mfioretti: algorithms*

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  1. Notato? “E assicuratori”.

    Quello che i giornali italiani a marzo 2016 non dicono è che lo sbarco di Ibm nell’area Expo – buco nero a cui da un paio d’anni si fatica a trovare un futuro – è subordinato alla consegna a Ibm dei dati sanitari degli abitanti della Lombardia, una delle regioni più ricche d’Europa. Sono le cosiddette “Protected Health Information”, che includono “i dati dell’assistenza sanitaria”, le “cartelle cliniche personali”, le “informazioni fiscali nominative o anonimizzate”. Cedendo all’azienda americana i “diritti all’uso per la memorizzazione ed elaborazione di tali dati a fini progettuali, nonché per l’utilizzo dei dati anonimizzati anche per finalità ulteriori a quelle progettuali”. Insomma: è in arrivo il Grande Fratello della Sanità che avrà a disposizione tutti i nostri dati sanitari.

    Nel documento “confidenziale” Ibm che il Fatto quotidiano ha potuto vedere, si legge: “Come presupposto per realizzare il Programma ed effettuare l’investimento, Ibm (incluse le società controllanti, controllate, affiliate o collegate, ove necessario) si aspetta di poter avere accesso – in modalità da definire – al trattamento dei dati sanitari dei circa 61 milioni di cittadini italiani (intesi come dati sanitari storici, presenti e futuri) in forma anonima e identificata, per specifici ambiti progettuali, ivi incluso il diritto all’utilizzo secondario dei predetti dati sanitari per finalità ulteriori rispetto ai progetti”.

    La sanità pubblica italiana consegnata tutta nelle sapienti mani di una multinazionale americana. “A titolo esemplificativo ma non esaustivo”, continua il documento confidenziale, “si ritiene cruciale avere accesso a dati dei pazienti, ai dati farmacologici, ai dati del registro dei tumori, ai dati genomici, dati delle cure, dati regionali o Agenas, dati Aifa sui farmaci, sugli studi clinici attivi, dati di iscrizione e demografici, diagnosi mediche storiche, rimborsi e costi di utilizzo, condizioni e procedure mediche, prescizioni ambulatoriali, trattamenti farmacologici con relativi costi, visite di pronto soccorso, schede di dimissioni ospedaliere (sdo), informazioni sugli appuntamenti, orari e presenze, e altri dati sanitari”. Ogni nostro respiro, ogni nostro battito, ogni nostro bacillo, ogni nostro pagamento per la sanità entrerà nei computer Watson Ibm per alimentare la loro capacità di apprendimento e sviluppare la loro intelligenza artificiale. I risultati che saranno via via raggiunti, gli algoritmi che saranno messi a punto grazie ai nostri dati resteranno privati. Ibm potrà venderli alle industrie sanitarie o alle compagnie d’assicurazione.

    Ora la parola è passata alla Regione Lombardia, la prima d’Italia a essere coinvolta. Essendo stata bocciata la riforma costituzionale che toglieva i poteri alle Regioni, dovrà dare il suo ok. Viene qualche dubbio sul fatto che uno dei grandi mercati del futuro, quello della salute, sia di fatto regalato a una azienda privata, senza chiedere nulla in cambio, ma soddisfatti soltanto dalla promessa che questa apra un centro sui tribolati terreni Expo.

