2 out of 3 ain’t bad: back to back TMAs

MS327 progress – not where it needs to be to do well on TMAs

It’s been a crazy month.  From the lead up to the product launch at work to know it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but back to back assignments for my Open University maths degree.  So much so in fact that I’ve not had time to study, but only focus on the assignments themselves.  It all started back with the second TMA for M337 (Complex analysis), which was a rush job and I got a much lower score on that than I would have liked.

I then had two weeks until a computer marked assignment for MS327 and was going into this without having looked at any of the material in the book.  As usual, I spent my commute trying to get through it, but barely made it a quarter of the way through  before I realised I’d have to start working through the questions for the assignment.  Computer marked assignments are very different from the tutor marked ones.  You either select an answer from a choice of 4-6 potential results1 or by typing a numerical result.  Therefore your answers are either correct or incorrect.  There are no marks for method.

If you find yourself in this position, my best advice is always to do the unit quizzes.  These are usually in a similar format and will get your brain in the right place for the assignment itself.  In combination with the handbook and text books you should be able to follow how to get the answers from the questions, although please make time to go back and fill in the gaps as soon as you can.

Noise levels at the local soft play centre. Earplugs don’t really help – it’s so high pitched you feel it through your teeth more than your ears 😉

With the iCMA out of the way, I then had a week for the third TMA of MS327. Fortunately on the same topics as the iCMA, but much more involved questions.  This was a lot trickier to pick up.  With the usual standing room only on the commute, I’ve had to spend a lot of evenings trying to do this around family time and study in the excessive noise of soft-play centres… not a great environment for thought!


So I’ve just submitted the MS327 TMA online and I’m pretty happy with it.  Now I have two weeks to get the M337 TMA3 done and I’m a little more nervous about that.  There isn’t time to go through the study materials and answer the questions, so I’ve given myself a week to get as far as I can and then I’ll dive into the TMA and see how far I can get…

On the plus side, the OU offers substitution on your assignments, so it’s okay to have a bad one and you’ll be allocated a score that’s the average of the other three.  So I can still pull up my average for M337, as long as I do well on this TMA.

This level of progress isn’t looking good at the moment…

I’m really hoping that I can get time to get these to 100% before the exams in June!

Can I do calculus in my sleep?

Breaking discipline with my Open University studies is never a good thing.  Once you’re behind, it’s so difficult to catch up, especially with a full time job and a young child.  It’s been a crazy few weeks at work too, we’ve had a major launch event and lots of projects with looming deadlines.

It was in the days leading up to this launch that I had a TMA due for one of my level 3 OU modules, M337 Complex Analysis.

With all the other deadlines I’d only done half of the study necessary for the TMA. This is never a comfortable position. I got away with it at level 1 and mostly got away with it at level 2 but you really can’t do this at level 3. Especially when the focus is calculus of complex functions. I made a start in good time, but without the time to really get my head into the topics, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to make the intuitive leaps necessary at this level to determine the correct method.

Not a particularly healthy sleep profile…

In the days leading up to that TMA my sleep profile was pretty awful.  I can’t remember what caused it, but I had so many nights in a row where I got very little quality rest.  This isn’t great.  It impairs judgement at the best of times.   I could have asked for an extension in good time, but that would just compound the problem with the MS327 assignments in a few weeks1.

this is what maths looks like when you’re slowly losing consciousness!

When you’re sleepy, it’s easy for “i” to look like “1” and “z” to look like “2” particularly in equations where there are other terms with these numbers.  One of those days I found myself working on problems from the wrong module (MS327) and just looking at my notes it’s pretty obvious that I nodded off in the middle of writing these2.  Maybe it isn’t that obvious, but trust me that this level of spider scrawl is not representative of the handwritten work I normally submit!

The results of my assignment are back and it turns out I can’t do calculus in my sleep, let alone path integrals of complex functions.  I really do need to up my game and attribute more time to this degree3.

On a side note, I’m really pleased that my presentation at the launch event was recorded – I was a little light-headed after giving blood on top of poor sleep. I presented for 5 minutes and couldn’t remember a thing I said immediately afterwards.  I got some great feedback, so there’s definitely a learning there for being relaxed, not overthinking what you’re saying and also speaking about what you know!  I’ve only heard the audio so far, but will post the video when I have it.



AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress (still making me think of  @jack_septic_eye – let me know if you get that…)

If you’ve not read the day 1 summary then you can find that here.

