Can Big Data authors end poverty? Phillip Parker at TEDxSeattle



you hello I'm wondering if you've ever noticed when you go to an American bookstore there's a very large self-help section it's very it's huge about 10 meters worth of books and if you go to a French self-help section there is that that does exist in their book stores but it's far smaller and you might interpret that to mean that the Americans are kind of flipped out and eat a lot of help and the French are very centered well the reality is they're simply less people who speak the French language the economics of publishing in smaller languages especially those that have lower incomes becomes very difficult for the publishing industry a few years back I was doing a workshop with the World Bank on poverty alleviation and one of the keys to lifting people out of poverty is literacy especially amongst young girls from the ages of about five to eleven years old and one aspect that's missing in that key air a period of life is there's often a lack of textbooks many of the world's languages don't have spelling books math books reading books and the like it's just a classic case of market failure at the same time I was working on some projects in development economics dealing with form direct investment a lot of people want to do impact investing investing in developing countries to small businesses unfortunately these businesses have very narrow business models they might make six inch copper nails things like that things for which there's actually no market data you can't purchase data on the world market for some of these products and services again a case of market failure and being a professor of management science I was kind of thinking about well is there any way to solve this market fail your problem that seems to be not just for business investments but also for language learning and I discovered that there was demand it was very narrow demand but the key problem was actually the author authors are expensive they want food and things like that they want income and and there's also the editors and the graphic targets and all these people and so appealing to management science which was founded by Frederick Taylor which is basically the use of mathematics to solve basic business problems is there a way to augment labor productivity use management science techniques to overcome these market failures and Frederick Taylor is given a lot of credit for starting the notion of automation and in manufacture II Ford of course took that to an extreme so question can we replace the author with computer algorithms you'll notice the acronym eve here for something called a collection of programs which is an economically viable entity that basically is a box that solves both of those problems simultaneously and this is the basic problem there's a world of information out there many of you have published articles or press etc and maybe the person that can most benefit from that research is on the other side of the planet they don't read academic journals they don't speak English and they are in a world that has been underserved because of their small languages how in the world can we get that information to them but also perhaps there's the wealth of knowledge on their side of the world that can be used on our side of the world in the world of data so what is the sustainable model that I was considering and started working on a few years back very simply this selling very expensive high-end market research studies completely computer-generated to subsidize the creation of language learning materials mathematics books etc for the underserved languages or the long tail this is what it actually looks like if you want to see a computer writing books have been doing this for about 10 years now we've published over about a million titles most of them are high in industry studies but a lot of them are language learning we've also done a number of different formats game shows etc weather reports for low lura see of iOS apps android apps and the like so what are we working on exactly it's looking for genre of human authoring that is very formulaic but at the same time highly impactful if it's formulaic then perhaps mathematical algorithms can imitate what human authors would do had they had the opportunity to publish in those underserved areas so what is not formulaic is the question I'm a dyslexic so I collect dictionaries we love those kind of things this is one of my favorite by in the devil dictionary by ambrose bierce love a temporary insanity curable by marriage what is formulaic dictionary the poor adverbs are the most underserved words in the dictionary they don't get a lot of respect and this frustrates people who are slow leader readers as well you'll notice the head word is being defined by a word in the dictionary is that frustrate anybody and then you have to look up the other word okay using computer algorithms and I'll explain that how we did this in a minute this is what Eve the collection of programs came up with is the definition for rural II in a rustic agrarian provincial cruder rough manner second definition in the insolent wash manner and third in a bucolic pastoral in a dilek manner using graph theory and a little bit of cluster analysis to come up with those definitions with that knowledge of course one can create crossword puzzle books in any language because the computer doesn't know what language it's learning crossword puzzle book test preparation guides one thing in English is a second language learning they use a lot of acrostic poetry and you'll remember this from third grade try to find a word that defines the word that you're actually trying to use in the poem in this case God we have a computer program that wrote about 4 million poems in four sonnets and limericks and haiku and we have another program that acts as an editor that then judges the quality of those poems to figure out which ones to post online and we've got a 1.4 million of those and this is the acrostic for God gentlemen of divinity that passed through the algorithm and the second one is love lean of vile emotions how did we do this leonhard euler the famous mathematician came up with this notion of graph theory basically a semantic web of words that are related to each other in some kind of quantitative way 0 of courses doesn't have a powerful number there because it's used as a score 40 love in tennis so it's not so related to the other words of love I was approached a few years back based on my language literacy programs by the Gates Foundation to look at publishing in underserved areas in the field of Agriculture the world's poorest are in the field bag and they are in remote villages one of our first things we did was actually install from all of the massive data out there in local languages weather reports crop pests and disease reports that are used in radio station this is farmer voice radio that was broadcasting for the first time in villages the local weather they had never heard the weather look before we got some very good feedback in terms of explanations of what do you mean by kilometres what do you mean by degrees Celsius etc so a lot of programming had to go in to supplement that we also work with the Grameen foundation in uganda to create dashboards individualized for the various agricultural regions synthesizing information that could not have been done very easily if it was done manually working with direct connections to Africa sending in textbooks that are now in local languages the anthill foundation this is a village in Uganda where the village had not yet had text books before this was the day that the first one arrived and you can see the children's heads pressed against each other definitely a demand for this kind of content this is the most encouraging thing I found with this whole exercise I believe the books will motivate even those who are currently not attending a school to go which is a very encouraging insight this is one of our funnest projects this is a high-end 3d animation video videogame most languages do not have video games this one is actually an output of an algorithm engine it can be played for any geography in the world given the world soil conditions climate conditions etc it imitates the agronomy of any location and we've got algorithms that can look at Google Maps and actually give the actual terrain of the village where the game might be played it's for agricultural extension workers to learn how to farm in areas that they may not have visited before in terms of hardware this is where we started the future will be in your pocket your phone should be writing books for you pretty soon they'll be writing PhD dissertations talk about formulaic for anyone ever done it the effects of the effects of X on Y colon z perspective speculation or discovery engines or minority reports telling us before a disease breaks out in a given region what should be the plan of action or it'll call to action word 2.0 ever been to a word document in its blank and you're going gosh I'd like to write a biography about my grandfather you push a few buttons do a few things and boom you've got a first draft so maybe word can write for us and instead of googling maybe we can have a content engine so when you type in bibliography subject X it actually gives you one and it's yours to reuse as much as you want with all rights clearance and my favorite one is a physics textbook when you're a child often you don't like what you're reading do you agree physics books but you want to be a football player why not have a football player physics book why not have a ballet physics book there are thousands of subjects people are interested in why not have the context of what I'm most interested in because now we can create these types of titles if we can do the world's smallest languages we can certainly do the world's smallest hobbies big data is big but I think we should all demand more thank you very much you

6 thoughts on “Can Big Data authors end poverty? Phillip Parker at TEDxSeattle

  1. Using computer algorithms to replace authors? Fantastic idea. The next step is to replace human creativity completely. Good luck with the project. 10/10.

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