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AI

The rise and rise of the femme bots

Wednesday, 22 February, 2017 0 Comments

Joanna Stern, writing in The Wall Street Journal: Alexa, Siri, Cortana: The Problem With All-Female Digital Assistants. Snippet:

“You get the point: The virtual assistants popping up in our lives sound overwhelmingly female. ‘I’m female in character,’ Amazon’s Alexa responds if you ask her if she is a woman. In their own clever ways Google, Apple and Microsoft’s voice assistants will tell you they’re genderless…in unmistakably womanlike voices.

As femme bot after femme bot has invaded our phones , speakers, cars, TVs — even our refrigerators — I’ve been left wondering: Where the man bots at? And why do these hunks of plastic and electronics need to be assigned a gender at all? My Amazon Echo doesn’t have any reproductive organs.”

Apple’s Siri, by the way, is the only one of this bunch of bots with a male voice option: “Siri may default to a female voice in the U.S. but Apple provides both male and female voice options for iPhone and iPad users to choose from. In fact, on iPhones where the language is Arabic, French, Dutch or British English, Siri defaults to a male voice.”

Men and women may prefer female voices for their digital assistants, @WSJ writes, but adds, “it’s about time we had more male options.”


@HumanVsMachine

Monday, 13 February, 2017 0 Comments

Hardly a week goes by without some “expert” or other predicting that by, say, 2020, millions and millions of jobs will be lost in developed economies due to robotics, AI, cloud computing, 3D printing, machine learning and related technologies. Hardest hit will be people doing office and factory work, but other sectors, from trucking to healthcare, will be affected “going forward,” as lovers of business cliché love to say.

The Twitter feed @HumanVSMachine features images showing the increasing automation of work. The footage of people doing a job side-by-side with videos of robots doing the same thing suggests a sombre future of post-human work.

Philippe Chabot from Montreal is the human behind @HumanVSMachine. He was a graphic artist in the video industry and he had plenty of work, once upon a time. But companies began outsourcing their artwork and Chabot found himself competing a globalized market where rivals can create a logo for $5 and software automatically designs avatars. Today, Philippe Chabot works in a restaurant kitchen and he feeds @HumanVSMachine in his free time.

Note: This image of “Robot Baby Feeder; Robot, baby bottle, crib, toy” by Philipp Schmitt is included in the “Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine” exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein in Germany.

Raising robot


RAISR Sharp Images with Machine Learning

Monday, 6 February, 2017 0 Comments

Rapid and Accurate Image Super-Resolution is a bit of a mouthful so we should welcome the acronym: RAISR. What it means is that machine learning is used to sharpen low-resolution images. Google, which provided the headline for this post, claims that RAISR is so fast that the process can run in real-time on a mobile device. Nerds love this kind of thing, but photographers should be pleased as well because RAISR can avoid aliasing artifacts in the final image, even when artifacts exist in the low-resolution original.

RAISR

Note: Google says it will expand RAISR beyond Android over the coming months and in his recent post on the future of phones, Mobile 2.0, Benedict Evans pointed out the role machine learning will play in the coming changes…

“Web 2.0 was followed not by anything one could call 3.0 but rather a basic platform shift, as the iPhone triggered the move from desktop to mobile as the centre of tech. AirPods, Spectacles, watches and Alexa also reflect or perhaps prefigure platform shifts. In some of them, on one hand, one can see the rise of machine learning as a fundamental new enabling technology, and in some, on the other hand, more and more miniaturisation and optimisation of computing. I think one can see quite a lot of hardware building blocks for augmented reality glasses in some of Apple’s latest little devices, and AR does seem like it could be the next multi-touch, while of course machine learning is also part of that, as computer vision and voice recognition.”


Learning Machine Learning

Sunday, 5 February, 2017 0 Comments

True story: A player named Libratus sat down at a poker table in a high-stakes game of no-limit Texas Hold’em. The gruelling 20-day tournament ended a week ago in a dramatic victory for Libratus over four of the world’s top players. Libratus is no cigar-smoking dandy cowboy, however. It’s an artificial intelligence (AI).

Machines are getting smarter, and AI is entering society in all kinds of intriguing and disturbing way. But who creates these machine-learning programs and who writes the algorithms that produce everything from stock market predictions to data journalism to poker-winning strategies? It’s time we found out and it’s time to learn how to do it ourselves. But how and where and when?

The ScienceAlert Academy is offering a 73.5-hour course titled “The Complete Machine Learning Bundle” for $39. This is the kind of immersion in the stuff you’ll need to plan a career or take your hobby to the next level. The package contains 10 different courses, including “Hadoop & MapReduce for Big Data Problems” and “From 0 to 1: Learn Python Programming – Easy as Pie”.

AI


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


Aladdin: They call it Collective Intelligence

Monday, 24 October, 2016 0 Comments

With $4.89 trillion in its care, BlackRock is by far the world’s largest asset manager. The platform that unites all the BlackRock information, people and technology needed to handle all that money in real time is called Aladdin. “BlackRock wouldn’t be BlackRock without it,” the company says. While must of us are distracted by things that don’t really matter, this Skynet candidate continues to increase its intelligence.


