Let’s play with an actual Machine Learning algorithm
FEBRUARY 13th – ISSUE #8
NEWS FOR SMART DATA-DRIVEN AUGMENTED CREATIVE PEOPLE
This week’s news comes live from the www.aaai.org conference for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence held in San Francisco where I got to meet some of the AI world’s rock stars – Ray Kurzweil (see the photo of us below), the legendary futurist, founder of Singularity U, and Google’s Director of Engineering; Sebastian Thrun, Director of the AI Lab at Stanford; Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research; and Gary Marcus, noted NYU psychology author and now Founder of Uber’s AI Labs. Quite a crew!
The event was held at the Hilton Hotel which is in the historic Tenderloin district, which, if you’ve ever been to SF, you’ll know is a highly problematic and confronting part of town. Coincidentally, Wired Magazine ran a lengthy piece about it just this week. If you know SF you’ll be interested in the Wired piece here (their head office is a few blocks away), but otherwise let’s get on with this week’s news…
As Always, Change the World! Brendan Harkin
Love this? Share it:
Forwarded this from a friend? Join the X Media Lab newsletter.
“We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about” Google’s Eric Schmidt.
With theatre attendance at a two-decade low and profits dwindling, the kind of disruption that hit music, publishing, and other industries is already reshaping the entertainment business. From A.I. Aaron Sorkin to C.G.I. actors to algorithmic editing, Vanity Fair investigates what lies ahead. A lot of the disruption underway in Hollywood is being driven by Big Data. This week’s episode of the excellent Raw Data podcast takes a deep dive into the ways that companies like Netflix and Amazon are mounting a threat to traditional studio powerhouses (Disney, Sony, etc) and the “perfect storm” of tech forces hitting Hollywood. For more insight on exactly how Netflix is using customer data, they talk with the Director of Content Science and Algorithms.
In thinking through the future of AI, it is useful to consider fiction, especially science fiction. From Frankenstein’s monster and Hoffmann’s automata to Skynet and Ex Machina, fiction writers have raised concerns about destruction that could perhaps be unleashed on humanity by the autonomy we confer on our technological creations. Ethical considerations cannot be bolted on afterwards. Outstanding research paper on Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence Courses. (Also, see the Cyborg Bill of Rights below).
When Scandinavian engineers launched their crowdfunding campaign for “No More Woof” in December 2013, they talked a good game. They would build a wearable gadget that you could slip onto your dog’s head, which would read its doggy brainwaves and translate its mental state into human language.It may not shock you, savvy reader, to learn that the campaign never delivered – The story of No More Woof (if I want to know my dog’s mental state, I’d just ask it).
Artificial intelligence, in all its variants has captured public imagination, dominated media coverage, and driven furious volumes of investment and acquisition activity. In the midst of this hype cycle, spotting the difference between phony wannabes and true investments can be a challenge. Here’s how real investors separate AI hype from reality.
The creation of non-human autonomous robots would disrupt religion, like everything else, on an entirely new scale. “If humans were to create free-willed beings,” says Wired Editor-at-Large Kevin Kelly, who was raised Catholic and identifies as a Christian, “absolutely every single aspect of traditional theology would be challenged and have to be reinterpreted in some capacity.”
Within the lifetimes of most children today, bio enhancement is likely to become a basic feature of human society. Personalised pharmaceuticals will enable us to modify our bodies and minds in powerful and precise ways. New brain-machine interfaces will improve our memory and cognition, extend our senses, and confer direct control over an array of semi-intelligent gadgets. Genetic and epigenetic modification will allow us to change our physical appearance and capabilities, as well as to tweak some of the more intangible aspects of our being such as emotion, creativity or sociability. Do you find these ideas disquieting?
Speaking of Amazon, it’s the titan of twenty-first century commerce. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meagre profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead. Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm’s structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns—yet it has escaped any antitrust and anti-competitive scrutiny. The Yale Law Journal has a forensic look at Amazon and its practices – you can just read the abstract but there’s lots of great stuff to sample in depth as well.
