## Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

“Pics or it didn’t happen” – it’s a common request when telling a tale that might be considered exaggerated.  Usually, supplying a picture or video of the event is enough to convince your audience that you’re telling the truth.  However, we’ve been living in an age of Photoshop for a while and it has (or really should!!!) become habit to check Snopes and other sites before believing even simple images1 – they even have a tag for debunked images due to photoshopping. Continue reading Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

## How to build a human – review

Ahead of season 2 of Channel 4’s Humans, they screened a special showing how a synthetic human could be produced.  If you missed the show and are in the UK, you can watch again on 4OD.

Presented by Humans actress Gemma Chan, the show combined realistic prosthetic generation with AI to create a synth, but also dug a little deeper into the technology, showing how pervasive AI is in the western world.

There was a great scene with Prof Noel Sharkey and the self driving car where they attempted a bend, but human instinct took over: “It nearly took us off the road!” “Shit, yes!”.  This reinforced the delegation of what could be life or death decisions – how can a car have moralistic decisions, or should they even be allowed to? Continue reading How to build a human – review

## ReWork Deep Learning London 2016 Day 1 Morning

In September 2016, the ReWork team organised another deep learning conference in London.  This is the third of their conferences I have attended and each time they continue to be a fantastic cross section of academia, enterprise research and start-ups.  As usual, I took a large amount of notes on both days and I’ll be putting these up as separate posts, this one covers the morning of day 1.  For reference, the notes from previous events can be found here: Boston 2015, Boston 2016.

Day one began with a brief introduction from Neil Lawrence, who has just moved from the University of Sheffield to Amazon research in Cambridge.  Rather strangely, his introduction finished with him introducing himself, which we all found funny.  His talk was titled the “Data Delusion” and started with a brief history of how digital data has exploded.  By 2002, SVM papers dominated NIPs, but there wasn’t the level of data to make these systems work.  There was a great analogy with the steam engine, originally invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 for pumping out tin mines, but it was hugely inefficient due to the amount of coal required.  James Watt took the design and improved on it by adding the condenser, which (in combination with efficient coal distribution) led to the industrial revolution1.   Machine learning now needs its “condenser” moment.

## Amazon Echo Dot (second generation): Review

When I attended the ReWork Deep Learning conference in Boston in May 2016, one of the most interesting talks was about the Echo and the Alexa personal assistant from Amazon.  As someone whose day job is AI, it seemed only right that I surround myself by as much as possible from other companies.  This week, after it being on back order for a while, it finally arrived.  At £50, the Echo Dot is a reasonable price, with the only negative I was aware of before ordering being that the sound quality “wasn’t great” from a reviewer. Continue reading Amazon Echo Dot (second generation): Review

## Formula AI – driverless racing

We’re all starting to get a bit blasé about self driving cars now.  They were a novelty when they first came out, but even if the vast majority of us have never seen one, let alone been in one, we know they’re there and they work1 and that they are getting better with each iteration (which is phenomenally fast).  But after watching the formula 1 racing, it’s a big step from a 30mph trundle around a city to over 200mph racing around a track with other cars.  Or is it? Continue reading Formula AI – driverless racing

## Literate programming – effect on performance

After my introductory post on Literate Programming, it occurred to me that while the concept of being able to create documentation that includes variables from the code being run is amazing, this will obviously have some impact on performance.  At best, this would be the resource required to compile the $\LaTeX$ document as if it was static, while the “at worst” scenario is conceptually unbounded.  Somewhere along the way, pweave is adding extra code to pass the variables back and forth between the python and the $\LaTeX$, how and when it does this could have implications that you wouldn’t see in a simple example but could be catastrophic when running the kind of neural nets that my department are putting together. So, being a scientist, I decided to run a few experiments….1 Continue reading Literate programming – effect on performance

