“The world of the future will be an even more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves” Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society.
With the new sci-fi flick “Ghost in the Shell” hitting theatres this week, Scientific American asks artificial intelligence experts which movies, if any, have gotten AI right. I had dinner once with Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (original audio tapes) and told me when he was working with Stanley Kubrick on his never-completed AI film he asked Kubrick what he thought robots would look like in 50 years’ time (when the film was set), and Kubrick answered “whatever we make them look like now”!
In the popular TV show Sherlock we see the analogy for modern AI: highly performant learning machines that can achieve metacognitive results with the assistance of fully cognitive human partners. Machine intelligence does not by its nature make human intelligence obsolete. Quite the opposite, really—machines need human guidance. In the age of bots and androids, we must be more human.
In the Channel 4 series Humans, audiences were shown a world where androids – or ‘synths’ – are a part of normal, everyday life. The show’s writers, Jon Brackley and Sam Vincent, talk about the real AI that lies behind the story, and whether the robots are, in fact, coming.
The founder of Atoaton, Madeline Gannon, suggests a more symbiotic than antagonistic future. “Humans and robots are companion species on this planet,” she says. “We need each other.” In the video here she is shown teaching a robot how to mimic her gestures. Mimus is a giant industrial robot that’s curious about the world around her. Unlike in traditional industrial robotics, Mimus has no pre-planned movements: she is programmed with the freedom to explore and roam about her enclosure.
According to renowned physicist Freeman Dyson, “In the future, a new generation of artists will be writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses.” In their book Evolving Ourselves, Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans describe a world where evolution is no longer driven by natural processes. Instead, it is driven by human choices, through what they call unnatural selection and non-random mutation. As a result, we will see the emergence of an entirely new species of human beings.
Sophisticated automatons and robots have actually been around for hundreds of years: here are some really surprising examples (video) from the always excellent Open Culture, including a writing machine, a musician, and a Japanese archer! (Don’t forget the blockbuster Robots exhibition at the Science Museum in London which explores the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human).
Speaking of automation, here’s a great explanation of how IBM Watsom uses video processing, voice-to-text, and concept extraction to make video automatically searchable using the TED talks as an example. (Vid: 4:36) Meanwhile at Facebook, “We think video understanding is going to be ridiculously impactful, because if you go back in time and you think about the News Feed — even before photos were that prevalent — it was mostly text, and so that was the content you needed to understand in order to rank [people’s feeds],” says Joaquin Candela, Director of Applied Machine Learning. “We’re at a point now where we’re pretty good at understanding photos, but now there’s video,” Candela added. “You even have live video, and the question becomes, well, how fast can you figure out what’s going on in this video?” I’m sure there will no privacy issues or concerns. One example he gives is identifying Facebook users “at a rally” in real-time. Nothing to worry about there, right?
Meanwhile, Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, a House committee hears. The Database contains photos of half of US adults without consent, and the predictive algorithm is wrong nearly 15% of the time. Fast Company reports that Advancements in machine vision and artificial intelligence are widening the scope of the line-up too: via body-worn police cameras, which are rapidly proliferating, face searches could happen up-close, at street level and in real-time—anticipating a future in which anonymity in certain public places could disappear.
Not to worry, the FCC just made it legal for your ISP to sell your search history to anyone. Expect to see databases of online gamblers, porn users, ecommerce users by volume or segment, and so on all for sale to whoever wants to buy them – with every kind of segmentation: age, zip code, gender, etc. Wonderful. ISPs can also sell any information they want from your online activity and mobile app usage — financial information, medical information, your children’s information, your social security number — even the contents of your emails. They can even sell your geolocation information. That’s right, ISPs can take your exact physical location from minute to minute and sell it to a third party. So, here’s how to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour, and here’s to install a VPN for free in ten minutes (and why you urgently need one) – thanks to QuincyLarson at freecodecamp.com. Or this simple browser extension that makes it much harder to build a profile about you.
On the day of the announcement, the Christian Science Monitor’s excellent Passcode cybersecurity journalism site shuts up shop.
On the AI front, here’s a fantastic article from Wired magazine on the mad sprints by the giant companies to find, steal, or develop the best AI talent. It’s a really good read and it really lays out what’s going on. James Petras, always worth reading, has a very well thought takedown and writes that “In fact, the entire industry has been built upon large-scale, tax-funded public research centres and university laboratories, which have paid for the buildings as well as the scientists’ and professors’ salaries.
Creative Review has just released an entire issue on AI with beautiful graphics (of course!) and great writing covering all kinds of the relationships between AI, bots, robots, automation and questions of creativity, design, and writing. Highly Recommended.