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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Moving pictures | William & Mary News

The following story originally appeared in the winter 2017 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine - Ed.

"Caitlin Lewis Smallwood ’88 is vice president of science and algorithms at the world’s leading “internet television network.” From her office in Los Gatos, Calif., she oversees the numbers that help Netflix learn what you like to watch, predict what you might want to watch next, and decide what to purchase and produce in the future." says Ben Kennedy '05, University Advancement.

Number cruncher:  Caitlin Lewis Smallwood ’88 directs a team of around 50 data scientists, engineers and mathematicians at Netflix in Los Gatos, California. 
Photo by Timothy Archibald

She can also see cranes, dump trucks and construction workers building Netflix’s brand-new corporate headquarters on the south end of Silicon Valley. She’s a leader in a growing field within an influential company during a historic moment: data science is helping Netflix take off.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to me to be involved in this company when we’re at a point where we’ve launched mostly globally,” Smallwood says. “It’s an amazing opportunity to really help cultures learn about one another in an innocuous, non-threatening fashion.” 

Taste clusters
There is a dizzying number of conference rooms at Netflix headquarters, and they’re not even finished building it yet. Each one is a little different and named after a famous movie (usually one that is available to stream via the service). Many feature a glass wall, frosted with the image of a notable scene or actor.

And then there are the Emmys.

The lobby of Smallwood’s building is full of movie- and TV-based touches: art books about film on reclaimed wood tables, a constant stream of Netflix products on a giant screen (in this case, “The Crown”), and two softly lit columns displaying Netflix’s Emmy awards. Emmys aren’t common in Silicon Valley, but they’re testaments to the company’s smarts and strategy.

Then there’s the data.

When a user logs into the Netflix service and begins browsing, they see rows of categories. While you browse, Netflix logs what you watch, how you found it, how long you watched it, and the device you watched it on, among other things. As Netflix learns more about your viewing habits, it gets better at predicting what you like. This works no matter where you are in the world.

“One thing we’ve learned that holds true — so far, anyhow — is that when you try to get an understanding of people’s tastes, the kinds of ‘clusters of taste’ that people have are pretty similar around the world,” says Smallwood. “The size of the audience for these different kinds of tastes can differ quite a bit from region to region, but the actual kernels of what those tastes are, are not dramatically different.”

On Netflix, tastes are displayed as rows of categorized content. Usually, the rows are the typical fare from the old Blockbuster shelves: drama, comedy, action, sci-fi, romance and so on. But as you move further into Netflix’s database of over 50,000 row titles, things get really specific — “Strong Female Lead,” “Raunchy Cult Late-Night Comedies,” “Quirky Romances,” “Supernatural Horror Movies” and so on. There are a number of websites dedicated to chronicling the most obscure categories delivered to Netflix subscribers all over the world — like “Gritty British Prison Movies.”

“Although our internal job is harder,” she says, “the output to our customers is actually a little bit better because you can discover nuanced pockets of taste because of other regions that then help you serve members in a different region even more effectively. That part’s exciting, too.”

Smallwood is in charge of more than 50 engineers, data scientists and mathematicians who are working to distill the viewing habits of over 86 million Netflix subscribers and make the product better. Algorithms orchestrate the viewer experience, and they’ve responded: to the tune of 125 million hours watched per day. That’s like watching “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” more than a million times daily, or that one episode of “Murder, She Wrote” nearly 2.7 million times. It’s a colossal amount of data, and it’s up to Smallwood to make sense of it.
Read more... 

Additional resources
Download a PDF of this issue, Volume 82, No. 2
Source: William & Mary News

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China’s first ‘deep learning lab’ intensifies challenge to US in artificial intelligence race | South China Morning Post

"Search giant Baidu to head up research platform to develop technology that mimics human thought." reports Meng Jing.

Deep learning involves feeding data through computer-generated neural networks designed to mimic the human decision-making process.
Photo: Simon Song
Beijing has given the green light for the creation of China’s very first ‘national laboratory for deep learning’, in a move that could help the country to surpass the United States in developing artificial intelligence (AI).

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently approved the plan to set up a national engineering ‘lab’ for researching and implementing deep learning technologies. The lab will not have a physical presence, instead taking the form of a research network predominantly based online.

Regarded as one of the most exciting and fastest-growing areas of AI, deep learning - a subdivision of machine learning - involves feeding data through virtual neural networks designed to mimic the human brain’s decision-making process, in order to solve problems and recognise images and sounds.

It is seen by many as the key to elevating AI to something approximating human intelligence, and is already credited with major breakthroughs in technologies such as voice recognition in smartphones.

