CTools, Smart Cities, and More - An Interview with Pedro Alves

| September 2, 2016

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My name is Pedro Alves; I’m the SVP for Community, Pentaho Product Designer and GM of Webdetails (aka Pentaho Portugal office). It may sound like a lot of stuff to do, but it’s actually very useful; I often tell people I have to focus on one of my “other” jobs and just go to the beach to enjoy the amazing Portuguese weather, food and drinks!

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Datalabs Agency

Datalabs is a data agency specialising in the creative use of analytics and data visualisation for businesses and government. Datalabs specialises in the visual communication of data insights. We design interactive data visualisations, business intelligence dashboards, animated data videos, interactive infographics, and reporting microsites that display data in a beautiful way. Datalabs is a data agency skilled in data analysis. We can work with business leaders and executive-level communicators to extract important insights from datasets, then design attractive and simple interfaces to display those insights to your target audience…

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DATA SCIENCE

Man Vs. Machine: Peaking into the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Article | March 15, 2021

Stephen Hawking, one of the finest minds to have ever lived, once famously said, “AI is likely to be either the best or the worst thing to happen to humanity.” This is of course true, with valid arguments both for and against the proliferation of AI. As a practitioner, I have witnessed the AI revolution at close quarters as it unfolded at breathtaking pace over the last two decades. My personal view is that there is no clear black and white in this debate. The pros and cons are very contextual – who is developing it, for what application, in what timeframe, towards what end? It always helps to understand both sides of the debate. So let’s try to take a closer look at what the naysayers say. The most common apprehensions can be clubbed into three main categories: A. Large-scale Unemployment: This is the most widely acknowledged of all the risks of AI. Technology and machines replacing humans for doing certain types of work isn’t new. We all know about entire professions dwindling, and even disappearing, due to technology. Industrial Revolution too had led to large scale job losses, although many believe that these were eventually compensated for by means of creating new avenues, lowering prices, increasing wages etc. However, a growing number of economists no longer subscribe to the belief that over a longer term, technology has positive ramifications on overall employment. In fact, multiple studies have predicted large scale job losses due to technological advancements. A 2016 UN report concluded that 75% of jobs in the developing world are expected to be replaced by machines! Unemployment, particularly at a large scale, is a very perilous thing, often resulting in widespread civil unrest. AI’s potential impact in this area therefore calls for very careful political, sociological and economic thinking, to counter it effectively. B. Singularity: The concept of Singularity is one of those things that one would have imagined seeing only in the pages of a futuristic Sci-Fi novel. However, in theory, today it is a real possibility. In a nutshell, Singularity refers to that point in human civilization when Artificial Intelligence reaches a tipping point beyond which it evolves into a superintelligence that surpasses human cognitive powers, thereby potentially posing a threat to human existence as we know it today. While the idea around this explosion of machine intelligence is a very pertinent and widely discussed topic, unlike the case of technology driven unemployment, the concept remains primarily theoretical. There is as yet no consensus amongst experts on whether this tipping point can ever really be reached in reality. C. Machine Consciousness: Unlike the previous two points, which can be regarded as risks associated with the evolution of AI, the aspect of machine consciousness perhaps is best described as an ethical conundrum. The idea deals with the possibility of implanting human-like consciousness into machines, taking them beyond the realm of ‘thinking’ to that of ‘feeling, emotions and beliefs’. It’s a complex topic and requires delving into an amalgamation of philosophy, cognitive science and neuroscience. ‘Consciousness’ itself can be interpreted in multiple ways, bringing together a plethora of attributes like self-awareness, cause-effect in mental states, memory, experiences etc. To bring machines to a state of human-like consciousness would entail replicating all the activities that happen at a neural level in a human brain – by no means a meagre task. If and when this were to be achieved, it would require a paradigm shift in the functioning of the world. Human society, as we know it, will need a major redefinition to incorporate machines with consciousness co-existing with humans. It sounds far-fetched today, but questions such as this need pondering right now, so as to be able to influence the direction in which we move when it comes to AI and machine consciousness, while things are still in the ‘design’ phase so to speak. While all of the above are pertinent questions, I believe they don’t necessarily outweigh the advantages of AI. Of course, there is a need to address them systematically, control the path of AI development and minimize adverse impact. In my opinion, the greatest and most imminent risk is actually a fourth item, not often taken into consideration, when discussing the pitfalls of AI. D. Oligarchy: Or to put it differently, the question of control. Due to the very nature of AI – it requires immense investments in technology and science – there are realistically only a handful of organizations (private or government) that can make the leap into taking AI into the mainstream, in a scalable manner, and across a vast array of applications. There is going to be very little room for small upstarts, however smart they might be, to compete at scale against these. Given the massive aspects of our lives that will likely be steered by AI enabled machines, those who control that ‘intelligence’ will hold immense power over the rest of us. That all familiar phrase ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’ will take a whole new meaning – the organizations and/or individuals that are at the forefront of the generally available AI applications would likely have more power than the most despotic autocrats in history. This is a true and real hazard, aspects of which are already becoming areas of concern in the form of discussions around things like privacy. In conclusion, AI, like all major transformative events in human history, is certain to have wide reaching ramifications. But with careful forethought these can be addressed. In the short to medium term, the advantages of AI in enhancing our lives, will likely outweigh these risks. Any major conception that touches human lives in a broad manner, if not handled properly, can pose immense danger. The best analogy I can think of is religion – when not channelled appropriately, it probably poses a greater threat than any technological advancement ever could.

