Monday, September 30, 2013

To Drone or Not to Drone

Semantics is not a game.

Drone industry to journalists: Don't use the word 'drones'
Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, 2013 Aug 14

Word Up

Brain Translation of Words:An fMRI decoding study of speech recognition
Joao Correia, Milene Bonte, Giancarlo Valente, Lars Hausfeld, Elia Formisano, Bernadette Jansma; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, and Maastricht Brain Imaging Center (M-BIC), Maastricht, The Netherlands
Neurobiology of Language Conference; San Sebastian, Spain; October 2012

Wegman reading two books

How do we represent the meaning of words independent of the language we are listening to?

This fMRI study investigates the neural network of speech processing responsible for transforming sound to meaning, by exploring the semantic similarities between bilingual wordpairs. Eight native Dutch participants with high proficiency of English listened to four different nouns (animals), either spoken in Dutch or in English.

These nouns were presented in separate runs for each language while participants were asked to detect non-animal targets (11% of the trials) within a list of animal non-target items. Activity patterns elicited by these non-target stimuli was analyzed using Machine learning methods and multivariate classifiers.
Firstly, to identify brain regions generally involved in spoken word processing, we let the classifier discriminate between word pairs within the same language (e.g. bull vs. horse).

Secondly, to isolate language-independent semantic/conceptual representations in these regions, we assessed the ability of multivariate classifiers trained within one language (e.g. bull vs. horse) to generalize to the other language (e.g. the Dutch equivalents ‘stier’ vs. ‘paard’).

The results of our discrimination analysis show that word decoding involves a distributed network of brain regions consistent with the proposed ‘dual-stream model’ (Hickok and Poeppel, 2007). The results of our generalization analysis highlights a focal and specific role of a left anterior temporal area in semantic/concept decoding. Together, these distributed and focal brain activity patterns subserve the extraction of abstract semantic concepts from acoustically diverse English and Dutch words during bilingual speech comprehension.

There is one major drawback to the process, which quashes any visions of a full-on real-time mind translation machine hitting stores anytime soon — the neural activity patterns differed slightly from person to person. Our neurons learn and identify in unique ways, and understanding these pathway patterns through machine learning would be a long process. “You would have to scan a person as they thought their way through a dictionary,” said Matt Davis of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. It would be difficult to translate a mind now without this concept map. However, we are only at the beginning of this line of study, and an algorithm could potentially be devised to aggregate hundreds of neural activity patterns to help indicate what the brain activity of an individual unable to communicate represents.

Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach
H. Andrew Schwartz, Johannes C. Eichstaedt, Margaret L. Kern, Lukasz Dziurzynski, Stephanie M. Ramones, Megha Agrawal, Achal Shah, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell, Martin E. P. Seligman, Lyle H. Ungar
Sept. 25, 2013

We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age. In our open-vocabulary technique, the data itself drives a comprehensive exploration of language that distinguishes people, finding connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses. Our analyses shed new light on psychosocial processes yielding results that are face valid (e.g., subjects living in high elevations talk about the mountains), tie in with other research (e.g., neurotic people disproportionately use the phrase ‘sick of’ and the word ‘depressed’), suggest new hypotheses (e.g., an active life implies emotional stability), and give detailed insights (males use the possessive ‘my’ when mentioning their ‘wife’ or ‘girlfriend’ more often than females use ‘my’ with ‘husband’ or 'boyfriend’). To date, this represents the largest study, by an order of magnitude, of language and personality.
-via io9

Facts vs Values in Science

Science, performing some social hygiene:
(and using what else but climate change as the primary example)

Better scientific policy decisions start with knowing facts from values, Aug 2013

When gathering public input on policy questions, scientists can speak with authority about facts, but must remember that everyone is an expert when it comes to values.

"Using climate change as an example, a scientist could say, 'The climate is changing.' That's a fact that can be checked," said Thomas Dietz, a member of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) and professor of sociology, environmental science and policy, and animal studies.

"But if a scientist says, 'We need to take these actions to halt climate change because it's affecting what people care about,' that's a value. And scientists have no more authority to speak about values than anyone else. Everyone is qualified to speak about values."

Bringing values and deliberation to science communication, Thomas Dietz, 2013
This paper results from the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, “The Science of Science Communication,” held May 21–22, 2012, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. The complete program and audio files of most presentations are available on the NAS Web site at

see also:
Anthropogenic Metadata on Climate Science
aka The Low-Hanging Fruit of Neuro-Pop in the Age of Big Datty
July 21, 2013

Collective Decision Making Fail

Field study shows group decision making not always the best
Aug 1, 2013,

team studies ants looking for a new nest:

The team noted that when one of the nests was obviously far superior to the other, both the colony as a whole, and individual ants more often chose the better option. What was surprising, however, was that individuals had a slightly better hit rate then the colony as a whole.

