Is Your Phone Smarter Than You Yet?

IoT
      Image by Chen from Pixabay

Predictions can be interesting, but people rarely look back at ones to see if they were correct. I wrote a post titled "In 4 Years Your Phone Will Be Smarter Than You (and the rise of cognizant computing)"  It has more than 969,000 views since I posted it in November 2013. Next year will be 10 years since that prediction. Is your phone smarter than you yrt?

That was not my prediction but it was an analysis from the market research firm Gartner. They weren't as concerned with hardware as with data and cloud computational ability. I said then that phones will appear smarter than you IF you equate smarts with being able to recall information and make inferences. Surely, those two things are part of being "smart" but not all of it.

"Smart" is also defined sometimes as being knowledgeable of something especially through personal experience, mindful, even cognizant of the potential dangers. Cognizant is a synonym for awareness. I have bee reading a lot about artificial intelligence lately. While cognizant computing does use algorithms to anticipate users' needs, dpong so doesn't approach actual "consciousness."

If an app has my browsing history, purchase records, financial information, and whatever is available somewhere on the cloud (known or unbeknownst to me) it can be pretty good at predicting somethings about me.

Cognitive computing isn't the same thing, though so much of all this seems to overlap. Cognitive computing (part of cognitive science) and attempts to simulate the human thought process.

As I said, these things overlap, at least to someone like myself who isn't really working in these fields. Maybe it makes a kind of sense that AI, cognitive and cognizant computing, signal processing, machine learning, natural language processing, speech and vision recognition, human-computer interaction and probably a dozen I'm forgetting. I suspect that all these things will converge at some point in the future to create the ultimate AI.

I don't see as many mentions these days to the Internet of things (IoT) as I did a decade ago. Internet-enabled objects exist in my home as "appliances." This morning I was checking my Ecobee app which is my wireless home energy monitor. I assume that it is already and will in the future be better at a kind of cognizant device that monitors my home environmental conditions and make adjustments based on my settings and the three sensors that monitor our activity. It knows that no one is upstairs and so drops the temperature there - though no lower than what I have told it. It also suggests changes to my settings and reminds me to change the filter every three months. I always di that on the solstices and equinoxes anyway but if I miss that date by a day or two, it adjust the next change accordingly. Quite a fussy and OCD device. It could connect to my Alexa devices but I haven't allowed that yet. Maybe one day it will just do it on its own and tell me "It's for your own good, Kenneth."

It Is Way Past the Time to Update the Communications Act of 1996

social media
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

If you have been using the Internet for the past 25 years, you know how radically it has changed. And yet, no comprehensive regulations have been updated since then.

The news is full of complaints about tech companies getting too big and too powerful. Social media is often the focus of complaints. We often hear that these companies are resistant to changes and regulations, but that is not entirely true. 

On Facebook's site concerning regulations, they say "To keep moving forward, tech companies need standards that hold us all accountable. We support updated regulations on key issues."

Facebook may be at the center of fears and complaints, but they keep growing. Two billion users and growing.

There are four issues that address that they feel need new regulations.

Combating foreign election interference
We support regulations that will set standards around ads transparency and broader rules to help deter foreign actors, including existing US proposals like the Honest Ads Act and Deter Act.

Protecting people’s privacy and data
We support updated privacy regulations that will set more consistent data protection standards that work for everyone.

Enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms
We support regulation that guarantees the principle of data portability. If you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. This gives people choice and enables developers to innovate.

Supporting thoughtful changes to Section 230
We support thoughtful updates to internet laws, including Section 230, to make content moderation systems more transparent and to ensure that tech companies are held accountable for combatting child exploitation, opioid abuse, and other types of illegal activity.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of telecommunications law in almost 62 years. Its main goal was stated as allowing "anyone [to] enter any communications business -- to let any communications business compete in any market against any other." The FCC said that they believed the Act had "the potential to change the way we work, live and learn." They were certainly correct in that. But they continued that they expected that it would affect "telephone service -- local and long distance, cable programming and other video services, broadcast services and services provided to schools."

And it did affect those things. But communications went much further and much faster than the government and now they need to play some serious catchup. It is much harder to catch up than it is to keep up. 

 

Probability

coin tossI took one course in statistics. I didn't enjoy it, though the ideas in it could have been interesting, the presentation of them was not.

I came across a video by Cassie Kozyrkov that asks "What if I told you I can show you the difference between Bayesian and Frequentist statistics with one single coin toss?" Cassie is a data scientist and statistician. She founded the field of Decision Intelligence at Google, where she serves as Chief Decision Scientist. She has another one of those jobs that didn't exist in my time of making career decisions.

Most of probably had some math teacher use a coin toss to illustrate simple probability. I'm going to toss this quarter. What are the odd that it is heads-up? 50/50. The simple lesson is that even if it has come up tails 6 times in a row the odds for toss 7 is still 50/50.

But after she tosses it and covers it, she asks what is the probability that the coin in my palm is up heads now? She says that the answer you give in that moment is a strong hint about whether you’re inclined towards Bayesian or Frequentist thinking.

The Frequentist: “There’s no probability about it. I may not know the answer, but that doesn’t change the fact that if the coin is heads-up, the probability is 100%, and if the coin is tails-up, the probability is 0%.”

The Bayesian: “For me, the probability is 50% and for you, it’s whatever it is for you.”

Cassie's video about this goes much deeper - too deep for my current interests. However, I am intrigued by the idea that if the parameter may not be a random variable (Frequentist) you can consider your ability to get the right answer, but if you let the parameter be a random variable (Bayesian), there's no longer any notion of right and wrong. She says, "If there’s no such thing as a fixed right answer, there’s no such thing as getting it wrong."

I'll let that hang in the air here for you to consider.



If you do have an interest to go deeper, try:
Frequentist vs Bayesian fight - your questions answered
An 8 minute statistics intro
Statistical Thinking playlist
Controversy about p-values (p as in probabllity)