Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wolfram Alpha: 6 Things You Need to Know

1 - Frederic Lardinois: "It definitely looks like it can live up to the hype - though, because it is so different from traditional search engines, it will definitely not be a "Google killer"

2 - Wolfram will be giving a sneak preview of Wolfram Alpha knowledge engine at Harvard Law School on Tuesday, April 28:

Event is being co-hosted by Jonathan Zittrain

3 - In Wolfram's own words: "Wolfram|Alpha isn't really a search engine, because we compute the answers, and we discover new truths. If anything, you might call it a platonic search engine, unearthing eternal truths that may never have been written down before..."

4 - "Wolfram|Alpha can pop out an answer to pretty much any kind of factual question that you might pose to a scientist, economist, banker, or other kind of expert. The exciting part is that you're not just looking up pages on the web, you're getting new information that's generated by computations working from the known data. Wolfram says the response can be so speedy because, "We've found that, of all the things science can compute, most take a second or less."

5 - Stephen Wolfram created the math software Mathematica ; he was educated at Eton, Oxford, and Caltech; he published a physics paper at 16; he wrote a book of philosophy in which he posits the world is based on cellular automata, A New Kind of Science. It is available online:

6 - You can get updates by checking out the Wolfram Alpha website and/or Wolfram Alpha Blog

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Computer Programming in North Korea

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, also
known as North-Korea) finds itself at the beginning of
a new era of international economic cooperation. The
DPRK is offering various products and services to
export markets, and there is also a need for many
foreign products and investments.

The Chamber of Commerce Amsterdam, GPI
Consultancy and the Netherlands Council for Trade
Promotion recently organized a business mission in
order to investigate the business opportunities in this
country. The economic mission to Pyongyang took
place from 28 September to 4 October 2008."

Cited in:

Company website

Dutch Trade Mission to North Korea

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Father of Financial Engineering Discusses Crisis

Merton speaks!

"The central point of the first part of the talk -- the embedded put option in a plain vanilla loan, and associated nonlinearities -- is nice but I don't think it is as essential to the current crisis as he suggests. (It's obviously in his interests to downplay the complexity of new financial instruments relative to traditional ones. The difference, of course, is that we've had much more time to get used to the traditional ones and build the proper safeguards and regulatory systems.) Merton is refreshingly modest about his understanding of the complex causes of the crisis. At one point he notes that the post mortem investigation into the crisis is unlikely to produce a Feynman moment, in which someone holds up an O-ring that caused the disaster!"

Supercomputer Bankers

Speeding Up Financial Analysis§ion=

"Now IBM has shown that stream computing can be used to analyze market data faster than ever before. The result is a machine that helps automated trading systems determine the price of securities using financial events that have just occurred. To build the system, the computing company partnered with TD Securities, an investment-banking firm, to tweak IBM software called InfoSphere Streams for financial data. The firm ran the software on one of the latest IBM supercomputers, known as Blue Gene/P."

Video on Youtube:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Private Equity and Infrastructure

"Robust credit markets also whetted investors' appetites for steady, long-term investments that with financial engineering could yield better-than-average returns for infrastructure. Macquarie was the category killer that established the listed fund model at least a decade earlier.

Since then, the ranks of private infrastructure funds have swelled, drawing in Washington's Carlyle Group, 3i Group plc of London, Swedish private equity firm EQT Partners and several bank-sponsored and independent players. However, competition has also increased, and players have tried to boost investment returns by using more leverage. "

Lehman's Uranium

"“What people found out is that this is not like playing copper where it’s a liquid and deep market,” Wong said. “A lot of the funds playing this market have blown up.”

Well said.

"The bankrupt bank, in the throes of paying off creditors, acquired uranium cake “under a matured commodities contract” and plans to sell it when the market improves “to realize the best prices,” Chief Executive Officer Bryan Marsal said. "

Grand Strategy Reading List from Foreign Policy Magazine

- Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy

- Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

- Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

- George Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900-1950

- Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000

- Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation

For exhaustive list see The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy syllabus

- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress.

- Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II.

- Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.

- Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sonoma State University course on creating computer viruses

"The companies that make their living fighting viruses aren't happy about what's going on in Ledin's classroom. He has been likened to A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear technology to North Korea."

"Rather, he's trying to teach students to think like hackers so they can devise antidotes. "Unlike biological viruses, computer viruses are written by a programmer. We want to get into the mindset: how do people learn how to do this?" says Ledin, who was born to Russian parents in Venezuela and trained as a biologist before coming to the United States and getting into computer science. "You can't really have a defense plan if you don't know what the other guy's offense is," says Lincoln Peters, a former Ledin student who now consults for a government defense agency."

