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Knowing what we don’t know (on the web)

Tanya Gupta's picture
Welcome to the third blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. In this year long skills transfer blog series we use an interactive and just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.
 
In our last posting we talked about six techniques to make our questions more precise so as to get the best answers from the Web. In this blog, we look at the other side of the equation: how can we be reasonably confident that the answers we get from an online resource are correct? How can we know that the web has given us the right answer when we do not have the subject matter expertise ourselves?


Path to “Confucian” wisdom

How to know what you don’t know

The adage “True wisdom is knowing what you don't know” has been attributed to Confucius. While addressing this philosophical statement is beyond the scope of this blog, it is appropriate to title a pragmatic article borrowing from ancient wisdom. Knowing what you do not  know is the essential problem of learning in the modern era. Legacy learning depends on teachers and textbooks who you can rely on to be correct. However, for contemporary learning - how can you tell the correct from the incorrect if you don’t have sufficient knowledge of a domain?
 
We describe a four step process one can use to eliminate the really bad answers and get a decent idea of which ones are very good.
 
The process may not be able guarantee the answers we got are absolutely correct, but the level of accuracy of the answers we will get by following the process will be useful in most cases.

Frequently Asked (not so smart) Questions

Abir Qasem's picture

This blog is the second of the series of a year-long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks. We use an interactive and just in time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data. 

People using computers in an internet cafe in Kampala, UgandaMany of us fondly remember from our school (and college) days the best and the most inspiring teachers always told us that "there are no bad questions".  No matter how silly our questions were, the best teachers always had the talent to transform an uninformed question into a learning experience. Even in the age of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that quality is still uniquely human (Google or even IBM’s Watson are not there yet)!  So, for an adult learner, who is using online resources to learn technical skills, ­asking the right question is important.  If you don’t ask the right question, the Internet will not give you an answer. Even worse than not getting an answer, you may get the wrong answer. This blog is all about asking the right question. More specifically, this blog is about coming up with precise and specific search queries when you are searching online resources to further your knowledge or solve a specific problem.

The Internet is the world's largest knowledge repository, but it is still far from becoming a one-stop knowledge shop. We still need a vast education industry (in the US, it is close to a trillion dollars) consisting of teachers, mentors, training, schools/colleges etc. Unlike machines, and, by extension, unlike the Internet, we humans have an unequalled capability to deal with ambiguity. We do not need to always work under a precise set of rules. We also have a propensity to be ambiguous in framing our questions. Therefore, we need expensive human intervention to remove the ambiguity factor from the human-to-machine knowledge loop.

In the physical world, there is a high level of interactivity between the asker of a question and the human provider. This interactivity- coupled with the human ability to deal with ambiguity- helps refine the question by making it precise enough to answer. On the Web, such interactivity is much harder to attain.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

It’s not what you spend
The Economist
FOR decades rich countries have sought to foster global development with aid. But all too often there is little to show for their spending, now over $135 billion a year and rising. Success depends on political will in recipient countries, says Erik Solheim of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries that includes the biggest donors. And that may well be lacking. What donors will pay for may not be what recipients deem a priority. So poor countries’ governments say what they must to get cash, and often fail to keep their side of the deal. Aid to build schools may be used to give fat contracts to allies, and the schools left empty. Ambulances bought by donors may rust on the kerb, waiting for spare parts. Now donors are trying a new approach: handing over aid only if outcomes improve. “Cash on delivery” sees donors and recipients set targets, for example to cut child mortality rates or increase the number of girls who finish school, and agree on how much will be paid if they are met.

Forget The Fitbit: Can Wearables Be Designed For The Developing World?
Fast Co.Exist
When we think of wearable technology today, we think of the Fitbits or the Apple Watch. But to many people, tracking our steps or sleep in unprecedented detail or getting a notification slightly faster is interesting but ultimately not quite useful enough. The quantified self, in the context of people who have access to any technology they want, can be inherently self-absorbed. Imagine a different use case: An impoverished woman in rural Africa, pregnant with her first child and many miles away from medical care. Here, a wearable that helps her track her pregnancy and let her know if she needs to get to a doctor could mean life or death for her unborn child.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The surprising benefits of autocratic elections
Washington Post
After a bitterly contested election campaign and several controversial postponements, Muhammadu Buhari engineered an upset of Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, the country’s first-ever case of electoral turnover. Legislative elections will follow on April 11, while two other African countries, Sudan and Togo, are also scheduled to hold elections over the next two weeks. Besides the coincidence in electoral timing, these countries share another surprising link—all three are generally recognized as autocracies. The marriage of autocracy with contested elections is, in fact, the norm nowadays. All but five autocracies have held a national election since 2000, with about three in four allowing multiparty competition. What makes these regimes autocratic is that the elections fail to meet democratic standards, typically with state power being used to favor the ruling party.
 
