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?

Fooling AI and transparency – testing and honesty is critical

The effect of digitally changing an image on a classifier. Can you tell the difference between the pictures? Image from Brendel et al 2017.

If you follow my posts on AI (here and on other sites) then you’ll know that I’m a big believer on ensuring that AI models are thoroughly tested and that their accuracy, precision and recall are clearly identified.  Indeed, my submission to the Science and Technology select committee earlier this year highlighted this need, even though the algorithms themselves may never be transparent.  It was not a surprise in the slightest that a paper has been released on tricking “black box” commercial AI into misclassification with minimal effort. Continue reading Fooling AI and transparency – testing and honesty is critical

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?

When did AI not being as good as humans be a news item?

StarCraft 2 is a big thing in e-sports – can AI live up to the human players?

I get very tired of the clickbaity journalism hyping up minor advances in AI, making news stories out of nothing or even the ones for those in the industry. You know the type: “Facebook AI had to be shut down”, “Google creates self learning AI”.

I demystify a lot of these when I’m asked about them – technology should be accessible and understandable and I deplore the tendency of those seeking to get article hits by over-egging with misleading headlines. What amused me over the weekend was that an AI not beating a human was a news story where the AI was “trounced”. Continue reading When did AI not being as good as humans be a news item?

Citation Needed – without it you have opinion not facts

Heckle every speech like this 🙂 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, 370–374

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