A Few Useful Things to Know about Machine Learning

A new research paper by Pedro Domingos: “Machine learning algorithms can figure out how to perform important tasks by generalizing from examples. This is often feasible and cost-effective where manual programming is not. As more data becomes available, more ambitious problems can be tackled. As a result, machine learning is widely used in computer science and other fields. However, developing successful machine learning applications requires a substantial amount of “black art” that is hard to find in textbooks. This article summarizes twelve key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned. These include pitfalls to avoid, important issues to focus on, and answers to common questions.”

Google's fact-checking bots build vast knowledge bank

Hal Hodson in the New Scientist: “The search giant is automatically building Knowledge Vault, a massive database that could give us unprecedented access to the world’s facts

GOOGLE is building the largest store of knowledge in human history – and it’s doing so without any human help. Instead, Knowledge Vault autonomously gathers and merges information from across the web into a single base of facts about the world, and the people and objects in it.

The breadth and accuracy of this gathered knowledge is already becoming the foundation of systems that allow robots and smartphones to understand what people ask them. It promises to let Google answer questions like an oracle rather than a search engine, and even to turn a new lens on human history.

Knowledge Vault is a type of “knowledge base” – a system that stores information so that machines as well as people can read it. Where a database deals with numbers, a knowledge base deals with facts. When you type “Where was Madonna born” into Google, for example, the place given is pulled from Google’s existing knowledge base.

This existing base, called Knowledge Graph, relies on crowdsourcing to expand its information. But the firm noticed that growth was stalling; humans could only take it so far. So Google decided it needed to automate the process. It started building the Vault by using an algorithm to automatically pull in information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn the raw data into usable pieces of knowledge.

Knowledge Vault has pulled in 1.6 billion facts to date. Of these, 271 million are rated as “confident facts”, to which Google’s model ascribes a more than 90 per cent chance of being true. It does this by cross-referencing new facts with what it already knows.

“It’s a hugely impressive thing that they are pulling off,” says Fabian Suchanek, a data scientist at Télécom ParisTech in France.

Google’s Knowledge Graph is currently bigger than the Knowledge Vault, but it only includes manually integrated sources such as the CIA Factbook.

Knowledge Vault offers Google fast, automatic expansion of its knowledge – and it’s only going to get bigger. As well as the ability to analyse text on a webpage for facts to feed its knowledge base, Google can also peer under the surface of the web, hunting for hidden sources of data such as the figures that feed Amazon product pages, for example.

Tom Austin, a technology analyst at Gartner in Boston, says that the world’s biggest technology companies are racing to build similar vaults. “Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and IBM are all building them, and they’re tackling these enormous problems that we would never even have thought of trying 10 years ago,” he says.

The potential of a machine system that has the whole of human knowledge at its fingertips is huge. One of the first applications will be virtual personal assistants that go way beyond what Siri and Google Now are capable of, says Austin…”

Towards Timely Public Health Decisions to Tackle Seasonal Diseases With Open Government Data

Paper by Vandana Srivastava and Biplav Srivastava for the Workshops at the Twenty-Eighth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence : “Improving public health is a major responsibility of any government, and is of major interest to citizens and scientific communities around the world. Here, one sees two extremes. On one hand, tremendous progress has been made in recent years in the understanding of causes, spread and remedies of common and regularly occurring diseases like Dengue, Malaria and Japanese Encephalistis (JE). On the other hand, public agencies treat these diseases in an ad hoc manner without learning from the experiences of previous years. Specifically, they would get alerted once reported cases have already arisen substantially in the known disease season, reactively initiate a few actions and then document the disease impact (cases, deaths) for that period, only to forget this learning in the next season. However, they miss the opportunity to reduce preventable deaths and sickness, and their corresponding economic impact, which scientific progress could have enabled. The gap is universal but very prominent in developing countries like India.
In this paper, we show that if public agencies provide historical disease impact information openly, it can be analyzed with statistical and machine learning techniques, correlated with best emerging practices in disease control, and simulated in a setting to optimize social benefits to provide timely guidance for new disease seasons and regions. We illustrate using open data for mosquito-borne communicable diseases; published results in public health on efficacy of Dengue control methods and apply it on a simulated typical city for maximal benefits with available resources. The exercise helps us further suggest strategies for new regions that may be anywhere in the world, how data could be better recorded by city agencies and what prevention methods should medical community focus on for wider impact.
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Selected Readings on Sentiment Analysis

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of sentiment analysis was originally published in 2014.

Sentiment Analysis is a field of Computer Science that uses techniques from natural language processing, computational linguistics, and machine learning to predict subjective meaning from text. The term opinion mining is often used interchangeably with Sentiment Analysis, although it is technically a subfield focusing on the extraction of opinions (the umbrella under which sentiment, evaluation, appraisal, attitude, and emotion all lie).

