machine learning

Patrick Ball, Director of Research, Human Rights Data Analysis Group, offered examples of when statistics and machine learning have proved useful and when they’ve failed in this presentation from Open Source Summit Europe.

Machine learning and statistics are playing a pivotal role in finding the truth in human rights cases around the world – and serving as a voice for victims, Patrick Ball, director of Research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, told the audience at Open Source Summit Europe.

Ball began his keynote, “Digital Echoes: Understanding Mass Violence with Data and Statistics,” with background on his career, which started in 1991 in El Salvador, building databases. While working with truth commissions from El Salvador to South Africa to East Timor, with international criminal tribunals as well as local groups searching for lost family members, he said, “one of the things that we work with every single time is trying to figure out what the truth means.”

In the course of the work, “we’re always facing people who apologize for mass violence. They tell us grotesque lies that they use to attempt to excuse this violence. They deny that it happened. They blame the victims. This is common, of course, in our world today.”

Human rights campaigns “speak with the moral voice of the victims,’’ he said. Therefore, it is critical that statistics, including machine learning, are accurate, Ball said.

He gave three examples of when statistics and machine learning proved to be useful, and where they failed.

Finding missing prisoners

In the first example, Ball recalled his participation as an expert witness in the trial of a war criminal, the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré. Thousands of documents were presented, which had been discovered as a pile of trash in an abandoned prison and which turned out to be the operational records of the secret police.

The team honed in one type of document that detailed the number of prisoners that were held at the beginning of the day, the number held at the end of the day, and the difference between the number of prisoners who were released, new prisoners brought in, those transferred to other places, and those who had died during the course of the day. Dividing the number of people who died throughout the day by the number alive in the morning produces the crude mortality rate, he said.

The status of the prisoners of war was critical in the trial of Habré because the crude mortality rate was “extraordinarily high,” he said.

“What we’re doing in human rights data analysis is … trying to push back on apologies for mass violence. In fact, the judges in the [Chad] case saw precisely that usage and cited our evidence … to reject President Habré’s defense that conditions in the prison were nothing extraordinary.”

That’s a win, Ball stressed, since human rights advocates don’t see many wins, and the former head of state was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Hidden graves in Mexico

In a more current case, the goal is to find hidden graves in Mexico of the bodies of people who have disappeared after being kidnapped and then murdered. Ball said they are using a machine learning model to predict where searchers are likely to find those graves in order to focus and prioritize searches.

Since they have a lot of information, his team decided to randomly split the cases into test and training sets and then train a model. “We’ll predict the test data and then we’ll iterate that split, train, test process 1,000 times,’’ he explained. “What we’ll find is that over the course of four years that we’ve been looking at, more than a third of the time we can perfectly predict the counties that have graves.”

“Machine learning models are really good at predicting things that are like the things they were trained on,” Ball said.

A machine learning model can visualize the probability of finding mass graves by county, which generates press attention and helps with the advocacy campaign to bring state authorities into the search process, he said.

That’s machine learning, contributing positively to society,” he said. Yet, that doesn’t mean that machine learning is necessarily positive for society as a whole.

Predictive Policing

Many machine learning applications “are terribly detrimental to human rights and society,’’ Ball stressed.  In his final example, he talked about predictive policing, which is the use of machine learning patterns to predict where crime is going to occur.

For example, Ball and his team looked at drug crimes in Oakland, California. He displayed a heat map of the density of drug use in Oakland, based on a public health survey, showing the highest drug use close to the University of California.

Ball and his colleagues re-implemented one of the most popular predictive policing algorithms to predict crimes based on this data. Then he showed the model running in animation, with dots on the grid representing drug arrests. Then the model made predictions in precisely the same locations as where the arrests were observed, he said.

If the underlying data turns out to be biased, then “we recycle that bias. Now, biased data leads to biased predictions.” Ball went on to clarify that he was using the term bias in a technical, not racial sense.

When bias in data occurs, he said, it “means that we’re over predicting one thing and that we’re under predicting something else. In fact, what we’re under predicting here is white crime,’’ he said. Then the machine learning model teaches police dispatchers that they should go to the places they went before. “It assumes the future is like the past,” he said.