When a colony "decides" it needs a new nest, scout ants are sent out to find a new site. When one of the scout ants finds one it likes, it releases a chemical that attracts another of the colony members. If that member also likes the site it too will release a chemical attracting another ant and so on. The site that gets the most "votes" is the one eventually chosen by the colony. But, when a single ant is forced (by the researchers) to make a decision about which site to pick, it has to look at all the options and make a decision on its own—that takes more time than the multiple ant approach because in that scenario, individual ants only ever review one site—its more efficient. It's also more likely to lead to errors of course and that's why the colony as a whole tended to choose the wrong best site more often than the single ants—when the choice was obvious—who could make the decision without having to waste time thinking it over.

Ant colonies outperform individuals when a sensory discrimination task is difficult but not when it is easy, PNAS, Published online before print July 29, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304917110

All Bodies Are Virtual

Adults become more like children in a virtual world
BBC 16 July 2013

In a virtual world adults in a child-like body start to perceive the world more like a child, a study has shown.

Adults were either placed in a virtual four-year-old body or an adult body scaled down to the same size.

It was found that participants in the child's body overestimated the size of objects and identified better with child-like attributes.

Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes.

source: pnas

Sexualized avatars affect the real world, researchers find
Oct 10, 2013,
A Stanford study shows that after women wear sexualized avatars in a virtual reality world, they feel objectified and are more likely to accept rape myths in the real world. The research could have implications for the role of female characters in video games.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Distal Perception

Zoologist Andrew Parker explains the sudden Cambrian explosion thus: 

The oceans become transparent, revealing a new world, "if only there were eyes to see".

And so, eyeballs, and with it "distal perception" allows action at a distance, or at least, a distance much greater...

via Dan Dennett, on the subject of strategic forecasting etc.

The Predictionary

See below: the methodology alone is a complete mindfuck, and should provide some sense of the nature of scientific studies in the age of big data.

Get ready...

Researchers say readers' identities can reveal much about content of articles
Aug 12, 2013
modified article:

Articles that people share on social networks can reveal a lot about those readers, but a  new study reverses the proposition: What can be learned about an article from the attributes of its readers?

To find out, the CMU researchers, along with colleagues at the University of Washington, analyzed almost 3 million news articles and the public profiles of the people who shared those articles on Twitter.

This enabled them to generate a few thousand "badges" that characterized the content of the shared news articles and also could be used to analyze any subsequent article, including those that had never been shared or even read.

In order to train their model, the team began by looking at three months of tweets—from September of 2010, 2011 and 2012—and selecting those that included links to mainstream news articles and came from a user who had filled out a Twitter profile.

[collect major news outlet's articles that have been tweeted about] 

Each news article was then downloaded and the most meaningful, unique words were extracted, creating a "bag of words" for each article; similar to a visual word cloud, these bags give greater weight to more important words. Likewise, from each user's Twitter profile, a set of descriptive words, or badges, was extracted.

[each article, as well as each twitter-user-profile, gets a weighted wordcloud]

By comparing the bags of words with badges from the people who shared the articles, the researchers were able to create a dictionary that associated each badge with its characteristic words. For example, people who self-identify with the music badge in their profiles are likely to share articles with words such as "band," "album" and "song." Different dictionaries were created for each year to compensate for interests or topics that change over time. These dictionaries were then used to encode new articles, leading to a document representation based on attributes of potential readers.

[the article wordclouds and the user-profile wordclouds of the users who tweeted those articles are cross-correlated to create a "dictionary", or rather a "predictionary", if you will, that predicts who will share what, or what will be shared by whom]

Case Study Example:
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had readers who tended to be progressive. This association was notable because Dowd never explicitly uses the word "progressive" in the articles analyzed by the researchers. Rather, the algorithm detected that the words Dowd uses in these articles correspond to the type of content self-described progressives tend to share on Twitter.
-Carnegie Mellon University

Cotard Syndrome

aka Walking Corpse syndrome

rare mental disorder in which people hold a delusional belief that they are dead (either figuratively or literally), do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs. In rare instances, it can include delusions of immortality.
-Berrios G.E. and Luque R. (1995) Cotard Syndrome: clinical analysis of 100 cases. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 91: 185-188

Those who suffer from this illness often deny that they exist or that a certain portion of their body exists.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Swift Quanxi

undersea cable cross-section

E-commerce's future is in creating 'swift guanxi,' or personal and social rapport, 14 Jun 2013
modified article:

online marketplaces can create the sense of personal and social relationships between buyers and sellers, termed "swift guanxi" in China, to facilitate loyalty, interactivity and repeat transactions

Guanxi is a Chinese concept "broadly defined as a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship" and "based on high-quality social interactions and the reciprocal exchange of mutual benefits" (Ou, Pavlou and Davison)

Communication before a transaction of a few dollars could take more than 45 minutes; this is in stark contrast to American marketplace expectations.