    I dati saranno “anonimizzati”, promette qua e là il documento. Ma ormai si stanno affinando sistemi in grado di rendere “reversibili” i dati anonimi, rinominandoli. Chissà se il Garante della privacy, così sensibile ad altre battaglie, avrà tempo per dire la sua anche su questo progetto. Comunque, anche anonimi, i dati sanitari della Lombardia sono un bene preziosissimo: perché passarli a un’impresa privata, esautorando del tutto il sistema sanitario pubblico? E, se proprio bisogna darli ai privati, perché senza gara? Perché a Ibm-Watson e non, per esempio, a Google-Deep Mind o Amazon? E perché, infine, concederli gratis? L’investimento previsto di 150 milioni di dollari per un centro privato è nulla rispetto al valore dell’immensa mole di dati sanitari promessi, che sul deep web oggi vengono venduti a 10-15 dollari a record (50 volte più dei codici di una carta di credito).
    http://www.giannibarbacetto.it/2017/0...cambio-della-nuova-sede-sullarea-expo
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  2. Aadhaar reflects and reproduces power imbalances and inequalities. Information asymmetries result in the data subject becoming a data object, to be manipulated, misrepresented and policed at will.

    Snowden: “Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

    Snowden’s demolition of the argument doesn’t mean our work here is done. There are many other tropes that my (now renamed) Society for the Rejection of Culturally Relativist Excuses could tackle. Those that insist Indians are not private. That privacy is a western liberal construct that has no place whatsoever in Indian culture. That acknowledging privacy interests will stall development. This makes it particularly hard to advance claims of privacy, autonomy and liberty in the context of large e-governance and identity projects like Aadhaar: they earn one the labels of elitist, anti-progress, Luddite, paranoid and, my personal favourite, privacy fascist.
    http://scroll.in/article/748043/aadha...n-its-the-only-way-to-secure-equality
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  3. That idea of efficiency through speed brought by the tech industry has consequences for society. First, the immediacy of the communications creates moments of intense information overload and distractions. Like other moments of major revolution in information technology, people are racing behind to adapt to the increasing pace of information exchange. In the Big Now, the pool of instantaneous information has dramatically increased, however the pool of available understanding of what that information means has not. People and organizations are still seeking new practices and means to filter, categorize and prioritize information in a world obsessed with the production and consumption of the freshest data points (see Social media at human pace). Doing so, they animate almost uniquely their capacity to fast-check status updates and leave their ability for reflection unstimulated (see, in French, L’écologie de l’attention). The Big Now is not designed for people to step back and understand information in a bigger context (e.g. poor debates in the recent US elections, inability to foresee the 2008 economic crisis). It is only recently that alternatives have started to emerge. For example, the recent strategic changes at Medium proposes to reverse the tendency:

    “We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention”.

    Secondly, the asynchronous Internet diminished the frontiers between work, family and leisure. In response, the tech world proposes to ‘hack’ time and to remove frictions (e.g. Soylent diet) to free up time. The flourishing personal productivity books and apps promise peace of mind with time-management advice tailored to the era of connected devices (see The global village and its discomfort). However, like building bigger roads make traffic worse, many of these solutions only provide a quick fix that induces even busier and more stressed lifestyles (see Why time management is ruining our lives). In the Big Now and its cybernetic loops, the more efficient we get at doing things and the more data we generate, the faster the Internet gets back to us, keeps us busy and grabs our limited amount of attention. Besides the promises of time-compression technologies to save us valuable time and free us for life’s important things, in the past half-century, leisure time has remained overall about the same (see Fast-world values).

    Try to imagine another version of the Internet in which the sense of simultaneity that Adam Greenfield described moves to the background of our lives and leaves stage for temporal depth and quality. Connecting people to share and collaborate has been a wonderful thing. Today, I believe that giving us the time to think will be even better (see The collaboration curse). As an illustration, regardless of current methodological trends, creativity rarely emerges rapidly. Many ideas need time to mature, they need different contexts or mindsets to get stronger. This does not often happen when teams are in ‘sprints’ or a young start-up feels under the gun in its ‘incubator’. I participated in ‘start-up accelerator’ mentoring sessions in which I advised young entrepreneurs to step back and consider if their objectives were about speed and scale. Many of them were lured by that Silicon Valley’s unicorn fantasy. Not surprisingly, the first startup decelerator program has now been created, and socratic design workshops are becoming a thing for tech executives to reconsider what’s important.
    https://medium.com/@girardin/after-the-big-now-f0a3f1857294
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  4. As many as 30 percent of the available apartments in neighborhoods like the Mission have been taken off the market and used for short-terms rentals through platforms like Airbnb, a city study shows.