The rise of Web 2.0 and increased information flow has led to an increase in interest towards Sentiment Analysis — especially as applied to social networks and media. Events causing large spikes in media — such as the 2012 Presidential Election Debates — are especially ripe for analysis. Such analyses raise a variety of implications for the future of crowd participation, elections, and governance.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Choi, Eunsol et al. “Hedge detection as a lens on framing in the GMO debates: a position paper.” Proceedings of the Workshop on Extra-Propositional Aspects of Meaning in Computational Linguistics 13 Jul. 2012: 70-79. http://bit.ly/1wweftP

  • Understanding the ways in which participants in public discussions frame their arguments is important for understanding how public opinion is formed. This paper adopts the position that it is time for more computationally-oriented research on problems involving framing. In the interests of furthering that goal, the authors propose the following question: In the controversy regarding the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, do pro- and anti-GMO articles differ in whether they choose to adopt a more “scientific” tone?
  • Prior work on the rhetoric and sociology of science suggests that hedging may distinguish popular-science text from text written by professional scientists for their colleagues. The paper proposes a detailed approach to studying whether hedge detection can be used to understand scientific framing in the GMO debates, and provides corpora to facilitate this study. Some of the preliminary analyses suggest that hedges occur less frequently in scientific discourse than in popular text, a finding that contradicts prior assertions in the literature.

Michael, Christina, Francesca Toni, and Krysia Broda. “Sentiment analysis for debates.” (Unpublished MSc thesis). Department of Computing, Imperial College London (2013). http://bit.ly/Wi86Xv

  • This project aims to expand on existing solutions used for automatic sentiment analysis on text in order to capture support/opposition and agreement/disagreement in debates. In addition, it looks at visualizing the classification results for enhancing the ease of understanding the debates and for showing underlying trends. Finally, it evaluates proposed techniques on an existing debate system for social networking.

Murakami, Akiko, and Rudy Raymond. “Support or oppose?: classifying positions in online debates from reply activities and opinion expressions.” Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics: Posters 23 Aug. 2010: 869-875. https://bit.ly/2Eicfnm

  • In this paper, the authors propose a method for the task of identifying the general positions of users in online debates, i.e., support or oppose the main topic of an online debate, by exploiting local information in their remarks within the debate. An online debate is a forum where each user posts an opinion on a particular topic while other users state their positions by posting their remarks within the debate. The supporting or opposing remarks are made by directly replying to the opinion, or indirectly to other remarks (to express local agreement or disagreement), which makes the task of identifying users’ general positions difficult.
  • A prior study has shown that a link-based method, which completely ignores the content of the remarks, can achieve higher accuracy for the identification task than methods based solely on the contents of the remarks. In this paper, it is shown that utilizing the textual content of the remarks into the link-based method can yield higher accuracy in the identification task.

Pang, Bo, and Lillian Lee. “Opinion mining and sentiment analysis.” Foundations and trends in information retrieval 2.1-2 (2008): 1-135. http://bit.ly/UaCBwD

  • This survey covers techniques and approaches that promise to directly enable opinion-oriented information-seeking systems. Its focus is on methods that seek to address the new challenges raised by sentiment-aware applications, as compared to those that are already present in more traditional fact-based analysis. It includes material on summarization of evaluative text and on broader issues regarding privacy, manipulation, and economic impact that the development of opinion-oriented information-access services gives rise to. To facilitate future work, a discussion of available resources, benchmark datasets, and evaluation campaigns is also provided.

Ranade, Sarvesh et al. “Online debate summarization using topic directed sentiment analysis.” Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Issues of Sentiment Discovery and Opinion Mining 11 Aug. 2013: 7. http://bit.ly/1nbKtLn

  • Social networking sites provide users a virtual community interaction platform to share their thoughts, life experiences and opinions. Online debate forum is one such platform where people can take a stance and argue in support or opposition of debate topics. An important feature of such forums is that they are dynamic and grow rapidly. In such situations, effective opinion summarization approaches are needed so that readers need not go through the entire debate.
  • This paper aims to summarize online debates by extracting highly topic relevant and sentiment rich sentences. The proposed approach takes into account topic relevant, document relevant and sentiment based features to capture topic opinionated sentences. ROUGE (Recall-Oriented Understudy for Gisting Evaluation, which employ a set of metrics and a software package to compare automatically produced summary or translation against human-produced onces) scores are used to evaluate the system. This system significantly outperforms several baseline systems and show improvement over the state-of-the-art opinion summarization system. The results verify that topic directed sentiment features are most important to generate effective debate summaries.

