Data Skeptic

In mathematics, truth is universal.  In data, truth lies in the where clause of the query.

As large organizations have grown to rely on their data more significantly for decision making, a common problem is not being able to agree on what the data is.

As the volume and velocity of data grow, challenges emerge in answering questions with precision.  A simple question like "what was the revenue yesterday" could become mired in details.  Did your query account for transactions that haven't been finalized?  If I query again later, should I exclude orders that have been returned since the last query?  What time zone should I use?  The list goes on and on.

In any large enough organization, you are also likely to find multiple copies if the same data.  Independent systems might record the same information with slight variance.  Sometimes systems will import data from other systems; a process which could become out of sync for several reasons.

For any sufficiently large system, answering analytical questions with precision can become a non-trivial challenge.  The business intelligence community aspires to provide a "single source of truth" - one canonical place where data consumers can go to get precise, reliable, and trusted answers to their analytical questions.

Direct download: single-source-of-truth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am PST

Fast radio bursts are an astrophysical phenomenon first observed in 2007. While many observations have been made, science has yet to explain the mechanism for these events. This has led some to ask: could it be a form of extra-terrestrial communication?

Probably not. Kyle asks Gerry Zhang who works at the Berkeley SETI Research Center about this possibility and more importantly, about his applications of deep learning to detect fast radio bursts.

Radio astronomy captures observations from space which can be converted to a waterfall chart or spectrogram. These data structures can be formatted in a visual way and also make great candidates for applying deep learning to the task of detecting the fast radio bursts.

Direct download: detecting-fast-radio-bursts-with-deep-learning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38am PST

This episode explores the root concept of what it is to be Bayesian: describing knowledge of a system probabilistically, having an appropriate prior probability, know how to weigh new evidence, and following Bayes's rule to compute the revised distribution.

We present this concept in a few different contexts but primarily focus on how our bird Yoshi sends signals about her food preferences.

Like many animals, Yoshi is a complex creature whose preferences cannot easily be summarized by a straightforward utility function the way they might in a textbook reinforcement learning problem. Her preferences are sequential, conditional, and evolving. We may not always know what our bird is thinking, but we have some good indicators that give us clues.

Direct download: bayesian-redux.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

This is our interview with Dorje Brody about his recent paper with David Meier, How to model fake news. This paper uses the tools of communication theory and a sub-topic called filtering theory to describe the mathematical basis for an information channel which can contain fake news.


Thanks to our sponsor Gartner.

Direct download: modeling-fake-news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Without getting into definitions, we have an intuitive sense of what a "community" is. The Louvain Method for Community Detection is one of the best known mathematical techniques designed to detect communities.

This method requires typical graph data in which people are nodes and edges are their connections. It's easy to imagine this data in the context of Facebook or LinkedIn but the technique applies just as well to any other dataset like cellular phone calling records or pen-pals.

The Louvain Method provides a means of measuring the strength of any proposed community based on a concept known as Modularity. Modularity is a value in the range [-1, 1] that measure the density of links internal to a community against links external to the community. The quite palatable assumption here is that a genuine community would have members that are strongly interconnected.

A community is not necessarily the same thing as a clique; it is not required that all community members know each other. Rather, we simply define a community as a graph structure where the nodes are more connected to each other than connected to people outside the community.

It's only natural that any person in a community has many connections to people outside that community. The more a community has internal connections over external connections, the stronger that community is considered to be. The Louvain Method elegantly captures this intuitively desirable quality.

Direct download: louvain-community-detection.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:22am PST

In this episode, our guest is Dan Kahan about his research into how people consume and interpret science news.

In an era of fake news, motivated reasoning, and alternative facts, important questions need to be asked about how people understand new information.

Dan is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University, a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs.

In a paper titled Cultural cognition of scientific consensus, Dan and co-authors Hank Jenkins‐Smith and Donald Braman discuss the "cultural cognition of risk" and establish experimentally that individuals tend to update their beliefs about scientific information through a context of their pre-existing cultural beliefs. In this way, topics such as climate change, nuclear power, and conceal-carry handgun permits often result in people.

The findings of this and other studies tell us that on topics such as these, even when people are given proper information about a scientific consensus, individuals still interpret those results through the lens of their pre-existing cultural beliefs.

