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Tag: artificial intelligence

China is driving the electric car

Tuesday, 10 October, 2017 0 Comments

“There is a powerful reason that automakers worldwide are speeding up their efforts to develop electric vehicles — and that reason is China.” So begins the story by @KeithBradsher in today’s New York Times. According to Bradsher, China feels it has little choice in pushing forward to an EV future. “While it is true that electric vehicles fit neatly into China’s plan to become the world leader in sci-fi technology like artificial intelligence, the country also fears a dark future — one where its cities remain cloaked in smog and it is beholden to foreign countries to sell it the oil it needs.”

China Hastens the World Toward an Electric-Car Future does not gloss over the many contradictions involved in the country’s drive for automotive independence. Nearly three-quarters of China’s power comes from coal, which emits more climate-changing gases than oil and, as Keith Bradsher puts it: “Even on electricity, China’s cars are still burning dirty.”

It’s a long road, comrades, as the Great Driver Helmsman would have said.


The gathering storm that is Industry 4.0

Thursday, 9 February, 2017 0 Comments

All our posts about machine learning this week have been prompted by a dramatic shift going on right now called “Industry 4.0.” In essence, this is the end-to-end digitization of all physical assets and their integration into digital ecosystems. Along with machine learning, Industry 4.0 buzzwords include connectivity, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, robots, self-driving cars gene editing and globalization.

The preceding industrial revolutions freed us from animal power, made mass production possible and opened digital doors for billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, is profoundly different in that its technologies are melding the physical, digital and biological worlds and forcing us to confront uncomfortable questions about work, identity and life itself.

The World Economic Forum, which is “committed to improving the state of the world,” produced this clip about Industry 4.0. It’s a positive view, overall, but it does not address the issue that’s roiling politics today: the conflict between the elites, who stand to gain from early access to the upsides of this transformation, and the precariat, which stands to lose the jobs that glue their communities together. More on this here tomorrow.


BMW Vision: selling miles, not cars

Tuesday, 15 November, 2016 0 Comments

How will cars function in the future? What role will cars play in the future? These are the questions BMW is dealing with today because tomorrow is just around the bend and the Bavarian auto maker wants to know if it should brake or accelerate. The idea that an autonomous car would drop you off at work, come back to pick you up in the evening, with all the shopping you ordered neatly arranged on the back seat, still sounds too far-fetched to most, but not to BMW’s engineers.

In their Vision Next 100 scenario, they envisage a world where artificial intelligence powers autonomous vehicles, where traffic jams and are eliminated and the accident rate is reduced to zero. In this increasingly urbanized world, autonomous ride-sharing will be the norm and 90 percent of today’s vehicles will no longer be needed on city streets. Of the current two million cars in New York City, only 200,000 will be needed, for example.

On the face of it, then, the future does not look bright for automobile manufacturers. Why make cars if people won’t need them? Cars will still be produced, of course, because the Ubers of tomorrow will want fleets of them, but it’s the business model that’s going to change. BMW will make its money from selling miles to passengers instead of selling cars to individual customers. Well, that’s how they see tomorrow’s world from the top floors of the BMW Hochhaus in Munich.

BMW


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Sunday, 2 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully,” is the popular variant of a famous quote by Dr Johnson. And the prospect of making a presentation on the topic of the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in early November means this blog will be focusing on all things i4.0 in the coming weeks. So let’s get going with some basic terminology:

  • The First Industrial Revolution: The steam engine freed people from relying on their own muscular strength or that of animals for manufacturing and transport.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution: Electricity powered spectacular improvements in productivity, innovation, comfort and well-being.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution: The microprocessor, the computer and the internet led to dramatic developments in efficiency, commerce and creativity.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The smartphone, the Internet of Things, 5G, genetic engineering, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, robotics, nanotechnology, machine learning… will affect how we live and work for the remainder of this century.

“Our ancestors could believe that their achievements had a chance of bearing up against the flow of events. We know time to be a hurricane. Our buildings, our sense of style, our ideas, all of these will soon enough be anachronisms, and the machines in which we now take inordinate pride will seem no less bathetic than Yorick’s skull.” — Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work


Westworld redux

Wednesday, 29 June, 2016 0 Comments

In 1973, the late, great Michael Crichton wrote and directed Westworld, a science fiction western-thriller about amusement park androids that malfunction and begin killing visitors. With stories about job-stealing robots and fears of rogue artificial intelligence reaching fever pitch, HBO has decided that what the world needs right now is an upgrade of Westworld. The story has been reengineered for our new century and this time round we’re expected to sympathize with the sentient bots enslaved by their scary creator, Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The first trailer contains hints of Ex Machina, Black Mirror, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park and Crichton’s original.

HBO blurb: “The one-hour drama series Westworld is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, it explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.”


comma.ai

Monday, 4 April, 2016 0 Comments

Given its name, one might think that a business titled “comma.ai” is working on a venture that combines punctuation and artificial intelligence. And the story gets more curious when one learns that it’s hiring “Competitors:”

Competitors: People who have done well at math competitions(USAMO, PUTNAM), competition programming(ACM, USACO, codejam, topcoder), science fairs(ISEF, STS), or capture the flag(DEFCON, secuinside, GITS). Those competitions don’t just select for ability, they also select for quickness. We are in a very competitive space.

comma The company slogan is “ghostriding for the masses”, which might be an obscure reference to punctuation, but it’s a nod to transport, in fact, because the brains behind this is George Hotz, a brilliant hacker, who has built his own self-driving car. He’s now forming a team of machine learning experts specializing in hardware, software and data, and Andreessen Horowitz announced today that it is leading a $3.1 million investment in Comma.ai.