Schneider, Jodi. “Automated argumentation mining to the rescue? Envisioning argumentation and decision-making support for debates in open online collaboration communities.” http://bit.ly/1mi7ztx

  • Argumentation mining, a relatively new area of discourse analysis, involves automatically identifying and structuring arguments. Following a basic introduction to argumentation, the authors describe a new possible domain for argumentation mining: debates in open online collaboration communities.
  • Based on our experience with manual annotation of arguments in debates, the authors propose argumentation mining as the basis for three kinds of support tools, for authoring more persuasive arguments, finding weaknesses in others’ arguments, and summarizing a debate’s overall conclusions.

Urban Analytics (Updated and Expanded)

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. In this edition, we explore the literature on Urban Analytics. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email biblio@thegovlab.org.

Data and its uses for Governance

Urban Analytics places better information in the hands of citizens as well as government officials to empower people to make more informed choices. Today, we are able to gather real-time information about traffic, pollution, noise, and environmental and safety conditions by culling data from a range of tools: from the low-cost sensors in mobile phones to more robust monitoring tools installed in our environment. With data collected and combined from the built, natural and human environments, we can develop more robust predictive models and use those models to make policy smarter.

With the computing power to transmit and store the data from these sensors, and the tools to translate raw data into meaningful visualizations, we can identify problems as they happen, design new strategies for city management, and target the application of scarce resources where they are most needed.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
Amini, L., E. Bouillet, F. Calabrese, L. Gasparini, and O. Verscheure. “Challenges and Results in City-scale Sensing.” In IEEE Sensors, 59–61, 2011. http://bit.ly/1doodZm.

  • This paper examines “how city requirements map to research challenges in machine learning, optimization, control, visualization, and semantic analysis.”
  • The authors raises several research challenges including how to extract accurate information when the data is noisy and sparse; how to represent findings from digital pervasive technologies; and how people interact with one another and their environment.

Batty, M., K. W. Axhausen, F. Giannotti, A. Pozdnoukhov, A. Bazzani, M. Wachowicz, G. Ouzounis, and Y. Portugali. “Smart Cities of the Future.The European Physical Journal Special Topics 214, no. 1 (November 1, 2012): 481–518. http://bit.ly/HefbjZ.

  • This paper explores the goals and research challenges involved in the development of smart cities that merge ICT with traditional infrastructures through digital technologies.
  • The authors put forth several research objectives, including: 1) to explore the notion of the city as a laboratory for innovation; 2) to develop technologies that ensure equity, fairness and realize a better quality of city life; and 3) to develop technologies that ensure informed participation and create shared knowledge for democratic city governance.
  • The paper also examines several contemporary smart city initiatives, expected paradigm shifts in the field, benefits, risks and impacts.

Budde, Paul. “Smart Cities of Tomorrow.” In Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures, edited by Stamatina Th Rassia and Panos M. Pardalos, 9–20. Energy Systems. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014. http://bit.ly/17MqPZW.

  • This paper examines the components and strategies involved in the creation of smart cities featuring “cohesive and open telecommunication and software architecture.”
  • In their study of smart cities, the authors examine smart and renewable energy; next-generation networks; smart buildings; smart transport; and smart government.
  • They conclude that for the development of smart cities, information and communication technology (ICT) is needed to build more horizontal collaborative structures, useful data must be analyzed in real time and people and/or machines must be able to make instant decisions related to social and urban life.

Cardone, G., L. Foschini, P. Bellavista, A. Corradi, C. Borcea, M. Talasila, and R. Curtmola. “Fostering Participaction in Smart Cities: a Geo-social Crowdsensing Platform.” IEEE Communications
Magazine 51, no. 6 (2013): 112–119. http://bit.ly/17iJ0vZ.

  • This article examines “how and to what extent the power of collective although imprecise intelligence can be employed in smart cities.”
  • To tackle problems of managing the crowdsensing process, this article proposes a “crowdsensing platform with three main original technical aspects: an innovative geo-social model to profile users along different variables, such as time, location, social interaction, service usage, and human activities; a matching algorithm to autonomously choose people to involve in participActions and to quantify the performance of their sensing; and a new Android-based platform to collect sensing data from smart phones, automatically or with user help, and to deliver sensing/actuation tasks to users.”

Chen, Chien-Chu. “The Trend towards ‘Smart Cities.’” International Journal of Automation and Smart Technology. June 1, 2014. http://bit.ly/1jOOaAg.