“Machine learning in this context does not simply recycle racial disparities in policing, [it] amplifies the racial disparities in policing.” This, Ball said, “is catastrophic. Policing already facing a crisis of legitimacy in the United States as a consequence of decades, or some might argue centuries, of unfair policing. ML makes it worse.”

“In predictive policing, a false positive means that a neighborhood can be systematically over policed, contributing to the perception of the citizens in that neighborhood that they’re being harassed. That erodes trust between the police and the community. Furthermore, a false negative means that police may fail to respond quickly to real crime,” he said.

When machine learning gets it wrong

Machine learning models produce variances and random errors, Ball said, but bias is a bigger problem. “If we have data that is unrepresentative of a population to which we intend to apply the model, the model is unlikely to be correct. It is likely to reproduce whatever that bias is in the input side.”

We want to know where a crime has occurred, “but our pattern of observation is systematically distorted. It’s not that [we] simply under-observe the crime, but under-observe some crime at a much greater rate than other crimes.” In the United States, he said, that tends to be distributed by race. Biased models are the end result of that.

The cost of a machine learning being wrong can also destroy people’s lives, Ball said. It also raises the question of who bears the cost of being wrong. You can hear more from Ball and learn more about his work in the complete video presentation below.

Watch the keynotes LIVE next week at Open Source Summit & ELC + OpenIoT Summit Europe.

Open Source Summit & ELC + OpenIoT Summit Europe is taking place in Edinburgh, UK next week, October 22-24, 2018. Can’t make it? You’ll be missed, but you don’t have to miss out on the action. Tune into the free livestream to catch all of the keynotes live from your desktop, tablet or phone! Sign up now >>

Hear from the leading technologists in open source! Get an inside scoop on:

  • An update on the Linux Kernel
  • Diversity & inclusion to fuel open source growth
  • How open source is changing banking
  • How to build an open source culture within organizations
  • Human rights & scientific collaboration
  • The future of AI and Deep Learning
  • The future of energy with open source
  • The parallels between open source & video games

Live video streaming of the keynote sessions from Open Source Summit & ELC + OpenIoT Summit Europe will take place during the following times:

Monday, October 22

9:00 – 10:20 (BST)

Watch keynotes from Open Invention Network, LF Energy, Intel,, and The Linux Foundation.

Tuesday, October 23

9:00 – 10:20 (BST)

Watch keynotes from Vibrant Data, Microsoft, IBM, and Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

Wednesday, October 24

9:00 – 10:00 (BST)

Watch keynotes from Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, IBM, and Mifos Initiative.

View the full keynote schedule >>

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For Kid’s Day at Open Source Summit, Banks Family Tech organized a 4-hour long workshop to introduce children to coding. (Image courtesy: S. Bhartiya)

The Linux Foundation strives to make Open Source Summit one of the most inclusive tech events in a variety of ways, offering activities such as the “Women in Open Source” lunch, a diversity social, a first-time attendees get-together, and more. They have activities focused on children, too. Not only does Open Source Summit offer free on-site childcare for attendees’ children, they also sponsor a Kid’s Day.

At this year’s Kid’s Day in Vancouver, the primary goal was to introduce the kids to coding via HTML, and very little computer knowledge or experience was required to participate. “The basics, typing, browsing the Internet and minor computer operation, are all your child needs to participate,” according to the website.

For this event, The Linux Foundation collaborated with Banks Family Tech, who organized the 4-hour long workshop. This workshop was geared toward children ages 9–18 and was open to children from the community as well as those of event attendees. The kids that participated actually ranged in age from 5-13 years of age, and, many already had some coding experience. Some had tried Scratch, and others had written scripts for games.

“We are going to teach how to go from nothing and become coders,” said Phillip Banks, founder of Banks Family Tech.

HTML workshop

The workshop focused squarely on HTML, one of the easiest computing languages. “It’s close to English and it’s not hard text and syntax to learn. It allows us to squeeze a lot of things into a day and get them excited so that they can go home and learn more,” said Banks. “After that, maybe, you can go to Python but HTML is so easy as they get a quick return by manipulating objects, text color and other things on a web-page immediately.”

This Kid’s Day event had a great mix of participants. While some of the kids accompanied their parents who were attending the conference, the majority were from the local community, whose parents learned about the workshop from social networks like Facebook. Khristine Carino, Director for Communications of SCWIST (Society for Canadian Women In Science and Technology), not only brought her own kids but also invited families from underrepresented minorities in Vancouver.

