The Local Maximum - Expand Your Perspective

By Max Sklar

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Join Max Sklar and guests in this podcast about AI, technology, and society. Email for questions and feedback. Show notes page on my blog:

Episode Date
Ep. 27 - Big Algo, Fat Tails, and Converging Priors
Today we dive into the current Bayesian flame wars on Twitter. Do Bayesian priors converge? As Nassim Taleb (@nntaleb) points out, not necessarily until a fat tail or power law distribution. We'll talk about what that means, and the wonders worked by Bayes rule even under some seemingly preposterous priors. Also - the military wants to do machine learning with less data. Is the era of big data over and giving way to the era of the big algorithm? The results of the Twitter Shadow Ban poll, QA bias, the Streisand effect and the Alex Jones banning
Aug 14, 2018
Ep. 26 - Chris Messina on Conversational Commerce, Relationship Design, and the Future of Brands
Chris Messina and I go over a recent article of his on the evolution of conversational commerce and bots, and how to steer the industry towards better products. Relationship Design, Augmented Reality, and Natural Language.
Aug 07, 2018
Ep. 25 - The Great Twitter Purge of 2018
I may be on vacaction, but I still snuck in some time to put together a show! Decided to go solo this week and focus on Twitter's purging of bots and trolls. There is wide agreement that they need to do something to fix their platform, but there is not wide agreement on what exactly the problem is and what should be fixed. Can they focus on the experience and wellbeing of their enduser, or will they fall victim promoting fashionable political trends and end up with censorship?
Jul 31, 2018
Ep. 24 - Enjoying the A.I. Summer with Christian Hubbs
Artificially Intelligent Host Christian Hubbs talks to Max about what he's learning in the field of AI through his work. Industries and use cases for AI. When are self driving cars coming? And - what's the end game for humans and machines. We also talk about Christian's interest in reinforcement learning, and how that's being used to have computers play games like go.
Jul 24, 2018
Ep. 23 - NLP in the Lands of Foursquare with Kris Concepcion
Kris Conception talks about Natural Language Processing, Natural Language Understanding, and machine translation. We then go into how we build the taste ontology at Foursquare to supercharge the best city guide in the world, and how it connects concepts through languages and cultures.
Jul 17, 2018
Ep. 22 - Bayes Rulez, Death to P-Hacking!
So the overall theme of the show today is applying what we learned last time. Bayesian Probability is good. P-Value hacking - is where we get into trouble. Death to P-hacking! We start by following up on my monologue from last week about Beliefs and Probability. This leads us into an article about the Reverend Thomas Bayes himself, and how his ideas transformed our thinking on probability and belief. And finally, are most of the scientific studies that you hear about wrong? Worry about p-hacking, and think like a Bayesian, and maybe we won't be misled as often; let’s begin to attempt to figure out how to make sense of it all.
Jul 10, 2018
Ep. 21 - Probability, Belief, and The Truth
I explore the nature of probability, and my approach to thinking about facts and belief. I talk about problem solving a lot; here I go into the fundamentals and work to justify how I think about it. What problem does probability solve? Should we always think in terms of probability? What's the difference between an artificial language (code, math) and natural language? How many water molecules are in the Atlantic Ocean? Sometimes we have vague questions and make vague statements - should that be ok? This episode is a little different, but I hope this is the beginning of a back-and-forth conversation with the Local Maximum listenership to try to get to the bottom of these deep issues.
Jul 03, 2018
Ep. 20 - Imperfect Bots, Marketplaces, and the AI Economy
Aaron and Max have a stream-of-consciousness discussion where we look at some recent discussions on the tech web: Fred Ehrsam on Blockchain AI Marketplaces, and Chris Messina on the effect of AI agents on the economy.
Jun 26, 2018
Ep. 19 - The theory of Information with Daniel Kronovet, Horse Racing, and Fractional Bits
Daniel Kronovet and Max discuss the world of information theory. We go into how it was invented by Claude Shannon at Bell Labs, the meaning of information and entropy, and the difference between measurement and processing. Catch references to a Jim Carrey movie and the Belmont stakes!