  • In this study, Chen explores the ambitions, prevalence and outcomes of a variety of smart cities, organized into five categories:
    • Transportation-focused smart cities
    • Energy-focused smart cities
    • Building-focused smart cities
    • Water-resources-focused smart cities
    • Governance-focused smart cities
  • The study finds that the “Asia Pacific region accounts for the largest share of all smart city development plans worldwide, with 51% of the global total. Smart city development plans in the Asia Pacific region tend to be energy-focused smart city initiatives, aimed at easing the pressure on energy resources that will be caused by continuing rapid urbanization in the future.”
  • North America, on the other hand is generally more geared toward energy-focused smart city development plans. “In North America, there has been a major drive to introduce smart meters and smart electric power grids, integrating the electric power sector with information and communications technology (ICT) and replacing obsolete electric power infrastructure, so as to make cities’ electric power systems more reliable (which in turn can help to boost private-sector investment, stimulate the growth of the ‘green energy’ industry, and create more job opportunities).”
  • Looking to Taiwan as an example, Chen argues that, “Cities in different parts of the world face different problems and challenges when it comes to urban development, making it necessary to utilize technology applications from different fields to solve the unique problems that each individual city has to overcome; the emphasis here is on the development of customized solutions for smart city development.”

Domingo, A., B. Bellalta, M. Palacin, M. Oliver and E. Almirall. “Public Open Sensor Data: Revolutionizing Smart Cities.” Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE 32, No. 4. Winter 2013. http://bit.ly/1iH6ekU.

  • In this article, the authors explore the “enormous amount of information collected by sensor devices” that allows for “the automation of several real-time services to improve city management by using intelligent traffic-light patterns during rush hour, reducing water consumption in parks, or efficiently routing garbage collection trucks throughout the city.”
  • They argue that, “To achieve the goal of sharing and open data to the public, some technical expertise on the part of citizens will be required. A real environment – or platform – will be needed to achieve this goal.” They go on to introduce a variety of “technical challenges and considerations involved in building an Open Sensor Data platform,” including:
    • Scalability
    • Reliability
    • Low latency
    • Standardized formats
    • Standardized connectivity
  • The authors conclude that, despite incredible advancements in urban analytics and open sensing in recent years, “Today, we can only imagine the revolution in Open Data as an introduction to a real-time world mashup with temperature, humidity, CO2 emission, transport, tourism attractions, events, water and gas consumption, politics decisions, emergencies, etc., and all of this interacting with us to help improve the future decisions we make in our public and private lives.”

Harrison, C., B. Eckman, R. Hamilton, P. Hartswick, J. Kalagnanam, J. Paraszczak, and P. Williams. “Foundations for Smarter Cities.” IBM Journal of Research and Development 54, no. 4 (2010): 1–16. http://bit.ly/1iha6CR.

  • This paper describes the information technology (IT) foundation and principles for Smarter Cities.
  • The authors introduce three foundational concepts of smarter cities: instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.
  • They also describe some of the major needs of contemporary cities, and concludes that Creating the Smarter City implies capturing and accelerating flows of information both vertically and horizontally.

Hernández-Muñoz, José M., Jesús Bernat Vercher, Luis Muñoz, José A. Galache, Mirko Presser, Luis A. Hernández Gómez, and Jan Pettersson. “Smart Cities at the Forefront of the Future Internet.” In The Future Internet, edited by John Domingue, Alex Galis, Anastasius Gavras, Theodore Zahariadis, Dave Lambert, Frances Cleary, Petros Daras, et al., 447–462. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6656. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. http://bit.ly/HhNbMX.

  • This paper explores how the “Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Services (IoS), can become building blocks to progress towards a unified urban-scale ICT platform transforming a Smart City into an open innovation platform.”
  • The authors examine the SmartSantander project to argue that, “the different stakeholders involved in the smart city business is so big that many non-technical constraints must be considered (users, public administrations, vendors, etc.).”
  • The authors also discuss the need for infrastructures at the, for instance, European level for realistic large-scale experimentally-driven research.

Hoon-Lee, Jung, Marguerite Gong Hancock, Mei-Chih Hu. “Towards an effective framework for building smart cities: Lessons from Seoul and San Francisco.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Ocotober 3, 2013. http://bit.ly/1rzID5v.

  • In this study, the authors aim to “shed light on the process of building an effective smart city by integrating various practical perspectives with a consideration of smart city characteristics taken from the literature.”
  • They propose a conceptual framework based on case studies from Seoul and San Francisco built around the following dimensions:
    • Urban openness
    • Service innovation
    • Partnerships formation
    • Urban proactiveness
    • Smart city infrastructure integration
    • Smart city governance
  • The authors conclude with a summary of research findings featuring “8 stylized facts”:
    • Movement towards more interactive services engaging citizens;
    • Open data movement facilitates open innovation;
    • Diversifying service development: exploit or explore?
    • How to accelerate adoption: top-down public driven vs. bottom-up market driven partnerships;
    • Advanced intelligent technology supports new value-added smart city services;
    • Smart city services combined with robust incentive systems empower engagement;
    • Multiple device & network accessibility can create network effects for smart city services;
    • Centralized leadership implementing a comprehensive strategy boosts smart initiatives.