In the workshop, the children learned HTML basics like font tags, how to use fonts and colors, how to add images and videos, and how choose a background for their website. They also had the opportunity to share what they created with the whole group and learn from each other.

“It’s not so much about learning to code, just to be a coder; it’s learning to understand how things work,” said Banks. You can hear more in the video below.

Check out the full list of activities coming up at Open Source Summit in Europe and sign up to receive updates:

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Open Source Summit is the place to keep up with the leading edge of Linux, says Linux kernel developer James Bottomley.

It’s no secret that Linux is basically the operating system of containers, and containers are the future of the cloud, says James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research and Linux kernel developer. Bottomley, who can often be seen at open source events in his signature bow tie, is focused these days on security systems like the Trusted Platform Module and the fundamentals of container technology.

James Bottomley

With Open Source Summit happening this month in conjunction with Linux Security Summit — and Open Source Summit Europe coming up fast — we talked with Bottomley about these and other topics.

The Linux Foundation: How are you involved with Open Source Summit?

James Bottomley: I’m on the program committee, so I’m part of the body responsible for judging the technical content.  Our mission is to try to give a balance to the presentations given at the summit to make sure there’s enough of interest on the technical front to attract the hard core engineering community, while still being a welcoming place for people who have other skills and abilities, thus ensuring a diversity of attendees that encourages interesting conversations and outcomes.

The Linux Foundation: What’s the relevance of Linux in the age of cloud and containers?

Bottomley: The cloud nowadays is moving to be all about containers, and containers absolutely wouldn’t exist without Linux.  If you regard containers as being simply operating system virtualization, then there are many contenders for their place in containers history, like BSD jails and mainframe LPARs.  However, if you view containers through the narrow prism of Docker images, then an absolute requirement is the hardness and backwards compatibility of the Linux Syscall interface: the fact that an Ubuntu Xenial image will still run on top of a RHEL kernel.  This facility is because of Linus’s laser-like focus on maintaining the userspace ABI, which is pretty unique in OS history.

The Linux Foundation: You recently wrote a paper around VMs and container security. Will there by any discussion around that at the event?

Bottomley: Not in the formal presentations, although there probably will be in the hallway.  You have to remember that presentations at the conference are based on proposals that had to be submitted at least six months ago, whereas what I’ve been discussing is based on preliminary research that was only recently completed and published.  This is a general problem for all conferences now that the open source methodology means research goes from ideas to discussions around code in a matter of weeks.

The Linux Foundation: We are living in an age where so much innovation is happening in the tech world, especially in the open source space. What hot technologies are you excited about?

Bottomley: I’m mostly interested in some of the fundamentals of containers and security, including methods for securing the substrate, runtime mechanisms for ensuring immutability, like IMA and also what the next type of container will look like (or more accurately, how do we dump all the unnecessary IaaS components from current container images to realise the true potential of pure application containers).

The Linux Foundation: Who should attend Open Source Summit and why?

Bottomley: I think it’s no secret that Linux is basically the OS of containers and containers are the future of the cloud, so anyone who is interested in keeping up to date with what’s going on in the cloud because this would be the only place they can keep up with the leading edge of Linux.

Bottomley will be speaking at Open Source Summit Europe, as part of the Linux Systems track.  Check out the other scheduled sessions and  sign up to receive updates:


Check out the first round of keynotes for Open Source Summit and ELC + OpenIoT Summit Europe, coming up October 22-24 in Edinburgh.

Announcing the first round of keynote speakers for Open Source Summit and Embedded Linux Conference + OpenIoT Summit Europe!

Keynotes include:

  • Patrick Ball, Director of Research, Human Rights Data Analysis Group
  • Eric Berlow, Co-Founder, Chief Science Officer, Vibrant Data Inc.
  • Linus Torvalds, Creator of Linux & Git, in conversation with Dirk Hohndel, Vice President & Chief Open Source Officer, VMware
  • Ed Cable, President & Chief Executive Officer, Mifos Initiative
  • Jonathan Corbet, Author, Kernel Developer and Executive Editor,
  • Johanna Koester, Program Director of Developer Technology and Advocacy, IBM
  • Dr. Alexander Nitz, Gravitational-wave Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics
  • Brenda Romero, Award-Winning Game Designer, Fulbright Scholar & Entrepreneur
  • Jim Zemlin, Executive Director, The Linux Foundation

The conference schedule will be released on August 14, with additional keynote announcements to follow.

