

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# NP Confusion

I just finished reading a somewhat provocative article on the CIO website, titled “10 reasons to ignore computer science degrees” (when hiring programmers). While I’m not in the business of hiring coders (although I recent was hired as a “student programmer” on a grant — the Universe has a sense of humor), I find myself …

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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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# Genomic Prediction: A Hypothetical (Embryo Selection), Part 2

The figures below are from the recent paper Genome-wide polygenic scores for common diseases identify individuals with risk equivalent to monogenic mutations (Nature Genetics), discussed previously here. As you can see, genomic prediction of risk allows to identify outliers for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Individuals who are top 1% in polygenic risk score are …

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# Genomic Prediction of disease risk using polygenic scores (Nature Genetics)

It seems to me we are just at the tipping point — soon it will be widely understood that with large enough data sets we can predict complex traits and complex disease risk from genotype, capturing most of the estimated heritable variance. People will forget that many “experts” doubted this was possible — the term …

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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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# Usefulness of Computer Science: An Example

I thought I would follow up on my June 29 post, “Does Computer Science Help with OR?“, by giving a quick example of how exposure to fundamentals of computer science recently helped me. A current research project involves optimization models containing large numbers of what are basically set covering constraints, constraints of the form \(\displaystyle …

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# Does Computer Science Help with OR?

Fair warning: tl/dr. After reading a blog post yesterday by John D. Cook, “Does computer science help you program?“, I decided to throw in my two cents (convert to euros at your own risk) on a related topic: does computer science (which I will extend to including programming) help you as an OR/IE/management science/analytics professional? …

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# Evolution of a (data) visualization

Last summer, I taught the MAET Year 2 Summer Cohort with Danah Henriksen. After teaching the class, Danah realized she had taught five cohorts of (awesome) students and that we had some information available from pre- and post-course self-reported surveys to understand how students grew in terms of their confidence in using different educational (and …

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# Callback Cuts That Repeat

The following post is specific to the CPLEX integer programming solver. I have no idea whether it applies to other solvers, or even which other solver have cut callbacks. Every so often, a user will discover that a callback routine they wrote has “rediscovered” a cut it previously generated. This can be a bit concerning …

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# A Brief History of the (Near) Future: How AI and Genomics Will Change What It Means To Be Human

I’ll be giving the talk below to an audience of oligarchs in Los Angeles next week. This is a video version I made for fun. It cuts off at 17min even though the whole talk is ~25min, because my team noticed that I gave away some sensitive information :-( The slides are here. A Brief …

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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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# Genetic testing and embryo selection: current status and ethical issues

This is a conversation with two Stanford students about the current status of genetic testing of embryos in IVF, focusing on related ethical issues. Because there is a lot of interest in this topic I suggested we record the conversation and put it online. I was at Stanford last fall to give a #nofilter talk …

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# AI and Genomics, explained (2 videos)

This video is a nicely done short introduction to AI for non-specialists. It’s part of Shift Change, a six part series on automation and the future of work. I came across the video when creator Joss Fong (Vox) contacted me about her new project on human genomics and genomic prediction. As readers know I think the …

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# US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?

The US needs a national AI strategy. Many academic researchers that could contribute to AI research — including to fundamental new ideas and algorithms, mathematical frameworks for better understanding why some algorithms and architectures work better than others, etc. — are not able to get involved at the real frontier because they lack the kind …

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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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# Nature, Nurture, and Invention: analysis of Finnish data

What is the dominant causal mechanism for the results shown above? Is it that better family environments experienced by affluent children make them more likely to invent later in life? Is it that higher income fathers tend to pass on better genes (e.g., for cognitive ability) to their children? Obviously the explanation has important implications …

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# Recursive Cortical Networks: data efficient computer vision

Will knowledge from neuroscience inform the design of better AIs (neural nets)? These results from startup Vicarious AI suggest that the answer is yes! (See also this company blog post describing the research.) It has often been remarked that evolved biological systems (e.g., a baby) can learn much faster and using much less data than existing artificial neural nets. …

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# How Europe lost its tech companies

Some perspectives from a Berlin tech guy who has also worked in China. To some extent Europe is like the Midwest of the US: a source of human capital for SV and other places. Europe and the Midwest have strong universities and produce talented individuals, but lack a mature tech ecosystem which includes access to venture …

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# Creating A New MIME Type

I struggled a bit this afternoon creating a new MIME type and associating it with a particular application, so I’m going to archive the solution here for future reference. This was on a Linux Mint system, but I found the key information in a GNOME documentation page, so I suspect it works for Ubuntu and …

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# CMSE (Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering) at MSU

At Oregon I was part of an interdisciplinary institute that included theoretical physicists and chemists, mathematicians, and computer scientists. We tried to create a program (not even a new department, just an interdisciplinary program) in applied math and computation, but failed due to lack of support from higher administration. When I arrived at MSU as …

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In a previous post Half of all jobs (> $60k/y) coding related? I wrote In the future there will be two kinds of jobs. Workers will either Tell computers what to do or Be told by computers what to do I’ve been pushing Michigan State University to offer a coding bootcamp experience to all undergraduates who want … More # 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 # Benders Decomposition with Generic Callbacks Brace yourself. This post is a bit long-winded (and arguably geekier than usual, which is saying something). Also, it involves CPLEX 12.8, which will not ship until some time next month. I have an updated version of an old example, solving a fixed charge transportation problem using Benders decomposition. The example (using Java, naturally) is … More # 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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As I noted in yesterday’s post, one of the major changes associated with the new “generic” callback structure in CPLEX is that users now bear the responsibility of making their callbacks thread-safe. As I also noted yesterday, this is pretty new stuff for me. So I’m going to try to share what I know about thread …

