Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Online Advertising as Influence Channel

Several years ago I pointed out that online advertising was a very cheap, simple way to reach  selective population most places in the world. Imagine you want to reach folks in Indonesia who can say weave, in South Africa interested in chemicals, or in Brazil interested in hacking cellphone chips. For a few 100 dollars, you can set up an ad campaign through many intermediaries and have it running in a few days.  Now imagine we substituted "enemies" for "country" and whatever you like, for "weave, chemicals, chips", and I thought this channel was far more effective and efficient than running old world spy operations, you can snoop and influence without having a personal presence or sophisticated electronic and broadcasting devices, in a highly targeted way.

In the past year or so,  the scenario above has played out in crucial ways.

Politics and governments aside, I am finally glad to see online ads get attention from media and researchers  as a potential influence channel. Over dinner I have asked folks, "Imagine you can spend a few hundred dollars and target **a specific person** in the world and govern messages they see online. What could one do?"

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunsetting ICORE

When friends remember me, I am happy to go to distant lands. I managed to travel to Israel to give a talk at the ICORE day.  I-CORE is Israeli Center for Research Excellence program, and the day marked the end of the funding period. Israel has great talent, so any money the govt puts in finds great use; in  this case, it seems to have filled a severe need, providing much-needed support for postdocs.

I talked about Heavy Hitters (HHs), a bit of the classical Count-Min stuff but also much less sculpted stuff like high dimensional HHs, H-influence and other topics. I find HHs interesting because it is not top k, it is a distinct concept, and a concept that represents what is (often the only thing) possible within resource constraints. Robi asked a great question, if this can be formalized.

There were many good talks. I managed to catch a bit of the talks by Rotem Oshman, Michael Shapira, Shahar Dobzinski, and others. I also managed to catch Yuval Ishai and Eylon Yagev talk secure multiparty computing and complexity theory resp in Hebrew. Finally, Bernard Haeupler gave an excellent  talk on using shortcuts to break natural bottlenecks with message passing algorithms. This talk introduced the audience to principled theory methods (was happy to see Leighton-Maggs-Rao O(Congestion+Dilation) result reenter the psyche) to attack worst case performance of message passing algorithms.

ps: Thanks to Moni for mentioning Mossel's paradox with dice/6 over dinner, he said there was an elegant solution, and my neurons stayed awake figuring it out.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

AI + Marketing Workshop

We are running a workshop, trying to bring together the AI and Marketing Sciences communities.  AI community of course includes algorithms, optimization and game theory; Marketing Sciences of course includes online advertising, auctions and other topics. But the goal is to bring in more than these topics, and try to forge a common venue, getting each of these (sub)communities to stretch a bit to meet others.

The workshop is collocated with AAAI 2018, and the deadline is Oct 13, 2017.