Kamel Boulos, Maged N. and Najeeb M. Al-Shorbaji. “On the Internet of Things, smart cities and the WHO Healthy Cities.” International Journal of Health Geographics 13, No. 10. 2014. http://bit.ly/Tkt9GA.

  • In this article, the authors give a “brief overview of the Internet of Things (IoT) for cities, offering examples of IoT-powered 21st century smart cities, including the experience of the Spanish city of Barcelona in implementing its own IoT-driven services to improve the quality of life of its people through measures that promote an eco-friendly, sustainable environment.”
  • The authors argue that one of the central needs for harnessing the power of the IoT and urban analytics is for cities to “involve and engage its stakeholders from a very early stage (city officials at all levels, as well as citizens), and to secure their support by raising awareness and educating them about smart city technologies, the associated benefits, and the likely challenges that will need to be overcome (such as privacy issues).”
  • They conclude that, “The Internet of Things is rapidly gaining a central place as key enabler of the smarter cities of today and the future. Such cities also stand better chances of becoming healthier cities.”

Keller, Sallie Ann, Steven E. Koonin, and Stephanie Shipp. “Big Data and City Living – What Can It Do for Us?Significance 9, no. 4 (2012): 4–7. http://bit.ly/166W3NP.

  • This article provides a short introduction to Big Data, its importance, and the ways in which it is transforming cities. After an overview of the social benefits of big data in an urban context, the article examines its challenges, such as privacy concerns and institutional barriers.
  • The authors recommend that new approaches to making data available for research are needed that do not violate the privacy of entities included in the datasets. They believe that balancing privacy and accessibility issues will require new government regulations and incentives.

Kitchin, Rob. “The Real-Time City? Big Data and Smart Urbanism.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, July 3, 2013. http://bit.ly/1aamZj2.

  • This paper focuses on “how cities are being instrumented with digital devices and infrastructure that produce ‘big data’ which enable real-time analysis of city life, new modes of technocratic urban governance, and a re-imagining of cities.”
  • The authors provide “a number of projects that seek to produce a real-time analysis of the city and provides a critical reflection on the implications of big data and smart urbanism.”

Mostashari, A., F. Arnold, M. Maurer, and J. Wade. “Citizens as Sensors: The Cognitive City Paradigm.” In 2011 8th International Conference Expo on Emerging Technologies for a Smarter World (CEWIT), 1–5, 2011. http://bit.ly/1fYe9an.

  • This paper argues that. “implementing sensor networks are a necessary but not sufficient approach to improving urban living.”
  • The authors introduce the concept of the “Cognitive City” – a city that can not only operate more efficiently due to networked architecture, but can also learn to improve its service conditions, by planning, deciding and acting on perceived conditions.
  • Based on this conceptualization of a smart city as a cognitive city, the authors propose “an architectural process approach that allows city decision-makers and service providers to integrate cognition into urban processes.”

Oliver, M., M. Palacin, A. Domingo, and V. Valls. “Sensor Information Fueling Open Data.” In Computer Software and Applications Conference Workshops (COMPSACW), 2012 IEEE 36th Annual, 116–121, 2012. http://bit.ly/HjV4jS.

  • This paper introduces the concept of sensor networks as a key component in the smart cities framework, and shows how real-time data provided by different city network sensors enrich Open Data portals and require a new architecture to deal with massive amounts of continuously flowing information.
  • The authors’ main conclusion is that by providing a framework to build new applications and services using public static and dynamic data that promote innovation, a real-time open sensor network data platform can have several positive effects for citizens.

Perera, Charith, Arkady Zaslavsky, Peter Christen and Dimitrios Georgakopoulos. “Sensing as a service model for smart cities supported by Internet of Things.” Transactions on Emerging Telecommunications Technologies 25, Issue 1. January 2014. http://bit.ly/1qJLDP9.

  • This paper looks into the “enormous pressure towards efficient city management” that has “triggered various Smart City initiatives by both government and private sector businesses to invest in information and communication technologies to find sustainable solutions to the growing issues.”
  • The authors explore the parallel advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT), which “envisions to connect billions of sensors to the Internet and expects to use them for efficient and effective resource management in Smart Cities.”
  • The paper proposes the sensing as a service model “as a solution based on IoT infrastructure.” The sensing as a service model consists of four conceptual layers: “(i) sensors and sensor owners; (ii) sensor publishers (SPs); (iii) extended service providers (ESPs); and (iv) sensor data consumers. They go on to describe how this model would work in the areas of waste management, smart agriculture and environmental management.

Privacy, Big Data, and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement. Edited by Julia Lane, Victoria Stodden, Stefan Bender, and Helen Nissenbaum; Cambridge University Press, 2014. http://bit.ly/UoGRca.

