Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Course Catalog: Classical Composition

Description: This is a course on classical music composition that will teach the principles of melody, harmony, and orchestration.  However, this course does not teach you to form you musical ideas.  That comes from your talent.  If you don't have it, you can become an orchestrator.  The distinguished alumni of this course usually breaks with the principle we teach them and write great music nevertheless.  (Shostakovich, Debussy)

Course Credit: None

Pre-Requisites: No technical pre-requisite.  However, one should try to live a life of calamity, solitude, and mental instability through the achievement of at least one of the following:

  1. Unfulfilling / unrequited love for a string of women who are outside of your social class, for example members of the aristocracy or the royals.  See Beethoven.
  2. If you are homosexual, the unfortunate need to oppress your orientation due to social pressures of your society.  See Tchaikovsky.
  3. Have a high infant mortality rate.  See Bach.
  4. Losing of either vision or hearing.  (See Beethoven or Rodrigo)
  5. Live under a repressive Communist dictatorship (Shostakovich)
  6. Lastly, having your wife engaging in an affair with one of your best friend.  (Schumann)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

AI-assisted political science

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, there has been much debate on the radio about the gun policy in the United States.  The gun advocates stress that banning ownership of guns will not take it out the hands of criminals and decrease violent crime.  Both sides of the debate totes different statistics in order to support their own side.  During the presidential debates, there were numerous occasions where numbers were presented and its truthfulness contested by Obama and Romney.  One instance that comes to mind was when the factual accuracy of Romney's tax policy for the middle class was in dispute.

I think this is one area where information retrieval / data science /weak AI (doesn't mean crappy AI, but just to distinguish it from the well-defined Strong AI term) can really contribute to the public sphere.  Imagine a Google or Wolfram Alpha type program that parses the content of a debate and automatically checks for factual accuracy: gun crime rate, economic data, demographics, tax rates, tax codes etc, perhaps via an overlay on the screen.  This really would sway public discussions from "what are the facts" vs "what is the right policy".  It also prevents cheating and mis-representation of facts.

To push this idea further, imagine an AI-assisted data retrieval / analytics program for the common masses.  To take an example, I wanted to draw a simple correlation graph of gun ownership rates by country vs homicide rate by country.  Just to answer this one simple question, I had to manually enter / merge two separate tables found on Wikipedia, and then filter the data for missing entries using MATLAB, and perform a plot.  This set of computer skill, in the short future, is beyond the common knowledge of the average citizen, yet they need these types of questions answered concretely in order to vote on the right candidate / policy for this country.  How about a more advanced search  / analytics that would, given a question in natural language format, e.g. "Has the crime rate in NYC decreased after 1990?", it would automatically retrieve & clean the relevant data and perform the relevant statistical analysis.  (Regression, classification, etc.)  Currently Google / Bing can answer factual questions, but they are still one step away from answering analytical questions.