See also

Article in Sonoma State newsletter

Friday, April 10, 2009

Financial Engineers as Bridge Architects

Economics is a new science. Financial engineering is an even newer science.

Humankind's earliest bridges were flimsy. Over time, they got better and better, but sometimes bridges collapse.

If a wood bridge collapses, does it mean that the science of bridge building is too dangerous? Does it mean that we should abandon bridges because sometimes bridges collapse? No, because collapses are relatively rare and before the bridge collapses, it serves a lot of good.

Now let us say a "fat tail" event occurs. Architects for a bridge in the Bay Area put a lot of effort into ensuring that the bridge can withstand an earthquake that is 9.0 on the Richter Scale. A 10.0 earth quake has never been recorded and it would cost $10B to make the bridge that resilient. Should the Mayor of San Francisco raise taxes, cut teachers' salaries, etc. in order to make the bridge 10.0 safe?

Then imagine that one day a 10.0 earth quake hits. A 10.0 quake has never been recorded in history - are the architects to blame? Is the mayor to blame?

Or is maybe no one to blame. Science is not perfect, but continuously improves. The financial sciences are in their infancy and need to be nurtured and incubated rather than left exposed like weak Spartan babies.

[Note 20-April-09: I have found another article ("Don't Blame the Quants" - Forbes)that uses this analogy; it was written in Oct 08 by Steven Shreve, the Orion Hoch professor of mathematical sciences at Carnegie Mellon University:

"It is easy under these circumstances to point an accusing finger at the "quants" on Wall Street, that cadre of mathematics and physics Ph.D.s who crunch numbers in esoteric models. Without the quants, the complicated mortgage-backed securities that fueled the housing bubble and led to the freezing of credit might not have been created. The models used by the quants determine the prices of those securities and steer the traders who make markets in them. Without this guidance, the banks might not have touched them in the first place. To prevent a recurrence of financial crises, some call for a return to a simpler time, before derivative securities and the quants who analyze them--a time when investors bought stocks and bonds and little else.

Such complaints miss the point. When a bridge collapses, no one demands the abolition of civil engineering. One first determines if faulty engineering or shoddy construction caused the collapse. If engineering is to blame, the solution is better--not less--engineering. Furthermore, it would be preposterous to replace the bridge with a slower, less efficient ferry rather than to rebuild the bridge and overcome the obstacle."]

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Report says spies compromised US electric grid

"Congressional investigators and intelligence officials have warned before that electric utilities are vulnerable to cyber attacks. CIA analyst Tom Donahue told utility engineers at a conference last year that in other countries, hackers had broken into electric utilities and demanded payments before disrupting power -- in one case turning off the lights in multiple cities."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nassim Taleb as Populist, as Reactionary

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb


<> "Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the “Nobel” in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties."

Private equity (financed with leverage) helps small businesses grow and allows exits for entrepreneur (making entrepreneurship more attractive and encouraging innovation).

<> "The economics establishment (universities, regulators, central bankers, government officials, various organisations staffed with economists) lost its legitimacy with the failure of the system. It is irresponsible and foolish to put our trust in the ability of such experts to get us out of this mess. Instead, find the smart people whose hands are clean."

Question: OK, the experts got it wrong, but having amateurs solve the problem hardly seems to be a sensible solution.

Also, note that Mr. Taleb is part of the same establishment. He does not hide this (his credentials are clearly stated at the bottom of the article "The writer is a veteran trader, a distinguished professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute and the author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable") but he does not mention the legion of PhDs in mathematical finance that he "unleashed." Also, "the veteran trader" managed a hedge fund.

"Economic life should be definancialised. We should learn not to use markets as storehouses of value: they do not harbour the certainties that normal citizens require. Citizens should experience anxiety about their own businesses (which they control), not their investments (which they do not control)."

Average people need to invest in financial markets in order to prevent inflation from clawing away at their retirement savings. Also, most people are not business owners, but agents of anothers' business. A middle manager of a paper company in Scranton, PA hardly has control over his destiny, and I'm not sure what his retirement strategy would look like without financial markets.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Attributor - Everthing you want to know

Who leads Attributor?

