May 18, 2016

SigFig robo advisor

SigFig, led by Mike Sha, was one of the earlier firms in the field but has not gained the sort of household attention that companies like Wealthfront and Betterment have achieved by focusing on younger, tech-aware retail customers.

Instead, SigFig is focused on offering its technology through financial institutions. The agreement with UBS will not prevent SigFig from forging similar agreements with other companies, said Mr. Sha, the company's chief executive.

New rules for financial advisers may give the automated companies an edge in the battle for investor dollars.

These rules are expected to encourage a rush of retirement savings money to low-cost investments and may also hasten formal alliances of banks or brokerage firms with the financial technology firms that have built robo-investing platforms.

May 17, 2016

When John Locke went to the mat with René Descartes over the source and nature of human knowledge

"Bing" is a word that Stuart Hameroff, the University of Arizona professor who organizes these mindfests, uses to describe the moment when the spark of consciousness lights up the brain. Imagine a mad scientist hooking together neurons one by one until suddenly they reach a threshold of complexity and -- bing -- consciousness emerges.

We all know the feeling, one that science has been powerless to explain. The audience seemed familiar enough with the words, and so they sang along in 4/4 time.

Before launching into the tune, Timbre Wolf played a recording of an eerie composition called "Brain Dance," derived from vibrations generated by tiny molecular structures called microtubules, which are part of the scaffolding of brain cells. The music, to his ear, was reminiscent of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Cuban rumba, Gustav Holt's "The Planets," and the visual rhythms of strange mathematical objects called Penrose tiles.

All of this, he suspected, had something to do with quantum mechanics and consciousness, an idea that Dr. Hameroff has long been pursuing.

There even seemed to be undertones of the Devil's Triad, a discordant combo of notes known since medieval times that forms the opening riff of "Purple Haze."

That all made for good metaphysical fun. More disconcerting was the starring role given to the New Age entrepreneur Deepak Chopra. Dr. Chopra believes that human consciousness (through epigenetic feedback) directs the unfolding of human evolution.

No one seemed to object as Dr. Chopra, whose Chopra Foundation was one of the sponsors, shared the stage with prominent professors who engaged with his ideas as if he were another esteemed colleague.

But that's how it is at Tucson. There were talks on psychic phenomena and retrocausality, the hypothesis that the future can affect the past through quantum emanations. Presentations that didn't make it into prime time were laid out in colorful posters attached to rows of bulletin boards: "What Might Cause a Star's Consciousness?" "The X-Structure: The Basic Nature of Life and Existence."

Also included in the lineup were presentations hypothesizing that dark energy could explain consciousness and that homeopathic medicine might work through nanoparticles and quantum entanglement -- as if homeopathy worked at all.

Beyond all of that, there was still plenty of serious theorizing. For a rapid-fire summary, you can hear Baba Brinkman, a rap artist who provided a daily report on the meeting, which he called "half science lab and half Burning Man."

Late one night at an event called Club Consciousness, Mr. Brinkman joined Dorian Electra and the Electrodes as the band regaled the crowd with songs like "Mind-Body Problem" (a reference to the age-old question of how something as seemingly ethereal as consciousness emerges from the brain) and "Brain in a Vat" (the idea that for all you know, you're just a brain kept alive in a laboratory flask and what seems like reality is an illusion).

"Chinese Room" was about a thought experiment that the philosopher John Searle claims to be a refutation of the possibility of artificial intelligence. But the big hit of the night, "Sensual," which has been made into a rock video, was about a famous intellectual conflict that has raged since the 17th century when John Locke went to the mat with René Descartes over the source and nature of human knowledge.

May 16, 2016

Gisele Bündchen reacts

Correction: May 14, 2016

An earlier version of this article misidentified the game after which Gisele Bündchen was videotaped reacting emotionally. It was Super Bowl XLVI, when the Patriots fell to the New York Giants. It was not Super Bowl XLIX, when they beat the Seattle Seahawks.

May 15, 2016

Great Peconic Bay

"Brooklynites get the North Fork, period."

-- Sheri Winter Clarry, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group Real Estate on the North Fork in Southold, also attributed the uptick in buyers from Brooklyn to the region's "laid back, chilled vibe" and its growing status as a family-friendly second-home haven for foodies and oenophiles.


The magnets that draw city dwellers include the area's burgeoning farm-to-table movement, new craft breweries and distilleries, wineries, farm stands, antiques shops and seasonal agri-tainment activities like apple-, berry- and pumpkin-picking. Niche farms offer locally raised meat, goat cheese, organic greens and hops for making beer.