The ‘cultural cognition of risk’ refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values. The study presents both correlational and experimental evidence confirming that cultural cognition shapes individuals’ beliefs about the existence of scientific consensus, and the process by which they form such beliefs, relating to climate change, the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the effect of permitting concealed possession of handguns. The implications of this dynamic for science communication and public policy‐making are discussed.

Direct download: cultural-cognition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:24am PST

A false discovery rate (FDR) is a methodology that can be useful when struggling with the problem of multiple comparisons.

In any experiment, if the experimenter checks more than one dependent variable, then they are making multiple comparisons. Naturally, if you make enough comparisons, you will eventually find some correlation.

Classically, people applied the Bonferroni Correction. In essence, this procedure dictates that you should lower your p-value (raise your standard of evidence) by a specific amount depending on the number of variables you're considering. While effective, this methodology is strict about preventing false positives (type i errors). You aren't likely to find evidence for a hypothesis that is actually false using Bonferroni. However, your exuberance to avoid type i errors may have introduced some type ii errors. There could be some hypotheses that are actually true, which you did not notice.

This episode covers an alternative known as false discovery rates. The essence of this method is to make more specific adjustments to your expectation of what p-value is sufficient evidence. 

Direct download: false-discovery-rates.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09am PST

Digital videos can be described as sequences of still images and associated audio. Audio is easy to fake. What about video?

A video can easily be broken down into a sequence of still images replayed rapidly in sequence. In this context, videos are simply very high dimensional sequences of observations, ripe for input into a machine learning algorithm.

The availability of commodity hardware, clever algorithms, and well-designed software to implement those algorithms at scale make it possible to do machine learning on video, but to what end? There are many answers, one interesting approach being the technology called "DeepFakes".

The Deep of Deepfakes refers to Deep Learning, and the fake refers to the function of the software - to take a real video of a human being and digitally alter their face to match someone else's face. Here are two examples:

This software produces curiously convincing fake videos. Yet, there's something slightly off about them. Surely machine learning can be used to determine real from fake... right? Siwei Lyu and his collaborators certainly thought so and demonstrated this idea by identifying a novel, detectable feature which was commonly missing from videos produced by the Deep Fakes software.

In this episode, we discuss this use case for deep learning, detecting fake videos, and the threat of fake videos in the future.

Direct download: deepfakes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this episode, Kyle reviews what we've learned so far in our series on Fake News and talks briefly about where we're going next.

Direct download: fake-news-midterm.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Two weeks ago we discussed click through rates or CTRs and their usefulness and limits as a metric. Today, we discuss a related metric known as quality score.

While that phrase has probably been used to mean dozens of different things in different contexts, our discussion focuses around the idea of quality score encountered in Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is the practice of purchasing keyword targeted ads shown to customers using a search engine.

Most SEM is managed via an auction mechanism - the advertiser states the price they are willing to pay, and in real time, the search engine will serve users advertisements and charge the advertiser.

But how to search engines decide who to show and what price to charge? This is a complicated question requiring a multi-part answer to address completely. In this episode, we focus on one part of that equation, which is the quality score the search engine assigns to the ad in context. This quality score is calculated via several factors including crawling the destination page (also called the landing page) and predicting how applicable the content found there is to the ad itself.

Direct download: quality_score.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm PST

Kyle interviews Steven Sloman, Professor in the school of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences at Brown University. Steven is co-author of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone and Causal Models: How People Think about the World and Its Alternatives. Steven shares his perspective and research into how people process information and what this teaches us about the existence of and belief in fake news.

Direct download: the-knowledge-illusion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

A Click Through Rate (CTR) is the proportion of clicks to impressions of some item of content shared online. This terminology is most commonly used in digital advertising but applies just as well to content websites might choose to feature on their homepage or in search results.

A CTR is intuitively appealing as a metric for optimization. After all, if users are disinterested in some content, under normal circumstances, it's reasonable to assume they would ignore the content, rather than clicking on it. On the other hand, the best content is likely to elicit a high CTR as users signal their interest by following the hyperlink.

In the advertising world, a website could charge per impression, per click, or per action. Both impression and action based pricing have asymmetrical results for the publisher and advertiser. However, paying per click (CPC based advertising) seems to strike a nice balance. For this and other numeric reasons, many digital advertising mechanisms (such as Google Adwords) use CPC as the payment mechanism.

