Tag: AI

Stephen Wolfram speaks about the next language

Friday, 11 March, 2016 1 Comment

“From the point of view of the thousand years ago, some of the purposes that people have today, some of the things people do today would seem utterly bizarre, like a walking on the treadmill. Imagine 1000 years ago saying somebody’s going to spend an hour walking on a treadmill. What a crazy thing to do. Why would one ever do that?”

Stephen Wolfram, scientist, inventor, author and entrepreneur talks to Edge about artificial intelligence, language, code and the future of civilization.

Quote: “When it comes to describing more sophisticated things, the kinds of things that people build big programs to do, we don’t have a good way to describe those things with human natural language. But we can build languages that do describe that.”


AlphaGo wins again

Thursday, 10 March, 2016 0 Comments

Hacker News: “It’s both exciting and eerie. It’s like another intelligent species opening up a new way of looking at the world (at least for this very specific domain). and much to our surprise, it’s a new way that’s more powerful than ours.” The second round of the man vs. machine Go game between the South Korean champion Lee Sedol and AlphaGo amazed even the most enthusiastic artificial intelligence (AI) enthusiasts. “Hard for us to believe. AlphaGo played some beautiful creative moves in this game,” tweeted Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of Deep Mind, which is now part of Google. After four hours, Lee Sedol conceded, much to the dismay of those who had assumed Go is too complicated to be played expertly by a computer. AI is getting better, faster.

Hacker News: “When I was learning to play Go as a teenager in China, I followed a fairly standard, classical learning path. First I learned the rules, then progressively I learn the more abstract theories and tactics. Many of these theories, as I see them now, draw analogies from the physical world, and are used as tools to hide the underlying complexity (chunking), and enable the players to think at a higher level.

For example, we’re taught of considering connected stones as one unit, and give this one unit attributes like dead, alive, strong, weak, projecting influence in the surrounding areas. In other words, much like a standalone army unit.

These abstractions all made a lot of sense, and feels natural, and certainly helps game play — no player can consider the dozens (sometimes over 100) stones all as individuals and come up with a coherent game play. Chunking is such a natural and useful way of thinking.

But watching AlphaGo, I am not sure that’s how it thinks of the game. Maybe it simply doesn’t do chunking at all, or maybe it does chunking its own way, not influenced by the physical world as we humans invariably do. AlphaGo’s moves are sometimes strange, and couldn’t be explained by the way humans chunk the game.
It’s both exciting and eerie. It’s like another intelligent species opening up a new way of looking at the world (at least for this very specific domain). and much to our surprise, it’s a new way that’s more powerful than ours.”

Background: With more variations than chess, Go is a strategic game that can be played only by pairs of players. It originated in China in the 4th century BC and is said to foster discipline and concentration. It is especially popular in Korean and Japan, where an estimated 10 million Go players take part in competitions.


Oscar ex machina

Monday, 29 February, 2016 0 Comments

Congratulations to the Ex Machina team for bagging the 2016 Oscar for Best Visual Effects. A relatively low-key film about AI (Artificial Intelligence), it was overshadowed at the Academy Awards by Star Wars, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and The Revenant, but the bigger budgets and more spectacular visuals of the more famous names came up short.

The cliché rules when it comes to AI, so we should be grateful that Alex Garland’s film is more imaginative and less lazy about the subject. In the movie, Google becomes Bluebook, a nod to Wittgenstein’s notes on language games. Bluebook was founded by a tech genius called Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who retreats from Silicon Valley to create Ava (Alicia Vikander), a consciously erotic humanoid robot. The drama begins when Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young Bluebook programmer, arrives after having won a company lottery, and it’s his job to subject Ava to the Turing test. Thanks to the hot London visual effects company, Double Negative, Garland’s humanoids are irresistible and it’s only a matter of time before love and hate and murder are in the air. But there’s humour, too. This is one of our favourite scenes.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander was superb in Ex Machina and her acting was rewarded last night when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Tom Hooper’s transgender drama The Danish Girl.