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COMBINATION OF VIRTUAL REALITY AND DATA ANALYTICS

Article | March 15, 2021

Virtual reality is an innovation with boundless opportunities. These can be seen when it is combined with another tech to make new opportunities. At the point when paired with gaming, for instance, VR has empowered the user to enter the virtual universe of the game, for example, in an online casino where the user can enter a virtual casino from the comfort of their own home. When utilized in marketing, property developers can demonstrate houses to potential buyers any place they were on the planet.

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How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Businesses

Article | March 15, 2021

Whilst there are many people that associate AI with sci-fi novels and films, its reputation as an antagonist to fictional dystopic worlds is now becoming a thing of the past, as the technology becomes more and more integrated into our everyday lives.AI technologies have become increasingly more present in our daily lives, not just with Alexa’s in the home, but also throughout businesses everywhere, disrupting a variety of different industries with often tremendous results. The technology has helped to streamline even the most mundane of tasks whilst having a breath-taking impact on a company’s efficiency and productivity.However, AI has not only transformed administrative processes and freed up more time for companies, it has also contributed to some ground-breaking moments in business, being a must-have for many in order to keep up with the competition.

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DATA SCIENCE

Soft Skills in Data Science

Article | March 15, 2021

We live in a world convulsed by new technologies and we are witnessing how more and more processes are automated in order to be executed with the same skill or even with better results than if they were carried out by a human, all this in order to be more efficient and effective. In this context the world of work is becoming increasingly competitive, because to remain employable we need to learn to manage or find a way to adapt our knowledge and skills to new technologies. With the spread of e-learning platforms and the tutorials that we can find available on the internet, acquiring new knowledge is within everyone's reach. For this reason, it is necessary to differentiate ourselves in order to stand out from other professionals, who have the hard skills similar to ours and this is precisely where Soft Skills play a very important role. What are Soft Skills? Soft skills are actually a combination of individual social skills, communication skills, personality traits, attitudes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence. Which facilitate relationships with others, making us more effective when interacting with other people. We could say that Soft Skills are the human interface that allow us to adapt to different working environments and industries. They are powerful tools for personal and professional growth. Why are Soft Skills key in our professional growth? Nowadays, standing out in the world of work is getting increasingly difficult, regardless of whether you are part of a corporation or work independently, due to the great competition within the labor market. That is why we must develop certain skills and attitudes that help us to function properly and successfully meet professional demands. Soft Skills are the point of differentiation that allows us to be selected for a position. The reason is very simple, we could be applying for a position and competing with people that are equal or even more qualified than us at a technical level, but to achieve the collaborative objectives of the company, more is required than just the technical and rational part. Also the way of communicating, values, ethics, as well as personality traits are highly valued factors since they help to drive organizations through high-performance teams, guaranteeing the achievement of their objectives. The background of the Soft Skills that we have trained throughout our lives make us unique, because it is unlikely that two people have the same combination of Soft Skills and been trained in a similar way, and that makes us more competitive against certain job opportunities where perhaps many will have the same Hard Skills, but where our Soft Skills will be the ones that will make us stand out to continue advancing in our professional career. How to sharpen our Soft Skills? To perform in any job we necessarily need to interact with other people, even if we work independently or remotely, so we must have the necessary skills that allow us to connect successfully with our teammates and stakeholders. Starting from the fact that Soft Skills are human skills, we can say that we have them pre-installed and the way to start using them (installing them) is through the experiences we undergo every day. Imagine being able to communicate assertively in your work environment and in your personal life. Master the use of tools installed in you to improve your interpersonal relationships within your work teams and reduce conflict. This would allow you to foster a healthy working environment and be able to lead any team in any environment in a strategic and effective way. Think of Soft Skills as a set of Apps that are ready to be used (like a toolbox) and that according to the experiences that are presented in our personal and / or professional lives, we are going to choose to use these applications to achieve our goals. Every time we access one of these applications, we are giving it the opportunity to collect data that will allow it to personalize its insights according to our needs and to fine-tune its effectiveness each time we use it. One of the best ways to train our Soft Skills is by leaving our comfort