Adonis Diaries

Google launched an initiative to improve how users work with artificial intelligence

  • The research initiative will involve collaborations with people in multiple Google product groups, as well as professors from Harvard and MIT.
  • More informative explanations of recommendations could result from the research over time.
| Monday, 10 Jul 2017 | 12:00 PM ET

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Google I/O 2016 at Shoreline Amphitheatre

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Alphabet on Monday said it has kicked off a new research initiative aimed at improving human interaction with artificial intelligence systems.

The People + AI Research (PAIR) program currently encompasses a dozen people who will collaborate with Googlers in various product groups — as well as outsiders like Harvard University professor Brendan Meade and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Hal Abelson.

The research could eventually lead to refinements in the interfaces of the smarter components of some of the world’s most popular apps. And Google’s efforts here could inspire other companies to adjust their software, too.

“One of the things we’re going to be looking into is this notion of explanation — what might be a useful on-time, on-demand explanation about why a recommendation system did something it did,” Google Brain senior staff research scientist Fernanda Viegas told CNBC in an interview.

The PAIR program takes inspiration from the concept of design thinking, which highly prioritizes the needs of people who will use the products being developed.

While end users — such as YouTube’s 1.5 billion monthly users — can be the target of that, the research is also meant to improve the experience of working with AI systems for AI researchers, software engineers and domain experts as well, Google Brain senior staff research scientist Martin Wattenberg told CNBC.

The new initiative fits in well with Google’s increasing focus on AI.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has repeatedly said the world is transitioning from being mobile-first to AI-first, and the company has been taking many steps around that thesis.

Recently, for example, Google formed a venture capital group to invest in AI start-ups.

Meanwhile Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have been active in AI in the past few years as well.

The company implemented a redesign for several of its apps in 2011 and in more recent years has been sprucing up many of its properties with its material design principles.

in 2016 John Maeda, then the design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, pointed out in his annual report on design in technology that Google had been perceived as improving the most in design.

What is new is that Googlers are trying to figure out how to improve design specifically for AI components. And that’s important because AI is used in a whole lot of places around Google apps, even if you might not always realize it.

Video recommendations in YouTube, translations in Google Translate, article suggestions in the Google mobile app and even Google search results are all enhanced with AI.

Note: with no specific examples to understand what Justin is talking about, consider this article as free propaganda to Google


Selling confusion

Over the last few decades, there’s been a consistent campaign to sow confusion around evolution, vaccines and climate change.

Confusion doesn’t need to be right to be confusing

In all three areas, we all have access to far more data, far more certainty and endless amounts of proof that the original theories have held up.

The data is more accurate than it’s ever been.

Evolution is the best way to explain and predict the origin and change of species. (Adaptation to nature?)

Vaccines are not the cause of autism and save millions of kids’ (and parents’) lives.

And the world is, in fact, getting dangerously warmer.

And yet…

Poll after poll in many parts of the world show that people are equivocating or outright denying all three.

Unlike the increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations, the deniers have an endless list of reasons for their confusion, many of which contradict each other.

Worth noting that this response doesn’t happen around things that are far more complicated or scientifically controversial (like gravity and dark matter). It’s the combination of visceral impact and tribal cohesion that drives the desire to deny.

Cigarette companies were among the original denialists (they claimed that cigarettes were unrelated to lung cancer, but that didn’t work out very well for them), and much of their confusion playbook is being used on these new topics..

To what end? Confusion might help some industries or causes in the short run, but where does it lead?

Working to turn facts into political issues doesn’t make them any less true. (Unless the power-to-be manages to sustain the false claims?)

If this growing cohort ‘wins’, what do they get?

In a post-science world, where physics and testable facts are always open to the layman’s opinion in the moment, how are things better? How does one develop a new antibiotic without an understanding of speciation and disease resistance?

I know what the science p.o.v. gets us if it prevails, if evolution is taught in schools, if vaccines become ever safer and widespread, if governments and corporations begin to ameliorate and prepare for worldwide weather change.

What’s a mystery is what the anti-science comfounders get if they prevail. What happens when we don’t raise the next generation of scientists, when vaccines become politically and economically untenable, when we close our eyes and simply rebuild houses on the floodplain again?