"Farms have upped their game like crazy, vineyards have upped their game, restaurants have upped their game," Ms. Clarry said. "It's really translated into the North Fork coming into its own. The food industry has helped people not just day-trip, but fall in love with it and move out here."

May 14, 2016

Coalition of elite schools reshape college admissions

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a new organization led by admissions deans at top campuses, has announced an ambitious goal: to make applications more reflective and in tune with how students organize and express themselves. In April, it will offer free online planning tools and in July a new application, for the class of 2021.

Dean Paul Thiboutot at Carleton College, a coalition member, envisions chat rooms with his admissions officers or shopping-style prompts: "Could we send a reminder to someone that we responded to as a ninth grader who we didn't hear from? 'Remember, at one time you had Carleton in your cart?' "

With the Common Application now used by more than 625 schools, the coalition is marketing itself as a high-integrity brand. Coalition members must have a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent and meet students' full financial need or, if public, offer "affordable" in-state tuition (as yet undefined). So far, more than 80 of about 140 eligible colleges and universities have signed on, including all the Ivys, liberal arts elites like Amherst and Bowdoin and publics like Texas A&M and Miami University of Ohio.

Some criticism has gone to the very heart of the program: that drawing 14-year-olds into admissions tasks will make a stressful process more so. In an Oct. 13 letter to the coalition, 100 counselors from Jesuit high schools, many serving low-income and first-generation students, objected to pushing first-year students to think about college. They should be acclimating to high school, they wrote, and learning for learning's sake.

May 13, 2016

Evaluating men and women on different traits, Rate My Professor

Benjamin Schmidt, a professor at Northeastern University, created a searchable database of roughly 14 million reviews from the Rate My Professor site.

Among the words more likely to be used to describe men: smart, idiot, interesting, boring, cool, creepy. And for women: sweet, shrill, warm, cold, beautiful, evil. "Funny" and "corny" were also used more often to describe men, while "organized" and "disorganized" showed up more for women.

In short, Schmidt says, men are more likely to be judged on an intelligence scale, while women are more likely to be judged on a nurturing scale.

"We're evaluating men and women on different traits or having different expectations for individuals who are doing the same job," says Erin Davis, who teaches gender studies at Cornell College.

May 12, 2016

LendingClub is to ____ as FinTech is to Bank ?

LendingClub's problems this week, musings of Matt Levine:

LendingClub got in trouble for being too much like a FintTech -- a "financial technology" company -- and too little like a bank, focusing on algorithms and speed and coolness rather than the plodding legalistic work that is the actual business of finance.

LendingClub got in trouble for being too much like a bank and too little like a FinTech, with mission creep, conflicts of interest and "a complicated network of middlemen" instead of a pure technology-driven neutral platform.

May 11, 2016

Carl Barneyisms

The greatest tragedy in all schools today is the 'D.D.D.'" -- a dropout who is in debt and doesn't get a degree.

Many of his work ideas are cataloged in "P.D.s" (procedure directives), "D.L.s" (data letters), "I.L.s," (information letters) and "M.M.s" (management memos). "M.M. 302," for example, is titled "Student Satisfaction and Success -- S.S.S." and offers the antidote to what he calls the "dreaded D.D.D."

"If something worked, we then systematized it," Mr. Carl Barney said.

"P.D. 154 R" lays out a two-year training program for employees who want to advance to associate directors. Among other things, they will be expected to read Rand's manifesto, the 1,200-page novel "Atlas Shrugged," which depicts a rotted-out America where creative geniuses stage a nationwide strike against corrupt "moochers and looters."

Continue reading "Carl Barneyisms" »

May 10, 2016

Facebook as virtual world

In the future, Mr. Zuckerberg imagines that "a physical thing, like a TV, will just be a $1 app" inside virtual reality on Facebook, he recently told a conference of software developers building apps for Facebook. But that may be 10 years off, by Mr. Zuckerberg's own admission. People who do not work at Facebook might say it is a fantasy.

Facebook even appears willing to turn the price-crushing model on itself. To get virtual reality to every place in the world, Facebook's Oculus VR headsets, currently $600, may have to cost $5, said Mike Schroepfer, the company's chief technology officer.

Is that another fantasy? For Facebook, getting those costs down could mean controlling the next big communications platform, since Mr. Zuckerberg believes virtual reality may eventually supplant smartphones as a primary connection to the online world.

"The world is making enough phones. It's better for the world if there are fewer devices," Mr. Schroepfer said. "It's not totally obvious how all this shakes out -- whether we'll have lots of consumer products, or it all disappears into a couple of VR headsets."