Open Source Summit is THE leading conference for developers, architects and other technologists – as well as open source community and industry leaders – to collaborate and learn about the latest technologies and gain a competitive advantage by using innovative open solutions. Join us for 200+ sessions and co-located events including Linux Security Summit, Zephyr Hackathon – “Get Connected,” LF Energy Summit, and Tracing Summit.

Embedded Linux Conference (ELC) is the premier technical conference for companies and developers using Linux in embedded products. The conference gathers user-space developers, product vendors, kernel, and systems developers to collaborate.

OpenIoT Summit is the technical conference for the developers and architects working on industrial IoT. It provides the technical knowledge needed to deliver smart connected products and solutions that take advantage of the rapid evolution of IoT technologies. It is the only IoT event focused on the development of open IoT solutions.

Sign up to receive updates on Open Source Summit Europe + OpenIoT Summit: 

Registration includes access to all three events!

Secure your spot and register now to save $300! The early bird registration deadline ends August 18.


Need help convincing your manager? Here’s a letter that can help you make the request to attend Open Source Summit & ELC + OpenIoT Summit Europe.

Applications for diversity and needs-based scholarships are also being accepted. Get information on eligibility and how to apply. Free childcare is also available for attendees.


Sign up for this interactive workshop that examines networking and cloud-native technologies side by side.

ONAP and Kubernetes – two of the fastest-growing Linux Foundation projects – are coming together in the next generation of telecom architecture.  

ONAP provides a comprehensive platform for real-time, policy-driven orchestration and automation of physical and virtual network functions, and Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Telcos are now examining how these virtual network functions (VNFs) could evolve into cloud-native network functions (CNFs) running on Kubernetes.

In a three-hour interactive workshop on cloud-native network functions at Open Source Summit, Dan Kohn, Executive Director, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and Arpit Joshipura, GM Networking & Orchestration, The Linux Foundation, will explain networking and cloud-native terms and concepts side by side.

“As the next-generation of telco architecture evolves, CSPs are exploring how their Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) can evolve into Cloud-native Network Functions (CNFs), ” said Joshipura. “This seminar will explore  what’s involved in migrating from VNFs to CNFs, with a specific focus on the roles played by ONAP and Kubernetes. We hope to see a broad swatch of community members from both the container and networking spaces join us for an engaging and informative discussion in Vancouver.”

Session highlights will include:

  • Migrating and automating network functions to virtual networking functions to CNFs
  • Overview of sub-projects focusing on this migration, including cross-cloud CI, ONAP/OVP,, etc.
  • The role for a service mesh, such as like Envoy, Istio, or Linkerd, in connecting CNFs with load balancing, canary deployments, policy enforcement, and more.
  • What is involved in telcos adopting modern continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools to be able to rapidly innovate and improve their CNFs while retaining confidence in the reliability.
  • Differing security needs of trusted (open source and vendor-provided) code vs. running untrusted code
  • The role for security isolation technologies like gVisor or Kata
  • Requirements of the underlying operating system
  • Strengths and weaknesses of different network architectures such as multi-interface pods and Network Service Mesh
  • Status of IPv6 and dual-stack support in Kubernetes

Additional registration is required for this session, but there is no extra fee. Space is limited in the workshop, so reserve your spot soon. And, if you plan to attend, please be willing to participate. Learn more and sign up now!

Open Source Summit

Open Source Summit is THE place to learn about latest open source trends and technologies. Register now!

Open Source Summit North America is right around the corner. There will be hundreds of sessions, workshops, and talks, all curated by experts in the Linux and open source communities. It’s not an easy feat to choose the topics and sessions you want to attend at the event  because there are so many topics and only so much time.

In this article, we talk with Laura Abbott, a developer employed by Red Hat, and Bryan Liles, a developer at Heptio, a Kubernetes company, based in Seattle, Washington, about the upcoming event. Abbott is on the program committee for Open Source Summit, and Liles is one of the program chairs, working hard “to build out a schedule that touches on many aspects of Open Source.”