#FutureofAI

Monday, 17 October, 2016 0 Comments

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will host the Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh to imagine the USA and the world in 50 years and beyond. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a growing role in this world and the White House has released a pre-conference report on considerations for AI called “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence” (PDF 1.1MB). The report looks at the state of AI, its existing and potential uses — data science, machine learning, automation, robotics — and the questions that it raises for society and policy. Snippet:

“Fairness, Safety, and Governance: As AI technologies gain broader deployment, technical experts and policy analysts have raised concerns about unintended consequences. The use of AI to make consequential decisions about people, often replacing decisions made by human actors and institutions, leads to concerns about how to ensure justice, fairness, and accountability—the same concerns voiced previously in the ‘Big Data’ context. The use of AI to control physical-world equipment leads to concerns about safety, especially as systems are exposed to the full complexity of the human environment.”


HI+AI

Sunday, 16 October, 2016 0 Comments

“An axe or a hammer is a passive extension of a hand, but a drone forms a distributed intelligence along with its operator, and is closer to a dog or horse than a device.” So says Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel, which aims to develop biomedically engineered devices linked our central nervous system to restore and enhance human cognitive, motor and sensory abilities. In a word: neuroprosthetics.

“The combination of human and artificial intelligence will define humanity’s future” declares Johnson an article for TechCrunch that examines the interplay of artificial intelligence (AI) and human intelligence (HI). He argues that humanity has arrived at the border of intelligence enhancement, “which could be the most consequential technological development of our time, and in history.” Once we head into new country, the result could be people who need never need worry about forgetfulness again, or suffer the degradations of ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Johnson is very much on the side of the Valley evangelists, but he feels obliged to add what has become the mandatory cautionary note:

“It is certainly true that with every new technology we create, new risks emerge that need thoughtful consideration and wise action. Medical advances that saved lives also made germ warfare possible; chemical engineering led to fertilizers and increased food production but also to chemical warfare. Nuclear fission created a new source of energy but also led to nuclear bombs.”

Despite mankind’s inherent wickedness, Bryan Johnson does not fear the future and warns against using “a fear-based narrative” as the main structure for discussing HI+AI. This would limit the imagination and curiosity that are at the core of being human.

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror,” said Oscar Wilde, who was born on this day in 1864 at 21 Westland Row in Dublin.


Computer vision needed

Sunday, 9 October, 2016 0 Comments

So, this company is looking for a software engineer with the “Computer Vision” thing because “The core of our system is the computer vision algorithms that allow drones to understand the world around them.” The daily routine means the engineer will “Design and implement real-time estimation, mapping, tracking, classification, and detection algorithms.” What kind of experience is required for such work? “Hands-on experience with visual odometry, mapping and SLAM; Proficiency with probabilistic inference and 3d geometry, and Deep Learning — training data, neural networks, online learning.”

The company is Skydio, which is developing autonomous, affordable drones. Depending on how one sees this kind of thing, and whether one wishes to be classed as a Luddite or a technophile, we’re heading towards an AI future that’s either a science fiction film or a horror movie. Having a sense of humour will protect us, however.


Allo, Allo, Allo: Productivity vs. Privacy vs. Pizza

Wednesday, 5 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The last 10 years have been about building a world that is mobile-first, turning our phones into remote controls for our lives. But in the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first, a world where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go —and interacting with all of these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.” Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, yesterday.

The occasion was the announcement of the gorgeous new Pixel phone with its in-built artificial intelligence assistant. But there’s a price to be paid for the beauty and the smarts because AI will enable tech companies to gather even more information about us, and our data will be less protected than ever.

Allo, Allo, Allo

Google’s AI apprentice, which beavers busily inside the new messaging app Allo, will answer questions about sports, the weather, or for directions to the nearest café. Pichai pointed out yesterday that this is just the beginning. Google’s AI will learn about our preferences to better present personalized results and to answer more specific questions. It will get smarter, faster and more accurate every day. It will never rest.

Pixel To do this, it will gather data, endlessly. The places you visit, the foods you prefer, your thoughts about Trump will be collected. It can do this only by accessing all the information on everything stored on the phone, and it can also access “content on your screen”. To provide more accurate recommendations, the AI must gather and analyse our data, but for this to happen, our messages need to be unencrypted. Yes, Google offers best-of-breed encryption within Allo, but if you turn on encryption, you turn off the AI.

Here’s the reality: to stay competitive, the tech giants will have to provide AI-powered assistants. This is an arms race and the choice is fight or flight. Facebook’s Messenger also has opt-in encryption that’s regarded as the gold standard, but if users want to call an Uber from within the app, their messages have to be unencrypted.

AI is fun. But it’s also serious because it’s a potential revenue stream that will only flow if it’s filled with data. Investors in Google and Facebook know that an assistant that presents sponsored results when someone asks it to order that Pepperoni Feast could be huge for Alphabet and Domino’s. Yes, they offer people serious options to protect their data, but that means going without the sorcerer’s apprentice. Tech is betting that productivity and pizza, not privacy, will win.


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