Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (January 12th, 2018)

  1. A few years ago, researchers in Danemark expressed concerns regarding high concentrations of pesticides that are showing up in urine samples of Danish mothers and children. Last time I was in Danemark, a newspaper was reporting that there are surprising amounts of pesticides in the products sold in Danemark. A recent research article found that

the adverse health effects of chronic pesticide residue exposure in the Danish population are very unlikely. The Hazard Index for pesticides for a Danish adult was on level with that of alcohol for a person consuming the equivalent of 1 glass of wine every seventh year.

  1. For the first time in American history, healthcare is the largest source of jobs, ahead of retail, the previous largest source.
  2. Farmers use laser beams to stop eagles from attacking their animals.
  3. Last year, we saw many new therapies based on gene editing. The most exciting gene editing technique right now is CRISPR-Cas9. A paper just reported that most of us are probably immune to CRISPR-Cas9, which means that we can’t receive an in vivo gene therapy based on CRISPR-Cas9 without concern that our immune system will fight it. This suggests that new techniques are needed.
  4. Gary Marcus caused quite a debate online by posting a paper entitled Deep Learning: A Critical Appraisal. I believe that Marcus’s main point is deep learning is maybe not the golden path toward human-like intelligence. I’m not exactly sure why this should be so controversial given that I have heard one of the founders if the deep-learning school, Hinton, say exactly the same thing.

Deep Learning is the dominant paradigm in artificial intelligence, right now. And it works. It is not all hype. It solves real problem people care about.

But we don’t know how far it can go. Yet it seems that there are fairly obvious limits. For example, nobody knows how to use deep-learning alone to prove theorems. Yet we have pretty good tools (that work right now) to automatically prove theorems.

  1. Many people are concerned about how our climate could change in the near future. The Atlantic has a piece of how we can use technology to regulate the climate (something they call “geo-engineering”).