The NDRC has commissioned Baidu, operator of the country’s biggest online search engine, to lead the charge in creating the lab, working in partnership with China’s elite Tsinghua and Beihang universities, as well as other Chinese research institutes.
Beijing-based Baidu confirmed on its official WeChat account on Monday that the lab will focus on seven areas of research including machine learning-based visual recognition, voice recognition, new types of human machine interaction and deep learning intellectual property. The overarching goal, it stated, is to “boost China’s overall competence in artificial intelligence”.

Baidu did not reveal the size of the investment involved nor the likely scale of the lab, which will be headed by the company’s deep-learning institute chief Lin Yuanqing and scientist Xu Wei, as well as Zhang Bo and Li Wei, academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The lab is expected to help China make bigger waves in the competitive field of AI, a technology often regarded as a holy grail of the digital era and a key area in which Chinese researchers and enterprises are rapidly closing the gap on their western counterparts.

In October, the Obama administration released a “strategic plan” for AI research, which noted that China had overtaken the US, leading the world in journal articles on deep learning, a sub-discipline of AI research.

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Equifax Uses Deep Neural Machine Learning To Improve Credit Scoring |

"While artificial intelligence, machine learning and other futuristic-seeming technologies have been resigned to the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, traditional companies are also getting in the game, including Equifax and SAS." notes PYMNTS.

According to a report, Equifax is using deep-learning tools to enhance its credit scoring system, and SAS is using deep learning to improve its data mining tools and provide deep learning APIs.
Photo: Peter Maynard
In an interview, Peter Maynard, senior vice president of global analytics at Equifax, said the company realized a few years ago that it wasn’t getting enough “statistical lift” from its traditional credit scoring methods and thus started to embrace advanced deep-learning technology...

“My team decided to challenge that and find a way to make neural nets interpretable,” said Maynard in the report. “We developed a mathematical proof that shows that we could generate a neural net solution that can be completely interpretable for regulatory purposes.
Read more... 


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Artificial Intelligence Explained | What Is

In five questions or less, an industry expert defines and explains a technology, term or trend – with this installment seeing Heather Richards, CEO of Transversal, tackle Artificial Intelligence.

Heather Richards, CEO of Transversal.

CBR: What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?  

HR: AI is a broad term describing machines that operate with some degree of intelligence. It can refer to a machine that mimics human thought processes or to a machine that achieves a level of creative autonomy, for example by being able to learn things beyond its original programming. AI encompasses many methods and applications, including natural language processing, problem solving, playing games and even recognizing emotions. In our business, self-service knowledge management, it helps make user interactions more intuitive.

CBR: How does Artificial Intelligence work?  

HR: Most AI applications are designed for specific tasks. At a basic level, the designer maps out how an intelligent entity might solve a problem, and breaks down that process into steps that can be expressed as computer calculations. AI often uses nonlinear processing techniques, such as neural networks, to approximate more closely how a living mind works. It requires significant processing power and sometimes large volumes of background data to enable the computer to form judgements. That’s why AI has leapt forward during the past decade alongside the upsurge in data storage capacity.

Source: Computer Business Review

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8 essential skills of the teacher of the future | BookWidgets Blog

Follow on Twitter as @lucie_renard
"Education is changing. And I’m glad about it. It took a while. And we’re still not there yet… So if education is changing, what is your plan? Are you just keeping it traditional? Or are you changing your teaching too?" argues Lucie Renard, Helping teachers create interactive lessons? Blogging, social media and marketing?

Photo: BookWidgets Blog

I did some research to write this blog post about the teacher of the future. I have some bad news for you when you’re a traditional teacher. Forget about it. Forget ‘being traditional’. Forget the paper worksheets, the talkative teacher and the passive students. Forget the traditional desk work, the chalkboard and pencil sharpener.

There’s one thing you can’t forget, though: your passion! That’s something that won’t change in the future.

How to be the teacher of the future
So what does a teacher of the future really need to be like? What (new) skills will be crucial for the job? I picked out 8 skills any teacher will need in the future.

1. eTeacher 
Photo: BookWidgets Blog
The future of education will involve technology. And it won’t be just a little bit. Technology will take over your classroom. As a teacher, you should be prepared.

It makes no sense to ignore it. You will only fall behind even more. Be an eTeacher, an innovative clown, a technology junkie.

Be open to use, for example, social media like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Just in your classroom, for educational purposes, of course. Take a look at this post about social media in the classroom for more tips. The more you know about it, the safer it gets for the students. Today, students are always one step ahead when it comes to social media and technology. And they got no one to turn too if something goes wrong.

2. Paperless 
As technology takes over your classroom, it’s also getting rid of the papers. 
The paperless classroom will become the new traditional classroom.
Instead of keeping your administration somewhere between thousands of papers on your desk, store them safely on your computer. Instead of wasting at least 100 paper copies per day, provide the assignment by computer or tablet.
Learning management systems already use “paperless” to describe themselves. Now it’s your turn. What do you choose for your paperless classroom?

