Saturday, March 28, 2009

Data in its untamed abundance gives rise to meaning

Joho the Blog » Data in its untamed abundance gives rise to meaning: Seb Schmoller points to a terrific article by Google’s Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira about two ways to get meaning out of information. Their example is machine translation of natural language where there is so much translated material available for computers to learn from, which (they argue) works better than trying to learn from attempts that go up a level of abstraction and try to categorize and conceptualize the language. Scale wins. (Via Joho the Blog.)

Thanks to David Weinberger for the nice review! I love the poetic post title Data in its untamed abundance gives rise to meaning.

Just this Friday, Tom Mitchell gave a great talk at Google on his group's latest results on decoding the concepts someone is thinking about from their fMRIs. Crucially, the decoding relies on the statistics of associations between concepts expressed by nouns and surrounding action and perception verbs, thus translating between text associations and statistical correlations between activity in different brain areas. Sure, the usual suspects will again tell us that's nothing to do with “real” meaning, just mere associations of flickering bits in our servers and our neurons. Thus “real” meaning echoes the vital force, the flogiston, and the ether before it, “true essences” all.

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