Cellphones for Women in Developing Nations Aid Ascent From Poverty
New York Times
Here is what life is like for a woman with no bank account in a developing country. She keeps her savings hidden — in pots, under mattresses, in fields. She constantly worries about thieves. She may even worry about her husband taking cash she has budgeted for their children’s needs. Sending money to a family member in another village is risky and can take days. Obtaining a loan in an emergency is often impossible. An unexpected expense can mean she has to pull a child out of school or sell a cow the family relies on for income. Or, worse, it can mean she must give birth at home without medical assistance because she doesn’t have the money for a ride to a clinic. In ways big and small, life without access to financial services is more difficult, expensive and dangerous. It constrains a woman’s ability to plan for her family’s future. At the community level, it traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of developing countries.

Media (R)evolutions: The Online Video Boom

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Video receives a lot of attention online. Over 1 billion unique users visit YouTube every month, and 1 in 5 Twitter users discover videos each day from tweeted links.

According to a report by Cisco, Internet traffic is expected to increase by 260% until 2018, and online video will be responsible for much of the growth.  The report forecasts that by 2018, global IP video traffic (does not include peer-to-peer filesharing) will account for 79% of all consumer Internet traffic and the sum all forms of video (TV, video on demand, Internet, peer-to-peer sharing) will account for 80-90% of global consumer traffic.


 

Weekly Wire:the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption Perceptions Index
Transparency International

"The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world.  The Index scores 177 countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). No country has a perfect score, and two-thirds of countries score below 50. This indicates a serious, worldwide corruption problem. Hover on the map above to see how your country fares. The world urgently needs a renewed effort to crack down on money laundering, clean up political finance, pursue the return of stolen assets and build more transparent public institutions." READ MORE

How to Measure a Post-2015 MDG on Good Governance
Global Integrity 

"There’s been plenty of chatter in recent months about a possible post-2015 Millennium Development Goal on governance following the release of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The report called out "good governance and effective institutions" as one of 12 "illustrative" goals that nations might consider when adopting new development targets for the post-2015 era. This is potentially big news for transparency and accountability boosters; enshrining good governance in the post-2015 MDG process could provide significant political cover for continued reform efforts while simultaneously unlocking new resources for the work.

A chief risk to the prospect of a good governance goal is the data problem. How would we measure countries’ progress towards "good governance" in a post-2015 framework? Whose data should be used? Is it accurate and robust enough for such an august task? Is it possible to generate quality data on a global scale, regularly, that could be used for tracking?" READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Financing progress independently: taxation and illicit flows
Development Progress

“With less than two years to go before the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is time to take stock of what the goals have achieved and, just as importantly, what the goals have overlooked – including finance.

The debate on what follows the MDGs – the post-2015 framework – is a chance to focus on two major finance themes that are not reflected in the goals themselves. First, that taxation is the central source of development finance; and second, that illicit financial flows undermine effective taxation and require international action. If this chance is not to be wasted, we need a consensus – and soon – on targets in these interlinked areas.” READ MORE
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Google's uProxy: A Peer-to-Peer Gateway to Internet Freedom
Mashable

“In parts of the world where repressive governments control the Internet with unassailable firewalls, netizens don't see the same web that people in other countries can.

Now, Google wants to give people in these countries a tool to circumvent those invisible barriers, and defeat censorship. Called uProxy, it is meant to be an easy-to-use, peer-to-peer gateway to the open Internet. With uProxy installed, somebody in Iran could use a friend's Internet to connect with him or her.” READ MORE
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One
How to Start a Transparency Revolution

“In less than two weeks, on 17th and 18th June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, world leaders will converge for the G8 Summit. The UK government has shown great leadership in setting a ground-breaking agenda on trade, tax and transparency, but the focus now needs to be on translating ambitious rhetoric into action.

ONE has been advocating for the G8 to unleash a “transparency revolution” – as well as a “food revolution” – so that people have the information they need to follow the money, to hold their governments and others to account so that resources are used to deliver real results in the fight against poverty, disease, hunger and malnutrition.

A transparency revolution requires three things: first, making data available; second, making that data user-friendly; and third, making sure it can be used effectively.”  READ MORE 
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

iRevolution
Google Blimps for Disaster Response

"A blimp is a floating airship that does not have any internal supporting framework or keel. The airship is typically filled with helium and is navigated using steerable fans. Google is apparently planning to launch a fleet of Blimps to extend Internet/wifi access across Africa and Asia. Some believe that "these high-flying networks would spend their days floating over areas outside of major cities where Internet access is either scarce or simply nonexistent." Small-scale prototypes are reportedly being piloted in South Africa "where a base station is broadcasting signals to wireless access boxes in high schools over several kilometres." The US military has been using similar technology for years."  READ MORE 
 


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