From the The Physics arXiv Blog: “The way we view online recipes reveals how our eating habits change over time, say computational sociologists….it’s no surprise that computational sociologists have begun to mine the data associated with our browsing habits to discover more about our diets and eating habits. Last year we looked at some fascinating work examining networks of ingredients and the flavours they contain, gathered from online recipe websites. It turns out this approach gives fascinating insights into the way recipes vary geographically and into the possibility of unexplored combinations of flavours.
Today, Robert West at Stanford University and Ryen White and Eric Horvitz from Microsoft Research in Redmond, take a deeper look at the electronic trails we leave when we hunt for food on the web. They say the data reveals important trends in the way our diets change with the season, with our geographical location and with certain special days such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. And they conclude that the data could become an important tool for monitoring public health.”
See also : arxiv.org/abs/1304.3742: From Cookies to Cooks: Insights on Dietary Patterns via Analysis of Web Usage Logs
“The 4-24 Project is dedicated to rekindling the provocative power of asking the right questions in adults so they can pass this crucial creativity skill onto the next generation. By setting aside 4 minutes every 24 hours (or one full day each year) we, as adults, can become better at building the right questions that will unlock today’s vexing challenges. Our strengthened questioning capacity will hopefully help us cultivate and sharpen the curiosity of the world’s 1.85 billion children as they prepare for a lifetime of significant service.”
The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Knopf, 2013
Scientific American: “Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and Cohen, director of Google Ideas and a foreign policy wonk who has advised Hillary Clinton, deliver their vision of the future in this ambitious, fascinating account. For gadget geeks, the book is filled with tantalizing examples of futuristic goods and services: robotic plumbers; automated haircuts; computers that read body language; and 3-D holographs of weddings projected into the living rooms of relatives who couldn’t attend. Not surprisingly, the authors are bullish on how connectivity—access to the Internet that will soon be nearly universal—will transform education, terrorism, journalism, government, privacy and war. The result, they argue, though not perfect, will be “more egalitarian, more transparent and more interesting than we can even imagine.”
David Brooks in NYT: “Over the past few centuries, there have been many efforts to come up with methods to help predict human behavior — what Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic calls mathematizing the subjective. The current one is the effort to understand the world by using big data.
Other efforts to predict behavior were based on models of human nature. The people using big data don’t presume to peer deeply into people’s souls. They don’t try to explain why people are doing things. They just want to observe what they are doing. The theory of big data is to have no theory, at least about human nature. You just gather huge amounts of information, observe the patterns and estimate probabilities about how people will act in the future….
One of my take-aways is that big data is really good at telling you what to pay attention to. It can tell you what sort of student is likely to fall behind. But then to actually intervene to help that student, you have to get back in the world of causality, back into the world of responsibility, back in the world of advising someone to do x because it will cause y.”
“This report on Big Data is the first MeriTalk Beacon, a new series of reports designed to shed light and provide direction on far reaching issues in government and technology. Since Beacons are designed to tackle broad concepts, each Beacon report relies on insight from a small number of big thinkers in the topic area. Less data. More insight. Real knowledge…Mankind created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005, and 1,800 exabytes in 20112; growth that only continues to accelerate. Every minute, users: Upload 48 hours of video to YouTube; Send 204 million emails; Spend $207,000 via the web; Create 571 new websites. Within the Federal government; U.S. drone aircraft sent back 24 years worth of video footage in just 2009. Every 24 hours, NASA’s Curiosity rover can send nearly three gigabytes of data, collecting in mere days the equivalent of all human knowledge through the death of Augustus Caesar – from Mars.”
Experian: “Insights from Experian, the global information services company, reveals that if the time spent on the Internet was distilled into an hour then a quarter of it would be spent on social networking and forums across UK, US and Australia. In the UK 13 minutes out of every hour online is spent on social networking and forums, nine minutes on entertainment sites and six minutes shopping.”
Geoff Mulgan: “The last few years have brought a cornucopia of innovation around data, with millions of data sets opened up, and big campaigns around transparency, all interacting with the results of a glut of hackathons, appathons and the like. Linked to this has been the explosion of creativity around digital tools for civic engagement and local government….
There are also big questions to ask about digital technologies and public services – and in particular why so few public services have been radically redesigned. This has been talked about for as long as I can remember – and it’s not hard to map out how a transformed health, welfare or transport system could work if you started afresh. But with a few exceptions (like tax) this isn’t happening in any of the big public services anywhere. I’ll be writing some blogs soon about how we might accelerate this kind of systemic change.
In the meantime there are some more pragmatic questions to ask about what is and isn’t working. A pattern is becoming clear which poses a challenge to the enthusiasts, and to funders like us. In essence it’s this: there has been brilliant progress on the supply side – opening up data, and multiplying tools and apps of all kinds. But there has been far less progress on the demand and use side. The result is that thousands of promising data sets, apps and sites remain unused; and a great deal of creativity and energy has gone to waste.
The reasons are fairly obvious when you think about it. This is a movement driven by enthusiasts who have tended to assume that supply will create its own demand (sometimes it does – but not often). Most of the practitioners are interested in the technical challenges of design, and a measure of their success is that for most applications there are readily accessible tools now available. Yet the much bigger challenges lie around use: how to develop attractive brands; how to promote and market; how to shape design to fit how people will actually use the services; how to build living communities.”
WIRED: “The investigation of Monday’s deadly twin bombings in Boston will rely to an extraordinary extent on crowdsourced surveillance, provided by Marathon spectators’ cellphone photos, Vine videos, and Instagram feeds….There are limits to the crowdsourcing. The data used in the investigation will be crowdsourced. The investigation will not be. A crowdsourced investigation runs a high risk of becoming a witchhunt, as we saw in the Newton shooting spree.”
The April issue of Governing magazine features Jen Pahlka of Code for America: “One of the things I love about Silicon Valley is the experimentation and willingness to play around,” says Pahlka. “That is wonderful, but sometimes becomes trivialization. As a society we can’t afford to have some of our brightest minds working on trivial things like, you know, Facebook apps.”…Pahlka’s vision for the group was essentially that by taking start-up values to government, “this thing that works” (Silicon Valley) would “fix this thing that doesn’t” (government). She quickly concluded that idea was wrong….What was broken, though, was the relationship between government and the citizenry. “That’s a problem on both sides,” Pahlka says.