Hot topics

“I’ve been interested in cloud-native applications for a few years now, and I spend most of my time thinking about the problems and developing software in this space,” said Liles. “I’m also interested in computer vision, augmented reality, and virtual reality. One of the most important topics in this space right now is Machine Learning. It’s amazing to see all the open source solutions being created. I feel that even as a hobbyist, I can find tools to help me build and run models without causing me to go into debt. Personally, I’m looking forward to the talks in the Infrastructure & Automation and the Kubernetes/Containers/Cloud Native Apps tracks.”

Here are just a few of the must-see cloud computing sessions:

As a kernel developer, Abbott gets excited when people talk about their future kernel work, especially when it involves the internals like the page cache or memory management. “I also love to see topics that talk about getting people involved in projects for the first time,” she said. “I’m also excited to see the Diversity Empowerment Summit and learning from the speakers there.”

You may wonder as we are moving toward the cloud native world, where everything is running in a cloud, does Linux even matter anymore? But, the fact is Linux is powering the cloud.

“Linux is what’s powering all those topics. When people say Linux. they’re usually referring to the complete platform from kernel to userspace libraries. You need a solid base to be able to run your application in the cloud. The entire community of Linux contributors enables today’s developers to work with the latest technologies,” said Abbott.

A few of the featured talks in the Linux Systems and Development track include:

Latest Trends

“DevOps is unsurprisingly a hot topic,” said Abbott. “There is a lot of focus on how to move towards newer best practices with projects like Kubernetes and how to best monitor your infrastructure. Blockchain technologies are a very hot topic. Some of this work is very forward looking but there’s a lot of interest in figuring out if blockchain can solve existing problems,” said Abbott.

That means OSSNA is the place to be if you are interested in emerging trends and technologies. “If you are looking to see what is coming next, or currently involved in Open Source, you should attend,” says Liles. “The venue is in a great location in Vancouver, so you can also take in the city between listening to your peers during talks or debating current trends during the hallway track,” said Liles.

Abbott concluded, “Anyone who is excited about Linux should attend. There’s people talking about such a wide variety of topics from kernel development to people management. There’s something for everyone.”

Sign up to receive updates on Open Source Summit North America:

Register for Open Source Summit by August 4 to save $150.

Here’s a sneak peek at why you need to be at Open Source Summit in Vancouver next month! But hurry – spots are going quickly. Secure your space and register by August 4 to save $150.

  1. Awesome content: 250+ sessions on Linux systems, cloud native development, cloud infrastructure, AI, blockchain and open source program management & community leadership.
  2. Deep Dive Labs & Tutorials: Including Hands-On with Cilium Network Security, Cloud-native Network Functions (CNF) Seminar, Istio Playground Lab, Practical Machine Learning Lab, First Tutorial on Container Orchestration plus many more – all included in one low registration price.
  3. 3. 9 Co-located Events: Linux Security Summit, OpenChain Summit, Acumos AI Developer Mini-Summit, Cloud & Container Apprentice Linux Engineer tutorials, CHAOSSCon and much more!
  4. Evening Events: Collaborate with fellow attendees at the Vancouver Aquarium and the onsite attendee reception.
  5. Activities: Take a break and go on a sightseeing bus tour, join the 5K fun run or morning meditation, meet with fellow attendees through the meet & eat experience or networking app, or play with puppies at the Puppy Pawlooza.
  6. Diversity Empowerment: Explore ways to advance diversity and inclusion in the community and across the technology industry by attending the Diversity Empowerment Summit & Better Together Diversity Social.
  7. Kids Day: Bring your kids and introduce them to the fun and magic of web design.
  8. Women in Open Source Lunch: Join women and non-binary members of the open source community for an engaging, uplifting lunch!
  9. Developer & Hallway Track Lounges: Lounges and reserved spaces for developers to hack and collaborate throughout the event.
  10. Networking Opportunities: Attend the Speed Networking & Mentoring event or use the networking app to expand your open source community connections by finding and meeting with attendees with similar interests.


Sign up to receive updates on Open Source Summit: 


Need help convincing your manager? Here’s a letter that can help you make the request to attend Open Source Summit.

Applications for diversity and needs-based scholarships are also being accepted. Get information on eligibility and how to apply. Free childcare is also available for attendees.