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Tag: AI

Intelligence: artificial and emotional

Thursday, 4 August, 2016 0 Comments

This short clip about an AI unit that is “anything but artificial” is the the creation of Dennis Sung Min Kim. He describes it as a “First year film at the University of Pennsylvania, taking around ten months for completion.”

Empathy has been termed the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. In his best-selling book Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty, Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, writes:

“It allows us to tune into how someone else is feeling, or what they might be thinking. Empathy allows us to understand the intentions of others, predict their behavior, and experience an emotion triggered by their emotion. In short, empathy allows us to interact effectively in the social world. It is also the ‘glue’ of the social world, drawing us to help others and stopping us from hurting others.”

Simon Baron-Cohen? Yes, he is the cousin is the actor Sacha Baron Cohen. Why no hyphen in the latter name, but one in the former? It’s because of a typographical error in Simon Baron-Cohen’s first professional article. He didn’t correct the publisher’s misspelling, but he did adopt the punctuation mark.


The Robolution federator

Tuesday, 2 August, 2016 0 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s upgrading of English vocabulary is a regular theme here and the prospect of public presentations on the subject in October and November is concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. We’ve had some gems recently and more are to come. Central to the revolutionary stuff going on right now is robotics.

Definition: “Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots, as well as the computer systems for their control, feedback and data processing.”

If you create an €80 million private equity fund dedicated to robotics, you’re going to need a name for the venture; one that combines the essence of the business with its revolutionary role in 21st-century industry, ideally. Robolution The result is… Robolution. Or, more precisely, Robolution Capital. But there’s something slightly unmelodious about the word “Robolution,” with its hints of ablution and absolution. Sure, it’s an attempt to capture an element of “revolution,” but the “robo” bit at the front doesn’t quite make a harmonius unit, does it? Perhaps it sounds better in French because Robolution Capital is based in Paris.

Along with robotics, Robolution Capital is focussing on artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), two very hot areas right now, and this is why it defines itself as a facilitator, an accelerator and “a federator at the heart of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, corporates, public organizations, universities and research centers.” What’s a federator? The usually indefatigable Wiktionary does not have an entry for the word and Techopedia offers “Federation” from the world of enterprise architecture that allows interoperability. The word, however, is a version of fédérateur, the French noun that means “unifier.” And with its philosophy and its focus on robotics, AI and the IoT, Robolution is true federator.

News: 360 Capital Partners, an early-stage VC business based in Milan and Paris has just done a deal with Orkos Capital, also based in Paris, to manage Robolution Capital.


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.”


Will we create a new class of robot slaves?

Tuesday, 28 June, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Joi Ito, the Japanese entrepreneur, venture capitalist, academic and Director of the MIT Media Lab. Ito is concerned that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies might create a “productivity abundance” that would end the the financial need to work. On the face of it, this should not be a cause of great concern, given that many people hate their jobs. But there’s more to work than labour, Ito argues. It confers social status and gives a purpose. The solution? Disassociate the notion of work from productivity. The role model? Periclean Athens, which Ito terms “a moral society where people didn’t need to work to be engaged and productive.” In a post titled The Future of Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Ito asks:

“Could we image a new age where our self-esteem and shared societal value is not associated with financial success or work as we know it?… A good first step would be to begin work on our culture alongside our advances in technology and financial innovations so that the future looks more like Periclean Athens than a world of disengaged kids with nothing to do. If it was the moral values and virtues that allowed Periclean Athens to function, how might we develop them in time for a world without work as we currently know it?”

To his credit, Ito appends this note to his suggestion: “There were many slaves in Periclean Athens. For the future machine age, will be need to be concerned about the rights of machines? Will we be creating a new class of robot slaves?”

We looked at that very issue in our Monday post here: When will the e-people be allowed to vote?


Meet Sophia, the mechasexual robot

Monday, 6 June, 2016 0 Comments

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics has a daring goal: “We aim to bring-to-market the most compelling and engaging humanlike robots with greater-than-human wisdom, that are capable of developing a deep, trusted relationship with people.” The company’s mission is nothing less than “to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and compassion, achieved through millions of dialogs between our robots and the people whose lives they touch.”

Sophia is a Hanson robot and here she “dialogs” with Joanna Stern and Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. Does she prefer Mac to Windows? Android over iPhone? And, the big one: What does she think of Donald Trump?

Mechasexual: (1) Romantic and/or sexual attraction or behaviour between robots, androids or sentient machines. (2) The desire to have sexual relations with a sentient machine.


Playground: The next Big Thing, again

Friday, 15 April, 2016 0 Comments

The history of computing over the past four decades shows that a new platform emerges roughly every 12 years or so:

So, what’s next? Artificial intelligence as a service. Andy Rubin has created Playground, which aims to create a manufacturing and development platform for AI-equipped devices. Playground will build a common infrastructure for these, just as Windows did for PCs and Android did for smartphones. It’s all about the device, not the network:

“At this point, that big, big idea may sound familiar. For the past several years, technol­ogists have heralded the dawn of the Internet of Things — networked thermostats, lightbulbs, refrigerators, and other gizmos that talk to one another. Companies like Google, Apple, and Samsung have all built proprietary ecosystems to enable that communication and are racing to convince manufacturers to build products for them. But Rubin says they have it backward; ecosystems arise to support popular products, not the other way around. Play­ground’s first step is to provide startups with the tech­nology to build new devices; the network will emerge later.”