  • This book focuses on the legal, practical, and statistical approaches for maximizing the use of massive datasets while minimizing information risk.
  • “Big data” is more than a straightforward change in technology.  It poses deep challenges to our traditions of notice and consent as tools for managing privacy.  Because our new tools of data science can make it all but impossible to guarantee anonymity in the future, the authors question whether it possible to truly give informed consent, when we cannot, by definition, know what the risks are from revealing personal data either for individuals or for society as a whole.
  • Based on their experience building large data collections, authors discuss some of the best practical ways to provide access while protecting confidentiality.  What have we learned about effective engineered controls?  About effective access policies?  About designing data systems that reinforce – rather than counter – access policies?  They also explore the business, legal, and technical standards necessary for a new deal on data.
  • Since the data generating process or the data collection process is not necessarily well understood for big data streams, authors discuss what statistics can tell us about how to make greatest scientific use of this data. They also explore the shortcomings of current disclosure limitation approaches and whether we can quantify the extent of privacy loss.

Schaffers, Hans, Nicos Komninos, Marc Pallot, Brigitte Trousse, Michael Nilsson, and Alvaro Oliveira. “Smart Cities and the Future Internet: Towards Cooperation Frameworks for Open Innovation.” In The Future Internet, edited by John Domingue, Alex Galis, Anastasius Gavras, Theodore Zahariadis, Dave Lambert, Frances Cleary, Petros Daras, et al., 431–446. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6656. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. http://bit.ly/16ytKoT.

  • This paper “explores ‘smart cities’ as environments of open and user-driven innovation for experimenting and validating Future Internet-enabled services.”
  • The authors examine several smart city projects to illustrate the central role of users in defining smart services and the importance of participation. They argue that, “Two different layers of collaboration can be distinguished. The first layer is collaboration within the innovation process. The second layer concerns collaboration at the territorial level, driven by urban and regional development policies aiming at strengthening the urban innovation systems through creating effective conditions for sustainable innovation.”

Suciu, G., A. Vulpe, S. Halunga, O. Fratu, G. Todoran, and V. Suciu. “Smart Cities Built on Resilient Cloud Computing and Secure Internet of Things.” In 2013 19th International Conference on Control Systems and Computer Science (CSCS), 513–518, 2013. http://bit.ly/16wfNgv.

  • This paper proposes “a new platform for using cloud computing capacities for provision and support of ubiquitous connectivity and real-time applications and services for smart cities’ needs.”
  • The authors present a “framework for data procured from highly distributed, heterogeneous, decentralized, real and virtual devices (sensors, actuators, smart devices) that can be automatically managed, analyzed and controlled by distributed cloud-based services.”

Townsend, Anthony. Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

  • In this book, Townsend illustrates how “cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity.”
  • He also considers “the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings” of the many stakeholders involved in the development of smart cities, and poses a new civics to guide these efforts.
  • He argues that smart cities are not made smart by various, soon-to-be-obsolete technologies built into its infrastructure, but how citizens use these ever-changing technologies to be “human-centered, inclusive and resilient.”

To stay current on recent writings and developments on Urban Analytics, please subscribe to the GovLab Digest.
Did we miss anything? Please submit reading recommendations to biblio@thegovlab.org or in the comments below.

Microsoft Unveils Machine Learning for the Masses

The service, called Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, was announced Monday but won’t be available until July. It combines Microsoft’s own software with publicly available open source software, packaged in a way that is easier to use than most of the arcane strategies currently in use.
“This is drag-and-drop software,” said Joseph Sirosh, vice president for machine learning at Microsoft. “My high schooler is using this.”
That would be a big step forward in popularizing what is currently a difficult process in increasingly high demand. It would also further the ambitions of Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, of making Azure the center of Microsoft’s future.
Users of Azure Machine Learning will have to keep their data in Azure, and Microsoft will provide ways to move data from competing services, like Amazon Web Services. Pricing has not yet been finalized, Mr. Sirosh said, but will be based on a premium to Azure’s standard computing and transmission charges.
Machine learning computers examine historical data through different algorithms and programming languages to make predictions. The process is commonly used in Internet search, fraud detection, product recommendations and digital personal assistants, among other things.
As more data is automatically stored online, there are opportunities to use machine learning for performing maintenance, scheduling hospital services, and anticipating disease outbreaks and crime, among other things. The methods have to become easier and cheaper to be popular, however.
That is the goal of Azure Machine Learning. “This is, as far as I know, the first comprehensive machine learning service in the cloud,” Mr. Sirosh said. “I’m leveraging every asset in Microsoft for this.” He is also using ways of accessing an open source version of R, a standard statistical language, while in Azure.
Microsoft is likely to face competition from rival cloud companies, including Google and Amazon. Both Google and Amazon have things like data frameworks used in building machine learning algorithms, as well as their own analysis services. IBM is eager to make use of its predictive software in its cloud business. Visualization companies like Tableau specialize in presenting the results so they can be acted on easily…”