Day 2 had a new host for track A in the form of David D’Souza from CIPD. His opening remarks quoted Asimov and Crichton and encouraging us not be magicians and to step back and think about what we should do rather than just what we could. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

AI Congress (not @jack_septic_eye – I feel I may be in a very small subset of AI professionals who get that…)

London is a hive of AI activity. The UK is positioning itself as a leader in AI technology and you can barely walk around London without passing an AI company or meetup or training course1. If I didn’t actually have a day job, I could fill my time with AI conferences without actually doing much more than my daily commute. That said I am quite picky about the ones I go to. I’d never been to the AI Congress before and liked the diverse set of speakers and topics.  I was lucky that the team at Logikk had invited me as their guest for the two days. So how did it stack up? Well, day 1 was at a much higher level than some of the other conferences I’ve been to, with a lot of implementation and enterprise discussions and far fewer talks on the technical implementations. If you’re senior then these conferences are for you. If you want someone to talk about their latest paper on arxiv then there are far more technical events that will suit you better.

One of the biggest problems I had was that there were three separate tracks and only one of me, so if I didn’t make notes on a particular talk then hopefully the slides will be available after the event at some point. I missed some of the high profile talks, in preference of other speakers, on purpose as I’d already heard those speakers at other events. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

AI better than humans at reading?

News that AI had beat humans in reading spawned a lot of articles.

I’ve taken longer than I normally would to respond to some recent news stories about AI “outperforming humans” in reading comprehension “for the first time”.  Partly because I can’t help the wave of annoyance that fills me when I see articles so obviously designed to instil panic and/or awe in the reader without any detail, but also because I feel it’s important to do some primary research before refuting anything1.  The initial story broke that an AI created by Alibaba had met2 the human threshold in the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) followed closely by Microsoft outperforming Alibaba and exceeding the human score (slightly). Always a safe bet for sensationalism, mainstream media pounced on the results to announce millions of jobs are at risk….  So what’s really going on? Continue reading AI better than humans at reading?

Fooling AI and transparency – testing and honesty is critical

The effect of digitally changing an image on a classifier. Can you tell the difference between the pictures? Image from Brendel et al 2017.

If you follow my posts on AI (here and on other sites) then you’ll know that I’m a big believer on ensuring that AI models are thoroughly tested and that their accuracy, precision and recall are clearly identified.  Indeed, my submission to the Science and Technology select committee earlier this year highlighted this need, even though the algorithms themselves may never be transparent.  It was not a surprise in the slightest that a paper has been released on tricking “black box” commercial AI into misclassification with minimal effort. Continue reading Fooling AI and transparency – testing and honesty is critical

Review: Oxenfree

Your Oxenfree blue-haired alter-ego, Alex

It’s not often I get chance to play computer games anymore. The precious few hours I get to myself most days are usually filled with trying to catch up on my OU study1. So when I do choose a game, it has to be something immersive, where I make a difference. I loved Fable when it first came out and having finished Fable 3 recently (well behind the rest of the community I know!) I was looking for something new. A game I could play for ten minutes or an hour, something that I could be absorbed into and something where it didn’t matter if I didn’t play it for a couple of weeks. My wonderful husband bought Oxenfree for me on the XBox (also available on Steam) and I was hooked from the beginning. Continue reading Review: Oxenfree

Cozmo – a good present?

Cozmo – image from Anki

One of the toys that’s been advertised heavily in the UK this year for Christmas has been Cozmo with it’s “Big Brain, Bigger Personality” strapline. I got one last year and it was a great present. Let’s get this out there. Cozmo is relatively expensive. For about £1501 there are a lot of other things you might prefer to buy for a child (or an adult) for what is, on the surface “just a toy”. If you treat it as such then maybe it’s not the right thing for you, but viewing Cozmo as a simple toy is far less than he deserves. He is a lot of fun to play with, and the more you play with him, the more he begins to do. Continue reading Cozmo – a good present?

Credit where it’s due in AI – capsule networks

In the past few weeks my social feeds have been littered with articles citing “Hinton’s latest breakthrough” in AI: capsule networks.  Like most people in the field, I make sure I read up on what’s new, and I’m yet to see the paper‘s first author Sara Sabour, get credit for her work in all of the tertiary reviews.

A somewhat irreverent take on author list from PHD Comics, although this is broadly true 😉

For those who aren’t in academia, there is a distinct order to the names on published papers either by contribution or alphabetically.  For contribution, the first author is the one who actually did the research, the last author is the person who runs the lab/department and any other names are listed in order of contribution.  Occasionally you will see notes that authors contributed equally.  Some subject or countries list names alphabetically, but this is not the case for this paper published on arxiv. Continue reading Credit where it’s due in AI – capsule networks

When did AI not being as good as humans be a news item?

StarCraft 2 is a big thing in e-sports – can AI live up to the human players?

I get very tired of the clickbaity journalism hyping up minor advances in AI, making news stories out of nothing or even the ones for those in the industry. You know the type: “Facebook AI had to be shut down”, “Google creates self learning AI”.

I demystify a lot of these when I’m asked about them – technology should be accessible and understandable and I deplore the tendency of those seeking to get article hits by over-egging with misleading headlines. What amused me over the weekend was that an AI not beating a human was a news story where the AI was “trounced”. Continue reading When did AI not being as good as humans be a news item?