‘Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin’ By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Experts have severely underestimated the risks of genetically modified food.” 

It is 20 years since the FDA approved the Flavr Savr tomato for human consumption, the first genetically engineered food to gain this status. Since then, genetically modified food has become a significant part of the human diet in many parts of the world, particularly in the US. In 2013 roughly 85 per cent of corn and 90 per cent of soybeans produced in the US were genetically modified.

Given the ubiquity of this kind of foodstuff, you could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific debate over its safety has been largely settled. It is certainly true that a large number of scientists seem to take that view. In 2012, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science declared that genetically modified crops pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques

Today, Nassim Nicholas Taleb at New York University and a few pals say that this kind of thinking vastly underestimates the threat posed by genetically modified organisms. “Genetically modified organisms represent a public risk of global harm,” they say. Consequently, this risk should be treated differently from those that only have the potential for local harm. “The precautionary principle should be used to prescribe severe of limits on genetically modified organisms,” they conclude.

Taleb and co begin by making a clear distinction between risks with consequences that are local and those with consequences that have the potential to cause global ruin. When global harm is possible, an action must be avoided unless there is scientific near-certainty that it is safe. This approach is known as the precautionary principle.

The question, of course, is when the precautionary principle should be applied. Taleb and co begin by saying that their aim is to place the precautionary principle within a formal statistical structure that is grounded in probability theory and the properties of complex systems. “Our aim is to allow decision-makers to discern which circumstances require the use of the precautionary principle and in which cases evoking the precautionary principle is inappropriate.”

Their argument begins by dividing potential harm into two types. The first is localised and non-spreading. The second is propagating harm that results in irreversible and widespread damage. Taleb and co say that traditional decision-making strategies focus on the first type of risk where the harm is localised and the risk is easy to calculate from past data.

In this case, it is always possible to make a mistake when decision-making about risk. The crucial point is that when the harm is localised, the potential danger from a miscalculation is bounded. 


Posted By F. Sheikh

Solution For Complexities Of Big Data-Data Smashing

“Just as smashing atoms can reveal their composition, “colliding” quantitative data streams can reveal their hidden structure,” writes Chattopadhyay.

Most data comparison algorithms today have one major weakness – somewhere, they rely on a human expert to specify what aspects of the data are relevant for comparison, and what aspects aren’t. In the era of Big Data however, experts aren’t keeping pace with the growing amounts and complexities of data.

Now, Cornell computing researchers have come up with a new principle they call “data smashing” for estimating the similarities between streams of arbitrary data without human intervention, and without access to the data sources. Hod Lipson, associate professor of mechanical engineering and computing and information science, and Ishanu Chattopadhyay, a former postdoctoral associate with Lipson and now at the University of Chicago, have described their method in Royal Society Interface.
Data smashing is based on a new way to compare data streams. The process involves two steps. First, the data streams are algorithmically “smashed” to “annihilate” the information in each other. Then, the process measures what information remained after the collision. The more information remained, the less likely the streams originated in the same source.

Just as smashing atoms can reveal their composition, “colliding” quantitative data streams can reveal their hidden structure,” writes Chattopadhyay.

Any time a data mining algorithm searches beyond simple correlations, a human expert must help define a notion of similarity – by specifying important distinguishing “features” of the data to compare, or by training learning algorithms using copious amounts of examples. The data smashing principle removes the reliance on expert-defined features or examples, and in many cases, does so faster and with better accuracy than traditional methods according to Chattopadhyay.

Read more: http://www.33rdsquare.com/2014/10/data-smashing-used-to-find-hidden.html#ixzz3HfiDazDg
Posted BY F. Sheikh

Death Of Klinghoffer

Few weeks ago a woman in audience was asked to leave an opera house in France because she was wearing a veil. Ironically nearby in another opera house some actors were wearing veil on stage in a scene of the play.

