Mar 262016

Microsoft Research ran an experiment last week on their artificial intelligence engine where they set a naive robot to learn from it was told on Twitter.

Within two days Tay, as they named the bot, had become an obnoxious racist as Twitter user directed obnoxious comments at the account.

Realising the monster they had created, Microsoft shut the experiment down. The result is less than encouraging for the artificial intelligence community.

Self learning robots may have a lot of power and potential, but if they’re learning from humans they may pick up bad habits. We need to tread carefully with this.

Mar 202016

Computer programming is one of the jobs of the future. Right?

Maybe not, as Japanese industrial robot maker Fanuc demonstrates with their latest robot that learns on the job.

The MIT Technology Review describes how the robot analyses a task and fine tunes its own operations to do the task properly.

Fanuc’s robot uses a technique known as deep reinforcement learning to train itself, over time, how to learn a new task. It tries picking up objects while capturing video footage of the process. Each time it succeeds or fails, it remembers how the object looked, knowledge that is used to refine a deep learning model, or a large neural network, that controls its action.

While machines running on deep reinforcement learning won’t completely make programmers totally redundant, it shows basic operations even in those fields are going to be increasingly automated. Just knowing a programming language is not necessarily a passport to future prosperity.

Another aspect flagged in the MIT article is how robots can learn in parallel, so groups can work together to understand and optimise tasks.

While Fanuc and the MIT article are discussing small groups of similar computers working together it’s not hard to see this working on a global scale. What happens when your home vacuum cleaner starts talking to a US Air Force autonomous drone remains to be seen.

Feb 282016

It’s hard to spot locations from a photograph and it’s something people can’t do this very well. MIT’s Technology Review reports Google’s researchers have developed a tool that figures out the location of an image with twice the accuracy of humans.

To illustrate their point Google have their Geoguesser game that allows people to pit their knowledge against the computer.

While this could be seen as a gimmick, it again shows how computing power is being used in areas that were seen as being immune from technology not so long ago and how artificial intelligence will be applied in various fields.

For the moment, applying artificial intelligence to seemingly trivial fields like games gives researchers to opportunity to test it before being applied to areas like cancer treatment.

As artificial intelligence advances, a whole range of existing fields are going to be disrupted – particularly in ‘knowledge industry’ fields like law, consulting and management – while new industries and occupations will arise out of these technologies.

Dec 292015
unemployed workers looking for work in depression era sydney

Which jobs can’t be done by robots asks a blog post on the World Economic Forum website.

Among the occupations discussed in the post that might be less susceptible to automation include occupational therapists, surgeons, choreographers and pre-school teachers. None of those fields are exactly large fields or accessible to the average worker.

More concerning, the report the blog post is based upon was written in 2013. Advances in automation and artificial intelligence mean the effects of technological change are almost certainly being understated.

Regardless of how automation proof individual occupations are a simple challenge for humans competing against machines is the biggest problem employers report is finding reliable and punctual workers.

Maybe we’re all putting ourselves out of jobs.

Dec 132015
Big data takes our online, shopping and social media use it is the business challenge for our time

Silicon Valley leaders including Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman have pledged a billion dollars towards the OpenAI foundation to open source the development of Artificial Intelligence.

With one of the greatest challenges facing business, political and community leaders in coming being how to deal with the massive amounts of data generated by the Internet of Things and pervasive computers, this is a major step in making the tools available to everyone.

With both Google and Facebook opening their AI platforms in recent weeks, it seems the consensus in the tech industry is that open source is the way to develop these technologies. As a consequence we may see them become commonplace a lot faster than expected.