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# CPLEX 12.8: Generic Callbacks

IBM is getting ready to release CPLEX 12.8, and I had the opportunity to attend a presentation about by Xavier Nodet at the 2017 INFORMS annual meeting. Here are links to two presentations by Xavier: CPLEX Optimization Studio 12.8 – What’s New and CPLEX 12.8 – the Generic Callback. As with any new release, there …

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# The Future is Here: Genomic Prediction in MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review reports on our startup Genomic Prediction. Some basic points worth clarifying: 1. GP’s first product, announced at the annual ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) meeting this week, tests chromosomal abnormality. It is a less expensive but more accurate version of existing tests. 2. The polygenic product, to be launched in 2018, checks …

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# What “R” qualitative research methods?

I recently stumbled upon a post on R-bloggers entitled “Qualitative Research in R.” This title got me pretty excited, since I’m generally excited about most things R and since I recently helped teach a qualitative methods course, which has had me thinking about adding more ethnographic and other qualitative elements to my work. I’d also heard of …

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# The Physicist and the Neuroscientist: A Tale of Two Connectomes

This is video of an excellent talk on the human connectome by neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri of Argonne National Lab and the University of Chicago. (You can see me sitting on the floor in the corner :-) The story below is for entertainment purposes only. No triggering of biologists is intended. The Physicist and the Neuroscientist: A …

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# AlphaGo Zero: algorithms over data and compute

AlphaGo Zero was trained entirely through self-play — no data from human play was used. The resulting program is the strongest Go player ever by a large margin, and is extremely efficient in its use of compute (running on only 4 TPUs). Previous versions of AlphaGo initially trained on thousands of human amateur and professional games …

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# Blade Runner 2049: Demis Hassabis (Deep Mind) interviews director Villeneuve

Hassabis refers to AI in the original Blade Runner, but it is apparent from the sequel that replicants are merely genetically engineered humans. AI appears in Blade Runner 2049 in the form of Joi. There seems to be widespread confusion, including in the movie itself, about whether to think about replicants as robots (i.e., hardware) …

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# Information Theory of Deep Neural Nets: “Information Bottleneck”

This talk discusses, in terms of information theory, how the hidden layers of a deep neural net (thought of as a Markov chain) create a compressed (coarse grained) representation of the input information. To date the success of neural networks has been a mainly empirical phenomenon, lacking a theoretical framework that explains how and why …

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# Where are participants in American and Canadian teacher hashtags?

My dissertation research is focused on Regional Educational Twitter Hashtags (RETHs), which are teacher-focused hashtags that are associated with particular geographic regions, such as American states or Canadian provinces or territories. This isn’t the first time that I’ve done a project on this phenomenon, and it’s rewarding to come back to RETHs to answer some questions that …

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# A Gentle Introduction to Neural Networks

“A gentle introduction to the principles behind neural networks, including backpropagation. Rated G for general audiences.” This very well done. If you have a quantitative background you can watch it at 1.5x or 2x speed, I think :-) A bit more on the history of backpropagation and convexity: why is the error function convex, or nearly …

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# Phase Transitions and Genomic Prediction of Cognitive Ability

James Thompson (University College London) recently blogged about my prediction that with sample size of order a million genotypes|phenotypes, one could construct a good genomic predictor for cognitive ability and identify most of the associated common SNPs. The Hsu Boundary … The “Hsu boundary” is Steve Hsu’s estimate that a sample size of roughly 1 …

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# Public data and digital research ethics

The Verge recently posted an article that highlights some of the ethical dilemmas involved in collecting publicly-available data for research purposes. The article begins by describing the work of a researcher working on facial recognition of people before and after hormone replacement therapy: On YouTube, he found a treasure trove. Individuals undergoing HRT often document their progress …

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# BENEFICIAL AI 2017 (Asilomar meeting)

AI researcher Yoshua Bengio gives a nice overview of recent progress in Deep Learning, and provides some perspective on challenges that must be overcome to achieve AGI (i.e., human-level general intelligence). I agree with Bengio that the goal is farther than the recent wave of excitement might lead one to believe. There were many other …

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# DeepMind and StarCraft II Learning Environment

This Learning Environment will enable researchers to attack the problem of building an AI that plays StarCraft II at a high level. As observed in the video, this infrastructure development required significant investment of resources by DeepMind / Alphabet. Now, researchers in academia and elsewhere have a platform from which to explore an important class …

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# Normies Lament

Ezra Klein talks to Angela Nagle. It’s still normie normative, but Nagle has at least done some homework. Click the link below to hear the podcast. From 4Chan to Charlottesville: where the alt-right came from, and where it’s going Angela Nagle spent the better part of the past decade in the darkest corners of the …

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# A couple of podcasts on screencasting

I’ve posted before about teaching CEP 813, a class on electronic assessment that features a unit on game-based assessment in Minecraft. This unit is by far the most intense in terms of technical support, and we had a major hiccup earlier this month that caused some frustration for the whole class (and instructional team). After …

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