Arquivo da tag: Google

A mysterious 14-year cycle has been controlling our words for centuries (Science Alert)

Some of your favourite science words are making a comeback.

2 DEC 2016

Researchers analysing several centuries of literature have spotted a strange trend in our language patterns: the words we use tend to fall in and out of favour in a cycle that lasts around 14 years.

Scientists ran computer scripts to track patterns stretching back to the year 1700 through the Google Ngram Viewer database, which monitors language use across more than 4.5 million digitised books. In doing so, they identified a strange oscillation across 5,630 common nouns.

The team says the discovery not only shows how writers and the population at large use words to express themselves – it also affects the topics we choose to discuss.

“It’s very difficult to imagine a random phenomenon that will give you this pattern,” Marcelo Montemurro from the University of Manchester in the UK told Sophia Chen at New Scientist.

“Assuming these patterns reflect some cultural dynamics, I hope this develops into better understanding of why we change the topics we discuss,” he added.“We might learn why writers get tired of the same thing and choose something new.”

The 14-year pattern of words coming into and out of widespread use was surprisingly consistent, although the researchers found that in recent years the cycles have begun to get longer by a year or two. The cycles are also more pronounced when it comes to certain words.

What’s interesting is how related words seem to rise and fall together in usage. For example, royalty-related words like “king”, “queen”, and “prince” appear to be on the crest of a usage wave, which means they could soon fall out of favour.

By contrast, a number of scientific terms, including “astronomer”, “mathematician”, and “eclipse” could soon be on the rebound, having dropped in usage recently.

According to the analysis, the same phenomenon happens with verbs as well, though not to the same extent as with nouns, and the academics found similar 14-year patterns in French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish, so this isn’t exclusive to English.

The study suggests that words get a certain momentum, causing more and more people to use them, before reaching a saturation point, where writers start looking for alternatives.

Montemurro and fellow researcher Damián Zanette from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research in Argentina aren’t sure what’s causing this, although they’re willing to make some guesses.

“We expect that this behaviour is related to changes in the cultural environment that, in turn, stir the thematic focus of the writers represented in the Google database,” the researchers write in their paper.

“It’s fascinating to look for cultural factors that might affect this, but we also expect certain periodicities from random fluctuations,” biological scientist Mark Pagel, from the University of Reading in the UK, who wasn’t involved in the research, told New Scientist.

“Now and then, a word like ‘apple’ is going to be written more, and its popularity will go up,” he added. “But then it’ll fall back to a long-term average.”

It’s clear that language is constantly evolving over time, but a resource like the Google Ngram Viewer gives scientists unprecedented access to word use and language trends across the centuries, at least as far as the written word goes.

You can try it out for yourself, and search for any word’s popularity over time.

But if there are certain nouns you’re fond of, make the most of them, because they might not be in common use for much longer.

The findings have been published in Palgrave Communications.

How Silicon Valley controls our future (Fear and the Technopanic)

How Silicon Valley controls our future

Jeff Jarvis

Oh, My!

Just 12 hours ago, I posted a brief piece about the continuing Europtechnopanic in Germany and the effort of publishers there to blame their every trouble on Google—even the so-called sin of free content and the price of metaphoric wurst.

Now Germany one-ups even itself with the most amazing specimen of Europtechnopanic I have yet seen. The cover of Der Spiegel, the country’s most important news outlet, makes the titans of Silicon Valley look dark, wicked, and, well—I just don’t know how else to say it—all too much like this.

This must be Spiegel’s Dystopian Special Issue. Note the additional cover billing: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Humanism and enlightenment are dead.’”

I bought the issue online—you’re welcome—so you can read along with me (and correct my translations, please).

The cover story gets right to the point. Inside, the opening headline warns: “Tomorrowland: In Silicon Valley, a new elite doesn’t just want to determine what we consume but how we live. They want to change the world and accept no regulation. Must we stop them?”

Ah, yes, German publishers want to regulate Google—and now, watch out, Facebook, Apple, Uber, and Yahoo! (Yahoo?), they’re gunning for you next.

