Blumenstock, Joshua Evan (University of California, Berkeley) | Gillick, Dan (University of California, Berkeley) | Eagle, Nathan (Santa Fe Institute)

We describe how new sources of data can be used to better understand the demographic structure of the population of Rwandan mobile phone users. After combining anonymous call data records with follow-up phone interviews, we detect significant differences in phone usage among different social and economic subgroups of the population. However, initial experiments suggest that predicting demographics from call usage, and vice-versa, is quite difficult.

Editor's note: The following is an interview with Columbia University Professor Andrew Gelman conducted by Marketing scientist Kevin Gray, in which Gelman spells out the ABCs of Bayesian statistics. Kevin Gray: Most marketing researchers have heard of Bayesian statistics but know little about it. Can you briefly explain in layperson's terms what it is and how it differs from the'ordinary' statistics most of us learned in college? Andrew Gelman: Bayesian statistics uses the mathematical rules of probability to combines data with "prior information" to give inferences which (if the model being used is correct) are more precise than would be obtained by either source of information alone. Classical statistical methods avoid prior distributions.

There are five main schools of thought in machine learning, and each has its own master algorithm – a general-purpose learner that can in principle be applied to any domain. The symbolists have inverse deduction, the connectionists have backpropagation, the evolutionaries have genetic programming, the Bayesians have probabilistic inference, and the analogizers have support vector machines. What we really need, however, is a single algorithm combining the key features of all of them. In this webinar I will summarize the five paradigms and describe my work toward unifying them, including in particular Markov logic networks. I will conclude by speculating on the new applications that a universal learner will enable, and how society will change as a result.

Editor's note: The following is an interview with Columbia University Professor Andrew Gelman conducted by Marketing scientist Kevin Gray, in which Gelman spells out the ABCs of Bayesian statistics. Andrew Gelman: Bayesian statistics uses the mathematical rules of probability to combines data with "prior information" to give inferences which (if the model being used is correct) are more precise than would be obtained by either source of information alone. Classical statistical methods avoid prior distributions. In classical statistics, you might include in your model a predictor (for example), or you might exclude it, or you might pool it as part of some larger set of predictors in order to get a more stable estimate. These are pretty much your only choices.

Wilson, Andrew Gordon, Wu, Yuting, Holland, Daniel J., Nowozin, Sebastian, Mantle, Mick D., Gladden, Lynn F., Blake, Andrew

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy exploits the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei to discover the structure, reaction state and chemical environment of molecules. We propose a probabilistic generative model and inference procedures for NMR spectroscopy. Specifically, we use a weighted sum of trigonometric functions undergoing exponential decay to model free induction decay (FID) signals. We discuss the challenges in estimating the components of this general model -- amplitudes, phase shifts, frequencies, decay rates, and noise variances -- and offer practical solutions. We compare with conventional Fourier transform spectroscopy for estimating the relative concentrations of chemicals in a mixture, using synthetic and experimentally acquired FID signals. We find the proposed model is particularly robust to low signal to noise ratios (SNR), and overlapping peaks in the Fourier transform of the FID, enabling accurate predictions (e.g., 1% sensitivity at low SNR) which are not possible with conventional spectroscopy (5% sensitivity).