"This study validates this warning by showing the ability of social technologies to transform online marketplaces from impersonal transactions among strangers to personal relationships among virtual friends," Pavlou said. "The future of electronic commerce lies in personal relationships virtually enabled by social technologies."

"Swift Guanxi in Online Marketplaces: The Role of Computer-Mediated-Communication Technologies," MIS Quarterly
Professor Paul A. Pavlou, Temple University Fox School of Business; Carol Xiaojuan Ou, Tilburg University; Robert M. Davison, City University of Hong Kong


You ain't fake, until you China-fake
This guy is David Choe btw

Inside the Elaborate Web Presence of the Government's Fake University
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2016

They made up a fake president with fake tweets about his fake grandmother passing away, where fake students send fake condolences on fake facebook pages. Phew!

Fake US university exposes 'pay-to-stay' immigration fraud
BBC News, April 2016

Alibaba’s Jack Ma: Better-Than-Ever Fakes Worsen Piracy War
Bloomberg, June 2016

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. founder Jack Ma said Chinese-made counterfeit goods today have gotten better than the genuine article, complicating the effort to root out fakes

China's Copycat Cars Compete With Western Giants
NBC News, May 2016

Gordon Snoddy, a vice-president with Jaguar Land Rover. "We are the authentic premier SUV brand that has been around for a long period of time. I think imitation is the best form of flattery, isn't it?"

Kay Jewelers accused of swapping diamonds with fakes
wreg, May 2015

[and in other 'fake' news]
NYC jury hears details of modern masters forgery scandal
circa 2015

China 'fake exhibit' museum shut down
16 July 2013
A museum in China's Hebei province has shut after many of its exhibits were found to be fakes, state media report.

Reports said millions of dollars were spent building the museum and buying exhibits - the exact amount is unclear.

These included an item which was apparently inscribed with "Made by Huangdi," the Yellow Emperor, who was a legendary sovereign in Chinese tradition.

But the "signature" was written in simplified Chinese characters and dated to about the 27th Century BC, long before such characters were even created.

Chinese zoo tries to pass off a dog as a lion
George Dvorsky, 8/15/13 
A Chinese zoo is under fire for trying to disguise a Tibetan mastiff dog for a lion
Louvre in Paris fears fake Chinese ticket scam
12 September 2013

Medicines Made in India and China Set Off Safety Worries: "China is the source of some of the largest counterfeit manufacturing operations that we find globally."

Artificial snowstorm brings chaos to Beijing - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Investigation reveals black market in China for research paper authoring
Nov 29, 2013

Chinese nationals accused of taking SATs for others - BBC News
BBC - May 2015

The US Department of Justice has charged 15 Chinese nationals with developing a scheme to have imposters take university entrance exams.

The prosecutor said that the students also cheated student visa requirements by using counterfeit Chinese passports.

After China’s fake Rolex - now there’s a fake Goldman Sachs
Irish Times, Aug 2015

Who's investigating fake Chinese goods? Fake investigators
Associated Press, Dec 2015

Double Wut

straight-up repost, because it's worth it:
Double Matrix, on Mind Hacks, July 2013
This is quite possibly the least comprehensible abstract of a psychology article I have ever read. It starts off dense and wordy and ends up feeling like you’re huffing butane.
The psychologization of humanitarian aid: skimming the battlefield and the disaster zone. Hist Human Sci. 2011;24(3):103-22. De Vos J.

Humanitarian aid’s psycho-therapeutic turn in the 1990s was mirrored by the increasing emotionalization and subjectivation of fund-raising campaigns. In order to grasp the depth of this interconnectedness, this article argues that in both cases what we see is the post-Fordist production paradigm at work; namely, as Hardt and Negri put it, the direct production of subjectivity and social relations. To explore this, the therapeutic and mental health approach in humanitarian aid is juxtaposed with the more general phenomenon of psychologization.

This allows us to see that the psychologized production of subjectivity has a problematic waste-product as it reduces the human to ‘Homo sacer’, to use Giorgi Agamben’s term. Drawing out a double matrix of a de-psychologizing psychologization connected to a politicizing de-politicization, it will further become possible to understand psycho-therapeutic humanitarianism as a case of how, in these times of globalization, psychology, subjectivity and money are all interrelated.
via PubMed

also see this great explanation for why you think your phone is ringing when it's not