What if I told you database indexes could be learned?

This paper is one that I unfortunately missed getting to see presented at NIPS, but which has been getting quite a lot of attention in ML circles in the last few days. The authors, who count among their number Jeff Dean, a very well-respected and early-days Google employee, have one core point, that they reiterate throughout the paper: at their heart, database indexes are models. They may not (typically) be statistically learned, but they are structures that provide a (hopefully quite fast) mapping between an input (the key upon which the index is built) and an output (a position in memory). A Binary Tree, which is a typical such structure used for ordered data, even takes the form of, well, a tree, which a core tool in the machine learning toolbox.

Building on this key intuition, the paper then asks: well, if these structures are just models, could statistical models that learn, and then leverage, the distribution of the data being read more

Researchers: Artificial Intelligence is dumber than a 5-year-old and no smarter than a rat

We’ve all heard or read about how robots are going to take away our jobs. Saudi Arabia even went as far as granting citizenship to “Sophia the robot” back in October (See the video below). With crytocurrency at the top of daily headlines, 2017 may be remembered as the year artificial intelligence (AI, pronounced AYE-EYE) goes mainstream with more organizations adopting AI than ever. Two weeks ago, we wrote about Professor Geoffrey Hinton, known worldwide as the Godfather of AI, and how his research work in the area of Neuro Net was used in speech recognition and Android voice search. More than ever before, there are more news headlines about warnings and threats of how artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is threatening to make all human workers redundant. Elon Musk even issued a stark warning about A.I. He calls it a bigger threat read more

Artificial intelligence is the key to unlocking fusion reactions

The idea of deploying artificial intelligence comes from scientists working at the U.S. Department of Energy Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. This is in relation to the safe operation of future fusion reactors. Matters of concern for physicists center on the timely prediction of disruptions such as the sudden loss of control of the hot, charged plasma that fuels the reactions. The process of nuclear fusion involves a reaction whereby two or more atomic nuclei come close enough to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as the release of large amounts of energy. This is how the Sun and other stars use nuclear fusion to release energy. Recreating this process in a reactor and tapping read more

Bitcoin Investors Are Having a Pretty Terrible Holiday Season

Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency, extended its decline over the long holiday weekend, failing to reverse a selloff that began after an unprecedented rally fell short of breaching $20,000.

The drop brings more end-of-year weakness to a market that last week had its worst four-day tumble since 2015.

“The West is what’s causing this selloff,” said Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at Tel Aviv-based online broker eToro, pointing to increased trading in dollars and less in yen. The recent cryptocurrency surge was so steep that investors were prone to take money off the table going into the Christmas holiday season, he said.

The retrenchment isn’t typical for cryptos, which often snap back after a few losing sessions. The last time bitcoin dropped for five successive weekdays was September and, before that, July.

The tumble coincided with several warnings in the past week from financial authorities about elevated risk in holding digital coins.

“The crypto market went to astronomical highs, so it’s got to come back to reality,” Greenspan said. “Something that goes up 150 percent in less than a month is probably going to have double-digit retracement.”

Bitcoin read more

9 Virtual Reality Startups Taking VR Mainstream

The state of virtual reality (VR) seems to be in a state of confusion at the moment. When we first tried VR, we were simply blown away by the whole experience. Surely a VR headset will become a common fixture in living rooms like the television or the three-foot ceramic bong. Alas, things seem to have stalled. According to Unity Technologies, the first commercial year for virtual reality represented less than $2 billion in revenues:

Sure, we’re seeing some momentum with commercial usage of VR with applications ranging from healthcare to construction. On the other hand, some VR startups are starting to show signs of stress, like 8i’s recent announcement of layoffs. Even though there are many negative signs, we’re still seeing funding flow to some interesting startups that are getting stuff done. Let’s take a look at some VR startups that have come across our radar recently which we haven’t covered before.

Founded in 2006, Silicon Valley startup Lytro has taken read more

Passport, the technology business for city transit systems, raises $43 million

Passport, company that’s managing much of the technical aspects of how people pay to use public transportation resources in cities like London, Miami and Los Angeles, has just raised $43 million.