When charging per click, an advertising platform will value a high CTR when selecting which ad to show. As we learned in our episode on Goodhart's Law, once a measure is turned into a target, it ceases to be a good measure. While CTR alone does not entirely drive most online advertising algorithms, it does play an important role. Thus, advertisers are incentivized to adopt strategies that maximize CTR.

On the surface, this sounds like a great idea: provide internet users what they are looking for, and be awarded with their attention and lower advertising costs. However, one possible unintended consequence of this type of optimization is the creation of ads which are designed solely to generate clicks, regardless of if the users are happy with the page they visit after clicking a link.

So, at least in part, websites that optimize for higher CTRs are going to favor content that does a good job getting viewers to click it. Getting a user to view a page is not totally synonymous with getting a user to appreciate the content of a page. The gap between the algorithmic goal and the user experience could be one of the factors that has promoted the creation of fake news.

Direct download: ctrs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

The scale and frequency with which information can be distributed on social media makes the problem of fake news a rapidly metastasizing issue. To do any content filtering or labeling demands an algorithmic solution.

In today's episode, Kyle interviews Kai Shu and Mike Tamir about their independent work exploring the use of machine learning to detect fake news.

Kai Shu and his co-authors published Fake News Detection on Social Media: A Data Mining Perspective, a research paper which both surveys the existing literature and organizes the structure of the problem in a robust way.

Mike Tamir led the development of, a website and Chrome/Firefox plugin which leverages machine learning to try and predict the category of a previously unseen web page, with categories like opinion, wiki, and fake news.

Direct download: algorithmic-detection-of-fake-news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06am PST

If you prepared a list of creatures regarded as highly intelligent, it's unlikely ants would make the cut. This is expected, as on an individual level, ants do not generally display behavior that most humans would regard as intelligence. In fact, it might even be true that most species of ants are unable to learn. Despite this, ant colonies have evolved excellent survival mechanisms through the careful orchestration of ants.

Direct download: ant-intelligence.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

With publications such as "Prior exposure increases perceived accuracy of fake news", "Lazy, not biased: Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning", and "The science of fake news", Gordon Pennycook is asking and answering analytical questions about the nature of human intuition and fake news.

Gordon appeared on Data Skeptic in 2016 to discuss people's ability to recognize pseudo-profound bullshit.  This episode explores his work in fake news.

Direct download: human-detection-of-fake-news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Today's spam filters are advanced data driven tools. They rely on a variety of techniques to effectively and often seamlessly filter out junk email from good email.

Whitelists, blacklists, traffic analysis, network analysis, and a variety of other tools are probably employed by most major players in this area. Naturally content analysis can be an especially powerful tool for detecting spam.

Given the binary nature of the problem (Spam or \neg Spam) its clear that this is a great problem to use machine learning to solve. In order to apply machine learning, you first need a labelled training set. Thankfully, many standard corpora of labelled spam data are readily available. Further, if you're working for a company with a spam filtering problem, often asking users to self-moderate or flag things as spam can be an effective way to generate a large amount of labels for "free".

With a labeled dataset in hand, a data scientist working on spam filtering must next do feature engineering. This should be done with consideration of the algorithm that will be used. The Naive Bayesian Classifer has been a popular choice for detecting spam because it tends to perform pretty well on high dimensional data, unlike a lot of other ML algorithms. It also is very efficient to compute, making it possible to train a per-user Classifier if one wished to. While we might do some basic NLP tricks, for the most part, we can turn each word in a document (or perhaps each bigram or n-gram in a document) into a feature.

The Naive part of the Naive Bayesian Classifier stems from the naive assumption that all features in one's analysis are considered to be independent. If x and y are known to be independent, then Pr(x \cap y) = Pr(x) \cdot Pr(y). In other words, you just multiply the probabilities together. Shh, don't tell anyone, but this assumption is actually wrong! Certainly, if a document contains the word algorithm, it's more likely to contain the word probability than some randomly selected document. Thus, Pr(\text{algorithm} \cap \text{probability}) > Pr(\text{algorithm}) \cdot Pr(\text{probability}), violating the assumption. Despite this "flaw", the Naive Bayesian Classifier works remarkably will on many problems. If one employs the common approach of converting a document into bigrams (pairs of words instead of single words), then you can capture a good deal of this correlation indirectly.

In the final leg of the discussion, we explore the question of whether or not a Naive Bayesian Classifier would be a good choice for detecting fake news.

