Back into Poverty

Increase in food prices has pushed back into poverty at least 100 million people in 2008 and, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (here, p. 60),

erase at least four years of progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 target for the reduction of poverty. The household level consequences of this crisis are most acutely felt in LIFDCs [Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries] where a 50% rise in staple food prices causes a 21% increase in total food expenditure, increasing these from 50 to 60% of income. In a high income country this rise in prices causes a 6% rise in retail food expenditure with income expenditure on food rising from 10 to 11%. FAO estimates that food price rises have resulted in at least 50 million more people becoming hungry in 2008, going back to the 1970 figures.

According to the World Bank (here) this means that between 200,000 and 400,000 more children will died every year for malnutrition until 2015.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Selva Amazónica, More Valuable Standing Than Felled

An article published on Science this week analyzes the development of the region across the Amazon deforestation frontier. In three words: boom and bust. It means that comparing the Human Development Index of different classes of Brazilian municipalities, from prefrontier municipalities to heavily post frontier deforested municipalities, you can see how the HDI relatively grows in the first phase of the deforestation (on the frontier line) and relatively declines when deforestation is completed.  In other words,

when the median HDI of each class is plotted against deforestation extent, a boom-and-bust pattern becomes apparent, which suggests that relative development levels increase rapidly in the early stages of deforestation and then decline as the frontier advances. Hence, although municipalities with active deforestation had development levels that approached the overall Brazilian median, pre- and postfrontier HDI values were substantially lower and statistically indistinguishable from each other (P > 0.9). These results are robust to the particular thresholds used to define the frontier classes. A boom-and-bust pattern is also found for each of the HDI subindices: standard of living, literacy, and life expectancy.

This strongly suggests that the poor have no choice but to exploit every resource available. It is difficult to think that farmers or loggers do not see that they are compromising their very own future. They simply have no choice. The challenge is giving them a choice.

Friday, 12 June 2009

On the Evolution of Thinking

What if we are becoming the very same Artificial Intelligence that we are trying to design? The doubt has has been raised by Nicholas Carr in an article published one year ago on The Atlantic and now published on Le Monde. The theory is intriguing and the discourse goes, in the words of developmental psychologist Maryanne Wolf, more or less in this direction:

We are not only what we read, We are how we read.

So, learning directly from the voice of Socrates is not the same as learning from the Internet. The way we approach new ideas and knowledge influences how we assimilate them and how we develop our thinking. The risk is that our mind might find so attractive the effectivness of the Google’s algorithm to try to replicate it forgetting all the ambiguity that has made us what we are. What we are so far.

Update: Have a look at this article on Le Monde about the influence of the new information technologies on culture.

Friday, 5 June 2009

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RSS r-bloggers.com

  • Lecture slides: Real-World Data Science (Fraud Detection, Customer Churn & Predictive Maintenance)
    These are slides from a lecture I gave at the School of Applied Sciences in Münster. In this lecture, I talked about Real-World Data Science and showed examples on Fraud Detection, Customer Churn & Predictive Maintenance. Real-World Data Scie...
  • Use foreach with HPC schedulers thanks to the future package
    The future package is a powerful and elegant cross-platform framework for orchestrating asynchronous computations in R. It's ideal for working with computations that take a long time to complete; that would benefit from using distributed, parallel frameworks to make them complete faster; and that you'd rather not have locking up your interactive R session. You […]
  • Feature Selection using Genetic Algorithms in R
    From a gentle introduction to a practical solution, this is a post about feature selection using genetic algorithms in R.
  • Using clusterlab to benchmark clustering algorithms
    Clusterlab is a CRAN package (https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/clusterlab/index.html) for the routine testing of clustering algorithms. It can simulate positive (data-sets with __1 clusters) and negative controls (data-sets with 1 cluster). Why test clustering algorithms? Because they often fail in identifying the true K in practice, published algorithms are not always well tested, and we need to know […]
  • Selecting ‘special’ photos on your phone
    At the beginning of the new year I always want to clean up my photos on my phone. It just never happens. So now (like so many others I think) I have a lot of photos on my phone from … Continue reading →

RSS Simply Statistics

  • How Data Scientists Think - A Mini Case Study
    In episode 71 of Not So Standard Deviations, Hilary Parker and I inaugurated our first “Data Science Design Challenge” segment where we discussed how we would solve a given problem using data science. The idea with calling it a “design challenge” was to contrast it with common “hackathon” type models where you are presented with […]
  • The Netflix Data War
    A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “At Netflix, Who Wins When It’s Hollywood vs. the Algorithm?” by Shalini Ramachandran and Joe Flint details some of the internal debates within Netflix between the Los Angeles-based content team, which is in charge of developing and marketing new content for the streaming service, and the data […]
  • The Role of Theory in Data Analysis
    In data analysis, we make use of a lot of theory, whether we like to admit it or not. In a traditional statistical training, things like the central limit theorem and the law of large numbers (and their many variations) are deeply baked into our heads. I probably use the central limit theorem everyday in […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science