Face Recognition in Bars?

Each day seems to bring another application of face recognition technology. In one of the more recent news, a UK company has developed a face recognition-powered queueing systems for bars. A webcam above the bar films the crowd of people waiting to order their drinks and the system, named A.I. Bar, uses face recognition to keep track of a virtual queue: the barman sees on a screen who to serve next and a customer-facing screen above the bar shows numbers next to customers’ faces indicating their position in the queue.

Continue reading “Face Recognition in Bars?”

Stories About AI

Last week I was talking with friends and the conversation turned to AI and how we feel its impact. Someone had heard the rumour that Facebook is listening to our conversations and showing us ads based on the content. Now, this particular rumour is not true. Besides questions of legality and creepiness, it is simply infeasible, even for a company as large as Facebook, to analyse the speech of all its users in real time. The necessary computational cost far exceeds any potential revenue that could be made from the resulting ads. This does not mean that the rumour is easy to kill, because there is always someone whose friend was once talking about visiting Australia and, lo and behold, they started seeing ads about Australia. Continue reading “Stories About AI”

Selling Data to Amazon

I read the article thinking it would be just another bit of tech news, and yet for some reason my thoughts kept coming back to it. The story of the article is simple: Amazon is willing to pay people $10 to get access to their browsing histories. After giving the basic facts, the article then explores the idea of “buying” and “selling” data and the eventual implications of the seemingly simple offer by Amazon. What I found striking was how little we learned in the end about the details of the offer and how the article moved into a general discussion of digital surveillance as if to compensate; and amidst all this I felt the author struggling with language to express what is happening, with common words such as “buying”, “selling” and “owning” appearing repeatedly in quotation marks. Continue reading “Selling Data to Amazon”

The Era of Mathematics

Two weeks ago the report ‘The Era of Mathematics’ was presented in the House of Lords by Professor Philipp Bond. The report examines the wider impact of mathematics on the economy and makes recommendations how to expand and facilitate knowledge exchange between mathematicians and the industry. Continue reading “The Era of Mathematics”

LMS Education Day

This Tuesday I attended the LMS Education Day, a yearly event focussing on how we teach mathematics to our undergraduates. The topic this year was curriculum development: are our curricula ready for the 21st century?

Continue reading “LMS Education Day”

Science as Sport

What is science as sport? In sports we measure achievement by winning and so for science it means measuring success in research using metrics that measure esteem: How many citations do I have? What is my H-index? How prestigious are the journals in which I publish? How many grants have I obtained? How soon have I been promoted?

Continue reading “Science as Sport”

Machine Learning – My First MOOC

I have been engaged with higher education for the past 15 years, starting first as an undergraduate and now as lecturer teaching undergraduates myself. The rise of MOOCs, from 2012 onwards happened after I had finished my graduate studies and from then on I learned new material mostly by reading textbooks, research papers and spoke directly to colleagues. Although I was aware of their popularity, MOOCs never seemed important enough to warrant a closer look. Until now that is.

Continue reading “Machine Learning – My First MOOC”

Christmas Lecture

For the Christmas lecture of my multivariable calculus module I tried find something entertaining to present. This turned out to be quite difficult, but in the process I across this multivariable calculus themed comic.
Continue reading “Christmas Lecture”

What is the Point?

Today the Guardian reported that a Polish man who went to the police to report an assault on his wife was questioned about his immigration status and handed over to immigration officials who detained him in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. He has been in detention for the past two months.

There are genuine arguments for controlled immigration and “taking back cotrol of the border”. There is also merit in finding and deporting those who are in the country illegally. But what can possibly be the point of making life hell for those who have done nothing wrong? What purpose is served by casting the net of suspicion so wide that it causes collateral damage?
Continue reading “What is the Point?”

Writing a Bachelor Thesis

One of my duties as lecturer is supervising final year projects. Seeing students engage with a piece of mathematics on their own is an interesting and rewarding experience. As part of the process of guiding and advising, of observing students and with the benefit of hindsight one distills little nuggets of advice. Advice that, one hopes, might help students engage deeper with the mathematics and benefit more from the process.
Continue reading “Writing a Bachelor Thesis”