The Problem with the #WikiLeaks Hillary Clinton Leaks #Elections2016

WikiLeaks has recently released a collection of confidential documents that originated from within Hillary Clinton’s camp. They also claim that there will be more documents forthcoming within the next few months. Here are some articles on the matter:

One thing that I find problematic about these releases is that they are confined to just one of the two main presidential candidates. It might very well be the case that Donald Trump has done a ton of things that would be similarly damaging to his campaign. Without omniscience, without knowing that there is no such damaging information about Donald Trump, is it right to only release damaging information about the one candidate you happen to have the dirt on?

Sure there is a sense in which it is appropriate to disclose such information for the sake of truth and transparency. But in a situation such as an election, where damaging revelations can effect the outcome, the lack of total knowledge and asymmetry with regards to candidate revelations feels problematic.

What is the Opposite of an Echo Chamber?

To quote Wikipedia, “In news media an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented”.

The internet and social media have really increased the prevalence of echo chambers. Here are some articles on the phenomenon:

It has become apparent that Twitter is largely (at least for me) a left-wing echo chamber. This makes me wonder about the possibility of an opposite effect, whereby someone aligned with one end of a spectrum moves some degree away from it as they become averse to the regressiveness, amplification, repetition and uncritical reinforcement conduced by the echo chamber.

Probability, Truthlikeness and the Cenk Uygur versus Sam Harris Debate

I became aware of the Young Turks and their main man Cenk Uygur earlier this year. As the months have gone by and I have watched more of their YouTube clips, Uygur’s arrogance, ignorance and general thickheadedness has become more apparent.

One conversation that I found interesting is the one Uygur had with Sam Harris, particularly the following portion, as it involves discussion relevant to truthlikeness and probability:

In this discussion, Harris makes the point that Mormonism is slightly more improbable/absurd than other Christian faiths because it makes the more specific claim that Jesus will return to Jackson County, Missouri rather than the more general claim that he will return to somewhere on Earth.

Continue reading “Probability, Truthlikeness and the Cenk Uygur versus Sam Harris Debate”

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information

Recently released: The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information.

Information and communication technology occupies a central place in the modern world, with society becoming increasingly dependent on it every day. It is therefore unsurprising that it has become a growing subject area in contemporary philosophy, which relies heavily on informational concepts. The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information is an outstanding reference source to the key topics and debates in this exciting subject and is the first collection of its kind. Comprising over thirty chapters by a team of international contributors the Handbook is divided into four parts:

  • basic ideas
  • quantitative and formal aspects
  • natural and physical aspects
  • human and semantic aspects.

Within these sections central issues are examined, including probability, the logic of information, informational metaphysics, the philosophy of data and evidence, and the epistemic value of information.

Weighing the #Brexit vote by age

The Brexit result showed an inverse relationship between the percentage of ‘remain’ voters and age group; the lower a voter’s age, the more likely they were to vote ‘remain’. The following image from the BBC provides a graphical breakdown:

One issue made of this outcome is that the winning decision to leave has been supported more by older people who will be less affected by the decision over time whilst the losing decision to remain has been supported more by younger people who will be more affected by the decision given their greater remaining lifespan.

This got me thinking of a voting system whereby the impact of an individual’s vote is adjusted by a weighting; the younger the voter the greater the weighting. I was going to write up an example of this idea applied to the Brexit vote, but just found the following article which espouses the same idea: Here’s what would have happened if Brexit vote was weighted by age.

Such a voting system would only apply to decisions with direct long term consequences. Some might claim it ageist, but I see it as a perfectly reasonable way to incorporate consideration of the impact a voter has on a decision and the impact the decision will have on them.


Some theoretical mulling: given the reports that some #Brexit leave voters regretted their decision, I’m wondering about the possibility of having a voting system whereby (1) people vote first round (2) the results are made public (3) people can change their vote in the second round with knowledge of the first round result. I say this with a general interest in voting procedures, not because I have a particular position in this referendum.

Analyzing Donald Trump’s Speeches

I am currently doing some text analysis with IBM’s Alchemy. I thought that it would be amusing and somewhat interesting to run some transcripts of Donald Trump speeches through the online demo, particularly to see the results of Alchemy’s emotion analysis:

Sure enough, out of the 5 emotions of anger, disgust, fear, joy and sadness, the negative emotions ‘trump’ the positive emotions, with anger and fear being the most prominent. Here is an example speech and its emotion scores

Anger 1
Disgust 0.086204
Fear 0.981015
Joy 0.067289
Sadness 0.086029

Upcoming Talk: Truth and integrity constraints in logical database updating/merging

I’ll be giving a talk later this month at the RMIT CSIT Seminar Series.

Date and Time: Friday 27th November, 2015. 11.30am – 12.30pm.

Venue: RMIT, Swanston St, Melbourne, Building 80 (Swanston Academic Building), Level 5, Room 12 (080.05.012)

Abstract: Methods for the updating/merging of logical databases have traditionally been mainly concerned with the relations between pieces of data and the logical coherence of operations without as much concern for whether the datasets resulting from such operations have epistemically valuable properties such as truth and relevance. Gardenfors for example, who developed the predominant AGM framework for belief revision, argues that the concepts of truth and falsity become irrelevant for the analysis of belief change as “many epistemological problems can be attacked without using the notions of truth and falsity”.

However this may be, given that agents process incoming data with the goal of using it, this lacuna between updating/merging and epistemic utilities such as truth and relevance merits attention. In this talk I address this issue by looking at some ways in which updating/merging methods can be supplemented and shaped when combined with formal measures of truthlikeness, including cases where integrity constraints are involved.