Data sciences chair opened at the Collège de France

 

In January, 2018, a chair of data sciences was opened at the Collège de France by Stéphane Mallat, French researcher who had worked out in 1987 an algorithm at the origin of the future JPEG2000 format before creating a start-up producing chips for TV which allowed to improve the resolution of the image (production of a high-resolution image from a standard signal), after which he interested himself in deep-learning algorithm for problems connected to the automatic recognition of images.

In an interview for the newspaper La recherche1, he explains the reasons of the creation of his chair at the Collège de France and gives indications onto the contents of the classes he gives.

For him, it was important that the name of chair was ” Data Sciences ” with the plural form because it is a multidisciplinary field of research. Indeed, although the used tools are always the same (applied mathematics, IT mathematics and IA, information theory etc.), the handled sets of data concern any sorts of sciences (physics, biology, cognitive sciences, economy, social sciences, etc.). Yet each of these sciences have their own approach to the problem of big data, what makes it a massively multidisciplinary domain. Moreover, Stéphane Mallat supports that the emergence of this discipline is not due to a scientific necessity, but rather to a social and university pressure, because these methods are deeply revolutionizing our societies (like chairs of computer science were imperative in universities, fifty years earlier). In fact, the actual pressure is such as Stéphane Mallat works at present on the opening of another chair of data sciences at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (a French school to form searchers). As a result, and as the domain just begins to crystallize, the main objective of his chair at the Collège de France will be to create a common vocabulary for all the concerned scientific disciplines, to describe problems connected to large-dimension data. In other words, to put the bases of this new science by creating a new vocabulary.

Historically, if we want to understand where from comes this emergent domain, it is because of the accumulation of the data and the increase of the computing power that the applied math and the computer science met to give birth to machine learning. Because historically, we were first capable of storing a large amount of data, before knowing what we could do with it. Globally, the data sciences are used to reach two types of objectives: the modelling of a set of data (to generate new data, compress data, reconstruct or improve the quality of an image etc.) and the prediction (which consists in giving meaning to a set of data). At present, deep learning techniques work well for these uses, but we fail to understand why. Thus it is a whole domain of research to understand this, in order to make them more reliable for critical applications such as medical diagnosis or autonomous cars. Other areas of research concern the reduction of the number of dimensions of the problems by discovering and using multi-scales hierarchies (observation of the data with various scales) and symmetries (invariances) in the handled set of data.

And because we have on one hand data warehouses and on the other hand quite an arsenal of applied math to use, one of the distinctive characteristics of this domain is that it is at the same time theoretical and experimental. It is indeed, according to Stéphane Mallat, from empirical approaches and remarkable intuitions of several researchers and engineers that were born the recent and sudden progress we know in the techniques of visual and vocal recognition, machine translation or still in Go and chess games. And it is for him the experimental search in this domain which brings to the foreground new mathematical problems; and that is why this correspondence between math and application is at the heart of his classes.

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Notes

1■ La recherche, february 2018

 

Elon Musk wants to create a website to note the journalists and the media

WHAT

Some billionaires want to buy media. Elon Musk wants to rate journalists’ credibility.

WHY

“Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication,” Musk tweeted.

WHAT WE THINK

“The last thing we need is another rich and powerful dude threatening to silence any journalist who doesn’t see things his way,” Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy at advocacy group Free Press, told CNN. “The implication in Musk’s actions are that all news media are untrustworthy. That’s a shameful message to be spreading.”

Could be true. But we’d like this Timothy Karr to say the same about Soros, who is much more Dangerous. Curiously, we think that he wouldn’t.

Musk’s idea is rather a good one. More and more people realize that Press writes less and less Truth, and behaves like a political censorship. We have the same problem in Europe.

 

Some colors boost your brain

Existing research reports inconsistent findings with regard to the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Some research suggests that blue or green leads to better performances than red; other studies record the opposite. Current work reconciles this discrepancy. We demonstrate that red (versus blue) color induces primarily an avoidance (versus approach) motivation (study 1, n = 69) and that red enhances performance on a detail-oriented task, whereas blue enhances performance on a creative task (studies 2 and 3, n = 208 and 118). Further, we replicate these results in the domains of product design (study 4, n = 42) and persuasive message evaluation (study 5, n = 161) and show that these effects occur outside of individuals’ consciousness (study 6, n = 68). We also provide process evidence suggesting that the activation of alternative motivations mediates the effect of color on cognitive task performances.

Read it in science mag.