Gravity doesn’t care if you believe in it, neither does lung cancer.

Ask a confusor that the next time he offers a short term smoke screen. If this is a race to be the most uninformed, and the most passive, what if we win?

This dumb hobby: Bruising your knuckles

On beating yourself up

Almost everyone does it. I’m not sure why.

After the fact (or even during it) all the blame, second-guessing and paralysis. We say things to ourselves that we’d never permit anyone else to say. Why?

  1. It leaves us bruised and battered, unlikely to do our best work while we’re recovering.
  2. It hurts our knuckles.
  3. It distracts us from the work at hand.

Perhaps there’s a more humane and productive way to instill positive forward motion. I’m sure there is.

At the very least, this is a dumb hobby.

How death has changed over 100 years in Britain

Childhood was once perilous and adult lives were often cut short – but life expectancy now tops 80 years

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, but just how – and at what age – we are likely to exit the world has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, thanks to changing social structures and advances in medicine and technology.

While once childhood was a perilous period and adult lives were often cut short, life expectancy at birth now tops 80 years in the UK.

The data collated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) encompasses all causes of death, labelled according to the World Health Organization’s international classification of diseases – hence cancer is split into different types, rather than grouped together. The labels for causes of death are those used at the time the records were made.

Infant mortality and measles

“The oldest inhabitants recollected no period at which measles had been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence; and many were the mournful processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat-band reaching down to his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mothers in the town,” writes Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, capturing the devastation measles could bring.

Measles was the leading cause of death in children in 1915

Number of deaths per 10,000 deaths


1. Measles
2. Broncho-pneumonia
3. Diphtheria
4. Whooping cough
5. Tuberculous meningitis
6. Bronchitis (other)
7. Pneumonia (type not stated)
8. Meningitis, other forms
9. Scarlet fever
10. Pulmonary tuberculosis

Yet even before the introduction of a vaccine against measles in 1968, and subsequently the MMR vaccine in 1988, the rate of deaths attributed to the infection had begun to fall.

The trend has been used by some as evidence of the virus becoming less deadly. But experts say in reality it is down to other factors including better nutrition, improved health services – such as the development of antibiotics, preventing death from secondary infections – and, crucially, reduced overcrowding due to better housing. “Measles is incredibly infectious so if you have got overcrowding it spreads like wildfire,” said Helen Bedford, professor of children’s health at University College London.

Even so, as of 1955 measles was still the eighth leading cause of death in those under 15.

Deaths from measles only became a rarity with the introduction of vaccines – a move that could also have helped to drive a drop in childhood deaths from other diseases, given that measles can leave the immune system weakened for more than two years.

But measles remains a deadly disease. Between January 2016 and July 2017, 35 deaths were reported in Europe, primarily among unvaccinated individuals – a situation that has been blamed, at least in part, on the impact of anti-vaccination campaigns.

“In 2015 [worldwide] there were 134,000 deaths from measles. That’s 15 deaths every hour,” Bedford added.

Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatrics at the University of Oxford, agreed that vaccination was a priority. “The thing we can do today [in vaccination] that would make the biggest difference to child mortality in the world would be to get the extra 20% of children vaccinated against measles who are not currently vaccinated.”

War and traffic

Diseases, whether acute infections or chronic illnesses, account for the vast majority of deaths, regardless of decade. But data for 1945 reveals the impact of another deadly outbreak: war.

In the year the second world war drew to a close, it was the seventh leading cause of death for those aged 14 or under, and the 10th leading cause of death for those aged 15-49. The figures only relate to those who died in England and Wales and do not include deaths abroad, so those who died in world wars overseas are not in the data.

Other societal changes are also reflected in the data. Probably down to both reductions in deaths from infectious diseases and an increase in traffic, in 1945 deaths linked to motor vehicles entered the top 10 causes for the first time, being the second most common cause of death in under 15s with more than 1,050 cases.

Motor vehicles were the second highest cause of death among under 15s in 1945

From 1955 to 1995, “motor vehicle traffic accident involving collision with pedestrian” was the leading cause of death among children under 15, albeit with declining figures. By 2015 it had fallen out of the top 10 causes altogether.