Direct download: spam-filtering.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

How does fake news get spread online? Its not just a matter of manipulating search algorithms. The social platforms for sharing play a major role in the distribution of fake news. But how significant of an impact can there be? How significantly can bots influence the spread of fake news?

In this episode, Kyle interviews Filippo Menczer, Professor of Computer Science and Informatics.

Fil is part of the Observatory on Social Media ([OSoMe][]). OSoMe are the creators of HoaxyBotometerFakey, and other tools for studying the spread of information on social media.

The interview explores these tools and the contributions Bots make to the spread of fake news.

Direct download: the-spread-of-fake-news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

This episode kicks off our new theme of "Fake News" with guests Robert Sheaffer and Brad Schwartz.

Fake news is a new label for an old idea. For our purposes, we will define fake news information created to deliberately mislead while masquerading as a legitimate, journalistic source of truth. It's become a modern topic of discussion as our cultures evolve to the fledgling mechanisms of communication introduced by online platforms.

What was the earliest incident of fake news? That's a question for which we may never find a satisfying answer. While not the earliest, we present a dramatization of an early example of fake news, which leads us into a discussion with UFO Skeptic Robert Sheaffer. Following that we get into our main interview with Brad Schwartz, author of Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News.

Direct download: fake-news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

We revisit the 2018 Microsoft Build in this episode, focusing on the latest ideas in DevOps. Kyle interviews Cloud Developer Advocates Damien Brady, Paige Bailey, and Donovan Brown to talk about DevOps and data science and databases.

For a data scientist, what does it even mean to “build”? Packaging and deployment are things that a data scientist doesn't normally have to consider in their day-to-day work. The process of making an AI app is usually divided into two streams of work: data scientists building machine learning models and app developers building the application for end users to consume.

DevOps includes all the parties involved in getting the application deployed and maintained and thinking about all the phases that follow and precede their part of the end solution. So what does DevOps mean for data science? Why should you adopt DevOps best practices?

In the first half, Paige and Damian share their views on what DevOps for data science would look like and how it can be introduced to provide continuous integration, delivery, and deployment of data science models. In the second half, Donovan and Damian talk about the DevOps life cycle of putting a database under version control and carrying out deployments through a release pipeline.

Direct download: devops-for-data-science.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:23pm PST

Logic is a fundamental of mathematical systems. It's roots are the values true and false and it's power is in what it's rules allow you to prove. Prepositional logic provides it's user variables. This episode gets into First Order Logic, an extension to prepositional logic.

Direct download: first-order-logic.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

An intelligent agent trained in a simulated environment may be prone to making mistakes in the real world due to discrepancies between the training and real-world conditions. The areas where an agent makes mistakes are hard to find, known as "blind spots," and can stem from various reasons. In this week’s episode, Kyle is joined by Ramya Ramakrishnan, a PhD candidate at MIT, to discuss the idea “blind spots” in reinforcement learning and approaches to discover them.

Direct download: blind-spots-in-reinforcement-learning.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this week’s episode, our host Kyle interviews Gokula Krishnan from ETH Zurich, about his recent contributions to defenses against adversarial attacks. The discussion centers around his latest paper, titled “Defending Against Adversarial Attacks by Leveraging an Entire GAN,” and his proposed algorithm, aptly named ‘Cowboy.’

Direct download: defending-against-adversarial-attacks.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

On a long car ride, Linhda and Kyle record a short episode. This discussion is about transfer learning, a technique using in machine learning to leverage training from one domain to have a head start learning in another domain.

Transfer learning has some obvious appealing features. Take the example of an image recognition problem. There are now many widely available models that do general image recognition. Detecting that an image contains a "sofa" is an impressive feat. However, for a furniture company interested in more specific details, this classifier is absurdly general. Should the furniture company build a massive corpus of tagged photos, effectively starting from scratch? Or is there a way they can transfer the learnings from the general task to the specific one.

A general definition of transfer learning in machine learning is the use of taking some or all aspects of a pre-trained model as the basis to begin training a new model which a specific and potentially limited dataset.

Direct download: transfer-learning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Medical imaging is a highly effective tool used by clinicians to diagnose a wide array of diseases and injuries. However, it often requires exceptionally trained specialists such as radiologists to interpret accurately. In this episode of Data Skeptic, our host Kyle Polich is joined by Gabriel Maicas, a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide, to discuss machine learning systems that can be used by radiologists to improve their accuracy and speed of diagnosis.