Additional resources
Watch Video

BookWidgets writes, "Professors and university professionals can create dynamic lessons, reading exercises, quizzes, and many more options for your interactive course eBook or assignments."

Source: BookWidgets

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mobile Insider: Visa, IBM's Watson Team For Consumer Payments Through IoT Devices | Mobile Insider

Follow on Twitter as @chuckmartin
Chuck Martin, editor of the IoT Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily Connected Thinking and MobileShopTalk columns summarizes, "The Internet of Things comprises billions of sensors around the world and many of those sensors will ultimately lead to transactions."

Photo: Mobile Insider

As many of those transactions will involve payments, IBM and Visa are now teaming so that those payments can be made through any IoT device.

IBM’s Watson, of Jeopardy fame, already allows businesses to connect to billions of connected devices, sensors and systems globally, from which Watson gains insights.

On the other side, Visa’s global payments already are used by more than 3 billion consumers.

The idea is to tie the two together, so that payments can be made by any smart or connected device, such as a smartwatch, appliance or a car.

Companies would use the Visa Token Service via IBM’s Watson IoT platform, which uses a unique digital identifier rather than payment account information found on payment cards.

Future methods of payments through IoT devices can only be imagined. Here are a few scenarios suggested by IBM: 

Source: MediaPost Communications 

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Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship | The Open University

"A flexible way for new and existing staff to gain valuable and highly sought-after digital skills to support the increasing need for technical roles within all organisations." continues The Open University.

Photo: The Open University

The Open University’s Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship programme develops the higher level digital skills and behaviours required to create confident and capable digital and technology professionals. 

Graduates from the programme will be competent to operate in a range of related digital roles, supporting their organisations to develop new products and services and increase productivity using digital technologies. 

The Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship is a work-based higher education programme that integrates academic and work-based learning in a way that can be delivered flexibly around the demands of your workplace.

The apprenticeship has been awarded Tech Industry Gold Accreditation by the Tech Partnership, a consortium of leading employers collaborating to develop a highly-skilled and professional digital workforce throughout the UK.

The programme lasts 4 to 4.5 years and is based on a core set of outcomes that are supplemented by one of the following four chosen specialisms:
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Software Engineer
  • Network Engineer
Who is it for? 
The Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship is suitable for new and existing employees who work in digital and technology roles. Typical job titles include:
  • Software Developer
  • Software Engineer
  • Application Specialist
  • IT Project Manager
  • Network Engineer
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Database Specialist
  • Data Analyst
  • Systems Designer
Why choose The Open University’s Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship?
  • It is delivered flexibly around the demands of your organisation and requires minimal time away from the workplace, using a blend of tutor-supported, rich-media online learning resources
  • Learning can be delivered simultaneously to various locations using our tried-and-trusted educational technology, providing a consistent programme at scale to multiple staff
  • 76% of Open University students are in employment; we know how to make knowledge stick in the minds of busy adults and we have designed our apprenticeships to ensure work-based learning is at the heart of our programmes
  • We have nearly 50 years’ experience of providing supported distance learning programmes and have a proven history of delivering apprenticeship programmes to the likes of Visa Europe and Babcock
What's included
  • An Open University BSc (Hons) in Digital and Technology Solutions
  • English and maths level 2, if not previously achieved
  • Access to a broad range of optional learning resources to support diverse student needs
  • A learning platform that’s available 24/7
  • Learner support anywhere in the UK or worldwide

Source: The Open University

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LearnLaunch: Boosting Boston EdTech | Vander Ark on Innovation

Follow on Twitter as @tvanderark
"With some of the best universities in the world, Boston has been a top education city for centuries." inform Tom Vander Ark, education advocate, advisor, and author of Getting Smart: How Personal Digital Learning is Changing the World. 

Photo: LearnLaunch Campus
Several publishers built a Boston base but it wasn’t until recently that Beantown emerged as the #4 EdTech hotbed (behind the Bay Area, NYC and Chicago). A leading reason for the surge is LearnLaunch, perhaps the most successful education ecosystem catalyst to date. 

In a three-year Smart Cities investigation, we concluded that skilling up fast is increasingly important to individuals, communities and companies; and the key to quality learning--from pre-school to job training--is a rich ecosystem that includes sustained leadership, aligned investment, talent development, and incubation of tools and schools. Boston was pretty good on the first three and LearnLaunch provided a boost of inspiration and intermediation.

Why Boston EdTech is Blowing Up 
LearnLaunch is dedicated to driving innovation and transforming learning by providing support for the creation and growth of edtech and learning companies in New England. LearnLaunch was founded in 2012 by its partners angel investor Jean Hammond; tech veteran Eileen Rudden; leading EdTech strategy and M&A advisor Mark Miller; serial edtech entrepreneur Hakan Satiroglu; and technology entrepreneur Vinit Nijhawan. It’s managing director, Liam Pisano, is an experienced hand at financial investment.