Nick Lloyd, road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said the decline in deaths was probably down to a number of factors, including the use of child car seats – keeping children inside cars safe – changing car design to reduce the chances of a pedestrian being killed in a collision, better road safety education, the introduction of traffic calming measures and even a reduction in the number of children who walk or cycle to school.

Suicide on the rise

According to the ONS, suicide encompasses deaths that are known to have been down to intentional self-harm and death by injuries where the intent was undetermined.

However, the latter does not apply for those under the age of 15 since such deaths could, for example, be down to abuse or neglect – so although suicide can be recorded as a cause of death for those aged 10 and over, the figures presented here only encompass those for individuals over the age of 14.

Trends in those taking their own life are far from simple – with changes in rates over the last century showing different patterns for different age groups, sexes and even methods.

“The risks for different groups of people are quite different,” said Elizabeth Scowcroft, research manager at the Samaritans.

Taken together, one thing is clear: in recent decades suicide has become one of the leading causes of death among those aged 15-49 – and men are about three times more likely than women to take their own life.

In 2015, suicide was one of the leading causes of death among people aged 15-49

1. Suicide (specific methods)
2. Accidental poisoning by narcotics and psycho-dysleptics
3. Alcoholic liver disease
4. Breast cancer
5. Chronic ischaemic heart disease
6. Acute myocardial infarction
7. Cancer of lung, bronchus and trachea
8. Brain cancer
9. Pneumonia
10. Accidental poisoning by other drugs, medicaments and biological substances

Older population

In 2015 Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and unspecified dementia all made it into the top 10 causes of death for the first time.

It’s far from a straightforward shift and probably down to a combination of factors including longer life expectancy, as more people reach the oldest ages, and better survival of other illnesses.

But this is not the full story. Improvements in diagnosis and changes in the ways in which deaths are recorded or classified have probably also played a role.

Searching all deaths from 1945, for example, there is no mention of dementia or anything similar – yet it is unlikely that there were no deaths at all from diseases that cause dementia.

Dementia was one of the leading causes of death for the over 85s in 2015

1. Chronic ischaemic heart disease
2. Dementia
3. Cancer of lung, bronchus and trachea
4. Pneumonia
5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (other)
6. Acute myocardial infarction
7. Stroke not specified as hemorrhage or infarction
8. Alzheimer’s disease
9. Vascular dementia
10. Prostate cancer

One possible clue might lie in the number of deaths in the early to mid 20th century that are classified as “senile decay” or simply “old age”. Since what are now known as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were once considered a natural part of the ageing process, it is possible that such deaths were, at least in part, swept up under these catch-all labels. The labelling system used in 1965 offers further insights with the appearance of “senile psychosis” and, in 1985, “other cerebral degenerations” – a label which included Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It could also be that some deaths now counted as dementia might have been attributed to other illnesses present in an individual.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at


The data was collated by the Office for National Statistics from the general register officer and reflects the causes of death as reported at that time. It’s not possible to accurately draw trends from changes in the specific causes of death as definitions vary over time. No children under the age of one are included in the data.

Death rates are based on the number of deaths attributable to any given cause across all age groups. All the classifications are taken from the international classification of diseases, which is currently managed by the World Health Organization

Notes and tidbits on FB and Twitter. Part 65

Two US navy ships arrived to Qatar, supposedly to train Qatari marine

Aunt Therese lived with us for 3 years since I was  12. She treated me like her younger brother. She bought me books: collection Rose and Verte. We upgraded to Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Alexandre Dumas (Pére et Fils)…She took me to see foreign movies My Fair lady, Songs of Music…If you are reading my notes, comments and articles, it is because of her very silent encouragement.

Avez-vous vu un éléphanteau mourant, couché sur le flanc, sa petite trompe inerte, vous regardant des yeux óu semblent s’être réfugiées toutes les qualities humaine et don’t l’humanité est si dépourvue?

L’éléphante, cherchant son petit, surgit devant moi avec toute la légereté d’une montagne s’apprétant á me tomber dessus.

Our ID has a bar code if you want to run the election electronically. Why this magnetic election card?

Le Saint Esprit fut crée pour offrir l’immunité totale a Dieu. A kind of Moral Entity?

Le venin du racism et de l’aparteid des societies occidentales, forcées de l’enfouire publiquement, s’épanche á volonté dans la sociéte Israelienne. 