Turn the page and the first thing you read is this: “By all accounts, Travis Kalanick, founder and head of Uber, is an asshole.”

Oh, my.

It continues: “Uber is not the only company with plans for such world conquest. That’s how they all think: Google and Facebook, Apple and Airbnb, all those digital giants and thousands of smaller firms in their neighborhood. Their goal is never the niche but always the whole world. They don’t follow delusional fantasies but have thoroughly realistic goals in sight. It’s all made possible by a Dynamic Duo almost unique in economic history: globalization coupled with digitilization.”

Digitalization, you see, is not just a spectre haunting Europe but a dark force overcoming the world. Must it be stopped? We’re merely asking.

Spiegel’s editors next fret that “progress will be faster and bigger, like an avalanche:” iPhone, self-driving cars, the world’s knowledge now digital and retrievable, 70% of stock trading controlled by algorithms, commercial drones, artificial intelligence, robots. “Madness but everyday madness,” Spiegel cries. “No longer science fiction.”

What all this means is misunderstood, Spiegel says, “above all by politicians,” who must decide whether to stand by as spectators while “others organize a global revolution. Because what is happening is much more than the triumph of new technology, much more than an economic phenomenon. It’s not just about ‘the internet’ or ‘social networks,’ not about intelligence and Edward Snowden and the question of what Google does with data.” It’s not just about newspapers shutting down and jobs lost to software. We are in the path of social change, “which in the end no one can escape.” Distinct from the industrial revolution, this time “digitization doesn’t just change industries but how we think and how we live. Only this time the change is controlled centrally by a few hundred people…. They aren’t stumbling into the future, they are ideologues with a clear agenda…. a high-tech doctrine of salvation.”


Oh, fuck!

The article then takes us on a tour of our new world capital, home to our “new Masters of the Universe,” who—perversely, apparently—are not concerned primarily about money. “Power through money isn’t enough for them.” It examines the roots of their philosophy from the “tradition of radical thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Ayn Rand, and Friedrich Hayek,” leading to a “strange mixture of esoteric hippie-thinking and bare-knuckled capitalism.” Spiegel calls it their Menschheitsbeglückungswerks. I had to ask Twitter WTF that means.

Aha. So must we just go along with having this damned happiness shoved down our throats? “Is now the time for regulation before the world is finally dominated by digital monopolies?” Spiegel demands — I mean, merely asks? “Is this the time for democratic societies to defend themselves?”

Spiegel then visits four Silicon Valley geniuses: singularity man Ray Kurzweil; the conveniently German Sebastian Thrun, he of the self-driving car and online university; the always-good-for-a-WTF Peter Thiel (who was born in Germany but moved away after a year); and Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia. It recounts German President Joachim Gauck telling Thrun, “you scare me.” And it allows Thrun to respond that it’s the optimists, not the naysayers, who change the world.

I feared that these hapless four would be presented as ugly caricatures of the frightening, alien tribe of dark-bearded technopeople. You know what I’m getting at. But I’m relieved to say that’s not the case. What follows all the fear-mongering bluster of the cover story’s start is actual reporting. That is to say, a newsmagazine did what a newsmagazine does: It tops off its journalism with its agenda: frosting on the cupcake. And the agenda here is that of German publishers—some of them, which I explored last night and earlier. They attack Google and enlist politicians to do their bidding with new regulations to disadvantage their big, new, American, technological competitors.

And you know what? The German publishers’ strategy is working. German lawmakers passed a new ancillary copyright (nevermind that Google won that round when publishers gave it permission to quote their snippets) and EU politicians are talking not just about creating new copyright and privacy law but even about breaking up Google. The publishers are bringing Google to heel. The company waited far too long to empathize with publishers’ plight—albeit self-induced—and to recognize their political clout (a dangerous combination: desperation and power, as Google now knows). Now see how Matt Brittin, the head of EMEA for Google, drops birds at Europe’s feet like a willing hund, showing all the good that Google does indeed bring them.