Watching Watson emote with redundant robots

Saturday, 27 February, 2016 0 Comments

Hollywood has become rather fond of depicting robots and artificial intelligence as threats to humanity and that’s not good for the image of the computing industry. Too much dystopia and people might begin to fear the machines. Time, then, for a spot of conviviality where people interact with the technology that will soon be bossing business, and that’s why IBM will present two ads starring its Watson cognitive computing system during the Academy Awards show.

In this clip we see Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher leading a support group for outmoded robots upset at being replaced by newer technology. She invites Watson to help them confront their anxieties and he tells them he’s a computing system that works with humans. But the “traditional” robots say they’re not interested in working with people and opt for a coffee break instead. Humour is not an easy thing to do at the best of times and it’s especially difficult for humans to make robots funny.

#OscarsSoRobotic: The bots in the Watson clip will be live-tweeting during the Oscars.


Minsky and Mozart

Wednesday, 27 January, 2016 1 Comment

In a blog post tilted Farewell, Marvin Minsky (1927 – 2016), Stephen Wolfram, Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, pays tribute to the American pioneer of artificial intelligence and co-founder of the AI Lab at MIT, who died on Sunday. Snippet:

“Marvin immediately launched into talking about how programming languages are the only ones that people are expected to learn to write before they can read. He said he’d been trying to convince Seymour Papert that the best way to teach programming was to start by showing people good code. He gave the example of teaching music by giving people Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and asking them to transpose it to a different rhythm and see what bugs occur. (Marvin was a long-time enthusiast of classical music.)”

RIP, Marvin Minsky, genius and trailblazer of advances in mathematics, computational linguistics, optics and robotics. Apropos Minsky’s genius and love of classical music, as the world knows, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major) is a famous chamber ensemble composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and today happens to be his birthday. Happy 260th, dear Mozart!


Werner Herzog’s Reveries Of The Connected World

Thursday, 21 January, 2016 0 Comments

Born in Munich in 1942, amid falling Allied bombs, Werner Stipetić was taken for safety by his mother to the remote Bavarian village of Sachrang in the Alps. They moved back to Munich in 1954 and Werner adopted his absconded father’s surname Herzog (German for “duke”), which he felt sounded more impressive for a would-be filmmaker.

Today, Werner Herzog is considered one of the great figures of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta. In 1996, he moved to Los Angeles, where he lives with the photographer Elena Pisetski, now Lena Herzog.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off today beneath the snow-capped mountains of Park City in Utah, Herzog’s latest work, Lo And Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, will be premeiered.

Blurb: “Society depends on the Internet for nearly everything but rarely do we step back and recognize its endless intricacies and unsettling omnipotence. From the brilliant mind of Werner Herzog comes his newest vehicle for exploration, a playful yet chilling examination of our rapidly interconnecting online lives.

Herzog documents a treasure trove of interviews of strange and beguiling individuals — ranging from Internet pioneers to victims of wireless radiation, whose anecdotes and reflections weave together a complex portrait of our brave new world. Herzog describes the Internet as ‘one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing,’ and yet he tempers this enthusiasm with horror stories from victims of online harassment and Internet addiction.

For all of its detailed analysis, this documentary also wrestles with profound and intangible questions regarding the Internet’s future. Will it dream, as humans do, of its own existence? Can it discover the fundamentals of morality, or perhaps one day understand the meaning of love? Or will it soon cause us — if it hasn’t already — more harm than good?”


The debate on robots and AI illustrated

Monday, 18 January, 2016 0 Comments

There is little, journalistically or ideologically, that unites Britain’s Spectator and Germany’s Zeit, apart from the fact that both are weeklies. And yet, when it comes to their coverage of the digital economy one does detect a certain visual agreement.

The Spectator

Die Zeit


I, for one, welcome our old meme overlords to 2016

Monday, 4 January, 2016 0 Comments

Back in July 1977, a film adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi horror story Empire of the Ants, was released. Joan Collins reacts to the ant threat at one point in the movie by declaring, “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.” And, thus, a meme was born, and it has proved more enduring than those mutated insects were in the world of Wells.

Example: Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published “Biggest technology trends to watch for at CES 2016 in Las Vegas” by Shane Dingman. Snippet:

Bonus category: Next Christmas’s ‘hoverboard’ replacement: These days, convention-goers have been banned from using them on the show floor, but there are another clutch of personal transportation devices ready to get hot for a holiday season. I, for one, welcome our next hip-breaking, head cracking, self-immolating wheelie-gigs.”