Jun 19, 2018
Ep 18 - AI Gone Psychopathic, Embellishment vs Fact
An article about MIT research claims that they've built a psychopathic AI. We think the article is a little off base, and try to determine what's actually going on. We cover related examples, of Microsofts Twitter Bot learning from the worst people, and a cool Google Image Program that sees animals everywhere. I also check in with Christian Hubbs, host of Artifically Intelligent, about his podcast. I was interviewed for todays episode, so check that out! I also define a Convolutional Neural Net, but only on the highest of high level! More on that could come in future episodes.
Jun 12, 2018
Ep. 17 - Comedy and Big Data Mixed Up with @robbiethefire
Run Your Mouth Podcaster and Stand-Up Comic Rob Bernstein joins me on the Local Maximum to talk about Comedy, Podcasting, Facebook, AI, Big Data, and of course MS Paint.
Jun 05, 2018
Ep. 16 - Overfitting Toddlers and Underfitting Curmudgeons
Today's concept is underfitting vs. overfitting. Someone who underfits doesn't adapt quickly enough to new data. But if you think that's bad, an overfitter will read TOO MUCH into new data and come up with wild ideas. How do you balance between them and what are some examples? We also talk about Warren Buffet's Recent statements on Bitcoin as Rat Poison Squared, and the response from Union Square Venure's Fred Wilson. How does Bitcoin get it's value? We look at underfitters and overfitters in the crypto space. Finally, the value of the Turing Test. When General AI comes, will it be the fabled machine that can pass as human, or will that idea be sidelined as more profitable uses taken precedent. Also, we learn what an Ornithopter is, and get an update on Yanny-Laurel.
May 29, 2018
Ep. 15 - Poke, Chipotle, Green Needle: Data to Headline with Sarah Spagnolo
Sarah Spagnolo tells us how we turn data insights into news stories. Does marijuana legalization affect bar-going? What's it like to go on TV? I also have to weight in on #teamyanny and #teamlaurel. Plus an update on the news stories we're tracking on Google and Facebook. How far along is Google's conversational AI demo?
May 22, 2018
Ep. 14 - Robot Communism Sucks, and AI on line one
A Washington Post OpEd believes that advances in AI will lead to a new centrally-planned economy. Google's Bots call unsuspecting businesses to save you time - but what are the implications? Bill Gates and Warren Buffet go sour on Bitcoin.
May 15, 2018
Ep 13 - Applied Artificial Intelligence with Mariya Yao
I talk to Mariya Yao about AI and Machine Learning as applied to a variety of business problems and across industries. We cover: - What are some of the misconceptions around AI? - If I have an AI product, how can I talk about it to business leaders? How do I sell it externally? How does it become a business? - Where are various industries on this? - And what are some of the pre-requisites for AI; I’m talking about data collection, and organizational issues.
May 08, 2018
Ep. 12 - Virtual Friends & Enemies, Building Products that look out for us with Marissa Chacko
Aren’t you getting tired of using an internet that’s built to waste YOUR time - I know I am! Product Manager Marissa Chacko and I discuss the promise and perils of these bots and push notifications. We worked on Foursquare's bot Marsbot together, and produced it to help the user first. What are some ways we can focus on building apps that help users, and what are some of the bad habits that have gotten us apps which aren't looking out for our interests?
May 01, 2018
Ep. 11 - Max speaks to CS Undergrads @ The Yale Computer Society
Engineer and Podcaster Max Sklar shares his story about building software from his time at Yale to the Foursquare Innovation Lab. He’ll cover: What he has learned about working on vast location databases, building large-scale machine learning algorithms, and designing chatbots and apps that people actually want to use. Different ways to approach career and on working in teams His thoughts about where the tech/software industry is going in the next decade and encourage Yalies to follow up on their ideas.
Apr 24, 2018
Ep. 10 - Zuckerberg Testifies, The Great Moderation War Continues
Aaron comes back on the program to discuss the Mark Zuckerberg testimony before congress, particularly the part pertaining to moderation and censorship. In the last episode, I described the current approach that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have towards this problem and why it might be flawed. Today, we see this theory play out in the Facebook CEO's answers. We discuss the case of Diamond and Silk, which I mentioned last week but had no idea would appear in the hearings. Also, Facebook's approach of ensuring that it's tools are used for good, and what this directive means for Facebook's future and how the internet will look in a decade. Also, I finished the 10 episode challenge! This podcast is all grown up now.