    There’s also a close correlation between then number of Airbnb rentals and the number of evictions, the report shows.

    The study by the Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst confirms what nearly every tenant advocate in the city has been saying for months: The regulatory legislation by then-Sup. David Chiu, which passed last year with the support of Mayor Ed Lee, has been a complete failure.

    The report makes a key distinction between “casual” short-term rentals – places where existing residents occasionally rent out a room in their home to visitors – and “commercial” rentals – apartments or houses that have been converted almost entirely to hotel rooms.

    If an entire place is listed on Airbnb for more than 59 nights a year, the Budget Analyst defined it as a commercial operation. For private and shared rooms in a place where a resident lives, the threshold was 89 nights a year.

    It’s impossible to know exactly how many units are rented out through Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey or other services, since those hosting platforms refuse to release that date.
    http://www.48hills.org/2015/05/14/air...ng-crisis-much-worse-city-study-shows
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  5. We’re now operating in a world where automated algorithms make impactful decisions that can and do amplify the power of business and government. I’ve argued in this paper that we need to do better in deciphering the contours of that power. As algorithms come to regulate society and perhaps even implement law directly,47we should proceed with caution and think carefully about how we choose to regulate them back.48Journalists might productively offer themselves as a check and balance on algorithmic power while the legislative regulation of algorithms takes shape over a longer time horizon. In this paper I’ve offered a basis for understanding algorithmic power in terms of the types of decisions algorithms make in prioritizing, classifying, associating, and filtering information. Understanding those wellsprings of algorithmic power suggests a number of diagnostic questions that further inform a more critical stance toward algorithms. Given the challenges to effectively employing transparency for algorithms, namely trade secrets, the consequences of manipulation, and the cognitive overhead of complexity, I propose that journalists might effectively engage with algorithms through a process of reverse engineering. By understanding the input-output relationships of an algorithm we can start to develop stories about how that algorithm operates. Sure, there are challenges here too: legal, ethical, and technical, but reverse engineering is another tactic for the tool belt—a technique that has already shown it can be useful at times. Next time you hear about software or an algorithm being used to help make a decision, you might get critical and start asking questions about how that software could be affecting outcomes. Try to FOIA it, try to understand whether you can reverse engineer it, and when you’re finished, write up your method for how you got there. By method-sharing we’ll expand our ability to replicate these types of stories, and, over time, perhaps even develop enough expertise to suggest standards for algorithmic transparency that acknowledge business concerns while still surfacing useful information for the public.
    http://towcenter.org/research/algorit...on-the-investigation-of-black-boxes-2
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  6. this time around, Walmart’s renewed focus on its “Everyday Low Price” promise coincides with Amazon’s increased aggressiveness in its own pricing of the packaged goods that are found on supermarket shelves and are core to Walmart’s success, industry executives and consultants say.

    The result in recent months has been a high-stakes race to the bottom between Walmart and Amazon that seems great for shoppers, but has consumer packaged goods brands feeling the pressure.

    The pricing crackdown also comes in the wake of Walmart’s $3 billion acquisition of Jet.com and its CEO Marc Lore. Lore now runs Walmart.com and has said one of his mandates is to create new ways for the retailer to beat everyone else on price, including Amazon.

    The pricing pressure has ignited intense wargaming inside the largest CPG companies, according to people familiar with discussions at Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez and Kimberly-Clark. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    “It’s dominating the conversation every week,” said an executive at one of these companies.

    Representatives for these companies either declined to comment or failed to respond to requests for comment. Executives inside these companies would only speak on a condition of anonymity because negotiations with retailers are confidential.

    An Amazon spokesperson said in an email: “At Amazon we protect low prices for our customers, every single day — nothing has changed in terms of our focus or how we operate.”

