AI, Modern Gov and the power of Networks

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Amid the recent bombing mayhem in Ankara, an ever escalating refugee crisis, a stagnated global economy and the EU-Turkey Summit of 17-18th, I picked up a few reads that you might find interesting or even intriguing and will probably take your mind off disturbing  headlines (at least for a while).
If you are in a hurry start from the links in BOLD.
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GoToVan, Science World, Flickr

Incredible Science: AI

The latest “Human vs. Machine” game has ended. Read what Google has to say about it, in their latest blog: What we learned in Seoul with AlphaGo by Demis Hassabis, CEO and Co-Founder of DeepMind (a google subsidiary focusing on AI).
  • If this AI thing is new to you, maybe a non technical video from DAVOS 2016 will enlighten you: Key people from academia and industry discuss “The state of Artificial Intelligence“.
  • Not everyone is partying with the prospect of more AI though. Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are not that thrilled. Read here why.

Looking for more?

Modern Government & data

In the era of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data, ODI (the Open Data Institute, UK) is making a very important argument on Data Infrastructure. What is it and who owns it? This argument is even more important as UK government is thinking of privatising the Land Registry, as it recently announced in the 2016 Budget.

And if you wonder how local governments can benefit from digital technologies then Nesta  has a very comprehensive report for you: Connected Councils: A digital vision of local government in 2025. (Download the pdf here)

Nesta has also “5 ideas for renovating democracy“. May sound obvious but it’s governments we are talking about.

The power of Networks

Last but not least, a long but very concise presentation on Network effects (think Facebook, Airbnb, What’s App). What they are, why they are important, how they can help you in business. A highly suggested read.

I guess these are enough for the weekend!

So much to read, so little time!

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The abundance of information and news is a fact. The difficulty we now face is how to pick up the ones that matter (for each one of us). Every day I get about 10 news bulletins from various sources including: The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, TIME, DW, BBC (mainly through their excellent tech shows: Click & Tech Tent), TechCrunch and Crunchable and of course many Linkedin groups or twits from people or organisations I respect and follow.

Usually all this stuff is piled up in my inbox and I go through it early in the morning or late at night, trying to identify those reads that actually mean something to me. I’m fascinated from technology and science, entrepreneurship, innovation and of course International relations.

Thomas Hassel: reading, Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart
Thomas Hassel | reading, Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart | Flickr

 

So these are my picks for this week:

Intriguing Science

Deep Learning for Robots: Learning from Large-Scale Interaction; Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2016; by Sergey Levine, Research Scientist on Google’s Reseach Blog. It is a great piece on how interconnected robots can learn and improve their performance through repetition. Neural networks and AI is here.

Now, speaking of AI, I cannot but jump to another company promising amazing change in human computer interaction. Check out Magic Leap and put them on your radar. I think we’ll soon hear more about them.

New kids on the block

Another start up to follow is LightSail. They are developing an adaptive literacy software, and managed to raise $11 million in a Series B round. Among the investor was Scott Cook, the co-founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Intuit (leading the round) and the Bezos Family Foundation.

Open Access

This week the US government, announced a new initiative that gives access to local & federal datasets. The Opportunity Project, will allow developers to access under-utilised data to build new solutions. After Open Data maybe the next evolutionary step is the market of personal data. Although this is not new, Nesta (UK) has conducted some very interesting reports and they share their valuable insights. Read this post by John Davies to find out more.

Another report worth reading (only 26 well designed pages) would be Research Software Sustainability“, Report on a Knowledge Exchange Workshop, by Simon Hettrick, of The Software Sustainability Institute.

Never Stop Learning

If you are looking for an intriguing listening, you can listen to “Blitzscaling” podcasts. This was an entrepreneurship class at Stanford presenting  a strategy in which a company “pursues unusually high rates of growth in a way that’s tactically inefficient in terms of capital and other resources, but strategically essential to capitalizing on a large and attractive market opportunity.” You can find everything you may need here.