Crowdsourcing moving beyond the fringe

Bob Brown in Networked World: ” Depending up on how you look at it, crowdsourcing is all the rage these days — think Wikipedia, X Prize and Kickstarter — or at the other extreme, greatly underused.
To the team behind the new “insight network” Yegii, crowdsourcing has not nearly reached its potential despite having its roots as far back as the early 1700s and a famous case of the British Government seeking a solution to “The Longitude Problem” in order to make sailing less life threatening. (I get the impression that mention of this example is obligatory at any crowdsourcing event.)
This angel-funded startup, headed by an MIT Sloan School of Management senior lecturer and operating from a Boston suburb, is looking to exploit crowdsourcing’s potential through a service that connects financial, healthcare, technology and other organizations seeking knowledge with experts who can provide it – and fairly fast. To CEO Trond Undheim, crowdsourcing is “no longer for fringe freelance work,” and the goal is to get more organizations and smart individuals involved.
“Yegii is essentially a network of networks, connecting people, organizations, and knowledge in new ways,” says Undheim, who explains that the name Yegii is Korean for “talk” or “discussion”. “Our focus is laser sharp: we only rank and rate knowledge that says something essential about what I see as the four forces of industry disruption: technology, policy, user dynamics and business models.  We tackle challenging business issues across domains, from life sciences to energy to finance.  The point is that today’s industry classification is falling apart. We need more specific insight than in-house strategizing or generalist consulting advice.”
Undheim attempted to drum up interest in the new business last week at an event at Babson College during which a handful of crowdsourcing experts spoke. Harvard Business School adjunct professor Alan MacCormack discussed the X Prize, Netflix Prize and other examples of spurring competition through crowdsourcing. MIT’s Peter Gloor extolled the virtue of collaborative and smart swarms of people vs. stupid crowds (such as football hooligans). A couple of advertising/marketing execs shared stories of how clients and other brands are increasingly tapping into their customer base and the general public for new ideas from slogans to products, figuring that potential new customers are more likely to trust their peers than corporate ads. Another speaker dove into more details about how to run a crowdsourcing challenge, which includes identifying motivation that goes beyond money.
All of this was to frame Yegii’s crowdsourcing plan, which is at the beta stage with about a dozen clients (including Akamai and Santander bank) and is slated for mass production later this year. Yegii’s team consists of five part-timers, plus a few interns, who are building a web-based platform that consists of “knowledge assets,” that is market research, news reports and datasets from free and paid sources. That content – on topics that range from Bitcoin’s impact on banks to telecom bandwidth costs — is reviewed and ranked through a combination of machine learning and human peers. Information seekers would pay Yegii up to hundreds of dollars per month or up to tens of thousands of dollars per project, and then multidisciplinary teams would accept the challenge of answering their questions via customized reports within staged deadlines.
“We are focused on building partnerships with other expert networks and associations that have access to smart people with spare capacity, wherever they are,” Undheim says.
One reason organizations can benefit from crowdsourcing, Undheim says, is because of the “ephemeral nature of expertise in today’s society.” In other words, people within your organization might think of themselves as experts in this or that, but when they really think about it, they might realize their level of expertise has faded. Yegii will strive to narrow down the best sources of information for those looking to come up to speed on a subject over a weekend, whereas hunting for that information across a vast search engine would not be nearly as efficient….”

A New Way to Look at Law, With Data Viz and Machine Learning

  in Wired:

Ravel displays search results as an interactive visualization. Image: Ravel
“On TV, being a lawyer is all about dazzling jurors with verbal pyrotechnics. But for many lawyers–especially young ones–the job is about research. Long, dry, tedious research.
It’s that less glamorous side of the profession that Daniel Lewis and Nik Reed are trying to upend with Ravel. Using data visualization, language analysis, and machine learning, the Stanford Law grads are aiming to reinvent legal research–and perhaps give young lawyers a deeper understanding of their field in the process.
Lawyers have long relied on subscription services like LexisNexis and WestLaw to do their jobs. These services offer indispensable access to vast databases of case documents. Lewis remembers seeing the software on the computers at his Dad’s law firm when he used to hang out there as a kid. You’d put in a keyword, say, securities fraud, and get back a long, rank-ordered list of results relevant to that topic.
Years later, when Lewis was embarking on his own legal career as a first year at Stanford Law, he was struck by how little had changed. “The tools and technologies were the same,” he says. “It was surprising and disconcerting.” Reed, his classmate there, was also perplexed, especially having spent some time in the finance industry working with its high-powered tools. “There was all this cool stuff that everyone else was using in every other field, and it just wasn’t coming to lawyers,” he says.

