Tuesday, February 12, 2008

google techtalk Challenges in Causality and Consumers Buy Products

Today Google published 2 new google techtalk video files. You can view them below.

The first video:

What affects your health, the economy, climate changes? And what actions will have beneficial effects? These are some of the central questions of causal discovery. A "causal model" is a model capable of making predictions under changing circumstances, corresponding to actions of "external agents" on a system of interest. For example, a doctor administering a drug to a patient, a government enforcing a new tax law or a new environmental policy. It is often necessary to assess the benefits and risks of potential actions using available past data and excluding the possibility of experimenting. Experiments, which are the ultimate way of verifying causal relationships, are in many cases too costly, infeasible, or unethical. For instance, enforcing a law prohibiting to smoke in public places is costly, preventing people from smoking may be infeasible, and forcing them to smoke would be unethical. In contrast, "observational data" are available in abundance in many applications. Recently, methods to devise causal models from observational data have been proposed. Can causal models thus obtained be relied upon to make important decisions? In this presentation, we will challenge the hopes an promises of causal discovery and present new means of assessing the validity of causal modeling techniques.

Want to play? Check the "causation and prediction" competition presently going on: http://www.causality.inf.ethz.ch/challenge.php

Speaker: Isabelle Guyon is a researcher in machine learning and an independent consultant. Prior to starting her consulting practice in 1996, she worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she pioneered applications of neural networks to pen computer interfaces and invented Support Vector Machines (in collaboration with B. Boser and V. Vapnik). Isabelle Guyon holds a Ph.D. degree in Physical Sciences of the University Pierre and Marie Curie of Paris, France. She is vice-president of the Unipen foundation, action editor of the Journal of Machine Learning Research, and competition chair of the IJCNN conference.

The second video:

Internet searching and advertising increasingly plays a role in consumer decisions and purchases, yet pertinent information for making value-judgments is currently awkward to ferret out and certainly not universally accessible or useful. There is rarely a feedback loop aligning vendor or manufacturer's environmental, social or governance policies with a shopper's values, so shoppers, over time, rarely cause industries to change their behavior.

There needs to be a way for shoppers to aim their purchasing power at achieving social values of highest regional priority. There needs to be a way to accumulate and redeem "social values rewards". What's missing is timely and impactful analysis of a candidate purchases' impact on the Shopper's family, region and planet (expressed according to their values), so that the purchaser can more easily make informed purchasing decisions.

With some modifications to Google ads and Google product search, Google could solidify the feedback loop and help consumers, by their actions, build a greener and better world.

Speaker: Bruce Cahan, President Urban Logic, Inc. (a nonprofit organization)

Bruce Cahan is an Ashoka Fellow, a social entrepreneur, a non-residential fellow of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, a lawyer, and a banker.

In 1989, a steam pipe exploded outside his apartment building, spraying the neighborhood with 220 pounds of asbestos wrapping in an 18-story geyser of steam for several hours. After that, Bruce foresaw New York City's need for geospatial preparedness, and founded Urban Logic, a New York nonprofit, to make America's cities safer and sustainable. Bruce convinced New York to fund and build a multi-agency GIS basemap. As a bond lawyer, he found $20+ million in the City's capital budget to pay for its GIS utility.
NYC's basemap was completed just 6 months before the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, and aided in coordinated response and recovery. In the months after September 11th, Bruce joined others at the City's Command Center to organize and staff its Emergency Mapping and Data Center. His team supplied the Mayor's Office, Fire, Police, EMS, military, public health, environment, news and other groups with up-to-date maps of rapidly changing conditions at Ground Zero and throughout Manhattan. Bruce was the catalyst for deploying OpenGIS' SensorWeb project to monitor environmental conditions citywide, and other innovations. Taking 9/11's lessons, Bruce designed the federal OMB's I-Team Initiative to strategically plan and implement spatial readiness across 49 states. Bruce's knowledge of finance, law and organizational barriers to spatial awareness and urban innovation comes from researching and writing major studies for the federal government, including . Financing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (FGDC 2000) . Aligning Investments in Environmental Monitoring and Management Information Systems (EPA 2002) . The Value Proposition for GeoSpatial One Stop (OMB 2004) . A Regional Portfolio Investor's Toolkit (USGS 2006)

In 2005, Bruce moved to Silicon Valley to organize two market-driven mechanisms that support urban sustainability. The first he calls the Means MeterTM, a tool for socially-purposeful consumers to buy products that reflect their values. The second is a bank that amplifies the sustainable impacts of Means MeterTM consumers and their vendors. The bank will reward choices that grow Sustainable ResiliencyTM. Bruce's bank would serve consumers, businesses, NGOs and governments. The bank would offer credit, insurance, investment and merchant banking services, and scale pricing and interest rates based on each customer's impact on Sustainable ResiliencyTM.

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