Buy Obama!

I noticed today that Electoral-Vote.com‘s composite of national polling is giving Obama a 338 to 185 lead in electoral votes.  The interesting thing about this is that Intrade‘s state-by-state prediction markets have been giving him roughly the same margin for several days, maybe a week — i.e. the prediction markets have been leading the polls.  Right now I think the only difference between EV’s electoral map and Intrade’s is North Carolina: EV calls NC a tie while Intrade gives the state to McCain.  It will be interesting to see if the polling in NC turns back toward McCain in the next week or so.

Looking at Intrade’s market for the overall outcome of the race, it’s worth noting the technical indicators (as I did in the primary).  Obama’s MACD is strongly positive, indicating upward momentum.

Intrade chart for Obama prediction market

Intrade chart for Obama prediction market

The MACD also shows Obama’s momentum went negative just after the Republican convention, and then reversed again around September 20, just as the shit was hitting the fan on Wall St.

One thing I wonder about the state-by-state prediction markets is how much liquidity they can have?  I mean, how many people are trading in these markets?  Are is there really enough volume in the West Virginia, Indiana, or Missouri markets to get accurate predictions?  Those states polls are all within the statistical margin of error (I think).  Florida and Ohio are also pretty close, but I guess those are more liquid, because they’re known battleground states.

Anyway, it will be fun to track this as the election gets closer.

VideoLectures.net: Good machine learning and AI lectures

A while back I posted about SciVee, a site for posting videos of science presentations. Today my old neural-networks labmate Tal Tversky commented pointing me at VideoLectures, a similar site containing academic lectures.  Although the site doesn’t seem to be explicitly intended for any one topic, the page of “top” lectures is dominated by talks in statistical machine learning.  Skimming the page, I noticed talks by such notable names as Tom Mitchell (chair of CMU’s machine learning department), Usama Fayyad (former VP of Research and “chief data officer” at Yahoo), Michael Jordan (UC Berkeley), and William Cohen (CMU).  Lots more, too.

In addition to ML and AI stuff, there are also talks by Tim Berners-Lee and Umberto Eco on the “Top Lectures” page.

Following the election in the prediction markets

One of the most interesting aspects of this election has been the advent of prediction markets such as Intrade and the Iowa Electronic Market as a means of measuring the current trends and positions of the candidates. These markets have been accurate in predicting a lot of events.It’s worth noting that prices in these markets represent the market’s estimate of the probability of a particular outcome. So if the market is giving, say, a 55% chance of Obama winning a particular election, and then Clinton wins, it’s difficult to say that the market was “wrong.” Evaluating the accuracy of these markets is a subtle endevor, but not impossible. Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsburgh’s R&D Future, and Present

Over at Pittsburgh’s Future, Harold Miller has picked up the theme of large companies and spinoffs, with his post, One of the Hidden Strengths of the Pittsburgh Region, on the large number of corporate R&D jobs in Pittsburgh. 7000 R&D jobs in Pittsburgh? Who knew?

Harold also points out that many/most of these jobs are in materials sciences, and yet most talk about a building a Pittsburgh start-up economy focuses on bio, health care, computer science, and robotics. It seems like there should be at least some possible synergy or crossover between these areas, especially CS/robotics and materials sciences. Maybe their communities are just so disjoint that neither knows how the other can contribute.

Somethin’ Happenin’ Here…

Between my last few posts here and recent comments elsewhere, I’ve probably given the impression that I’m bearish on Pittsburgh, at least as far as the tech/start-up economy goes. Not so. While it’s sometimes hard for me to keep my mood up in the winter, this has actually been a bullish week for me, Burgh-wise.

Among the things that lifted my mood this week was lunch today with Matt Harbaugh from InnovationWorks. Before today I had lumped IW in with the slew of public/non-profit/consortium/partnership groups around here that purport to help the tech economy. And frankly, it was never very clear to me what any of them did, or whether anyone in the local tech industry would care if they just disappeared.

After talking with Matt, however, a couple of things became much more clear: (1) there is a burgeoning start-up scene here, and (2) a lot of it is in the IW portfolio. (Though by no means all of it!) I don’t think the scene reached the perpetual-motion-machine stage yet, but that just means you gotta keep pedaling. Just knowing that there are people out there taking real, concrete action to move things the right way is a great thing. Talk is cheap, especially in the blogosphere. Action, baby. That’s where it’s at. I expect exciting things from IW.

CCNC/SfN/Epirob/AAAI Conference Blogging

I am currently in San Diego, in the second day of a three-city, four-conference tour during which I’ll be attending the CCN Conference, Society for Neuroscience, Epigenetic Robotics, and the AAAI Fall Symposium on Computational Approaches to Representation Change during Learning and Development.

This is the longest and most complicated conference travel adventure I’ve ever undertaken. Especially since I’m presenting either a poster or a talk at all four conferences. In addition, it is my first time attending SfN, which draws 20-30,000 attendees, making it easily an order of magnitude larger than any conference I’ve ever attended. I have to wonder what the point of such a large conference is, since I’ve been told by several people not to expect to run into anyone I know if we haven’t planned the meeting in advance.

So far, CCNC has been nice — only 200-300 people — with lots of work focused on computational modeling of reinforcement learning and other decision making processes. I’ve run into a couple of people that I knew from elsewhere, as well as a couple of people from CNBC that I’ve met for just the first or second time. I’ve also been slightly disappointed that a couple of people I expected to see are nowhere to be found.

I’m going to try to blog at least once from each location. Newt Gingrich is speaking about research funding priorities for science at SfN on Monday. It’s during the first hour of my poster session, but I may try to attend anyway.

Great UT Computer Sciences Movie

I just learned about the new promotional video for the UT Austin Computer Sciences department. It gives some great shots of the UT campus, and a nice promo of the department, and the study of Computer Science generally. Highlights: The hilarious man-on-the-street interviews asking “what is an algorithm,” and appearances by my fellow UT AI-Lab/Neural-Networks grad students Nate Kohl and Igor Karpov, showing off the robot soccer lab and the NERO video game, respectively. Oh, and Prof. Calvin Lin saying “research is is the funnest part of CS.” Heh.

It’s not on YouTube yet, but it should be.