Citation Needed – without it you have opinion not facts

Heckle every speech like this ūüôā Courtesy of XKCD

Throughout my academic career one thing that was repeatedly enforced was that if you were claiming something to be true in a paper, you needed to show results to prove it or cite a credible source that had those results.¬† It took a lot of effort in those pre-Google Scholar and pre-Arxiv days1.¬† Reading the journals, being aware of retractions and clarifications and building the evidence to support your own work took time2.¬† Writing up my thesis was painful solely because of finding the right references for things that were “known”.¬† I had several excellent reviewers who sent me back copies of my thesis with “citation needed” where I’d stated things as facts without a reference.¬† My tutor at Oxford was very clear on this: without a citation, it’s your opinion not a fact. Continue reading Citation Needed – without it you have opinion not facts

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

Biologically Inspired Artificial Intelligence

Mouse cortex neurons, from Lee et al, Nature 532, 370‚Äď374

Artificial intelligence has progressed immensely in the past decade with the fantastic open source nature of the community. However there are relatively few people, even in the research areas, that understand the history of the field from both the computational and biological standpoints. Standing on the shoulders of giants is a great way to step forward, but can you truly innovate without understanding the fundamentals?

I go to a lot of conferences and I’ve noticed a subtle change in the past few years. Solutions that are being spoken about now don’t appear to be as far forward as some of those presented a couple of years ago. This may be subjective, but the more I speak to people about my own background in biochemically accurate computational neuron models, the more interest it sparks. Our current deep learning model neurons are barely scratching the surface of what biological neurons can do. Is it any wonder that models need complexity and are limited in their scope? Continue reading Biologically Inspired Artificial Intelligence

Professional body for data science? Yes Please

Statistically significant
My new prized badge from the RSS

This week I was delighted to be at the Royal Statistical Society as a business representative for the launch of their Data Science Section. At over 160 years old, the RSS is one of the more established professional bodies and I like that it is questioning and making a difference as the¬†application of their industry changes and when faced with an increasing challenge of abuse of statistical methods. I wish the general public had a greater understanding of statistics so they wouldn’t be so easily swayed by the media with a simple graph “proving” a point. Continue reading Professional body for data science? Yes Please

Evidence in our AI future

Generated handwriting from the team at UCL

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that there have been great advances in the past few years with artificial image generation, to the stage where having a picture of something does not necessarily mean that it is real.¬† Image advances are easy to talk about, as there’s something tangible to show, but there have been similar large leaps forward in other areas, particularly in voice synthesis and handwriting.

Continue reading Evidence in our AI future

Artifical image creation takes another step forward in advertising

Dove's "perfect mum" image generated by AI
Is there the perfect mum? Dove’s Aimee is AI’s created image¬† based on what the media think she should be¬†(c) Dove

Earlier this month, Dove launched their new baby range with another of their fantastic adverts challenging stereotypes and questioning is there a “perfect mum”.¬† As a mum myself I can relate to the many hilarious bloggers1¬†who are refreshingly honest about the unbrushed hair, lack of make-up, generally being covered in whatever substances your new tiny human decides to produce, and all other parenting frustrations.¬† I’m really pleased that there are lots of women2¬†out there challenging the myths presented in the media – we don’t all have a team to make us beautiful, nor someone photo-shopping the results to perfection, and the pressure can be immense.¬† This is where Dove’s campaign is fantastic.¬† Rather than just creating a photoshoot with a model and doctoring the results, the image is actually completely artificial, having been¬†generated by AI. Continue reading Artifical image creation takes another step forward in advertising

Algorithmic transparency – is it even possible?

Could you explain to a lay person how this network makes decisions?

The Science and Technology Select Committee here in the UK have launched an inquiry into the use of algorithms in public and business decision making and are asking for written evidence on a number of topics.¬† One of these topics is best-practise in algorithmic decision making and one of the specific points they highlight is whether this can be done in a ‘transparent’ or ‘accountable’ way1.¬† If there was such transparency then the decisions made could be understood and challenged.

It’s an interesting idea.¬† On the surface, it seems reasonable that we should understand the decisions to verify and trust the algorithms, but the practicality of this is where the problem lies. Continue reading Algorithmic transparency – is it even possible?

Internet of Things: Making a Smart Home

The hive thermostat, it’s a lot prettier than my old one.

I grew up reading and watching Sci-Fi. As a child with an Acorn Electron, the idea of smart interactable devices seemed far future rather than near future. I loved the voice interactivity and things ‘just working’ without needing to be controlled. When I got my Echo dot last year, I knew this would be the start of a journey to upgrade my house to a SmartHome and truly be part of the Internet of Things. It’s been four months now and I’ve got a setup with which I’m pretty happy.¬† Here’s what¬†I chose and why… Continue reading Internet of Things: Making a Smart Home

Anything you can do AI can do better (?): Playing games at a new level

Robot hands dealing cards
Image from BigThink.com

Learning to play games has been a great test for AI.¬† Being able to generalise from relatively simple¬†rules to find optimal solutions shows a form of intelligence that we humans always hoped would be impossible.¬† Back in 1997, when IBMs Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in chess1¬†we saw that machines were capable of more than brute force solutions to problems.¬† 20 years later2 and not only has¬†AI mastered Go with Google’s DeepMind winning 4-1 against the world’s best player and IBM’s Watson has mastered Jeopardy,¬† there have also been some great examples of game play with many of the games I grew up playing: Tetris, ¬†PacMan3, Space Invaders¬†and other Atari games.¬† I am yet to see any AI complete Repton 2. Continue reading Anything you can do AI can do better (?): Playing games at a new level