The money, from Bain Capital Ventures, will go to help the company expand its payment and transaction services nationally and internationally as cities and states wrestle with how new mobility technologies will transform vast portions of urban infrastructure and government income.

Passport’s back-end software manages everything from parking to ticketing to tolling in some of the most populous cities around the world.

The company has already landed big partnerships with car makers like Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Ford and GM to embed their software in the new display systems that are mandated for most cars by 2018, according to Bob Youakim, Passport’s chief executive officer.

As public transit moves to the management of autonomous fleets, private companies will need ways to link in to read more

Why you want blockchain-based AI, even if you don’t know it yet

The other night, my nine-year-old daughter (who is, of course, the most tech-savvy person in the house), introduced me to a new Amazon Alexa skill.

“Alexa, start a conversation,” she said.

We were immediately drawn into an experience with new bot, or, as the technologists would say, “conversational user interface” (CUI).  It was, we were told, the recent winner in an Amazon AI competition from the University of Washington.

At first, the experience was fun, but when we chose to explore a technology topic, the bot responded, “have you heard of Net Neutrality?” What we experienced thereafter was slightly discomforting. The bot seemingly innocuously cited a number of articles that she “had read on the web” about the FCC, Ajit Pai, and the issue of net neutrality. But here’s the thing: All four articles she recommended had a distinct and clear anti-Ajit Pai bias.

Now, the topic of Net Neutrality is a heated one and many smart people make valid points on both sides, including read more

The Richest Man in the Middle East Might Be Forced Pay $6 Billion for His Freedom

Saudi Arabia’s richest man may exchange that title for his freedom. Last month Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal was one of dozens of government officials, businesspeople and royals arrested by the Saudi government in a sweeping corruption probe.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the allegations against Prince al-Waleed include bribery, money laundering, and extortion. The price that Saudi officials are demanding for his freedom: $6 billion, according to the Journal.

The 62-year-old Prince is currently living in a makeshift prison at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. He was an early investor in a number of western businesses including Twitter and Lyft, and currently has amassed a fortune estimated at more than $18 billion.

While handing over $6 billion certainly wouldn’t bankrupt the prince, he has reportedly said that doing so would be an admission of guilt, which he does not want to make, according to the Journal. He also would have to dismantle part of his financial empire.

Instead, he has offered to give the government a large piece of his conglomerate, Kingdom Holding Company, in exchange for his freedom. The company currently has a market value of $8.7 billion, down roughly 14% since the prince’s arrest.

A lawyer who has previously read more

20 Croatia Photos That Will Make You Visit Croatia.

Croatia is no longer the hidden gem of Europe. Over the past couple of years Croatia has grown to be one of the European destination that you must visit. There are many beautiful places that you should definitely see if you’re making a trip there, including islands, cities, towns and monuments. Korcula, the islands of Brac and Krk and the city of Split of course.Have a look at these twenty photos of Croatia to give you an idea of what you can expect if you choose to visit. Croatia is blessed with beautiful beaches, lovely architecture, breathtaking lakes and many beautiful islands. Croatia will definitely surprise you.

PS: Still on our bucketlist.

Christmas Gifts

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social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit read more

‘Bright’ and Netflix’s Original Movie Problem

The process of watching Bright will leave you with a myriad of questions. Who is still buying movie pitches from Max Landis? How has David Ayer managed to lure Will Smith into two horrendous action movies? Why did I watch Bright in the first place? Exactly how much rosé will I need to forget I watched it?

But the most important question is: What the hell is Netflix doing?

Back in March, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said of the movie business, “How did distribution innovate in the movie business in the last 30 years? Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it. What Netflix wants to do is to unleash film. It’s fundamentally about growing the movie business.”

Bright, Netflix’s new $90 million original movie directed by Ayer (who made the equally awful, yet mildly enjoyable Suicide Squad) and written by Landis (who’s not only been read more