That’s a quote from “Andy Rubin Unleashed Android on the World. Now Watch Him Do The Same With AI,” which appeared in the March issue of Wired. Earlier this week, John Battelle expanded on Jason Tanz’s article in a NewCo piece titled “Android’s Founder Wants To Give The Internet A Body.” Now that house prices in San Francisco have fallen for the first time in four years, one gets the feeling that the search for the Next Big Thing is taking on a new urgency around the Bay Area.

Playground


The bots of F8

Tuesday, 12 April, 2016 0 Comments

Facebook’s F8 developer conference takes place today and tomorrow in San Francisco, and while Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t revealed what he’ll be revealing during the two-day event, there’s been a lot of buzz around bots. Specifically, chatbots within Facebook Messenger. At last year’s F8, Facebook presented its Messenger service, which gives developers access to a platform with more than 900 million users and the word on the street is that today we’ll see Facebook launch new APIs to bring chatbots into Messenger.

Bots are being touted as the new apps and Facebook’s anticipated move is designed to make up on ground lost to Telegram, Kik, WeChat and Slack. They’re all racing ahead with bot research. Google is rumoured to be working on a messaging-based chat bot and Microsoft, which is still recovering from the Tay meltdown, is incorporating the AI technology via Skype in the shape of video bots. Future slogan: “There’s a bot for that!”


#IoTDay today and the glass is filling

Saturday, 9 April, 2016 0 Comments

It’s the fifth annual Internet of Things Day today. In a much-quoted report about the IoT issued in November last year, the Gartner research firm predicted that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

These are astonishing numbers and they reinforce the notion that the internet is ubiquitous. Blake Snow considers the implications of this in The Atlantic in a piece titled What Would a World Without Internet Look Like? He quotes the academic Clay Shirky, who thinks that it’s futile now to separate the net from everyday life: “the Internet has become our civilization,” says Shirky.

This is a philosophy that would be endorsed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. Two years ago, in a post on Medium, he looked at innovation from the viewpoints of 1984 and 2044, and concluded: “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.”

Glass There is, however, a different take on the IoT and it was expressed, also in 2014, by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, in “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.” This long-form composition was in the style of his 2005 book Shaping Things. For Sterling, the IoT is an ominous social transformation: omnipresent automation via digital surveillance enabled by wireless broadband. Snippet:

“So, let’s imagine that the reader has a smartphone in one hand, as most people in the Twenty-Teens most definitely tend to. In the other hand, the reader has some ‘Thing’. Let’s say it’s the handle of his old-fashioned domestic vacuum cleaner, which is a relic of yesterday’s standard consumer economy.

As he cheerfully vacuums his home carpet while also checking his Facebook prompts, because the chore of vacuuming is really boring, the reader naturally thinks: ‘Why are these two objects in my two hands living in such separate worlds? In my left hand I have my wonderfully advanced phone with Facebook — that’s the ‘internet’. But in my right hand I have this noisy, old-fashioned, ineffective, analogue ‘thing’! For my own convenience as a customer and consumer, why can’t the ‘internet’ and this ‘thing’ be combined?”

And then it turns pessimistic. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a Happy #IoTDay! 🙂


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!


A week in AI: Tay goes rogue and HAL revives

Saturday, 26 March, 2016 1 Comment

Less than a day after she joined Twitter, Tay, Microsoft’s colourful Artificial Intelligence bot, was taken down this week for becoming a Hitler-loving, feminist-bashing, racist monster. Machine learning software, clearly, is not ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, at the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, Helen Bear, a computer scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and her colleague Richard Harvey, presented a lip-reading algorithm that improves a computer’s ability to differentiate between sounds — such as p, b and m — that all look similar on lips. Machine learning software that reliably reads lips could be used to solve crime; it could help people who go deaf later in life, and it could also be used for better film dubbing. What’s not to like? Wait, did someone say HAL?

In Stanley Kubrick’s superb 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000 is an artificial general intelligence computer that manages the Discovery One spacecraft mission, but when astronauts Bowman and Poole realize that it has made a mistake they go into a pod to discuss what to do. They turn off the communications systems and test that HAL doesn’t follow their orders to make sure it isn’t listening to them. HAL is watching through the pod window, however, and reads their lips. The results are fatal and some have come to interpret this as a warning about the potential of AI to go rogue. Like Tay did.


AlphaGo was yesterday, Boston Dynamics is today

Friday, 18 March, 2016 0 Comments

How fickle these times are. How quickly glory fades and how rapidly doubt steps into its shoes. For example: Google was being deluged with praise last week after AlphaGo won the DeepMind Challenge against the champion Lee Sedol. Suddenly, the scary concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was, well, less scary and Google got lots of love. How short our attention span is, however.

Yesterday, Bloomberg rattled the rosy future with the headline, “Google Puts Boston Dynamics Up for Sale in Robotics Retreat.” The talk on the street was of the inability of Boston Dynamics to produce marketable robots anytime soon. Hence the reported “For Sale” sign. But there’s another aspect to the story, one which relates to the scary AI scenario. Boston Dynamics posted a humanoid robotics video on YouTube last month that made many people uneasy and the mother company, Alphabet, sensing another Google Glass moment, perhaps, began to count the negative publicity cost. Bloomberg quoted from e-mails published on an internal online forum that were visible to all Google employees:

“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X. Hohne asked her colleagues to “distance X from this video,” and wrote, “we don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google.”

After the match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, the scoreline read: Machines, 4, Humanity, 1. With Google’s retreat from robots, some would says it’s now Machines, 4, Humanity, 2. But that will probably change next week. This is a fast-paced game and the job-eating robots are advancing, despite the headlines.