Assessing the Analytics Maturity of an Organization

Data science and analytics are hot topics in business these days, but for a lot of folks looking to bring data into their organization, it can be hard to know where to start and what it looks like when they're succeeding. That was the motivation for writing a whitepaper on the analytics maturity of an organization, and that's what we're talking about today. In particular, we break it down into five attributes of an organization that contribute (or not) to their success in analytics, and what each of those mean and why they matter. 

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SHAP: Shapley Values in Machine Learning

Shapley values in machine learning are an interesting and useful enough innovation that we figured hey, why not do a two-parter? Our last episode focused on explaining what Shapley values are: they define a way of assigning credit for outcomes across several contributors, originally to understand how impactful different actors are in building coalitions (hence the game theory background) but now they're being cross-purposed for quantifying feature importance in machine learning models. This episode centers on the computational details that allow Shapley values to be approximated quickly, and a new package called SHAP that makes all this innovation accessible.

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Game theory for model interpretability: Shapley Values

As machine learning models get into the hands of more and more users, there's an increasing expectation that black box isn't good enough: users want to understand why the model made a given prediction, not just what the prediction itself is. This is motivating a lot of work into feature important and model interpretability tools, and one of the most exciting new ones is based on Shapley Values from game theory. In this episode, we'll explain what Shapley Values are and how they make a cool approach to feature importance for machine learning.

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If you were a machine learning researcher or data scientist ten years ago, you might have spent a lot of time implementing individual algorithms like decision trees and neural networks by hand. If you were doing that work five years ago, the algorithms were probably already implemented in popular open-source libraries like scikit-learn, but you still might have spent a lot of time trying  different algorithms and tuning hyperparameters to improve performance. If you're doing that work today, scikit-learn and similar libraries don't just have the algorithms nicely implemented--they have tools to help with experimentation and hyperparameter tuning too. Automated machine learning is here, and it's pretty cool.

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CPUs, GPUs, TPUs: Hardware for Deep Learning

A huge part of the ascent of deep learning in the last few years is related to advances in computer hardware that makes it possible to do the computational heavy lifting required to build models with thousands or even millions of tunable parameters. This week we'll pretend to be electrical engineers and talk about how modern machine learning is enabled by hardware.

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A Technical Introduction to Capsule Networks

Last episode we talked conceptually about capsule networks, the latest and greatest computer vision innovation to come out of Geoff Hinton's lab. This week we're getting a little more into the technical details, for those of you ready to have your mind stretched.

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A Conceptual Introduction to Capsule Networks

Convolutional nets are great for image classification... if this were 2016. But it's 2018 and Canada's greatest neural networker Geoff Hinton has some new ideas, namely capsule networks. Capsule nets are a completely new type of neural net architecture designed to do image classification on far fewer training cases than convolutional nets, and they're posting results that are competitive with much more mature technologies.

In this episode, we'll give a light conceptual introduction to capsule nets and get geared up for a future episode that will do a deeper technical dive.

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Google Flu Trends

It's been a nasty flu season this year. So we were remembering a story from a few years back (but not covered yet on this podcast) about when Google tried to predict flu outbreaks faster than the Centers for Disease Control by monitoring searches and looking for spikes in searches for flu symptoms, doctors appointments, and other related terms. It's a cool idea, but after a few years turned into a cautionary tale  of what can go wrong after Google's algorithm systematically overestimated flu incidence for almost 2 years straight. 

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How we pick projects for a professional data science team

This week's episodes is for data scientists, sure, but also for data science managers and executives at companies with data science teams. These folks all think very differently about the same question: what should a data science team be working on? And how should that decision be made? That's the subject of a talk that I (Katie) gave at Strata Data in early March, about how my co-department head and I select projects for our team to work on.

We have several goals in data science project selection at Civis Analytics (where I work), which can be summarized under "balance the best attributes of bottom-up and top-down decision-making." We achieve this balance, or at least get pretty close, using a process we've come to call the Idea Factory (after a great book about Bell Labs). This talk is about that process, how it works in the real world of a data science company and how we see it working in the data science programs of other companies.