L’age ravageuse se rend compte lorsequ’on n’a plus les moyens de rêver d’un lendemain meilleur

Les gens ont besoin d’amitié. S’ils ne la trouvent que chez les chiens, chats et canaris… c’est que la civilization a échouée

Ce “bandit d’honneur” qui place la sauveguarde de la faune sauvage au-dessus des hommes mesquins qui cherchent le plaisir á abattre tout animal en vue.

Ce que le progress demande est de rompre avec les mystéres, de renoncer aux coutumes qui sont enracinées dans les splendeurs de la nature

Le gouvernement central est convaincu qu’une colonisation qui n’aboutit pas á un movement sédicieux et á des massacres n’est pas une colonisation réussie

L’amie prodigieuse” d’Elena Ferrante. A lire.

Seules, les femmes savent raconteur leur enfance

La plébe c’est nous: on se dispute pour la nourriture, contre ceux qui sont mieux servis durant les fêtes, les rancunes qui durent des années après chaque noce et fête

The girl in the book: she had character and she lived in her shadow for 15 years

Les Francais: on s’en fout d’une opposition au parlement. 57% n’ont pas voté au second tour.

La France se mobilise pour quoi faire? Endiguer le chomage?

Hollande a fait la guerre et a ruiné la Syrie et n’a rien fait pour les émigrés et le Liban

Who is the normal person? The one affected by his childhood. Or the one who came out, as if in coma of feelings?

Elle avait des yeux gris qui ont tout vu, et victorieusement

J’ai une grande experience de la solitude: Je sais qu’une présence sympathique peut vous faire du bien, même de loin.

Je redoublais de gentillesse en publique á l’égard de cet homme qui me dégoutait, pour éviter le reproche d’ hypocrisie que l’on nous fait si facilement, á nous autres Anglais (Great irony)

Elle ne cachait pas ses sentiments avec moi: Elle savait qu’elle ne risquait rien, puisque le gentleman en moi ne comprendrait pas

La décence: une qualité sans grandes ambitions, sans genie…et pourtant, un rameau, une pousse devant lequel l’humanité eût dû hésiter plus qu’elle ne l’avait fait

L’indécence a les mêmes characteristiques que la décence : une nulité.

Sans les peines qu’on fait subir á autrui

L’humour: l’arme par excellence pour lutter contre soi-même. One ne forge pas cette arme facilement

Il est désagréable pour un homme d’être traité comme un pére par une jeune jolie femme. (Elle doit être jolie pour avoir cet effet)

Il est aussi désagréable de se sentir á 16 ans considéré comme un enfant. La même chose pour les jolies femmes.

Saudi monarchy has lost its war in Yemen

Its illusory power purchased in malignant medias and with sectarian alliances:

Hassan Nasr Allah (General Secretary of Hezbollah of Lebanon) has manhandled this obscurantist monarchy’s “worthless pride“.

And this Wahhabi monarchy is reacting with virulent counter attacks on any media disseminating the free expressions of Nasr Allah, opinions based on facts that most reasonable person understand and had witnessed for decades, starting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Kingdom started sanctions on Lebanon and a series of internal meddling after the heart felt speech of Al Sayyed

The Arab world most serious descent into ignorance was not during the ottoman Empire dominion, but when the Saudi monarchy acceded to wealth to wreck havoc in the Arabic societies since 1925.

Million of kids are suffering from hunger in Yemen and thousands have succumbed to cholera that affected half a million.

Scores of Saudi reformists are being detained. Head chopping is still the regulation and increasing for other reasons Not mentioned in Shari3a.

Thousands of religious madrassat and mosques are still being erected everywhere, with Wahhabi clerics heading them and teaching extremist and terrorist behaviors to newer generations.

All enlightened leaders (Antoun Saadeh, Boumedian, Abdel Nasser …) have stated that as long as Saudi Kingdom (Wahhabi sect) is standing, there will be no peace or progress in the Arab World.

And this terror mentality (of considering every other belief system other than Wahhabi should be eradicated by death) is spreading all around the world communities via ISIS.

Mind you that the tomb of Prophet Mohammad was destroyed and Al Ka3ba was a target to be blown up until Britain pressured Saud to desist from this objective because its Moslem colonies were in upheaval.