I have also noted that Google is working on initiatives with European publishers to find mutual benefit and I celebrate that. That is why—ever helpful as I am—I wrote this post about what Google could do for news and this one about what news could do for Google. I see real opportunity for enlightened self-interest to take hold both inside Google and among publishers and for innovation and investment to come to news. But I’m one of those silly and apparently dangerous American optimists.

As I’ve often said, the publishers—led by Mathias Döpfner of Axel Springer and Paul-Bernhard Kallen of Burda—are smart. I admire them both. They know what they’re doing, using the power of their presses and thus their political clout to box in even big, powerful Google. It’s a game to them. It’s negotiation. It’s just business. I don’t agree with or much like their message or the tactic. But I get it.

Then comes this Scheißebombe from Der Spiegel. It goes far beyond the publishers’ game. It is nothing less than prewar propaganda, trying to stir up a populace against a boogeyman enemy in hopes of goading politicians to action to stop these people. If anyone would know better, you’d think they would. Schade.

Líder indígena brasileiro ganha prêmio ‘Herói da Floresta’ da ONU (G1;Globo Natureza)

JC e-mail 4703, de 11 de Abril de 2013.

Almir Suruí, de Rondônia, fez parceria com Google para monitorar floresta. Ele está na Turquia para receber o título internacional

Almir Suruí, líder indígena de Rondônia, é um dos vencedores do prêmio “Herói da Floresta” este ano. O título é concedido pelas Nações Unidas.

A cerimônia oficial de entrega estava prevista para acontecer na noite desta quarta-feira (10) em Istambul (hora local), onde acontece o Fórum sobre Florestas da ONU, que congrega representantes de 197 país.

Os outros quatro “Heróis da Floresta” deste ano são dos Estados Unidos, Ruanda, Tailândia e Turquia. Almir é o vencedor pela América Latina e o Caribe. Líder dos índios paiter suruí, Almir criou diferentes iniciativas para proteger e desenvolver a Terra Indígena Sete de Setembro, em Rondônia, onde mora.

O projeto mais conhecido usa a internet para valorizar a cultura de seu povo e combater o desmatamento ilegal. A partir de uma parceria com o Google e algumas ONGs, os suruí colocaram à disposição dos usuários da rede um “mapa cultural” que dá informações sobre sua cultura e história.

Eles também usam telefones celulares para tirar fotos da derrubada ilegal de floresta, determinando com o GPS o local exato do crime ambiental e enviando denúncias a autoridades competentes.

No ano passado, outros brasileiros já haviam sido premiados como “Heróis da Floresta” pela ONU: Paulo Adário, diretor do Greenpeace para a Amazônia, e o casal de ativistas José Cláudio Ribeiro e Maria do Espírito Santo, assassinado no Pará em maio de 2011, que foi nomeado como uma homenagem póstuma.

Search Technology That Can Gauge Opinion and Predict the Future (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012) — Inspired by a system for categorising books proposed by an Indian librarian more than 50 years ago, a team of EU-funded researchers have developed a new kind of internet search that takes into account factors such as opinion, bias, context, time and location. The new technology, which could soon be in use commercially, can display trends in public opinion about a topic, company or person over time — and it can even be used to predict the future.

‘Do a search for the word “climate” on Google or another search engine and what you will get back is basically a list of results featuring that word: there’s no categorisation, no specific order, no context. Current search engines do not take into account the dimensions of diversity: factors such as when the information was published, if there is a bias toward one opinion or another inherent in the content and structure, who published it and when,’ explains Fausto Giunchiglia, a professor of computer science at the University of Trento in Italy.

But can search technology be made to identify and embrace diversity? Can a search engine tell you, for example, how public opinion about climate change has changed over the last decade? Or how hot the weather will be a century from now, by aggregating current and past estimates from different sources?