Interestingly, it was on this day in 1994 that Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Netscape. Eight years later, it was acquired by AOL in a deal valued at $4.2 billion. Back then, it was all about the web. Today, the key words are mobile, data and AI. On 21 February, the startups investor Chris Dixon wrote a post on Medium titled “What’s Next in Computing?” Snippet:

“I tend to think we are on the cusp of not one but multiple new eras. The ‘peace dividend of the smartphone war’created a Cambrian explosion of new devices, and developments in software, especially AI, will make those devices smart and useful.”

Comma. Punctuation, is? interesting!


Chariot of Fire, Cloud of Data

Wednesday, 24 February, 2016 0 Comments

Now that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway, one wonders how/if contemporary artists will rise to the challenge of depicting the great changes that are coming. These changes might lead to the ending of drudgery or to the ending of privacy; they might lead to the printing of human organs or to mass production of sexbots… The threats and opportunities are bewildering and what makes the concept of Industry 4.0 so exciting is that where we’re going doesn’t have roads yet.

The First Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century saw the development of new manufacturing techniques, including steam power, and this had a huge impact on employment, output and living standards. But it was hugely disruptive and the English artist William Blake portrayed the downside in his poem Jerusalem:

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

As smoke and ash belched across hill and dale, the Romantic poets railed against what they say as the ruin of Eden, but the same William Blake, who memorably pictured the “dark Satanic mills”, also said: “Nature without man is barren.” In other words, we are responsible for this world and we must embrace change:

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

Blake ended his poem on a defiant note. Let’s see if our modern poets can craft anything as inspiring as Jerusalem while the Cloud unfolds:

I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Two hundred years ago, William Blake urged people to join the fight to build a better world. To arm himself and his readers for the spiritual revolution within the Industrial Revolution, he called for bow, arrow, spear, chariot of fire, passion and imagination. These were the tools for the task. Despite the smoke and flames from the mills, nature could be preserved, he said, but only if people had the will and the wit to save it. Today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution promises great benefits, but its agents, robotics and artificial intelligence, could trigger mass unemployment and social chaos. Do we have the will and wit to cope with that?


Gatsby and the robots

Wednesday, 26 August, 2015 0 Comments

“Belief in ‘the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us,’ as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, is a characteristic American trait.” So writes the seasoned pundit as he prepares his readers for a think pieces on… robots. Watch now how he deploys Gatsby:

“Is a yet more orgiastic future beckoning? Today’s Gatsbys have no doubt that the answer is yes: humanity stands on the verge of breakthroughs in information technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence that will dwarf what has been achieved in the past two centuries. Human beings will be able to live still more like gods because they are about to create machines like gods: not just strong and swift but also supremely intelligent and even self-creating.”

Gatsby But just in case the tech-optimism gets out of hand, our pundit reaches for Mary Shelley, creator of “the cautionary tale of Frankenstein”. Intelligent machines have a scary side and this could herald “great dangers,” such as “soaring unemployment and inequality.” Is this, then, our destiny? “The answer is no.” Hawking, Musk and Gates may be sounding the alarm bells but, “What we know for the moment is that there is nothing extraordinary in the changes we are now experiencing. We have been here before and on a much larger scale.”

Bottom line: “The future does not have to be a disappointment. But as Gatsby learned, it can all too easily be just that.” All this, and more, can be found in “Same as It Ever Was: Why the Techno-optimists Are Wrong” by Martin Wolf in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs. The article shows how useful Gatsby can be as an inspiration for, well, anything, including robots. The novel never gets tired.

Tomorrow, here, Jay Gatsby is sent to the front lines of the gender wars. Gays and feminists battle it out as they seek deeper meaning between the sheets, er, pages.


Text mining is the next fracking

Thursday, 5 February, 2015 0 Comments

Oren Etzioni, Executive Director of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, invites us to consider the following sentence: “The large ball crashed right through the table because it was made of Styrofoam.” What was made of Styrofoam, Etzioni asks? The large ball or the table? The answer is clearly ‘the table,’ but if we change ‘Styrofoam’ to ‘steel’, the answer is obviously ‘the large ball’. In other words, if we want computers to instantly answer this kind of question, they’ll need a massive corpus of knowledge and Oren Etzioni believes that they’ll get it from text mining. Listen up.

Might text mining lead us down the road to the beloved Star Trek universal translator? It would be more socially acceptable than the ear-insertable Babel Fish imagined by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Utopians say that by removing language barriers world peace would become a near certainty. But beware, in his comedy science fiction series, Adams warns that perfect understanding of language would cause “more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”


Machines Of Loving Grace

Monday, 2 February, 2015 0 Comments

Here at Rainy Day, it’s going to be a week of robots, which may become remorseless killing machines, but which are helping children suffering from autism. We will also be looking at artificial intelligence, which Elon Musk and Bill Gates are worried about. Yes, AI might steal all our jobs, but it will also have a positive impact in healthcare, Ava given its ability to analyze massive amounts of genomic data, leading to more accurate diagnoses and treatments on a personalized level.

To get us in the mood, here is All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace by Richard Brautigan, whose characters pine for a Utopia free from technology, yet use the latest innovations to achieve their goals. Sounds familiar, that.

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Richard Brautigan (1935 — 1984)

Ex Machina