-- The apocryphal vision of Facebook

May 9, 2016

SWSX considered discussing or lamenting #GamerGate

"By approving the panels in question, SXSW assumed responsibility for related controversies and security threats," a statement by Vox Media said. "By canceling the panels, they have cut off an opportunity to discuss a real and urgent problem in media and technology today."

The moves by BuzzFeed and Vox echoed a growing outcry on social media over the conference's decision.

The gathering has long aspired to be a forum for topical discussions about tech, rather than dry corporate speeches, and the two events that it canceled were sure to stir up passions. For the past two years, harassment in gaming culture has become a high-profile topic, after several female game designers and critics were targeted for criticizing sexism in games.

People hostile to their views rallied around the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate, accusing them and journalists who wrote sympathetically about them of being politically correct "social justice warriors."

Some of the people who have been targeted by GamerGate supporters in the past applauded the moves by BuzzFeed and Vox to boycott SXSW. But they said the conference should reinstate only the online-harassment panel, not the other, which they viewed as a forum for GamerGate supporters.

May 7, 2016

Khole branding deep think

Khole has deep think abound branding and trends.

May 6, 2016

ADHD: Long term treatment ?

Twenty years ago, more than a dozen leaders in child psychiatry received $11 million from the National Institute of Mental Health to study an important question facing families with children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Is the best long-term treatment medication, behavioral therapy or both?

The widely publicized result was not only that medication like Ritalin or Adderall trounced behavioral therapy, but also that combining the two did little beyond what medication could do alone. The finding has become a pillar of pharmaceutical companies' campaigns to market A.D.H.D. drugs, and is used by insurance companies and school systems to argue against therapies that are usually more expensive than pills.

But in retrospect, even some authors of the study -- widely considered the most influential study ever on A.D.H.D. -- worry that the results oversold the benefits of drugs, discouraging important home- and school-focused therapy and ultimately distorting the debate over the most effective (and cost-effective) treatments.

The study was structured to emphasize the reduction of impulsivity and inattention symptoms, for which medication is designed to deliver quick results, several of the researchers said in recent interviews. Less emphasis was placed on improving children's longer-term academic and social skills, which behavioral therapy addresses by teaching children, parents and teachers to create less distracting and more organized learning environments.

Continue reading "ADHD: Long term treatment ?" »

May 5, 2016

Ranking or classifying adjacent words

I came across WordRank -- a fresh new approach to embedding words by looking at it as a ranking problem. In hindsight, this makes sense. In typical language modeling situation, NN based or otherwise, we are interested in this: you have a context cc, and you want to predict which word \hat{w}​w​^
​​ from your vocabulary \SigmaΣ will follow it. Naturally, this can be setup either as a ranking problem or a classification problem. If you are coming from the learning the rank camp, all sorts of bells might be going off at this point, and you might have several good reasons for favoring the ranking formulation. That's exactly what we see in this paper. By setting up word embedding as a ranking problem, you get a discriminative training regimen and built in attention-like capability (more on that later).

-- Summary by Delip Rao.

May 4, 2016

Regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters

Are regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters are more important than 'states' ?

Britain is also in the midst of an internal reorganization, with the government of Prime Minister David Cameron driving investment toward a new corridor stretching from Leeds to Liverpool known as the "Northern Powerhouse" that can become an additional economic anchor beyond London and Scotland.

Continue reading "Regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters" »

May 2, 2016

Whimsy of graphic designers -- an esthetic ?

You describe yourself as a design troublemaker, and I actually think most designers are troublemakers. But what does that mean to you? Why do you describe yourself that way?

I like to describe myself that way, especially in the context of Cards Against Humanity, because we are a silly brand. Our visual aesthetic is very pared down. It's a Swiss design dungeon, as we call it, of black-and-white Helvetica.

But because Cards Against Humanity itself is a humor product, it gives us license to do very unexpected things. So in my job I'm basically creating assets for pranks. In my year at Cards, we purchased a castle, and I got to create a website that allows people to issue ridiculous decrees, because 150,000 people get to be king of this castle in Ireland for three minutes online. I got to create a food truck for the Penny Arcade Expo--it's a big game convention that happens every year in Seattle--we made popsicles that had Cards Against Humanity cards frozen inside the popsicle; you had to eat it and then you got this sticky, messy pack of cards inside.