## Using Literate Programming in Research

Over my career in IT there have been a lot of changes in documentation practises, from the heavy detailed design up front to lean1 and now the adoption of literate programming, particularly in research (and somewhat contained to it because of the reliance on $\LaTeX$ as a markup language2).  While there are plenty of getting started guides out there, this post is primarily about why I’m adopting it for my new Science and Innovations department and the benefits that literate programming can give. Continue reading Using Literate Programming in Research

## Testing applications

As part of a few hours catching up on machine learning conference videos, I found this great talk on what can go wrong with machine recommendations and how testing can be improved.  Evan gives some great examples of where the algorithms can give unintended outputs.  In some cases this is an emergent property of correlations in the data, and in others, it’s down to missing examples in the test set.  While the talk is entertaining and shows some very important examples, it made me realise something that has been missing.  The machine learning community, having grown out of academia, does not have the same rigour of developmental processes as standard software development.

Regardless of the type of machine learning employed, testing and quantification of results is all down to the test set that is used.  Accuracy against the test set, simpler architectures, fewer training examples are the focal points.  If the test set is lacking, this is not uncovered as part of the process.  Models that show high precision and recall can often fail when “real” data is passed through them.  Sometimes in spectacular ways as outlined in Evan’s talk:  adjusting pricing for Mac users, Amazon recommending inappropriate products or Facebook’s misclassification of people.  These problems are either solved with manual hacks after the algorithms have run or by adding specific issues to the test set.  While there are businesses that take the same approach with their software, they are thankfully few and far between and most companies now use some form of continuous integration, automated testing and then rigorous manual testing.

The only part of this process that will truly solve the problem is the addition of rigorous manual testing by professional testers.  Good testers are very hard to find, in some respect harder than it is to find good developers.  Testing is often seen as a second class profession to development and I feel this is really unfair.  Good testers can understand the application they are testing on multiple levels, create the automated functional tests and make sure that everything you expect to work, works.  But they also know how to stress an application – push it well beyond what it was designed to do, just to see whether these cases will be handled.  What assumptions were made that can be challenged.  A really good tester will see deficiencies in test sets and think “what happens if…”, they’ll sneak the bizarre examples in for the challenge.

One of the most difficult things about being a tester in the machine learning space is that in order to understand all the ways in which things can go wrong, you do need some appreciation of how the underlying system works, rather than a complete black box.  Knowing that most vision networks look for edges would prompt a good tester to throw in random patterns, from animal prints to static noise.  A good tester would look of examples not covered by the test set and make sure the negatives far outweigh the samples the developers used to create the model.

So where are all the specialist testers for machine learning?  I think the industry really needs them before we have (any more) decision engines in our lives that have hidden issues waiting to emerge…

## Evolving Machines

Following my post on AI for understanding ambiguity, I got into a discussion with a friend covering the limitations of AI if we only try to emulate ourselves.  His premise was that we know so little about how our brains actually enable us to have our rich independent thoughts that if we constrain AI to what we observe, an ability to converse in our native language and perform tasks that we can do with higher precision, then we will completely limit their potential.  I had a similar conversation in the summer of 2015 while at the start-up company I joined1– we spent a whole day2 discussing whether in 100 years’ time the only jobs that humans would do would be to code the robots.  While the technological revolution is changing how we live and work, and yes it will remove some jobs and create others just like the industrial revolution did and ongoing machine automation has been doing, there will always be a rich variety of new roles that require our unique skills and imagination, our ability to adapt and look beyond what we know. Continue reading Evolving Machines

## AI for understanding ambiguity

Last year I wrote a post on whether machines could ever think1.  Recently, in addition to all the general chatbot competitions, there has been a new type of test for deeper contextual understanding rather than the dumb and obvious meanings of words.  English2 has a rich variety of meanings of words with the primary as the most common and then secondary and tertiary meanings further down in the dictionary.  It’s probably been a while since you last sat down and read a dictionary, or even used an online one other than to find a synonym, antonym or check your spelling3 but as humans we rely mostly on our vocabulary and context that we’ve picked up from education and experience.