Online Reputation Management Blog

One Giant Leap for Artificial Intelligence?: MIT Model Seeks to Make Computers Think Like Humans

Chocolate chip cookie on white

Since their invention, computers have always done what the human brain can’t.

That’s why computers are best at handling massive sets of data and information and categorizing them into huge clusters. When it comes to picking apart minute details and looking at small sets of data, however, the human brain is more adept than a computer.

However, that could soon change with a new machine-learning algorithm that recently came out of MIT.

According to a December 8 Popular Science article, the MIT Model allows computers to group data points together based upon the data’s similarities to one another. The algorithm then creates a “prototype” from the different categories of data that includes features that are similar among all the pieces of data.

MIT’s press release on the MIT Model explains the way this model works by using a typical voter population in an election as an example.

“A plurality of the voters might be registered as Democrats, but a plurality of Republicans may have voted in the last primary,” MIT’s press release explains. “The conventional algorithm might then describe the typical voter as a registered Democrat who voted in the last Republican primary. The prototype constraint makes that kind of result very unlikely, since no single voter would match its characterization.”

The MIT Model could also help computers independently ward off spam and viruses, which currently affect about nine out of every 1,000 computers today, by better categorizing abnormal pieces of data and picking them out from the bigger picture of data on the computer’s system.

And, believe it or not, the MIT Model has been proven to be successful at helping computers interpret data more like we do. Under the traditional topic model algorithm, computers asked to find cooking recipes would bring back a random list of ingredients, while computers with the MIT Model were more likely to deliver results that more closely resembled recipes, according to Popular Science.

However, the MIT Model isn’t the perfect algorithm just yet — so it might still be some time before our computers can interpret data on a small scale as well as we can.

Bitcoin Seeks Mainstream Appeal with First College Bowl Appearance in St. Petersburg

BitcoinAlthough Bitcoin has faced several high profile public relations challenges this year, Bitcoin, a decentralized, peer-to-peer virtual currency which can be exchanged for traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, or used to purchase goods or services online, has set out to emerge from the shadows of the cryptocurrency market into the mainstream of one of America’s most popular college sports with sponsorship of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl later this month.

Bitcoin backers are hoping to score a big public relations and marketing win with its sponsorship one of college football’s marquee matchups.  BitPay, a leading business solutions company for the Bitcoin digital currency, is the new title sponsor for the annual college football postseason game that will be played in St. Petersburg, Florida for three years through the 2016 game.  Bitcoin currency users will have the opportunity to purchase tickets with Bitcoin to see how the digital currency works.

Over the past year, Bitcoin, has seen its reputation tarnished by the high profile failure and subsequent bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange in Japan, the alleged use of Bitcoin in a Ponzi scheme that attracted the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the unwanted attention of the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department, amid concerns of potential money laundering and the virtual currency’s potential as a conduit for illegal online activities.

Despite these well-publicized setbacks, Bitcoin advocates tout its potential as an efficient, secure and affordable alternative to traditional cash or card transactions and expect the event sponsorship will be a very positive showcase for the alternative currency.

Although some financial institutions have been resistant to Bitcoin, well-known merchants like Overstock, Expedia, Dell and others have begun accepting Bitcoin and the future looks bright for the virtual currency. PayPal, one of the most popular payment processing companies globally, recently announced it is working closely with a number of prominent Bitcoin payment processing companies to make it easier to transact business online.

The buzz over Bitcoin is also giving birth to enterprising servicing and transaction processing companies that have staked their future on the alternative currency, and investing in creative ways to burnish the image of Bitcoin and highlight its potential as a mainstream method of payment.

Atlanta-based BitPay is hoping its bowl game sponsorship will further promote interest in the digital currency and increase awareness across the country with its prime-time TV slot.  The bowl game will be an exciting opportunity to enable fans to use Bitcoin in a fun, collegiate sports environment. With nearly 35,000 merchants on its platform, including Newegg, TigerDirect, Zynga, ESPN, Virgin Galactic and the Sacramento Kings, BitPay has led the Bitcoin economy by allowing businesses around the world to easily accept Bitcoin.