Direct download: medical-imaging-training-techniques.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 7:00am PST

Thanks to our sponsor Galvanize

A Kalman Filter is a technique for taking a sequence of observations about an object or variable and determining the most likely current state of that object. In this episode, we discuss it in the context of tracking our lilac crowned amazon parrot Yoshi.

Kalman filters have many applications but the one of particular interest under our current theme of artificial intelligence is to efficiently update one's beliefs in light of new information.

The Kalman filter is based upon the Gaussian distribution. This distribution is described by two parameters: \mu (the mean) and standard deviation. The procedure for updating these values in light of new information has a closed form. This means that it can be described with straightforward formulae and computed very efficiently.

You may gain a greater appreciation for Kalman filters by considering what would happen if you could not rely on the Gaussian distribution to describe your posterior beliefs. If determining the probability distribution over the variables describing some object cannot be efficiently computed, then by definition, maintaining the most up to date posterior beliefs can be a significant challenge.

Kyle will be giving a talk at Skeptical 2018 in Berkeley, CA on June 10.

Direct download: kalman-filters.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:47am PST

There's so much to discuss on the AI side, it's hard to know where to begin. Luckily,  Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of AI Business, and Carlos Pessoa, a software engineering manager for the company’s Cloud AI Platform, talked to Kyle about announcements related to AI in industry.

Direct download: ms-ai.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Today's interview is with the authors of the textbook Artificial Intelligence and Games.

Direct download: ai-in-games-master.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am PST

Thanks to our sponsor The Great Courses.

This week's episode is a short primer on game theory.

For tickets to the free Data Skeptic meetup in Chicago on Tuesday, May 15 at the Mendoza College of Business (224 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 350), click here,

Direct download: game-theory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16am PST

In this episode of Data Skeptic, Kyle chats with Jerry Schwarz from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG)'s SF Bay Area chapter about testing claims of the paranormal. The IIG is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to investigating paranormal or extraordinary claim from a scientific viewpoint. The group, headquartered at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles in Hollywood, offers a $100,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.

CHICAGO Tues, May 15, 6pm. Come to our Data Skeptic meetup.

CHICAGO Saturday, May 19, 10am. Kyle will be giving a talk at the Chicago AI, Data Science, and Blockchain Conference 2018.

Direct download: the-experimental-design-of-paranormal-claims.mp3
Category:skepticism -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Our guest this week, Hector Levesque, joins us to discuss an alternative way to measure a machine’s intelligence, called Winograd Schemas Challenge. The challenge was proposed as a possible alternative to the Turing test during the 2011 AAAI Spring Symposium. The challenge involves a small reading comprehension test about common sense knowledge.

Direct download: winograd_episode.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 9:52am PST

This week on Data Skeptic, we begin with a skit to introduce the topic of this show: The Imitation Game. We open with a scene in the distant future. The year is 2027, and a company called Shamony is announcing their new product, Ada, the most advanced artificial intelligence agent. To prove its superiority, the lead scientist announces that it will use the Turing Test that Alan Turing proposed in 1950. During this we introduce Turing’s “objections” outlined in his famous paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

Following that, we talk with improv coach Holly Laurent on the art of improvisation and Peter Clark from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence about question and answering algorithms.

Direct download: the-imitation-game.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this episode, Kyle shares his perspective on the chatbot Eugene Goostman which (some claim) "passed" the Turing Test. As a second topic Kyle also does an intro of the Winograd Schema Challenge.

Direct download: eugene-goostman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this episode, Kyle and Linhda discuss the theory of formal languages. Any language can (theoretically) be a formal language. The requirement is that the language can be rigorously described as a set of strings which are considered part of the language. Those strings are any combination of alphabet characters in the given language.

Read more


Direct download: the-theory-of-formal-languages.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

The Loebner Prize is a competition in the spirit of the Turing Test.  Participants are welcome to submit conversational agent software to be judged by a panel of humans.  This episode includes interviews with Charlie Maloney, a judge in the Loebner Prize, and Bruce Wilcox, a winner of the Loebner Prize.

Direct download: the-loebner-prize.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this episode, Kyle chats with Vince from and Heather Shapiro who works on the Microsoft Bot Framework. We solicit their advice on building a good chatbot both creatively and technically.