The “I, for one, welcome our our new X overlords” phrase survives because it is as flexible as the Formicidae family. It can be used used to express mock submission to an obsessively controlling person, or to suggest that a group or thing is powerful enough to rule over humanity. So, both the rise of the robots and the fear of AI have given it new legs, as it were. It even transcends language barriers.


Time passes, love fades and Dylan meets Big Data

Wednesday, 30 December, 2015 0 Comments

Although he’s a poet and a philosopher, Bob Dylan is not so ivory-tower that he scorns advertising, especially if it helps the Bob Dylan business. Back in 2004, he appeared in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. In 2008 he did ads for Cadillac, and in 2009 he partnered with will.i.am for a Pepsi spot that aired during the Super Bowl. In October, IBM pulled off quite a coup when it coaxed Dylan into appearing in a commercial for its artificial intelligence software Watson. “I can read 800 million pages per second. My analysis shows your major themes are time passes and love fades,” Watson tells Dylan as the two riff on a song idea.

According to IBM, five Watson services analyzed 320 songs from Dylan’s archive and came up with the key trends of time passing and love fading. The message of the ad is that Watson not only thinks but learns about a topic. Among those topics are Big Data, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of which will be major themes here on Rainy Day in 2016.

The IoT is about connecting devices to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from phones to washing machines to wearables and almost anything else you can think of. The concept also covers machine components such as an airplane engine or the drill of an oil rig. According to Gartner, more than 20 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.


Dei ex machina

Thursday, 14 May, 2015 0 Comments

Speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London on Tuesday, the famed physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking had this to say: “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.” In its report, Geek.com illustrated Hawking’s prediction with a terrifying Terminator image. As the world knows, Hawking signed an open letter alongside Elon Musk earlier this year warning that Artificial Intelligence (AI) development should not go on uncontrolled, and guess which image The Independent uses today to highlight a story about Musk and his AI concerns? That’s right, the Terminator.

The cliché rules when it comes to AI it seems. We should be grateful, then, that Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is more imaginative and less lazy about the subject. The
film takes an adult approach to AI (full frontal nudity included) and explores ethics, consciousness, sexuality and search engines in its quest for answers.

In the film, Google becomes Bluebook, a nod to Wittgenstein’s notes on language games. Bluebook was founded by a tech genius called Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who retreats from Silicon Valley to create Ava (Alicia Vikander), a consciously erotic humanoid robot. The fun begins when a young Bluebook programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives after having won a company lottery and it’s his job to subject Ava to the Turing test. Thanks to the hot London visual effects company, Double Negative, Alex Garland’s humanoids are irresistible and it’s only a matter of time before love and hate and murder are in the air. But there’s humour, too. This is one of our favourite scenes.


Working with Beansprock and SAFFiR

Friday, 6 February, 2015 0 Comments

As we come to the end of our week of looking at developments in the emerging robotics/AI area, all signs indicate that the subject is moving from the technology pages to the mainstream. A sample of today’s headlines from Al Jazeera, Slate and Reuters: Hotel staffed by robots to open in Japan, Automated journalism is no longer science fiction, China to have most robots in world by 2017, an on and on and on.

Where is all this taking us? Well, take a look at Beansprock, a machine learning-based job search platform. Slogan: “Our artificial intelligence evaluates thousands of new tech jobs while you sleep and emails you only the best one.” When it knows a user’s skills, Beansprock can then predict which jobs are a match and which ones are not. The focus is on the tech industry in San Francisco, Boston and New York, and the company claims that it’s processing tens of thousands of job postings every day. Long term, the founders hope to expand the platform to include non-technical jobs.

Another example: “It’s what we call the hybrid force: humans and robots working together.” The person being quoted there by The Verge is the program manager at the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research. Thomas McKenna was speaking at the unveiling of the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR). What can it can that humans cannot? Well, it’s loaded with sensors such as infrared stereo-vision and laser light detectors, which enable it to find its target through thick smoke. The creators imagine a future where human-robot hybrid teams will work together as first responders when fires break out. This, then, is the near future. It’s a world where robotics and AI will be working for us and with us.