Management Team:

Jim Pitkow, CEO, Co-founder
Prior to Attributor, Jim was CEO and Chairman of Moreover Technologies, where he successfully restructured the company through acquisition by VeriSign in October of 2005. Before Moreover, Jim was the President and Chairman of Outride Inc., a spinout from the Xerox Palo Alto ResearchCenter (PARC), which was acquired by Google. Jim received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1997. Jim graduated Cum Laude in Psychology from the University of Colorado in 1993.
Jim is the President of the Adolescent Counseling Services and has spent over a decade as a Nordic National Ski Patroller. He can also be found prowling Incan ruins in Bolivia.

Jim Brock, Chairman, Co-founder
Jim most recently served as SVP, Communications & Consumer Services at Yahoo!, where he led the highly successful communication and broadband operating groups. Prior to joining Yahoo!, Brock was a partner with Venture Law Group, a leading Silicon Valley technology law firm, where he led the firm's Internet practice.
Jim holds a B.A. degree in economics with honors from Claremont McKenna College and a J.D. degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Jim lives with four women, including three teeny boppers. Even his dog is a girl. He carries chocolate wherever he goes and has seen the long version of "Pride and Prejudice" five times. Not back to back, though.

Adrian McDermott, Vice President of Engineering
Adrian McDermott is the Vice President of Engineering at Attributor. Previously he was the VP of Engineering for BEA Systems’ AquaLogic User Interaction family of products and the Web 2.0 based Enterprise Social Computing product line: AquaLogic Pages, Ensemble and Pathways. Adrian joined BEA as part of the Plumtree Software acquisition, he was the first engineer hired by Plumtree in early 1997 and worked on the architecture and development of every Plumtree Portal product version. Prior to Plumtree Adrian worked as an itinerant software consultant in London, Hong Kong,
Sydney and Guam.
British expat Adrian stays true to his roots via the daily consumption of marmite, a gelatinous English breakfast food. His American colleagues believe it looks like axle grease and tastes like toe jam.

Matt Robinson, Vice President of Business Development
Matt leads the company’s business development and strategic partnership initiatives and also serves as the company’s general counsel. Matt has been involved with internet and new media companies for the past decade, focusing on the intersection of content, technology and law. Before joining Attributor, Matt spent 6 years at Yahoo!, most recently as Vice President and Associate General Counsel overseeing legal product counseling. Matt holds a BA degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Outside of work, it’s all about raising twin boys and in those extra minutes, skiing, fly fishing, mountain biking, and getting lost in foreign locales without a guidebook.

Rajat Monga, Chief Architect
Rajat leads the labs and operations at Attributor and has been responsible for many of Attributor's core architectural principles. Prior to Attributor, Rajat played a lead role in Search at eBay. He also has extensive experience designing and building complex scalable systems at Quova, Arzoo and Morgan Stanley. Rajat received his B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Outside of work, Rajat spends time keeping his one-year-old son out of mischief. He also enjoys reading and swimming, though generally not at the same time.

Rich Pearson, Vice President of Marketing
Rich leads the Marketing and PR activities at Attributor. Previously he led the marketing efforts for Yahoo! Mail, Messenger and Photos which followed two years in London where he directed Yahoo!’s European Marketing efforts. Before that he held senior marketing positions at Homestead, Segasoft, and Del Monte Foods.
Rich holds a B.S. from University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business.
Outside of work, Rich enjoys running, reading, cooking and performing improvisational comedy for his increasingly unimpressed kids.

Where can I hear what Attributor has to say?

Attributor Blog:

Attributor on Twitter:

Who are their customers?

Attributor Customers include: Thomsons, Financial Times, Conde Nast, the New Yorker, PC World, MIT Sloan Management Review, etc.

Who works at Attributor?

From LinkedIn:
Attributor provides a content monitoring and monetization service that tracks how and where your text, image and video content moves across the Web.

Customers such as Thomson Reuters, Associated Press, Conde Net, Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa and others use Attributor to identify new sales leads and revenue-sharing opportunities, monitor licensed and unlicensed uses and derive more links and better search engine placement. see less

content monetization, digital content management, licensing

Attributor employees are most connected to:

* Yodlee
* AdMob
* eBay
* Yahoo!

Career path for Attributor employees

* Yahoo!

Top Schools
San Jose St. Univ. 8%
Univ. of California, Berkeley 8%
Median Age 35 years
Male 79%
Female 21%

Who funded Attributor?

Funders (from Crunchbase)

Total $22M

Series A, 1/06 $2M
Draper Richards
First Round Capital
Selby Venture Partners
Sigma Partners
Amicus Capital

Series B, 12/06 $8M
Sigma Partners
Selby Venture Partners
Draper Richards
First Round Capital
Amicus Capital

Series C, 4/08 $12M
Jafco Ventures
Sigma Partners

Where can I read articles about Attributor?

