Archive for category Artificial Intelligence

The fall out from Tay

In recent years machine learning has been making inroads into what used to be human domains. However, Microsoft’s recent experience with its chatbot known as Tay revealed something every more interesting about what it means to be human and/or even attempting to mimic human.

While natural language processing has been the biggest challenge for computer scientists and artificial intelligence researchers alike, in recent memory it is increasingly become evident that machine learning can overcome earlier limitations. While this may be largely because of improvements in hardware and software designs and tools, it has nonetheless open up many possibilities. It is from these advances that systems like Watson, Siri, Google Now, Cortana etc have made into the market. Machine learning, combined with machine visionary has given rise to autonomous vehicles with varying capabilities.

However, while these systems are taught to learn a limited set of rules e.g. the structure of sentences in order to extra meaning or traffic rules in combination with detection and identification of obstacles, it has become increasingly obvious that NPL works within the broader context of human society which means that many of what passes for rules are neither hard and fast nor rigidly imposed. Humans are equally adept at processing norms and mores as they are in processing grammar and traffic rules. More importantly humans also possess the ability to create their own meaning and context because of what the possible fall out of not adhering to social norms would be.

Tay was able to learn but could not project it’s own objective in the conversation in which in participated; that simple fact made it easy for people to have it say things that are not polite. That is not the end of the story though: this entire episode only serves to highlight the fact that understanding a sentence does not mean appreciating the impact of the sentence on an audience. While many, including the designers and developers of Tay, will definitely be looking at what went wrong, the more interesting part is that perhaps we need other disciplines to enter into the effort of adding more nuanced abilities to AIs that will have to operate along side human beings.

At the moment, the main point of departure for most of the expanded effort to integrate AI into human society is laws and ethics. However the proper point of departure should be building in more abilities for AIs to appreciated the nuances of human society. The truth of the matter is that we as a species are not great at being governed by laws and/or being ethical. It is a matter of appreciating human nature as it relates to laws and ethics generally. As many have noted the greatest risks that AI (in their current form) pose is from human beings themselves.

The more worrying aspects of not getting the law and ethics angle of AI right in the first place is that it will tap into the disturbing human capacity to feel less responsibility for actions and decisions made on your behalf. Very few people have the conscience to question, at the very least, laws that are clearly unethical.

Microsoft Tay was an experiment first and foremost though unleashing on the greater internet may have been premature in the process. That misstep is a testament to the fact that there is gradually more confidence in the abilities of machine learning algorithms. The embarrassment created by Tay seems to suggest that people increasingly related to AIs as if they are people, in a general sense, though it is more likely a question of wondering what Microsoft was trying to do.



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Machine Intelligence on Display

The researchers at IBM decided to make a spectre of their latest efforts into machine intelligence through the Jeopardy game show. In essence, the game show tests the machine’s ability to understand natural language and to deliver responses that are correct. On those two tasks, it performed quite well and good enough to best human competitors of the venerable game show.

That may sound like an over generalization of the research team achievement but it is not meant to be as Watson represents the latest progress in algorithms, combined with even more powerful hardware which work together to calculate and render responses within a short period of time. In a way this is an almost natural and expected progression as search engines, which are continually crawling the web for analysis and using their immense data repositories, may very well need a more refined interface like what Watson may make possible.

At the moment internet search is largely keywords driven with little in terms of contextual meaning of what is sought and indeed better filtering of the results; it would be easy to just have your search engine present you with the first 3 responses to your query and rank them according to the likelihood of their correctness. That is certain a more general use case than what is being considered Watson’s next challenge: a diagnostic aid for doctors. This certainly makes sense as the next logical area of progression for this device; the subject area is specialized and the ability to continuously add new medical research and findings may well improve decisions that doctors make. This could perhaps even bring the medical community closer to more automated or at the very least computer aided research as recently championed by one of Google’s founders. This may not be something that Watson can do but with a few modifications and adjustments, it will be a natural extension for the device.

End of Human Intelligence Dominance?

Reading the buzz around Watson’s jeopardy victory on the internet, you would think that our dominance as the most intelligent beings is at an end however the victory, while important, does not pose any direct threat to human intelligence as yet. It is more prudent to restrain from using terms like artificial intelligence as AI has the connotation of emulating human intelligence and hence a crude approximation of the latter. Machine intelligence on the other hand can freely evolve to their own capabilities as defined by advancements in hardware and algorithms as well as programming methods.

The only time when machine intelligence can overshadow human intelligence is when the former reaches a point that it achieves sentience and as such be capable of acting as a fully independent moral agent. That in itself is a much bigger challenge than emulating human intelligence since sentience does not guarantee free will and thus rational behaviour. Before getting carried away with that train of thought, machine intelligence is far from outshining human intelligence any time soon, if ever.

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