 

Brain decoder for your inner voice

 

As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head…

The team found that certain neurons in the brain’s temporal lobe were only active in response to certain aspects of sound, such as a specific frequency. One set of neurons might only react to sound waves that had a frequency of 1000 hertz, for example, while another set only cares about those at 2000 hertz. Armed with this knowledge, the team built an algorithm…

It’s an already old article but still very good to read HERE.

What is Blockchain (Bitcoin etc…)


This is a  article from the blog CoinCentral (with their authorization).

What is blockchain?

Simply put, a blockchain is just a list of digital records (blocks) that are chained together using cryptography.

The financial industry today contains all types of middlemen – payments processors, banks, and credit card companies are just a few. These intermediaries help to establish trust between buyers and sellers and ensure the accuracy of data in the transactions. However, adding additional people and steps to the process oftentimes leads to cost increases and reductions in speed.

Enter blockchain. This technology eliminates the need for middlemen by providing a decentralized, trustless ledger system with little exposure to fraud. Bitcoin is the most famous example.

Although you primarily hear about the financial sector’s use of blockchain, the technology expands far beyond just simple transactions. Blockchain companies are disrupting tons of industries from data storage and supply chain to gambling and the Internet of Things.

How does blockchain work?

Nodes

A blockchain is run by a large network of computers, called nodes. These computers validate and record transaction data on the network by solving complex mathematical algorithms.

Every node has a complete history of transactions, so if one were to try and maliciously change a record, the entire network would know and reject the change.

Transaction example

Bob wants to send Sally $5, so he submits his transaction to the blockchain. Every node in the network then receives his transaction request.

Each node checks for two things with the transaction data:

  1. That Bob is who he says he is
  2. That Bob has the $5 to send to Sally

First, the nodes check Bob’s identity using the private key that he provides. A private key is an ownership tool that identifies a source of funds.

Next, the nodes make sure Bob isn’t trying to spend money that he doesn’t have. Because the nodes all have a copy of the ledger of transactions, they can easily check whether or not Bob has the $5 that he’s trying to send.

If at least 51% of the nodes agree that Bob’s identity is truthful and he has enough money to send, then the transaction will go through. The nodes will also update the ledger on the network with the new transaction.

With each new transaction added to the chain, the previous transactions become harder and harder to manipulate.

This immutability is supported by hash pointers. A hash pointer is a cryptographic hash that refers to the previous data block in the chain. They allow you to confirm that no one has tampered with earlier transaction blocks.

A transaction becomes like a fly trapped in amber. You would need to remove each additional block (layer of amber) from the chain to access and manipulate the previous transaction data (the fly).

The benefits of blockchain

Faster

Cutting out the middleman shortens the process of transactions and data transfer. Validations are inherently built into a blockchain system, so there’s no need for lengthy approvals or complicated record checks.

Cheaper

As mentioned earlier, the more people and entities involved in a process, the more costly it becomes. The cost of running a blockchain network is far less than an intermediary doing the same job.

More accurate

Data on the blockchain is immutable and validated by mathematical computations. It’s nearly impossible to have any human error and/or fraud.

Blockchain TL;DR – Final Thoughts

A blockchain is a distributed ledger system that uses cryptography to link together bits of data. It removes the need for middlemen in transactions which leads to faster processes, reduced costs, and greater data accuracy.

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The living robot


WHAT

We can nowadays remotely control a living dragonfly by connecting on its nervous system an electronic device embarked on its back.

WHY

I read some days ago an article1 which struck me a bit. This made me feel like: “Hey! In the big family of the new technologies which take place in between the alive world and the mechanical one, here is a newcomer!”. The basic idea is to remotely control a dragonfly. A real one?! (“WTF, you’re a dragonfly and you don’t fly where you want to?”). The objectives shown by the Draper company, at the origin of the project with the Howard Hugues Medical Institute, are the participation in operations of surveillance, the transport of light loads and the pollination of cultures.

HOW

Long story short, the functioning of the flying thingy leans on three different technologies:

1) the genetic engineering. Actually, the used dragonfly is not simply captured in the nature: it is also “modified”. By modifying his genome, we make photosensitive the neurons in charge of the activation of the wings muscles;

2) we fix to the dragonfly a device which is going to generate bright flashes on demand (remotely provided), activating the “modified” neurons and thus the wings, making move the dragonfly where it is wished;

3) a source of energy to activate the bright flashes: thus we embark mini-solar panels on the back of the dragonfly, which will produce the electricity used to supply the mechanical part of the “enhanced dragonfly”.