As tens of thousands of football fans make their way into the Tampa-St. Pete area over the next couple of weeks in anticipation of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, BitPay executives expect the attention brought to Bitcoin by the sponsorship of the college bowl game will engage their target demographic around the Bitcoin ecosystem, enhance Bitcoin’s reputation and relevancy and further boost Bitcoin’s ascension into the mainstream.

The 2014 game will feature the University of Central Florida from the American Athletic Conference and NC State from the Atlantic Coast Conference and will be played on Friday, December 26, at 8 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and air on ESPN.

Yahoo and Bing Battle to Win Spot as Safari’s New Default Search Engine

Having already settled a deal with Mozilla to take over as its default search engine on the Firefox browser, Yahoo! has now set its sights on Apple.

Google’s deal with Apple is set to expire in the new year, giving Apple the opportunity to provide another default search engine. Both Yahoo! and Microsoft didn’t waste any time to jump on the opportunity.

Both companies have popular search engines (though not as popular as Google) that could create a strong partnership with Apple, and officials from both Yahoo! and Microsoft have had discussions with Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President of Apple, Eddy Cue, in hopes of taking over for Google.

After signing a deal with Mozilla to become Firefox’s new default search engine, Yahoo! has been hard at work to revamp its current search page, as well as its mobile search. The company is hoping that the updates appeal to Apple, as well.

Despite their best efforts, Yahoo! remains at a slight disadvantage. Microsoft’s Bing is currently the default search for Siri, and it is also well-integrated with Apple’s new Yosemite system upgrade. With a partnership already in place, Microsoft seems the natural choice.

With all the excitement over Yahoo!’s new deal with Firefox and the potential for a new deal with Apple, many are probably wondering, what’s the big deal, anyway? For search engine companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, earning a spot as a major Internet browser’s default search engine is a huge deal.

For starters, over 90% of Internet sessions begin with a search engine. All search engines are competing to be the number one pick of Internet users, and while Google has held onto first place for quite some time now (and likely will continue to do so), losing its default spot on both Firefox and Safari would be a big blow to business while giving either Yahoo! or Bing a leg up on the competition.

While many Internet users already have a favorite search engine site, a good number of people use whatever default search engine shows up on their browser, which is good news for whichever company is able to earn a deal with Apple.

Are Pictures Still Worth 1,000 Words? Or Just 140 Characters?

People are taking more pictures than ever — 380 billion a year, in fact — thanks to digital cameras and social media, which have made photography easier and more accessible. Now, people take more pictures in two minutes than the whole of humanity did in the 19th Century.

However, some people think that this might not be such a good thing, suggesting that the attention we give to photos has atrophied as a result of the sheer volume of pictures put in front of us. Consequently, this may mean our photos carry less weight, and are less valuable.

To put this in perspective, think back to a time when digital cameras were the stuff of science fiction. You first had to buy film, then pay for it get to get developed and printed. Now, sharing pictures is as easy as pulling out your smartphone, snapping the shot, and putting it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or whichever social network you may prefer.

There’s also the emotional value to consider. Film can only capture a very limited amount of pictures, so photographers who still use film — both amateur and professional — have to be selective. Memory cards, on the other hand, can hold what feels like a limitless amount of pictures. The standard eight gigabyte memory card can hold 1,907 12-megapixel pictures, and most smartphones and cameras have much, much more memory than that. Instead of exclusively photographing precious moments — birthdays, holidays, babies’ first moments — we take selfies and pictures of lackluster meals, simply because we can.

In economics, there’s a principle called diminishing marginal returns. According to Investopedia, it’s “a law of economics stating that, as the number of new employees increases, the marginal product of an additional employee will at some point be less than the marginal product of the previous employee.” This means that after you possess a certain amount of something, the value of each individual thing decreases as you get more.

Essentially, the more pictures we take and share, the less valuable each one becomes.

To retain our pictures’ value, perhaps it’s not a matter of being more selective with our subjects, but a matter of thinking before sharing. As Nat Burgess, a photographer and writer for GeekWire, writes, “Many of the 60 billion photos taken this month will be deleted when the photographer upgrades his or her phone. A few will receive a passing glance on social media. The ones that catch your eye, most likely, will have been taken by a photographer who cares about the subject, and who has something more to say than ‘look at me.'”