With so many examples of disruption in established sectors, we still haven’t seen any real revolution in education. Despite e-learning, MOOCs and so much tools, mainstream education (from K-12 to higher) still follows the same structure (lectures, assignments, exams). A new paper by Nesta discuss “The challenge-driven university: how real-life problems can fuel learning“. Inspiring food for thought.

In memoriam

It’s always good to remember people whose contribution to this world was far beyond their existence. One of them was Ray Tomlinson, who died on Sat March 5th, at the age of 74. He was the inventor of the email and of the @ symbol. He will not be forgotten. Read about how he died, but more importantly how he lived here.

We were all Agile: Agile Greece Summit 2015

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I spent last Friday in Athens in a conference taking place for the first time in Greece. Agile Greece Summit 2015 was the first of its series in Greece and I do hope that more will come. Not only the speaker roaster sounded very promising on the announcement, but it proved an exciting one indeed. From Spotify to Swiss Postal services and from Vodafone to IBM, every session proved revealing.

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Photo Courtesy of Jason Carter @Flickr

I did not have the chance to follow every speaker since the programme was deployed into two parallel sessions, but I did manage to have a full day of interesting discussions, provoking arguments and inspiring ideas.

I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Spotify, on “Why autonomy is at the heart of agility”. Kristian Lindwall & Cliff Hazell talked about Spotify and the autonomy of every worker. You can get an idea of their talk from a previous presentation you can find here.

I liked the approach of Gunther Verheyen, from Scrum.org for scalling scrum, although before we scale scrum we first have to impelment it successfuly and to really hone it. If you are new to agile and scrum by the way, Scrum.org is an excellent starting point, which also offers a range of Scrum Courses and Certifications.

Ben Linders, a world class agile expert, showed how using different exercises can help you to get more value out of agile retrospectives. You can find his presentation along with other very useful material in his web site.

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Niels Pflaeging at Stage

Claudio Perrone, another speaker with many capacities and even more skills, presented PopcornFlow, his new model for continuous evolution through rapid experimentation. His web site is full of interesting information and tools.

But probably the real revelation (at least for me) was Niels Pflaeging. It wasn’t just his relaxed American style, nor his humour and provoking (to some) language. More than that, it was his profound ideas and fascinating arguments that engaged the whole audience. Niels is worth reading. His short and nicely illustrated book that we got as a freebie proved a great companion in my way home. Niels has a whole universe of books, white papers, videos and presentations and it’s worth looking at every one of them. (Start here).

All in all, it was a great workshop and I hope we’ll have the chance to build further the agile community and knowledge. Maybe some day we’ll manage to even actually use it in Greece.

Up there on the mountains

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Summer. Just a few weeks ago, end of July and instead of being at a beach and listening to the waves, you drive for about 3,5 hours to be in Zagori. Along with you another 1000+ athletes waiting to climb Timfi as fast as they can and run it downhill even faster. Before that there was Olympus Marathon, and half a dozen other races on mountains all over Greece.
Snow, mud and icy trails during spring. Dusty, dry rocks and hot sun during summer. Almost every weekend, you are there, standing at the starting line, regardless of the weather, the season, your problems and your worries. Read the rest of this entry »

One last hope

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Photo by Rania Hatzi @Flickr The Greek Parliament behind bars

Ι recently read a great article in HBR by Michael G. Jacobides entitled “Greece’s Problem Is More Complicated than Austerity“. I’d like to urge my FB friends (especially non-Greek ones) to read it carefully and give it some serious thought if they want to really understand what is taking place in Greece.

After the latest Greek deal in July, the parliament indeed voted for some (not all) prior actions necessary to re-start negotiations on a new long term bailout program (the third since 2010). Nevertheless, the ruling party is (as most of us expected) heavily divided between more than one of its political components. The most influential of which are the radical neo-communists led by the Former Minister of (non) Development, P. Lafazanis, who believe that the new Drachma is the solution to all our problems. Unfortunately, they are not offering any solid justification of how leaving the Euro will actually help the country and not their own political nomenclature. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to change! Greek crisis & reforms.