It seems that it can, thanks to a pioneering combination of modern science and a decades-old classification method, brought together by European researchers in the LivingKnowledge (1) project. Supported by EUR 4.8 million in funding from the European Commission, the LivingKnowledge team, coordinated by Prof. Giunchiglia, adopted a multidisciplinary approach to developing new search technology, drawing on fields as diverse as computer science, social science, semiotics and library science.

Indeed, the so-called father of library science, Sirkali Ramamrita Ranganathan, an Indian librarian, served as a source of inspiration for the researchers. In the 1920s and 1930s, Ranganathan developed the first major analytico-synthetic, or faceted, classification system. Using this approach, objects — books, in the case of Ranganathan; web and database content, in the case of the LivingKnowlege team — are assigned multiple characteristics and attributes (facets), enabling the classification to be ordered in multiple ways, rather than in a single, predetermined, taxonomic order. Using the system, an article about the effects on agriculture of climate change written in Norway in 1990 might be classified as ‘Geography; Climate; Climate change; Agriculture; Research; Norway; 1990.’

In order to understand the classification system better and implement it in search engine technology, the LivingKnowledge researchers turned to the Indian Statistical Institute, a project partner, which uses faceted classification on a daily basis.

‘Using their knowledge we were able to turn Ranganathan’s pseudo-algorithm into a computer algorithm and the computer scientists were able to use it to mine data from the web, extract its meaning and context, assign facets to it, and use these to structure the information based on the dimensions of diversity,’ Prof. Giunchiglia says.

Researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy, another partner, drew on their expertise in extracting meaning from web content — not just from text and multimedia content, but also from the way the information is structured and laid out — in order to infer bias and opinions, adding another facet to the data.

‘We are able to identify the bias of authors on a certain subject and whether their opinions are positive or negative,’ the LivingKnowledge coordinator says. ‘Facts are facts, but any information about an event, or on any subject, is often surrounded by opinions and bias.’

From libraries of the 1930s to space travel in 2034…

The technology was implemented in a testbed, now available as open source software, and used for trials based around two intriguing application scenarios.

Working with Austrian social research institute SORA, the team used the LivingKnowledge system to identify social trends and monitor public opinion in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Used for media content analysis, the system could help a company understand the impact of a new advertising campaign, showing how it has affected brand recognition over time and which social groups have been most receptive. Alternatively, a government might use the system to gauge public opinion about a new policy, or a politician could use it to respond in the most publicly acceptable way to a rival candidate’s claims.

With Barcelona Media, a non-profit research foundation supported by Yahoo!, and with the Netherlands-based Internet Memory Foundation, the LivingKnowledge team looked not only at current and past trends, but extrapolated them and drew on forecasts extracted from existing data to try to predict the future. Their Future Predictor application is able to make searches based on questions such as ‘What will oil prices be in 2050?’ or ‘How much will global temperatures rise over the next 100 years?’ and find relevant information and forecasts from today’s web. For example, a search for the year 2034 turns up ‘space travel’ as the most relevant topic indexed in today’s news.

‘More immediately, this application scenario provides functionality for detecting trends even before these trends become apparent in daily events — based on integrated search and navigation capabilities for finding diverse, multi-dimensional information depending on content, bias and time,’ Prof. Giunchiglia explains.

Several of the project partners have plans to implement the technology commercially, and the project coordinator intends to set up a non-profit foundation to build on the LivingKnowledge results at a time when demand for this sort of technology is only likely to increase.

As Prof. Giunchiglia points out, Google fundamentally changed the world by providing everyone with access to much of the world’s information, but it did it for people: currently only humans can understand the meaning of all that data, so much so that information overload is a common problem. As we move into a ‘big data’ age in which information about everything and anything is available at the touch of a button, the meaning of that information needs to be understandable not just by humans but also by machines, so quantity must come combined with quality. The LivingKnowledge approach addresses that problem.

‘When we started the project, no one was talking about big data. Now everyone is and there is increasing interest in this sort of technology,’ Prof. Giunchiglia says. ‘The future will be all about big data — we can’t say whether it will be good or bad, but it will certainly be different.’