In New York many Jews, including prominent politicians, are protesting in front of Met Opera to close a play “ Death of Klinghoffer “ because it is anti-Semite, especially the line “ America is a big Jew” and supports terrorism. Alex Ross of The New Yorker writes about Met Opera controversy; 

 At the rally, people carried signs reading “The Met Opera Glorifies Terrorism,” “No Tenors for Terror,” “Snuff Opera,” and “Gelb, Are You Taking Terror $$$?”—the last a reference to Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met. A leaflet from the Zionist Organization of America described the opera as “anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-British, anti-gay, & anti-western world.” A hundred demonstrators sat, symbolically, in wheelchairs. An array of local politicians, both Republican and Democratic, lined up to attack the piece. Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, said that she was “personally offended by the play.” David Paterson, the former governor of New York, called the work “loathsome and despicable.” A New Jersey state senator wondered whether Hamas had funded the Met production. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took a more conciliatory tone, conceding that Adams is “one of our great American composers.” Giuliani was the only speaker who seemed to have heard the music. Nonetheless, he concluded that the opera “supports terrorism.”

The protest failed because it relied on falsehoods: the opera is not anti-Semitic, nor does it glorify terrorism. Granted, Adams and his librettist, Alice Goodman, do not advertise their intentions in neon. The story of the Achille Lauro hijacking is told in oblique, circuitous monologues, delivered by a variety of self-involved narrators, with interpolated choruses in rich, dense poetic language. The terrorists are allowed ecstatic flights, private musings, self-justifications. But none of this should surprise a public accustomed to dark, ambiguous TV shows like “Homeland.” The most specious arguments against “Klinghoffer” elide the terrorists’ bigotry with the attitudes of the creators. By the same logic, one could call Steven Spielberg an anti-Semite because the commandant in “Schindler’s List” compares Jewish women to a virus.

In the opera, the opposed groups follow divergent trajectories. The terrorists tend to lapse from poetry into brutality, whereas Leon Klinghoffer and his wife, Marilyn, remain robustly earthbound, caught up in the pleasures and pains of daily life, hopeful even as death hovers. Those trajectories are already implicit in the paired opening numbers, the Chorus of Exiled Palestinians and the Chorus of Exiled Jews. The former splinters into polyrhythmic violence, ending on the words “break his teeth”; the latter keeps shifting from plaintive minor to sumptuous major, ending on the words “stories of our love.” The scholar Robert Fink, in a 2005 essay, convincingly argues that the opera “attempts to counterpoise to terror’s deadly glamour the life-affirming virtues of the ordinary, of the decent man, of small things.” Moreover, subtle references to the Holocaust suggest that a familiar horror is recurring. “At least we are not Jews,” an old Swiss woman says. “I kept my distance,” an Austrian frigidly intones. The mellifluous, ineffectual Captain indulges in fantasies of appeasement, conversing under the stars with a silver-tongued terrorist named Mamoud.


 Posted by F. Sheikh

“Elections In Tunisia” By F. Sheikh

With few people paying attention, Tunisia, birth place of Arab Spring, has successful parliament elections this week. The Arab Spring has fizzled out in rest of the Middle East, but is still alive and thriving in Tunisia. The elections in Tunisia have some lessons for other Muslim countries.

In this week’s elections, the main Islamist party, Ennahda, was defeated by the liberal and secular party, Nida Tunis. The Islamist party did not deliver on its promises. especially fight against terrorism, during its 3 year rule. The liberals and secularists in Egypt should have shown some foresight and wait till the next elections to defeat Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately they chose the short cut, and now they are facing the most brutal military dictatorship in history. Military rule is never the answer to the problems of a country.

The Islamists in Tunisia were also politically wiser than Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and accommodated Liberal Party’s views during their rule. Before this week’s elections, the Islamist Party announced that they will not field any candidate for President in November elections. It was to accommodate the liberals in ruling the country.

The Islamist party has conceded defeat and promised to work with Nida Tunis to build the country. The supporters of Ennahda Party celebrated outside its headquarters what they called ‘Victory for all Tunisians”. Even in defeat they were happy that Tunisia is on the road to democracy. I hope leaders in Pakistan can learn some lesson also, and show some maturity to accept defeat gracefully and help to build the country as a loyal opposition.  

During the current UN general assembly session, ironically President Obama made sure that he has a meeting with Dictator General Sissi of Egypt, but he did not meet with President of Tunisia, the only success story of Arab Spring. Perhaps Tunisia is lucky in this regard, because anywhere we Americans got involved, the results were not promising.