Attributor Launches Service to Track Copyright Infringement Across the Web

InFocus: Attributor Corp.



Friday, April 3, 2009

No Lie MRI profile

Link from:

"Hank Greely and Emily Murphy at the Center for Law & the Biosciences located at Stanford University. "I don't think it is anywhere near sufficiently proven to be used today," said Greely, a law professor who heads up the center. "And premature use not only risks harming people's lives, but potentially harming neuroscience by overpromising and under-delivering," on the technology."

CEO Joel Huizenga speaks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Siri Assistant , Origins in CALO : Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes

Siri based on CALO Project

CALO Project Website:
SRI CALO Website:

Summary: "SRI International is leading the development of new software that could revolutionize how computers support decision-makers.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), under its Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL - download brochure) program, has awarded SRI three phases of a five-year contract to develop an enduring personalized cognitive assistant. DARPA expects the PAL program to generate innovative ideas that result in new science, new approaches to current problems, new algorithms and tools, as well as new technology of significant value to the military.

The team dubbed its new project CALO, for Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. The name was inspired by the Latin word "calonis," which means "soldier’s servant." The goal of the project is to create cognitive software systems, that is, systems that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience, and respond robustly to surprise.

The software, which learns by interacting with and being advised by its users, will handle a broad range of interrelated decision-making tasks that have in the past been resistant to automation. A CALO will have the capability to engage in and lead routine tasks, and to assist when the unexpected happens. To focus the research on real problems and ensure the software meets requirements such as privacy, security, and trust, the CALO project researchers themselves are using the technology during its development.

SRI is leading the multi-disciplinary CALO project team and, beyond participating in the research program, is also responsible for overall project direction, management, and development of prototypes. The project is bringing together leading computer scientists and researchers in artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation, human-computer interaction, flexible planning, and behavioral studies."

See video at Video.Google:

Other Spin offs:
and Radar Networks, makers of Twine:

CALO presentation at DARPA Tech:
DARPA brochure:
CALO publications:

Related research efforts include:
"RADAR, the Reflective Agent with Distributed Adaptive Reasoning, is a $7 million dollar, five-year research project in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. The overall goal is to develop a software-based "cognitive personal assistant" that will help busy military commanders and managers to work more effectively, with less time wasted on routine tasks. This new technology should be equally valuable to managers in industry, academia, and government. RADAR is funded by the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) of DARPA and managed by SRI International." At Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science Department:


"IRIS is a semantic desktop application framework that enables users to create a “personal map” across their office-related information objects. IRIS includes a machine-learning platform to help automate this process. It provides “dashboard” views, contextual navigation, and relationship-based structure across an extensible suite of office applications, including a calendar, Web and file browser, e-mail client, and instant messaging client."

Participants include the usual suspects, such as MIT and Harvard, as well as:

CollaborX Inc.
Fetch Technologies, Inc.
iAnyWhere Solutions
International Computer Science Institute (ICSI)
ISX Corporation
Laszlo Systems
Natural Interaction Systems, LLC

See other posts here:

Siri Assistant Founder on LinkedIn


Commercializing innovation

Founder & CEO

Information Technology and Services industry

January 2008 – Present (1 year 4 months)

Recently launched a venture funded company focused on a truly big innovation for consumer internet.

Coming soon...simplifying life for everyday humans.

Stanford Research Institute

Telecommunications industry

June 2007 – December 2007 ( 7 months)

Preparing internet venture for Fall 2007 launch.

General Manager

Public Company; Telecommunications industry

August 2002 – May 2007 (4 years 10 months)

Vice President
Telenor Mobile

Public Company; 10,001 or more employees; Telecommunications industry

April 2000 – August 2002 (2 years 5 months)

Handelsh√łyskolen BI
MBA, Strategy and Marketing

1993 – 1994

From Crunchbase:

Siri’s CEO is Dag Kittlaus, who founded the company as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at SRI.

A serial innovator and consumer wireless internet veteran of 10 years in Scandinavia and the US, Dag is working on creating his third consecutive mobile internet product with over a million users.

Dag has held leadership roles as VP of Consumer Internet Services at Scandinavian telecom giant Telenor Mobile, and several consumer product groups at Motorola including GM of xProducts and founder and GM of Motorola’s Interactive Media Group. He conceived and launched Screen3, a breakthrough consumer mobile application currently used by millions of users and adopted by Cingular, China Mobile, and Telefonica.

See also posts here:
"Not by strength, by guile."