zone, because that will allow us to 'install' more and more Soft Skills. Another way to refine our Soft Skills is by participating in activities that involve people we do not know and even better if we involve people from other cultures, because we will achieve a beneficial exchange of experiences and knowledge for both parties that will enrich and make the training of our Soft Skills even more valuable. Some examples of activities that will enhance your Soft Skills: • Participate in competitions (e.g. Hackathons) • Found or be a lead of a community that shares your interests, and organizes small or large projects. • Organize a study group aimed at carrying out a technical or business project in order to confront professionals from various fields or industries. • Find resources and experts to help you. There are Soft Skills trainers who know useful techniques and tips to develop/sharpen your skills. • Participate in volunteer activities. You will meet new people with whom to put your Soft Skills in action. These activities will train/sharpen your leadership skills, teamwork, delegation, interpersonal communication, persuasion, etc. These are skills that we do not have as much facility to train while we are students or when we have just started working after finishing our studies, and that are required in the labor market to continue climbing in our professional career. Why do Soft Skills matter in the Data Science universe? A consequence of the use of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science is that many of the jobs that we know today will be automated and this is a matter of concern for many professionals who see their careers are in danger, but the good news is that in the future many new jobs the Soft Skills will be the main protagonists, this is what John Thompson explains us in his book "Building Analytics Teams" In other words, it is precisely our human skills that will allow us to be more employable in the future, and they will be highly requested skills because according to what the experts envision which is, that the machines will not be able to match us in this field, and that is why training our Soft Skills becomes a priority because they will allow us to be the key players of the future. On the other hand, Data Science is an interdisciplinary field where Soft Skills such as cooperation and communication are essential to achieve the goals set. Denis Rothman, author of the book "Transformers for Natural Language Processing" in an interview that I conducted, mentioned that The Human Quality is the most important thing for him when choosing the members of his work team. These are some considerations to take into account to generate a culture of cooperation: • People work harder and need less supervision, when they themselves control their work and have more freedom to choose how to do it. When they work as a team, they show greater motivation, their sense of pride increases and productivity reaches higher levels. • Solid teams that seek quality and excellence correct themselves; that is, they identify problems and correct them very quickly. Thus, they gain work experience and increase their performance. • Forming a solid and efficient work team requires patience. You need to give them time to see your results. They will have to establish procedures to complete tasks, handle administrative functions and work together efficiently, they will even have to adapt to their own decisions and accept their consequences. • A manager or team leader must recognize the team building process without expecting immediate results. The group will have to go through a learning process and this will take longer in some groups than in others. Another key component to achieving high levels of cooperation is fluid communication among team members and stakeholders. For instance defining the communication channels and the contact points in the different teams involved, guarantees the constant flow of communication during the life cycle of a Data Science project. One of the most critical moments is the presentation of the results to the stakeholders. In some cases the results of a project are not taken into consideration not so much because the expected results are not achieved, but because the way in which these results are presented are not meaningful for the stakeholders, and this, in most cases, it is due to the existence of communication barriers that is a consequence of the use of a language (terminologies) used in the technical world but not in the business world. After taking a tour of the world of Soft Skills, we can conclude by saying that Soft Skills are like superpowers that are waiting for the opportunity to be put into action, to make you a superhero or superheroine. Keep climbing positions in your professional career depends on you, on how much you use these superpowers but above all on your skills to refine them and make them available to the work team of which you are part. Don't wait any longer and start discovering your potential, start training your Soft Skills! If you want to know more about Soft Skills, I invite you to visit The Soft Skills Show

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Datalabs Agency

Datalabs is a data agency specialising in the creative use of analytics and data visualisation for businesses and government. Datalabs specialises in the visual communication of data insights. We design interactive data visualisations, business intelligence dashboards, animated data videos, interactive infographics, and reporting microsites that display data in a beautiful way. Datalabs is a data agency skilled in data analysis. We can work with business leaders and executive-level communicators to extract important insights from datasets, then design attractive and simple interfaces to display those insights to your target audience…

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