Newsletter | June 22nd, 2017
This week we’re talking about Switzerland with a top 3 global supercomputer, blockchain for refugees, A.I. that can beat Ms. Pac-man, and A.I., again, in competition between Airbnb and hotels.
COMPUTING . U.S. no longer in top 3, welcome Switzerland 🇨🇭
The Swiss have some impressive new supercomputing technology, specifically the Piz Daint supercomputer. It’s now kicked the U.S. out of the world’s top 3 supercomputers. 😟 There’s an official list that tracks global supercomputers, called the TOP500, that came out with a new report this June.
You probably guessed the other top 2 supercomputers are Chinese. The United States’ best supercomputer is the Titan, based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. While the Titan is capable of 17.6 petaflops, the Swiss supercomputer is able to do 19.6. To put that in perspective, the Chinese computing speed is far, far ahead at 34 petaflops and 93 petaflops for their Tianhe-2 and Taihulight supercomputers. Silver lining? The U.S. still holds five of the 10 ‘best’ supercomputers in the world.
BLOCKCHAIN . For a smart refugee registration system?
Accenture and Microsoft have developed a prototype for providing legal IDs to more than 1.1 billion people around the world by 2020. Of those 1.1 billion, the 7 million global refugees may be those that benefit most. Legal IDs help refugees cross borders, qualify for aid, and get access to many other basic services. The technology involves combining a person’s biometric information, such as fingerprint or retina scan, with blockchain to create a legal identity.
The goal is to cover 1.1 billion people, because, shockingly, that is the number of people that “cannot participate in cultural, political, economic, and social life because they lack the most basic information: Documented proof of their existence.” That is roughly one-sixth of the world’s population. The protoype is part of promoting the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goal to provide legal IDs to everyone.
A.I. . Canadian A.I. unbeatable by Ms. Pac-Man 🕹️
Maluuba is a Canadian A.I. firm that was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year. So this is partially a 🇨🇦/🇺🇸 A.I. that recently attained a max score on Ms. Pac-Man. The human record at 266,330, kind of pales in comparison to the max score possible, at 999,990.
Maluuba wasn’t the only AI firm attempting to create an unbeatable player at Ms. Pac-Man. It might be surprising that many, many other firms and teams have attempted this same Ms. Pac-Man challenge and failed. This leaves the AI community recognizing Microsoft & Maluuba’s unbeatable AI system as real achievement. Applying AI to beat games has been an ongoing proxy for measuring the development of the technology. Games ranging from Jeopardy, Chess, and even Go are no longer out of reach.
A.I. . How Airbnb uses A.I. to compete with hotels 🛏️
Airbnb has invested a lot of money into data science and machine learning. And it’s paying off. Why and how? They want to improve the conversion rates on their site, from people looking at listings to actually making a booking. Their VP of engineering shared that their application of a deep neural net to their search-ranking system has led to better search results.
Their goal is to provide personalization at scale. These search results can now better reflect your personal preferences, outdoorsy vs. urban, downtown bar scene or quiet family neighborhood. The types of words you put into those search results directly tie to hundreds (!) of factors related to the listing showed to you. The impact? Their conversion rate increased by 1 percent. 😲 Powerful stuff.