As this project intrigued me, I made some additional researches and it turns out that this one is not the only one of that kind: other identical attempts are currently running. Among them: a cockroach piloted by generating electric impulses on its antennas (project of Darpa)2, a beetle remotely controlled during flight by implanting electrodes on its nervous system3. And certainly many others! (already available or to come soon).

These projects bring in numerous knowledge in very complex and miscellaneous areas: the physics of the flight of the insect, the bio-mechanical process in action during this flight, the functioning of the nervous system of the insect (in order to know which neurons must be activated and which signals must be send to these), the design of a miniature and energetically autonomous embarked electronic device, and finally, for the project of the dragonfly at least, the genetic engineering. That much, huh!!

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

All this technique, OK, but what for, will you tell me? Well, as said above, military objectives mainly (surveillance, recognition), possibly some industrial ones (transport of light loads), but also much more cooler things (as the cultures pollination). We can also imagine numerous other things to do with this shit (like coordinating attacks of swarms of stinging insects, studying insect colonies, etc.) and also more ambitious operations, in which the human intervention is not required: we could program insects (or thick clouds of insects) to react automatically in a non-natural way (that is to be as we wish it, without any limit other than the imagination of the programmer) to a particular event, or even to its environment in general. We thus see that we could continue like that for a long time trying to enumerate in an exhaustive way all the possibilities offered by these new researches, these being almost infinite. What matters the most in this story is the proof of concept: we are from now on able to mechanically enslave a living being, to bypass its free will! Then, all right, it remains possible with insects only. And still it remains rather complicated to build up a systematic knowledge of the influence of their environment on their behavior, their bio-mechanical, neurological and genetic functioning. Nevertheless, we can imagine… could we eventually later remotely control, let’s say a lizard? Or a mouse? A cat?… A man?

Well, I can imagine that I may seem to be messing around when I say things like this, that could be part of the plot of a science fiction film. But science, the real one, is still progressing… And then, well, it is certainly for in a long time, but one day some men will certainly be crazy enough to try to develop this…

Oh, wait a minute, the centralized storage and the statistical study of all the information4 on your private and biomedical life5, doesn’t it remind you anything?

Science fiction film: remotely controlled cockroach scene from “The 5th element” (Besson, 1997).

Notes

1■ Science et avenir, mars 2017; a more developed article on the same subject is available on this website: http://www.futura-sciences.com/tech/actualites/robotique-libellule-transformee-insecte-cyborg-telecommande-41095/

2■ http://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/2012/09/07/01008-20120907ARTFIG00514-un-cafard-vivant-pilote-comme-un-robot.php

3■ http://www.usine-digitale.fr/article/quand-le-scarabee-se-pilote-comme-un-drone.N320315 ;

4■ by the surveilling of your internet activity

5■ with the sportive training app on your smartphone or your connected watch

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Privacy news : google and iOS 03-2018

1) Google logs

Google is also giving customers ways to verify what it’s up to in case they don’t trust Google enough to take the company at its word.

For instance, Google is expanding Access Transparency by offering customers a real-time log of any accesses to their data by Google’s own engineers and support staff, as well as justifications for that access. In doing so, Google is giving enterprise customers a way to make sure that its employees aren’t poking around when they shouldn’t be.

2) Siri on your locked phone

With iOS 11, Apple added a new setting that lets you choose whether you want previews of your notifications to appear on your lock screen. By default, iOS shows a preview of your notifications only when your phone is unlocked, via some form of authentication like Face ID. But Siri will read your notifications from third-party apps aloud even if your phone is locked. This means anyone with physical access to your phone could hear messages meant just for you. MacMagazine first reported the issue after one of its readers noticed the peculiar behavior.

 

Brain plasticity podcast

Is it possible to enhance and rewire the adult brain?

To find out more about plasticity in the brain, host Nicola Davis speaks to Dr Tamar Makin, a neuroscientist at the University of College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience; Nick Ward, a professor of neurology and neurorehabilitation at University College London; and Prof Allan Young, chair of mood disorders at King’s College London and a coauthor of a recent study into possible drug treatments to enhance brain plasticity.

See and here it there on the Guardian.

By the way, you will probably like this one too :  is the internet addictive? (podcast)

 

Big brother is hearing you!