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18576973764_2c2156c253_kSo, we now have a result. The Greek people have voted no to our recent referendum. I’m still not exactly sure what the question was in the first place, or even why it was necessary to go through such a process, at this particular moment in time. Regardless of all these, I follow the ubiquitous social media and I am convinced that we’ll need considerable time to heal and recover, from this friction and conflict. I see fear, distrust and genuine concern from those of us who voted YES, bitter and arrogant comments from many that supported NO, unbelievable accusations (from both sides) and masses of people celebrating in streets and squares as if the war is over and we have won the lottery, both as a nation and as individuals. Either I totally get something wrong or I’m biased and pessimistic by nature (which, I probably am). Read the rest of this entry »

Time to study! Part 2: Beyond MOOCs

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Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr
Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr

In my previous post “Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates“, I covered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). I presented just 3 major providers: EdX, Coursera and Udacity although there are many more out there, simply because in my humble (totally subjective opinion) these 3 provide an excellent user experience and offer a really massive course catalog from some of the best universities worldwide.

You can find extensive lists of many more providers in aggregation web sites like mooc-list.com or a much more well designed Class Central. By their definition: “it is an aggregator of MOOC course listings and continually looks for and bring you high-quality MOOCs from reputable providers (and not just from the major providers)”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates

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Stockholm Public Library
Photo of Stockholm Public Library by Samantha Marx

You have no excuse. Start learning now!

There was a time (before the Internet) when learning new things was actually not easy. The dominating educational institutions, the universities, demanded your physical presence and your adherence to structured courses leading to recognised diplomas and professional degrees. This educational system definitely served a purpose and is still relevant. But it is not the only choice.

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Today you have no excuses. You have the Internet and broadband and the web and an endless list of sites where you can learn virtually everything (from wedding planning to salsa dancing). Seriously.

 Do you feel you want to refresh your knowledge on a forgotten subject? Do you feel overwhelmed by the unstructured and usually cluttered and “noisy” information you find in the web? Do you want to learn new stuff or even change your career? Take your pick.

For the last six months I’ve tried most of the services below and I have to admit that I’m quite impressed by some of them. I’ve tried to organise them more based on their purpose and what should be expected. The list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it is a good start. Feel free to add your comments.

Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University
(Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University) Photo from Jisc Infonet at Flickr

Take your pick:

You basically have 3 major choices. edX, Coursera and Udacity:

1. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and offers free courses (more than 400) and verified certificates (paid) from some of the best universities in the world including Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, EPFL, KUL and many more. As it mentions at the site: “Topics include among others biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more.”

My experience is that it has a great User Interface at its web edition with clear information and top notch quality. Unfortunately not all courses are available in mobile.

2. Coursera is a similar service with an equally impressive list of university (Yale, Stanford, Brown among others) and non-university partners (like the World Bank and National Geographic Society) from all over the world. Apart from the Verified Certificates (paid) you can take a “Specialization Certificate” which brings together related courses and a “capstone project”. You can find some really interesting Specializations like “Data Science” from John Hopkins,  “Business Foundations” from The Warton School of the University of Pennsylvania and many more.

I have already completed a few courses and I have to say that it was a fantastic experience. Pay attention to the way the course is structured and of course who is offering it. Some are more interactive than others. Their mobile app is adequately good and you can download and watch the lectures offline.

3. Udacity is not free, but it is powered by some of the tech giants like Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce, Cloudera, etc. They offer paid certification programs called “Nanodegrees” focused on technology. Web Developers, Data Analysts, Mobile Developers, etc. Our students acquire real skills through a series of online courses and hands-on projects. I found it quite expensive (approx. $200/month) but you can access the instructors videos for free and you can always try it for 14 days to see if it fits you.

These are some of the most complete and well known online courses portals. Whether you want to learn a new skill to enhance your CV or you just want to widen your horizons in a more structured and curated way, this is the place to start.

In future posts I’ll cover less formal learning offered. Stay tuned!

My 2014 Blogging in review!

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Well this is probably my easiest and most beautiful designed post. It’s an auto created report from The WordPress.com with stats on 2014 blogging. Very elegant.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.