LearnLaunch now boasts a 6,000 person EdTech community and three dozen companies that have graduated from the Accelerator program. It implements a three-pronged approach that includes a selective accelerator program, a collaborative co-working space and educational events for the edtech community:

1. LearnLaunch Accelerator
After a highly selective application process, the LearnLaunch Accelerator program provides the most promising edtech startups worldwide with seed funding, a team of mentors, intensive coaching and the necessary tools to grow a successful edtech startup (the next round of applications are slated for acceptance this summer).

Source: Education Week (blog)  

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Social Learning and High-Performance Workplaces | Cisco Blog > Education

Photo: Ryan Rose
"The Global Center for Digital Business Transformation forecast that by 2020, four out of 10 organizations will be displaced or cease to exist due to digital disruption. Digitalization and social trends are reshaping business like never before." according to Ryan Rose, Head of Customer Experience & Product Design for the new Cisco Collaborative Knowledge social learning platform developed by Cisco.

Photo: Cisco Blog

New social contracts and the explosion of consumer-driven mobile devices are reframing the workplace. In addition, we have the most diverse, multi-generational workforce in history.

At the same time, though, there are workforce challenges. One of the most significant issues, both from an economic and company culture perspective, is that of employee disengagement. Gallup reports that one disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary. Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy an estimated $450 to $550 billion annually, due to lost productivity.

In light of the financial and productivity costs of disengagement, how can we create a workforce that is more engaged and productive? This question becomes even more pressing when we realize that 50 percent of jobs across all sectors will require technical acumen and new skills over the next few years.

To keep up with this skills surge, the answer is to provide employees with continuous learning and development via new digital social learning opportunities. Research by Josh Bersin reveals that this type of ongoing learning spurs a quest for new solutions. Continuous learning cultures are:
  • 92 percent more likely to develop novel products and processes
  • 56 percent more likely to be first to market with products and services
  • 52 percent more productive
  • 30 to 50 percent higher in retention and engagement rates
  • 17 percent more profitable than their peers

Source: Cisco Blogs

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The next economic boom for emerging nations will come by learning to market digital trust | Quartz

Follow on Twitter as @BBSimons
Bright Simons, president, MPedigree Network, a company based in Accra, Ghana summarizes, "There are many ways to look at countries. Some see connected pieces of political geography; others see ‘imagined communities’ tied together by mythical values, histories and economic pressures."

More data, more options.
Photo: Reuters/Sigtryggur Ari

The rapid globalization of the past few decades, in part driven by and in part reflected in deep technological changes, now forces us to look at countries as “Portals” merely regulating the flow of ideas, skills, and opportunities based on fast evolving protocols.

It is fitting then that one of the most apt metaphors for counter-illustrating this trend is the growing phenomenon of cloud-hosting companies offering subscribers a choice as to where their data can be hosted. After all, if you think of it, the ‘cloud’ was supposed to be the pinnacle of the internet, and the internet the very essence of ‘stateless borderlessness’, and yet here we are contending with the rise of data nationalism.

We have been here a number of times before. Just before World War One, when transcultural ideas were perceived to be subsuming national boundaries, and just before the 2008 crash, when transnational finance was held up as heralding a world where transnational corporations, not nations, formed the building blocks of the world system, prompting panicky calls for a global Tobin Tax.
Now nations are firmly back in vogue, but not in the old Westphalian, UN General Assembly, sense.

To illustrate this point, take the example of ‘maritime flags of convenience’. More than half of all marine vessels worldwide register in countries such as Antigua, Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands, and thus fly their flags. These tiny countries together account for nearly half of all ship registrations.

Is this just another form of the old ‘tax haven’ con of transnational finance, or something deeper?

While it is true that some ship-owners may register their ships in Liberia to evade sound regulation and scrutiny, hide assets, and even maltreat staff, just as it is sometimes the case that a politician will stash funds in the Cayman Islands solely for the purpose of hoarding ill-gotten loot, there are many occasions when arrangements very similar to the foregoing would be made in order to heighten compliance with sound law and regulation.

This is practically the same reason why many contractual parties agree to use New York and London as their jurisdiction of choice.

In fact, research shows the flexible hiring of maritime workers enabled by flying a flag of convenience is designed less to undermine worker rights but more to circumvent unsound labour immigration laws and rules in advanced economies such as the United States. Rather than spurring a competitive race to the bottom, economic actors are actually “deploying countries” to facilitate the emergence of industry models suppressed elsewhere.

Countries are not just portals. A more insightful computer metaphor says that they are “source code” for the building of new, modular, economic programs based on increasingly more creative legal and cultural algorithms.

Source: Quartz

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