Neural Networks and Recent Accomplishments (and how to train your own NN: a Python based DIY)


Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) are computational models inspired from one of nature’s most splendid creations – the neuron. It seems our quest to make the machines smarter has converged onto the realization that we ought to code the ‘smartness’ into them, literally. What better way than to draw parallels from the source of our own intelligence, our brains?

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ICDM 2015 Recap

This week I had the honor of attending and presenting at ICDM.

The conference was hosted in Atlantic City, NJ, at Bally’s Hotel and Casino on the boardwalk. It was certainly an interesting choice for an academic conference venue. Though I myself grew up just a few hours north of Atlantic City, and now live about four hours from Las Vegas, I’ve never really indulged in the delights of “gaming,” as the conference program referred to it. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I must say that it was a lot of fun to wander through the casino during session breaks or at the end of the day. The boardwalk itself was a lot of fun (and impressively recovered after Sandy), and not to mention the big outlet mall and Aquarium which was the destination of a group excursion during the second day of the Conference. The organizers did a great job of pulling together a diverse conference in a less-than-conventional place; I think everyone had a great time. Continue reading

Shafi Goldwasser’s Role in Securing the Internet of Things (IoT) 

We keep hearing in today’s technology-driven world that advancements such as 3D printing, next-gen robots, and virtual reality are made everyday, but we often learn little about the real people behind these inventions. Instead, we are constantly exposed to false stereotypes such as “Women can’t code”, which is still not dead despite the increasing numbers of women who’ve succeeded in tech, currently and historically.

Notwithstanding their contribution, women continue to face discrimination in patriarchal societies, such as reduced opportunities for education, not being recognized as equal to men, and being prevented from holding high offices or posts that are stereotyped for men.  What keeps women going forward in the face of this adversity is the sheer human determination to perform and excel.

The archetypal poster woman in this argument, Ada Lovelace, was one of the first programmers. She had written a program in English to operate Bernoulli’s numbers, which can be taken as our modern day ‘algorithm.’ But people ought to understand that she was hardly the only one! Women have always been present in the field, contributing every step of the way since even before the advent of modern computers, it’s just that their work has not been widely publicized.

An area where women have made a significant difference was advancing the now-fashionable Internet of Things (IoT), and in particular addressing privacy and security concerns that arise with it. First let’s understand what the IoT is all about.

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The Cogs of UX

We all know the rate of change today is fierce.  As technology leaps forward, students of Human Computer Interaction may be intimidated by the breadth of topics in which they are expected to demonstrate expertise.  If one is planning an academic career, it may be possible to define a narrow area of deep knowledge.  If an industry position is desired, a broad understanding of UX (user experience) principles and the software development process may be the best preparation.

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Why “Celebrate Women in Computing”?

The ACM-W society is one of the biggest advocates of women in computing. They dedicate several events and awards to celebrate prominent women in computer science and related fields. In September this year, the ACM-W Europe chapter held the second womEncourage event in Uppsala University, Sweden. WomEncourage creates an environment for women with similar scientific backgrounds to interact, network, and explore career opportunities. In this event, two hundred people are participating from twenty-eight countries including the Middle East, India, China and the U.S.A.

But why is there a need for events dedicated to women in computer science?

Gender stereotypes threaten women in male-dominated work environments with discrimination from three sources: men, other women, and self discrimination. Commonly, the ratio of women to men decreases rapidly in more advanced academic or professional positions. In her keynote, Prof. Åsa Cajander mentioned as a consequence of this phenomenon women are perceived less competent within a group and are assigned to the group’s social tasks. This leaves a woman feeling isolated in her team, and could eventually affect her performance.

A higher risk women face comes from within. Prof. Cajander called this risk the imposter syndrome, where a woman feels that she does not deserve her success and assigns it to chance or to other people. Some women also believe that similar success could have been achieved by a male-counterpart with less time and effort. Positive discrimination, such as scholarships offered for women or women quota systems, also threaten women. In many situations, this type of discrimination leads women to be more criticized for their actions compared to males, especially by other women. Continue reading