Musings. Unvarnished.

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The Most Important Democrat in the 2020 Race

Andrew Yang Sees the Future

He’s right, and he’s good for the 2020 race.

Odds are decent that you’ve never heard of Andrew Yang. I don’t think he can win, but I do think he’s talking about the most interesting political issue of the next 20 years.

The 2020 election is a long way away. I’m not here to make predictions, but the 2018 midterm and Trump’s approval ratings suggest that the Democratic nominee already has an advantage. But looking to 2020 and beyond, as the country continues to diversify and Trump’s base, along with conservatives, broadly, die at a faster rate than Democratic voters come of age, the electorate is shifting blue and our elected representatives will soon better represent it.

I don’t want to go down this prediction rabbit hole except to suggest that certain items we view as politically contentious will, I believe, be put to bed soon, including:

  • Climate change – It’s real and we need to take it more seriously.
  • Universal healthcare – We long ago codified universal access to care. Now we need a better way to pay for it.
  • Immigration – We need more of it and a better process.
  • Debt – It’s hard to see how we could do worse than we’re doing today.

I have confidence that we are entering a political climate wherein we can address all of these issues. And while the work will last decades, and perhaps centuries, with a shared understanding of the problems and a commitment to solving them, we will make tremendous progress on all fronts.

Which brings us to the next major political issue of the coming 20 years, Universal Basic Income.

 

Universal Basic Income – a Social Imperative.

As we enter an age of AI-driven automation, UBI is inevitable. According to AI expert Kai Fu Lee, 40% of jobs are at risk in the next 15-25 years. PWC projects 30% of jobs will be lost. These are huge numbers that are not likely to be overcome through jobs gained in AI.

Further, according to McKinsey, there will be significant skill mismatches in the labor force. All of this coincides with an accelerating trend of separating labor from economic output.

 

We Can Afford It.

The impact of automation on the labor force is foreseeable and it may well come rapidly. This will shock the labor force and has the potential to hurt our consumer-driven economy in the short run.

The upside is that productivity will continue its acceleration. While stocks markets may oscillate, the next technological revolution will power long term economic growth. We are a rich country that will keep getting richer. We should raise taxes on the rich (not 70%, but higher than 37%) and we may need to tax the output of robots and automated systems.

It’s in this context, where millions, maybe tens of millions, will find it near impossible to find work, that we’re going to need to rethink how we provide for the basic needs of large swaths of the population.

UBI is a solution for this high automation, low labor economy. Andrew Yang knows this. He’s right, and he’s ahead of the curve on this topic. I’m glad he’s bringing this important issue to light.

See more about him and his campaign.

Momo Challenge – Be Smarter

Only you can stop viral hoaxes

Last week, I was warned by the school principal about the dangers of the “Momo Challenge”. It had not been reported by reputable news outlets and had already been debunked by some. Still, schools, police departments, and well-meaning adults worldwide were sucked into the fake news vortex and shared their fears with their friends online.

Context:

Yes, parents must monitor their kids’ online activities. Yes, an image of this very sculpture appeared in an otherwise benign Minecraft video, triggering several nights of bedtime fears right here at home. Yes, there are many ways kids can get themselves in trouble through what they share and whom they engage with, online.

But the Momo Challenge, clearly defined as violence and self-harm inspired by this character who was alleged to have infiltrated WhatsApp, YouTube, etc, is a hoax. Full stop.

 

These fears began last fall when images of the sculpture by the Japanese artist Keisuke Aiso began circulating online. The hoax gained much more momentum earlier this month.

The ‘Momo Challenge’: A sinister threat to young people or an urban myth?

 

Hoaxes like this exist only to the degree we give them life, so why was it so successful?

Fear.

We often fear things we don’t understand. For many well-intentioned adults, social media, and particularly WhatsApp, is a black box.

Media illiteracy.

Smaller news organizations, desperate for eyeballs, often lead with blood and fear. Many people read only the headlines. They then share foolish stories, uncritically.

Media literacy has never been more important. The success of fringe media and comments sections everywhere prove its non-existence.

Kids, and the virtue signaling mob that surrounds them.

We all want them protected, of course. But what sets this hoax apart from some others is the opportunity to virtue signal.

While Tide Pods were eaten, and condoms being snorted, by, per the urban myth, large numbers of teens, this one was coming for your elementary school children. Alerting your friends to this scourge makes you better than everyone else, a better parent. Schools sharing this demonstrably fake news must have made administrators feel better.

Worse still, many defended the decision to spread this misinformation, even after the hoax was debunked. Parents pivoted to the broader risks social media and communications platforms can present. While true, this obfuscates the point of the matter at hand. Our Superintendent defended the department’s sharing of it by suggesting it was best to “err on the side of caution.” That’s too low a standard for me. We must seek the truth before we can assess risks and how to mitigate them.

 

How we can do better.

Social media is full of scams and hoaxes. Some are benign “free vacation” offers seeking likes, followers, and your data. Trust me – you’re not going to win a Disney vacation by liking and sharing, not even if you type “done”. Fake news hoaxes, as has been well-documented in recent years, are widespread and pernicious. They don’t point to specific harms, but they are meant to inflame and divide.

We can do better. Thinking persons must do their part.

  1. Don’t spread misinformation. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’re not the problem. Still, use Google or Snopes for a quick fact check before you share.
  2. Fight fear and misinformation with cold hard facts.

Here’s an excellent take on this topic: Don’t fall for it: a parent’s guide to protecting your kids from online hoaxes

 

You and your kids have never been safer. Take a breath and check the facts. Let’s do better next time.

 

Latest: ‘Momo Challenge’ Sculpture Has Been Destroyed

Anomaly Detection in Video & Image Classification

We’re seeing and doing all sorts of interesting work in the image domain. Recent blog posts, white papers, and roundtables capture some of this work, such as image segmentation and classification to video highlights. But an Image area of broad interest that, to this point, we’ve but scratched the surface of is Video-based Anomaly Detection. It’s a challenging data science problem, in part due to the velocity of data streams and missing data, but has wide-ranging solution applicability.

In-store monitoring of customer movements and behavior.

Motion sensing, the antecedent to Video-based Anomaly Detection, isn’t new and there is a multitude of commercial solutions in that area. Anomaly Detection is something different and it opens the door to new, more advanced applications and more robust deployments. Part of the distinction between the two stems from “sensing” what’s usual behavior and what’s different.

Anomaly Detection

Walkers in the park look “normal”. The bicyclist is the anomaly. 

 

Anomaly detection requires the ability to understand a motion “baseline” and to trigger notifications based on deviations from that baseline. Having this ability offers the opportunity to deploy AI-monitored cameras in many more real-world situations across a wide range of security use cases, smart city monitoring, and more, wherein movements and behaviors can be tracked and measured with higher accuracy and at a much larger scale than ever before.

With 500 million video cameras in the world tracking these movements, a new approach is required to deal with this mountain of data. For this reason, Deep Learning and advances in edge computing are enabling a paradigm shift from video recording and human watchers toward AI monitoring. Many systems will have humans “in the loop,” with people being alerted to anomalies. But others won’t. For example, in the near future, smart cities will automatically respond to heavy traffic conditions with adjustments to the timing of stoplights, and they’ll do so routinely without human intervention.

Human in the Loop

Human in the loop.

As on many AI fronts, this is an exciting time and the opportunities are numerous. Stay tuned for more from Doctrina.ai, and let’s talk about your ideas on Video-based Anomaly Detection or AI more broadly.

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