    Walmart did not provide a comment.


    One piece of the battle, executives say, is an Amazon algorithm that works to match or beat prices from other websites and stores. Former Amazon employees say it finds the lowest price per unit or per ounce for a given product — even if it’s in a huge bulk-size pack at Costco — and applies it across the same type of good on Amazon, even when the pack size is much smaller.

    So let’s imagine Costco is selling a pack of 10 bags of Doritos for $10 — or $1 per bag. Amazon’s algorithm notes that one bag is $1 at Costco and, in turn, lowers the price on Amazon of a single bag of Doritos to $1.

    That is a great deal for customers — something that is likely driving the decision at Amazon, where an obsession with customer value dominates its strategy.

    But now, Amazon is selling individual items at Costco prices while not getting the same wholesale price that Costco enjoys. In short, it’s going to be really hard for Amazon to turn a profit on those goods.

    When Walmart sees this, it freaks out on the supplier, industry executives say. And it doesn’t matter to Walmart that Amazon may not be getting the same wholesale price that retailers like Costco or other membership clubs receive. In other words, even if Amazon isn’t profiting from its extremely low prices, Walmart is still demanding the same bulk-rate discount applied to individual items.

    “Walmart has had it explained to them by myself and others,” said one industry insider who asked for anonymity talking about private discussions. “My conclusion has been that they beat all suppliers up regardless because they need it to be a problem at the senior levels of these companies.”
    https://www.recode.net/2017/3/30/1483.../amazon-walmart-cpg-grocery-price-war
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  7. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.

    Meanwhile the discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business. There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past. Beyond its impact upon culture, the new technology penetrates even deeper levels of identity and experience, to cognition and to consciousness.

    And even as technologism, which is not the same as technology, asserts itself over more and more precincts of human life, so too does scientism, which is not the same as science. The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new.

    Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof.

    The abusers of humanism, of course, are guilty of none of those sins. From Heidegger to Althusser, they come as emancipators. I think we should emancipate ourselves from their emancipations.

    But what is humanism? For a start, humanism is not the antithesis of religion, as Pope Francis is exquisitely demonstrating. The most common understanding of humanism is that it denotes a pedagogy and a worldview.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/books/review/among-the-disrupted.html
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  8. Well, as it turns out, there is an algorithm for love. It's just not the ones that we're being presented with online. In fact, it's something that you write yourself. So whether you're looking for a husband or a wife or you're trying to find your passion or you're trying to start a business, all you have to really do is figure out your own framework and play by your own rules, and feel free to be as picky as you want.
    https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_webb_ho..._online_dating/transcript?language=en
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  9. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
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  10. If a fraudster puts out a ridiculously deceptive piece of information and nobody falls for it, is it still fraud?

    Probably yes, but today’s attempted manipulation of Avon’s stock price by somebody who slipped a false takeover offer on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR system raises the question of whether anybody – any human, that is – could have been dumb enough to believe it. Maybe that’s the point: It was designed to fool word-scanning, dumb computer trading systems.

    A filing that hit the Edgar system today purporting to be from an entity called PTG Capital Partners Ltd said it had launched a tender offer for Avon at $18.75 a share. Avon stock leaped more than 20% to $8 a share at 11:35 a.m. on the fake news, before falling just as quickly as Avon said there was no such offer. And anybody who actually read the Edgar filing should have known that, as the price was fanciful and whoever wrote the release forgot to spellcheck it for “TPG,” which was interposed several times in language that was hooked from the multibillion-dollar private equity firm’s website.

    “This was a fraud designed for algorithmic traders,” said John Fahy, a former SEC enforcement attorney and member of Whitaker Chalk in Fort Worth, Texas, where “PTG’s” lawyer was supposedly located and where TPG is based. “It was not designed to fool anybody who’d actually read it. It was designed to fool some system that scans SEC filings for certain words but doesn’t actually read them.”
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfis...en-designed-for-algorithms-not-humans
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