-- Amy Nicole Schwartz, Cards Against Humanity and Blackbox

Continue reading "Whimsy of graphic designers -- an esthetic ?" »

May 1, 2016

Christian Louboutin, branding more important than product

"Today it is not good enough to simply churn out product. An authentic and honest brand narrative is fundamental today, otherwise you will simply be edited out. It was time for a course correction in the fashion industry as the desire to go faster and faster simply to outdo the other became the driving force rather than putting the dialogue with the customer at the center."

Armando Branchini, vice chairman of Fondazione Altagamma, the Italian luxury brand organization, said that such a narrative could clearly be seen in Mr. Michele's creative vision, "the collections themselves, the environment in which he presents them, his advertising campaigns and store windows and his approach to digital and social media content."

"There is a consistent narrative that runs throughout, which connects strongly with the customer," he added.

As proof of Mr. Bizzarri's comment, sales at the Kering-owned Gucci have risen markedly since Mr. Michele's appointment early last year.

In exploring new fronts, Christian Louboutin has teamed up with his longtime friend Valérie Schlumberger, whose charity project La Maison Rose assists women and children in Senegal.

Continue reading "Christian Louboutin, branding more important than product" »

April 30, 2016

Asian-Americans (hyphenated)

Asian-Americans are the United States' most successful minority, but they are complaining ever more vigorously about discrimination, especially in academia.

A similar effect is visible in the law. In 2014, whereas 11% of law-firm associates were Asian, 3% of partners were. Recruiters at the top firms typically throw out applications from all but the top universities and scan the remainder for their extracurriculars, says Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University. "They're particularly interested in sports, such as lacrosse, squash and [rowing] crew. When you look at the demographic base of these sports, Asian-Americans are not heavily represented."

April 29, 2016

Some coffee in Korea is not that of connoisseurs: busan edition with Jay Song

BUSAN, South Korea -- South Korea's cities are overrun with cafés. According to the Samsung Economic Research Institute, the number of coffee shops here jumped from about 6,000 in 2008 to 9,400 in 2011. Other studies put the number as high as 17,000 in Seoul alone. There are so many coffee shops in the South Korean capital that the Fair Trade Commission set a limit on the distance between new coffeehouse chains to at least 500 meters.

In addition to Starbucks, which is run by Shinsegae, 40 percent of the nation's cafés are run by the top five Korean brands: €”Caffe Bene, Hollys Coffee, Ediya Coffee, Angel-in-us and Tom n' Toms.

A common complaint amongst both expats and an increasing number of Koreans is that chain coffee is cheaply roasted, weak in strength and lacking in taste. This is driving Korea's coffeeholics to seek out better alternatives in smaller roasting companies and independent cafés.

Considering that last year 63 percent of the coffee consumed in Korea was dispersed from a powdery packet, it will take time for a stampede to rush towards indie coffee shops. Even Jay Song has her doubts.

The simple fact is that price is, sometimes, more important than taste.

Continue reading "Some coffee in Korea is not that of connoisseurs: busan edition with Jay Song" »

April 28, 2016

Facebook: for personal content, or commercial professional

In the past few months, Facebook has quietly shifted into crisis mode. According to The Information, "original broadcast sharing"--i.e., posts consisting of users' own words and images--fell 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, contributing to a 5.5 percent decrease in total sharing. In response, the company created a task force in London whose mission is to devise a strategy to stem the ebb and get people sharing again. Among the measures taken so far: a change in the News Feed algorithm that privileges original status updates over professional content like news links and viral videos, and Wednesday's mishap-marred rollout of a new live-video-streaming feature.

It's a stunning reversal of fortune for Facebook, whose strategic emphasis for the past few years has been on getting media companies and celebrities to put more of their premium content on Facebook. The better (read: more professional) the quality of what's in your News Feed, the more advertisers would pay to be next to it, went the thinking.

-- Jeff Bercovici at Inc.

April 27, 2016

Proof at 75 percent

The government also instructed schools to adopt a new standard for determining the outcome of a sexual-harassment or violence case. At the time, many schools used the standard of "clear and convincing" evidence, meaning that the adjudicators (usually a panel of administrators or faculty) believed that it was substantially more likely than not, or roughly 75 percent likely, that the accused had committed the offense.

The letter from the civil rights office demanded that schools switch to a lower standard of proof, a "preponderance" of evidence, meaning that it was more likely than not -- above 50.01 percent -- that the offense was committed. The office noted that preponderance is the standard that courts use to decide civil suits for sexual harassment. A few schools, including Princeton and Harvard, initially refused the new standard and then found themselves under investigation for suspected Title IX violations.