“It’s time to wake up to the fact that you’re just another avatar in someone else’s MMOG. Worse: from where they stand, all-powerful Big Data analysts that they are, you look an awful lot like a bot” Raph Koster.
Police departments faced with tight budgets are increasingly turning to machine learning-enabled software that can sift through crime data to help predict where crimes are likely to occur and who might commit them. Software like PredPol, HunchLab and products from IBM, Microsoft and Hitachi analyze data from sources as varied as crime statistics, weather patterns, bar closing times and school term schedules to predict where crimes are most likely to happen. Elsewhere, offender-based modelling uses factors like criminal record, employment history and age to create risk profiles that are used to decide whether to grant people parole, refer them to social services or put them under surveillance. But despite wide adoption of these systems, there is still little evidence to support their use.
Forget Fake News: The problem of Fake Data may go far deeper than scientists admit. Now a team of researchers has a controversial plan to root out the perpetrators. Statcheck read some 50,000 published psychology papers and checked the maths behind every statistical result it encountered. In the space of 24 hours, virtually every academic active in the field in the past two decades had received an email from the program, informing them that their work had been reviewed. Nothing like this had ever been seen before: a massive, open, retroactive evaluation of scientific literature, conducted entirely by computer.
I’ll get to the Robots show at the Science Museum in London if I possibly can – it’s on for 6 months: From the dawn of mechanised human forms to cutting-edge technology fresh from the lab, Robots reveals the astonishing 500-year quest to make machines human . Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the blockbuster exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world (do check out the site – there’s some great stuff there). Meanwhile, here’s 10 incredible Robots that are inspiring their makers towards creating the first artificial human. And just in case you were concerned for their welfare, here’s a Cyborg Bill of Rights, including the “Freedom from Disassembly”, “Freedom of Morphology”, and “Equality for Mutants”. I think they’re being serious but I’m not sure.
Algorithms are aimed at optimizing everything. They can save lives, make things easier and conquer chaos. Still, experts worry they can also put too much control in the hands of corporations and governments, perpetuate bias, create filter bubbles, cut choices, creativity and serendipity, and could result in greater unemployment. If you read only one article on Algorithms, make it this brilliantly balanced and thorough piece of work from the Pew Institute.
Spokesmen and lobbyists for insurers, banks, and big business generally believe that key algorithms deserve the iron-clad protections of trade secrecy, so they can never be examined (let alone critiqued) by outsiders. Regulators can make data-centric firms more accountable. But first, they need to be aware of the many ways that business computation can go wrong. The data used may be inaccurate or inappropriate. Algorithmic modelling or analysis may be biased or incompetent. And the uses of algorithms are still opaque in many critical sectors – for example, we may not even know if our employers are judging us according to secret formulae.
AUGMENTED, VIRTUAL, IMMERSIVE, EXPERIENCE DESIGN
“The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it I’d be ashamed of myself” Noam Chomsky.
Software is politics. Digital services wield power. They can’t be designed simply for ease of use—the goal at most companies and organizations. Digital services must be understandable, accountable, and trusted. It is now a commercial as well as a moral imperative.
We’re on the cusp of a new era of design. Beyond the two-dimensional focus on graphics and the three-dimensional focus on products, we’re now in an era where designers are increasingly focusing on time and space, guided by technological advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and smart environments. Last week, in a talk delivered at the inaugural A/D/O/ Design Festival in Brooklyn, Yves Béhar presented his vision for what those guidelines should look like—in the form of 10 principles for design in the age of AI.
North Carolina teacher has personalized handshakes with each of his students. “It was just one or two students and then it became contagious. I saw how much it meant to them.” Such a super-cool video (and a super-cool teacher!)
The Pompidou Centre is 40 years old. The design by the young architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers was a radical proposal for “the construction of a building for information, fun and culture, a sort of machine, an ‘informative tool’”, as Piano and Rogers put it. As the Parisian cultural behemoth hits a landmark anniversary, figures from the world of art and architecture discuss its legacy.
Technology has long been considered a resource-liberating mechanism, granting us better access to resources like information, food and energy. Yet what is often overlooked is the revolutionary impact technology can have on our ability to create art. A great array of examples and videos of Art in the Age of AI.