 

« Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. » A wise sentence at the godfather’s time, but we shall note that Don Corleone didn’t know about smartphones… If smartphone became man best friend these few last years, it is also becoming his worst enemy … The cause? It dwells much too close to you! You use it as an intermediary in all that you make: when you communicate with other people, visit Web sites, take photos or videos … It never leaves you alone, and thus, a big part of your life passes through it. What makes it an informer of choice for whom wants to know what your life looks like.

Maybe you think that you’re not so important, that your common life couldn’t be interesting for whoever, but that’s very wrong! Advertising executives, sellers of all kinds, and even government intelligence agencies of numerous countries are interested in your private life …

 

That’s why we wrote this article. They noticed recently that several smartphone’s applications listened to us without knowing it. And when we say “listen to”, we do not talk about the history of your browser, but about your smartphone’s hot mic! Among them, unsurprisingly, the Google1 application… It naturally collects all your vocal requests and this is why you use it. But did you already wonder how Google knew that you had said ” OK Google “, informing the application that your next sentence would be a request? There is only one possible answer: well, Google has to permanently listen to you, to know when you are going to pronounce ” OK Google “! This is the way the firm records your phone calls, your private conversations and in a general way all the sounds that reach your smartphone’s mike. That’s hard news. But on the other hand, the application is very forced to listen your mike to function, and you know that. Then OK, recording all of this instead of erasing could be considered unfair, but not unexpected. Just you to know, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, had said in 2009: ” if you make something and if you want that nobody knows it, maybe you should begin by not making it. “!

Google allows you to see what was recorded on you, and even to erase these contents … At least in theory (because before being erased, the data could have been be stored in another server designed to Google’s internal use, or simply because they were hacked before being erased!). You can see your history and delete it via this link (if you are not connected to your Google account, the page will be empty):

Let’s remember here that every good IT specialist will confirm you that on the Internet, to fully erase something isn’t completely guaranteed!

In brief, all this to say: think before trusting technologies. In that case, you directly authorized Google to listen to you all day and all night long!!

However, things can be more pernicious: imagine that approximately 250 Android games2 does the same as Google! Well, then, officially, not exactly the same: the responsible code for the leak of data is thought ” to detect television programs as a background sound, and not your private conversations ” says the Alphonso company, which developed it. They say that the user is warned of the use of his smartphone’s mike: you know, during the installation of an app, the list of the demanded access rights which you never read … The New York Times specifies that if the general conditions mention an access to the microphone, they do not specify it’s use nor that this one will continue to be listened to when the application will be closed and even when you’re not using your smartphone! All of this only to play to Basketball 3D! But then again you can find the incriminated games by typing “Alphonso Automated” in the Google Play search bar. And then erase (but too late) the indiscreet applications from your smartphone.

That can be a little bit tiresome, but it becomes necessary to read the list of demanded access rights when you download an app. At least if you want to be able to chat quiet of intimate subjects. During your read, wonder about the real requirements for the smooth running of the application, and if strange authorizations are demanded, do not download the app! Once again, contrary to Google, Basketball 3D shouldn’t need to access your microphone to work on your smartphone! That makes this request suspicious …

 

 

Now is the time for a small word about Facebook, which is also interested in your smartphone. In an article from January 21st, 2018, Marianne3 gives you an example of what is nowadays possible to do and what explains sometimes certain coincidences of friends’ suggestions with people that you just met at the bar: ” it is possible to them to detect that two smartphones are in the same place at the same time. But it’s even more intrusive: by comparing the data of every available smartphones, the social network is able to determine if the people face each other or walk together. “.

 

 

And we shall end our article with the worst. There are things against whom the common sense and stubbornness (for the reading of the terms of sale) are insufficient. The Russian company of IT security Kaspersky Lab published on January 16th, 2018 a report on the malware named Skygofree4 which spread on smartphones using Android since 2014. This malware infects smartphones through Web sites imitating those of the main telephony operators. Very difficult to detect, it is able to locate the mobile and to cross its position with the listening. Skygofree could also pirate WhatsApp, listen to phone conversations, read SMS and more widely see contents of the memory of the smartphone. And also take photos and videos without acknowledging the user of that. It’s clearly spy material!

Thus in conclusion: as your smartphone watches you, watch your smartphone!

Cool stuff : Webcam Cover 0.7mm THIN – Magnet Slider – Protects your privacy

Notes

1■ Article from Sputniknews website Google vous écoute en permanence

2■ Article from New-York Times website That game on your phone may be tracking what you’re watching on TV

3■ Article from Marianne magazine : Facebook redouble de nouveautés pour vous espionner

4■ AFP article Un logiciel de surveillance cible les mobiles Android

 

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