Early users have reported that Ravel cut their overall research time by up to two thirds….

Ravel’s most ambitious features, however, are intended to help with the analysis of cases. These tools, saved for premium subscribers, are designed to automatically surface the key passages in whatever case you happen to be looking at, sussing out instances when they’ve been cited or reinterpreted in cases that followed.
To do this, Ravel effectively has to map the law, an undertaking that involves both human insight and technical firepower. The process, roughly: Lewis and Reed will look at a particular case, pinpoint the case it’s referencing, and then figure out what ties them together. It could be a direct reference, or a glancing one. It might show up as three paragraphs in that later ruling, or just a sentence.
Once those connections have been made, they’re handed off to Ravel’s engineers. The engineers, which make up more than half of the company’s ten-person team, are tasked with building models that can identify those same sorts of linkages in other cases, using natural language processing. In effect, Ravel’s trying to uncover the subtle linguistic patterns undergirding decades of legal rulings.
That all goes well beyond visual search, and the idea of future generations of lawyers learning from an algorithmic analysis of the law seems quietly dangerous in its own way (though a sterling conceit for a near-future short story!)
Still, compared to the comparatively primitive tools that still dominate the field today, Lewis and Reed see Ravel as a promising resource for young lawyers and law students. “It’s about helping them research more confidently,” Lewis says. “It’s about making sure they understand the story in the right way.” And, of course, about making all that research a little less tedious, too.”

Heteromation and its (dis)contents: The invisible division of labor between humans and machines

Paper by Hamid Ekbia and Bonnie Nardi in First Monday: “The division of labor between humans and computer systems has changed along both technical and human dimensions. Technically, there has been a shift from technologies of automation, the aim of which was to disallow human intervention at nearly all points in the system, to technologies of “heteromation” that push critical tasks to end users as indispensable mediators. As this has happened, the large population of human beings who have been driven out by the first type of technology are drawn back into the computational fold by the second type. Turning artificial intelligence on its head, one technology fills the gap created by the other, but with a vengeance that unsettles established mechanisms of reward, fulfillment, and compensation. In this fashion, replacement of human beings and their irrelevance to technological systems has given way to new “modes of engagement” with remarkable social, economic, and ethical implications. In this paper we provide a historical backdrop for heteromation and explore and explicate some of these displacements through analysis of a number of cases, including Mechanical Turk, the video games FoldIt and League of Legends, and social media.

Full Text: HTML

How Long Is Too Long? The 4th Amendment and the Mosaic Theory

Law and Liberty Blog: “Volume 8.2 of the NYU Journal of Law and Liberty has been sent to the printer and physical copies will be available soon, but the articles in the issue are already available online here. One article that has gotten a lot of attention so far is by Steven Bellovin, Renee Hutchins, Tony Jebara, and Sebastian Zimmeck titled “When Enough is Enough: Location Tracking, Mosaic Theory, and Machine Learning.” A direct link to the article is here.
The mosaic theory is a modern corollary accepted by some academics – and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Maynard v. U.S. – as a twenty-first century extension of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches of seizures. Proponents of the mosaic theory argue that at some point enough individual data collections, compiled and analyzed together, become a Fourth Amendment search. Thirty years ago the Supreme Court upheld the use of a tracking device for three days without a warrant, however the proliferation of GPS tracking in cars and smartphones has made it significantly easier for the police to access a treasure trove of information about our location at any given time.
It is easy to see why this theory has attracted some support. Humans are creatures of habit – if our public locations are tracked for a few days, weeks, or a month, it is pretty easy for machines to learn our ways and assemble a fairly detailed report for the government about our lives. Machines could basically predict when you will leave your house for work, what route you will take, when and where you go grocery shopping, all before you even do it, once it knows your habits. A policeman could observe you moving about in public without a warrant of course, but limited manpower will always reduce the probability of continuous mass surveillance. With current technology, a handful of trained experts could easily monitor hundreds of people at a time from behind a computer screen, and gather even more information than most searches requiring a warrant. The Supreme Court indicated a willingness to consider the mosaic theory in U.S. v. Jones, but has yet to embrace it…”

The article in Law & Liberty details the need to determine at which point machine learning creates an intrusion into our reasonable expectations of privacy, and even discusses an experiment that could be run to determine how long data collection can proceed before it is an intrusion. If there is a line at which individual data collection becomes a search, we need to discover where that line is. One of the articles’ authors, Steven Bollovin, has argued that the line is probably at one week – at that point your weekday and weekend habits would be known. The nation’s leading legal expert on criminal law, Professor Orin Kerr, fired back on the Volokh Conspiracy that Bollovin’s one week argument is not in line with previous iterations of the mosaic theory.