Notes and tidbits on FB and Twitter. Part 64

Man-made designs barely consider the idiosyncrasies of users and the environment of the community and the designers lack the necessary knowledge, technically and the socio-psychological intricacies, of the users and community.

The diversity of users and environments will easily pinpoint the deficiencies in any man-made system. The proper functioning of any system in the medium term relies solely on the acceptance of the idiosyncrasy of the community, regardless of the level of performance the system is delivering, particularly in health and safety usage and applications

The plot is thickening in Lebanon. The sectarian political system is Not ready for any reform of the election law. Any reform means giving leverage to the civil society that is growing and growling.

If we have to comprehend Lebanon on sectarian divide, it is more likely that the Shi3a constitute 45%, the Sunnis (including the Druze who never were Sunnis by any long shot in their history) 35% and all the Christian sects barely 25%.

How can an election law be tailor-made to offer the Christians 50% of the seats on their own voting potentials (according to the implicit agreement since its independence and Not by the Constitution)? It is Not feasible.

A leap of faith that the Lebanese citizens have developed to adhere to a civil society is necessary from the Christian political parties.

The emotional labor of listening when we’d rather yell, of working with someone instead of firing him, of seeking out facts and insights that we don’t (yet) agree with. and of being prepared…

The tiny “Arabic” Gulf States will solely pay the heavy price from any confrontation with Iran, military or economic. They will be drastically destabilized and investment will evaporate in no time. They better stand fast against the onslaught of this crazy Saudi Kingdom geo-political orientation.

Historically, the so-called Arabic Empire was basically Islamic, where the Arabic language was adopted for doing sciences and philosophy.

The Omayyad Empire was Syrian-based civilization, the Abbasid was Persian-based culture, the Fatimid was Maghreb-based customs implanted in Egypt and Andalusia was pretty much North African traditions.

Saudi Kingdom is trying this illusion that it is renewing a dead Arabic dominion against Persia Iran.

One-time imitation learning: An algorithm allows for teaching a robot how to do something by first having a human being demonstrate it in a virtual reality setting. Developed by a team at OpenAI, backed by Elon Musk.

“Tu n’a pas encore appris á aimer que tu sais d’instinct l’amour qui exalte et ennoblit”

“C’est l âme qui désir les corps” sinon pourquoi tous nos efforts pour rester en bonne santé et apprendre á souffrire les petites malaises?

La justice est une fugitive du camps des vainqueurs. Ces réfugiés Syriens, en quels camps de vainqueurs ont-ils été incarcerés?

La caste des privilégiés ne tarde jamais á se reconstruire dans tous les systémes politiques: Follow the money trail as source of this perpetual reconstruction

On peut toujours faire régner un peu plus de justice du pouvoir et l’argent. Les autres injustices peuvent être remedies, plus ou moins, par l’argent.

L’injustice nous suit dés le début: á nous de récupérer les brins de justice qui nous sont dues, si on refuse de n’être plus indifferent.

Il y a 2 sortes d’imbéciles: ceux qui croient aux progrés, et les pires imbéciles qui ne voient aucun progrés.

You own your level of freedom by the willful efforts you invest in retaining it, by continuing education and frequent active engagement in civil society

La claire vue du Bien entraine l’acte. Ce qui sous-entend que l’on n’est pas indifferent au cas presentés á nos choix

La vision distincte du Vrai entraine l’assentiment, meme si notre acte n’y adhere pas nécessairement.

Chacun invente son concept du Bien par les actes et les reactions qu’il produit.

Si vous ne pratiquez pas consciement le “Non” et le refus, personne ne distinguera ta volonté d’autonomie d’un être libre.

It is useless to comprehend philosophical works before you learned and developed your experimental mind.

The ideal pedagogical method is to focus on developing the experimental mind early on.

Apparently, Christian Lebanese applying to public posts are still under the illusion that they’ll outperform the “others” in the tests. Wrong. No mounasafa (50/50 share) for the less qualified.

Le monde est plein de choses tres belles. On passe sa vie sans les connaitre.

Sans un passport colonial, c’est difficile de voir toutes ces beautes: On doit se contenter des beautés locales

Women are the species. On the individual level, males observe the follies of women. On the scale of mass killing, women observe.




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