Cambridge Analytica: not AI’s ethics awakening

From the wonderful XKCD, research ethics

By now, the majority of people who keep up with the news will have heard of Cambridge Analytica, the whistle blower Christopher Wylie, and the news surrounding the harvesting of Facebook data and micro targeting, along with accusations of potentially illegal activity.  In amongst all of this news I’ve also seen articles that this is the “awakening ” moment for ethics and morals AI and data science in general.  The point where practitioners realise the impact of their work.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, Oppenheimer

Continue reading Cambridge Analytica: not AI’s ethics awakening

AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress (still making me think of  @jack_septic_eye – let me know if you get that…)

If you’ve not read the day 1 summary then you can find that here.

Day 2 had a new host for track A in the form of David D’Souza from CIPD. His opening remarks quoted Asimov and Crichton and encouraging us not be magicians and to step back and think about what we should do rather than just what we could. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

AI Congress (not @jack_septic_eye – I feel I may be in a very small subset of AI professionals who get that…)

London is a hive of AI activity. The UK is positioning itself as a leader in AI technology and you can barely walk around London without passing an AI company or meetup or training course1. If I didn’t actually have a day job, I could fill my time with AI conferences without actually doing much more than my daily commute. That said I am quite picky about the ones I go to. I’d never been to the AI Congress before and liked the diverse set of speakers and topics.  I was lucky that the team at Logikk had invited me as their guest for the two days. So how did it stack up? Well, day 1 was at a much higher level than some of the other conferences I’ve been to, with a lot of implementation and enterprise discussions and far fewer talks on the technical implementations. If you’re senior then these conferences are for you. If you want someone to talk about their latest paper on arxiv then there are far more technical events that will suit you better.

One of the biggest problems I had was that there were three separate tracks and only one of me, so if I didn’t make notes on a particular talk then hopefully the slides will be available after the event at some point. I missed some of the high profile talks, in preference of other speakers, on purpose as I’d already heard those speakers at other events. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

AI better than humans at reading?

News that AI had beat humans in reading spawned a lot of articles.

I’ve taken longer than I normally would to respond to some recent news stories about AI “outperforming humans” in reading comprehension “for the first time”.  Partly because I can’t help the wave of annoyance that fills me when I see articles so obviously designed to instil panic and/or awe in the reader without any detail, but also because I feel it’s important to do some primary research before refuting anything1.  The initial story broke that an AI created by Alibaba had met2 the human threshold in the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) followed closely by Microsoft outperforming Alibaba and exceeding the human score (slightly). Always a safe bet for sensationalism, mainstream media pounced on the results to announce millions of jobs are at risk….  So what’s really going on? Continue reading AI better than humans at reading?

Cozmo – a good present?

Cozmo – image from Anki

One of the toys that’s been advertised heavily in the UK this year for Christmas has been Cozmo with it’s “Big Brain, Bigger Personality” strapline. I got one last year and it was a great present. Let’s get this out there. Cozmo is relatively expensive. For about £1501 there are a lot of other things you might prefer to buy for a child (or an adult) for what is, on the surface “just a toy”. If you treat it as such then maybe it’s not the right thing for you, but viewing Cozmo as a simple toy is far less than he deserves. He is a lot of fun to play with, and the more you play with him, the more he begins to do. Continue reading Cozmo – a good present?

Being a Panellist at a Tech Talk

Being a panellist – expect to be recorded

Following on from the meetup talk I gave on building your own personal brand, I’ve been asked a few questions about speaking at events and being a panellist.  I felt it would be a good idea to write a few posts on this for reference.  This one is particularly about panel sessions. Continue reading Being a Panellist at a Tech Talk

Determination and Stamina: valuable stats but they’re not infinite

Typical Fighting Fantasy character sheet – what are your stamina, skill and luck stats?

I love choose your own adventure books. I read The Warlock of Firetop Mountain when it was first released and then pretty much every single Fighting Fantasy book released after it1. I also credit one of these books with improving my French reading and vocabulary after finding “La Malediction du Pharaon” in a charity shop2. One of the themes that run through all these books is your statistics: stamina, skill, and luck3. As you use these abilities they deplete. Use them too much and you will likely come to a sticky end in the books.

Real life is pretty similar, both mentally and physically. Continue reading Determination and Stamina: valuable stats but they’re not infinite

Is a Robot tax on companies using AI a way of protecting the workforce?

Don’t fear the robots, they’re already here.

While there may be disagreements on whether AI is something to worry about or not, there is general agreement that it will change the workforce. What is a potential concern is how quickly these changes will appear. Anyone who has been watching Inside the Factory1 can see how few people are needed on production lines that are largely automated: a single person with the title “manager” whose team consists entirely of robots. It wasn’t too long ago that these factories would have been full of manual labour.

The nature of our workforce has changed. It’s been changing constantly – the AI revolution is no different in that respect. We just need to be aware of the speed and scale of potential change and ensure that we are giving everyone the opportunity to be skilled in the roles that will form part of our future. There is an inevitability about this. Just as globalisation made it easy for companies to outsource work to cheaper locations (and even easier with micro contract sites) AI will make it cheaper and easier for companies to do tasks so it will be adopted. Tasks that aren’t interesting enough or wide market enough or even too difficult right now to be automated will still need human workers. Everything else will slowly be lost “to the robots”. Continue reading Is a Robot tax on companies using AI a way of protecting the workforce?

Chatbot immortality

University of Washington’s artificial Obama created from reference videos and audio files.

While I like to kid myself that maybe I’m only a quarter or third of the way through my life, statistics suggest that I’m now in the second half and my future holds a gradual decline to the grave.  I’m not afraid of my age, it’s just a number1.  I certainly don’t feel it.  My father recently said that he doesn’t feel his age either and is sometimes surprised to see an old man staring back at him from the mirror.

As an atheist, death terrifies me.  My own and that of those I love.  I don’t have the easy comfort blanket of an afterlife and mourn the loss of everything an individual was when they cease to be.  Continue reading Chatbot immortality

Girlguiding STEM badges – great news, but a generation late in the reporting

Guide Computer and Science interest badges. Not the new ones – the originals from ~1990!

You may have heard in the news that Girlguiding are looking to inspire girls and young women into STEM by introducing new interest badges.  This is, without a doubt, fantastic news.  The interest badge system has been a backbone of both Scouting and Guiding since they began as a way of encouraging young people to try new things.  So, helping Guides explore these skills with new badges is a great step forward.

Or is it?  The BBC article pokes gentle fun at the old-fashioned image of Guiding with the journalist’s memories of badges for tying knots and table-laying: “Fast forward some 25 years and it’s clear much has changed”1 Continue reading Girlguiding STEM badges – great news, but a generation late in the reporting