Apr 17, 2018
Ep. 9 - Fixing Facebook and Lindy's Law
Today I answer the question of how I would handle moderation for Facebook and Twitter - and I break down the problems that they're facing and why. Don't hold your breath expecting them to try out my proposal! I also discuss Lindy's Law, which is a helpful rule of thumb in technological and social forecasting. As popularized by @nntaleb, it's another tool in your toolkit for understanding the world.
Apr 10, 2018
Ep. 8 - Bad Ideas, the Power of Suggestion, and Marsbot
Today I post-game my discussion with Dennis Crowley. I share his goal of wanting people to execute on their ideas, but what are the common blockers? I talk to Aaron about how it broke his code, and the AI couldn't do it on it's own but only with my help - all because my brain was influenced by the power of suggestion. Plus - answer to a listener question about Marsbot!
Apr 03, 2018
Ep. 7 - Dennis Crowley on Inspiration, Innovation, and Future Tech
Today I talk to famed Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley. His approach to being a tech entrepreneur has inspired us all! Just listen. We talk about his approach to trying out new ideas, and also the current landscape for consumer technology and where we may be headed. Finally, we talk about Foursquare's recent foray into bots and beyond.
Mar 27, 2018
Ep. 6 - Facebook Data and the Election, Decentralization to the Rescue
The big news right now is around an analytics company that used a dataset from Facebook - gotten by the company under false pretenses - to help the Trump campaign in 2016. Everyone is SHOCKED - but this kind of data mining was glorified and extolled as a social good when it was used for Obama in 2012. The comparison of the coverage is stark. How are we going to get out of this? What exactly is the problem? I think that the vast centralization of data services has led to all sorts of problems, and the answer is well articulated in VC Chris Dixon's article from last month about the coming decentralized services. I summarize his article which adds to my optimism about the future.
Mar 20, 2018
Ep. 5 - Bitcoin, Ethereum, and What's a Smart Contract Anyway?
It seems like yesterday when we had to get used to Bitcoin, and now new currencies are cropping up all the time - including the crypto-juggernaut Ethereum. To help us keep up and understand what's going on, I have Ethereum developer Christian Lundkvist from ConsenSys on the show. We talk about why Ethereum is separate from Bitcoin, and what the world-changing applications of these cryptocurrencies might be in the next few years.
Mar 13, 2018
Ep. 4 - Codebreaking, Bizarro Harry Potter, and the Proper way to Gerrymander
Mar 06, 2018
Ep. 3 - The Perfect 10, Foursquare's rating system
I have a discussion with Stephanie Yang about how we used machine learning and sentiment analysis to build Foursquare's critically acclaimed venue rating system. Some anecdotes and what we learn along the way.
Feb 27, 2018
Ep. 2 - Maryam Aly on Building a Global User Base: Translation, Localization, and I18n
In my first interview, I speak to Google engineer Maryam Aly who worked on Foursquare's Internationalization Stack for several years. This includes making sure that the foursquare city guide and swarm apps work all around the world. Sometimes, a simple translation isn't enough - we had to deal with the quirks of each language, and puns and cultural references that don't carry through.
Feb 19, 2018
Ep. 1 - Bayesian Inference Applied to the Hawaii ICBM Scare
In the rest of my discussion with Aaron, we discuss the how Bayes rule can apply to news items like the Hawaii ICBM Scare, the murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich, Medical Diagnosis, Conspiracy Theories, theology, and politics.
Feb 13, 2018
Ep. 0 - The great beginning, and how to Update Your Beliefs
Max Sklar starts off the Local Maximum podcast. He goes over the purpose of the podcast, and the push for 10 episodes. Aaron Bell interviews Max on Bayesian vs Frequentist Statistics. Mathematical reverends, German Enigma's, and Tampered Dice.
Feb 03, 2018