Our sponsor today is Warby Parker.

Direct download: chatbots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this week’s episode, Kyle Polich interviews Pedro Domingos about his book, The Master Algorithm: How the quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world. In the book, Domingos describes what machine learning is doing for humanity, how it works and what it could do in the future. He also hints at the possibility of an ultimate learning algorithm, in which the machine uses it will be able to derive all knowledge — past, present, and future.

Direct download: the-master-algorithm.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

What's the best machine learning algorithm to use? I hear that XGBoost wins most of the Kaggle competitions that aren't won with deep learning. Should I just use XGBoost all the time? That might work out most of the time in practice, but a proof exists which tells us that there cannot be one true algorithm to rule them.

Direct download: no-free-lunch-theorems.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

For a long time, physicians have recognized that the tools they have aren't powerful enough to treat complex diseases, like cancer. In addition to data science and models, clinicians also needed actual products — tools that physicians and researchers can draw upon to answer questions they regularly confront, such as “what clinical trials are available for this patient that I'm seeing right now?” In this episode, our host Kyle interviews guests Alex Grigorenko and Iker Huerga from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to talk about how data and technology can be used to prevent, control and ultimately cure cancer.

Direct download: ml-at-sloan-kettering-cancer-center.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In a previous episode, we discussed Markov Decision Processes or MDPs, a framework for decision making and planning. This episode explores the generalization Partially Observable MDPs (POMDPs) which are an incredibly general framework that describes most every agent based system.

Direct download: optimal-decision-making-with-pomdps.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Making a decision is a complex task. Today's guest Dongho Kim discusses how he and his team at Prowler has been building a platform that will be accessible by way of APIs and a set of pre-made scripts for autonomous decision making based on probabilistic modeling, reinforcement learning, and game theory. The aim is so that an AI system could make decisions just as good as humans can.

Direct download: ai-decision-making.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In many real world situations, a person/agent doesn't necessarily know their own objectives or the mechanics of the world they're interacting with. However, if the agent receives rewards which are correlated with the both their actions and the state of the world, then reinforcement learning can be used to discover behaviors that maximize the reward earned.

Direct download: reinforcement-learning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In this week’s episode, Kyle is joined by Risto Miikkulainen, a professor of computer science and neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin. They talk about evolutionary computation, its applications in deep learning, and how it’s inspired by biology. They also discuss some of the things Sentient Technologies is working on in stock and finances, retail, e-commerce and web design, as well as the technology behind it-- evolutionary algorithms.

Direct download: evolutionary-computation.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Formally, an MDP is defined as the tuple containing states, actions, the transition function, and the reward function. This podcast examines each of these and presents them in the context of simple examples.  Despite MDPs suffering from the curse of dimensionality, they're a useful formalism and a basic concept we will expand on in future episodes.

Direct download: markov-decision-process.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Last week on Data Skeptic, we visited the Laboratory of Neuroimaging, or LONI, at USC and learned about their data-driven platform that enables scientists from all over the world to share, transform, store, manage and analyze their data to understand neurological diseases better. We talked about how neuroscientists measure the brain using data from MRI scans, and how that data is processed and analyzed to understand the brain. This week, we'll continue the second half of our two-part episode on LONI.

Direct download: neuroscience-frontiers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST

Last year, Kyle had a chance to visit the Laboratory of Neuroimaging, or LONI, at USC, and learn about how some researchers are using data science to study the function of the brain. We’re going to be covering some of their work in two episodes on Data Skeptic. In this first part of our two-part episode, we'll talk about the data collection and brain imaging and the LONI pipeline. We'll then continue our coverage in the second episode, where we'll talk more about how researchers can gain insights about the human brain and their current challenges. Next week, we’ll also talk more about what all that has to do with data science machine learning and artificial intelligence. Joining us in this week’s episode are members of the LONI lab, which include principal investigators, Dr. Arthur Toga and Dr. Meng Law, and researchers, Farshid Sepherband, PhD and Ryan Cabeen, PhD.

Direct download: neuroimaging-and-big-data.mp3
Category:data science -- posted at: 8:00am PST

In artificial intelligence, the term 'agent' is used to mean an autonomous, thinking agent with the ability to interact with their environment. An agent could be a person or a piece of software. In either case, we can describe aspects of the agent in a standard framework.

Direct download: the-agent-model-of-intelligence.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PST