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Autoencoders are neural nets that are optimized for creating outputs that... look like the inputs to the network. Turns out this is a not-too-shabby way to do unsupervised machine learning with neural nets. 

When is open data too open?

After all the back-patting around making data science datasets and code more openly available, we figured it was time to also dump a bucket of cold water on everyone's heads and talk about the things that can go wrong when data and code is a little too open. 

In this episode, we'll talk about two interesting recent examples: a de-identified medical dataset in Australia that was re-identified so specific celebrities and athletes could be matched to their medical records, and a series of military bases that were spotted in a public fitness tracker dataset.

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What makes a machine learning algorithm "superhuman"?

A few weeks ago, we podcasted about a neural network that was being touted as "better than doctors" in diagnosing pneumonia from chest x-rays, and how the underlying dataset used to train the algorithm raised some serious questions. We're back again this week with further developments, as the author of the original blog post pointed us toward more developments. All in all, there's a lot more clarity now around how the authors arrived at their original "better than doctors" claim, and a number of adjustments and improvements as the original result was de/re-constructed. 

Anyway, there are a few things that are cool about this. First, it's a worthwhile follow-up to a popular recent episode. Second, it goes *inside* an analysis to see what things like imbalanced classes, outliers, and (possible) signal leakage can do to real science. And last, it raises a really interesting question in an age when computers are often claimed to be better than humans: what do those claims really mean?

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Opening up the data, and science, in data science

One interesting trend we've noted recently is the proliferation of papers, articles and blog posts about data science that don't just tell the result--they include data and code that allow anyone to repeat the analysis. It's far from universal (for a timely counterpoint, read this article), but we seem to be moving toward a new normal where data science conclusions are expected to be shown, not just told.

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Auto-generating websites with deep learning

We've already talked about neural nets in some detail (links below), and in particular we've been blown away by the way that image recognition from convolutional neural nets can be fed into recurrent neural nets that generate descriptions and captions of the images. Our episode today tells a similar tale, except today we're talking about a blog post where the author fed in wireframes of a website design and asked the neural net to generate the HTML and CSS that would actually build a website that looks like the wireframes. If you're a programmer who thinks your job is challenging enough that you're automation-proof, guess again...

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The Further Case for "The Case for Learned Index Structures"

Last week we started the story of how you could use a machine learning model in place of a data structure, and this week we wrap up with an exploration of Bloom Filters and Hash Maps. Just like last week, when we covered B-trees, we'll walk through both the "classic" implementation of these data structures and how a machine learning model could create the same functionality.

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The Case for "The Case for Learned Index Structures"

Jeff Dean and his collaborators at Google are turning the machine learning world upside down (again) with a recent paper about how machine learning models can be used as surprisingly effective substitutes for classic data structures. In this first part of a two-part series, we'll go through a data structure called b-trees. The structural form of b-trees make them efficient for searching, but if you squint at a b-tree and look at it a little bit sideways then the search functionality starts to look a little bit like a regression model--hence the relevance of machine learning models. If this sounds kinda weird, or we lost you at b-tree, don't worry--lots more details in the episode itself.

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Challenges with Using Machine Learning to Classify Chest X-Rays

Another installment in our "machine learning might not be a silver bullet for solving medical problems" series. This week, we have a high-profile blog post that has been making the rounds for the last few weeks, in which a neural network trained to visually recognize various diseases in chest x-rays is called into question by a radiologist with machine learning expertise. As it seemingly always does, it comes down to the dataset that's used for training--medical records assume a lot of context that may or may not be available to the algorithm, so it's tough to make something that actually helps (in this case) predict disease that wasn't already diagnosed. 

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Fourier Transforms

The Fourier transform is one of the handiest tools in signal processing for dealing with periodic time series data. Using a Fourier transform, you can break apart a complex periodic function into a bunch of sine and cosine waves, and figure out what the amplitude, frequency and offset of those component waves are. It's a really handy way of re-expressing periodic data--you'll never look at a time series graph the same way again.

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