The Trick of Hope

I often tell myself and my students: medicine is the most human of all the sciences that is stuck with the least human of all the experiments: and that is the randomized trial.
Randomization doesn’t exist because doctors are malign or medicine is nasty it exists precisely for the utterly opposite reason: because we hope too much.
We’re so hopeful, that we want things to work so badly-especially against cancer-we want things to work so badly that we’ll trick ourselves to believing that they’re working.
And there’s nothing as toxic or as lethal as that trick: the trick of hope.
Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee in PBS’ Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

NSA’s Speech-to-Text capabilities

The Intercept has a lengthy article on what we know on the NSA’s speech recognition capabilities. Putting aside the actual capabilities, just the fact that anything you say will be recorded, stored and may be accessed at any point in the future only protected by “policy” sends shivers down my spine.

“People still aren’t realizing quite the magnitude that the problem could get to,” Raj said. “And it’s not just surveillance,” he said. “People are using voice services all the time. And where does the voice go? It’s sitting somewhere. It’s going somewhere. You’re living on trust.” He added: “Right now I don’t think you can trust anybody.”

Also when all the voice data gets automatically transcribed, made keyword-searchable, flagged and presented to agents as “potentially interesting” there’s basically no way of producing any sort of indication for suspicion other than pointing at a black box and mumbling something vaguely resembling “correlation.”

“When the NSA identifies someone as ‘interesting’ based on contemporary NLP [Natural Language Processing] methods, it might be that there is no human-understandable explanation as to why beyond: ‘his corpus of discourse resembles those of others whom we thought interesting’; or the conceptual opposite: ‘his discourse looks or sounds different from most people’s.'”

Bottle Plugin Lifecycle

If you use Python‘s Bottle micro-framework there’ll be a time where you’ll want to add custom plugins. To get a better feeling on what code gets executed when, I created a minimal Bottle app with a test plugin that logs what code gets executed. I uesed it to test both global and route-specific plugins.

When Python loads the module you’ll see that the plugins’ __init__()  and setup()  methods will be called immediately when they are installed on the app or applied to the route. This happens in the order they appear in the code. Then the app is started.

The first time a route is called Bottle executes the plugins’ apply()  methods. This happens in “reversed order” of installation (which makes sense for a nested callback chain). This means first the route-specific plugins get applied then the global ones. Their result is cached, i.e. only the inner/wrapped function is executed from here on out.

Then for every request the apply()  method’s inner function is executed. This happens in the “original” order again.

Below you can see the code and example logs for two requests. You can also clone the Gist and do your own experiments.