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

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

Submitting evidence to parliament committees

(c) Parliament committee on Science and Technology

I love the fact that here in the UK everyone can be involved in shaping the future of our country, even if a large number of individuals choose not to and, in my eyes, if you don’t get involved then you don’t have the right to complain.¬† While this is most generally applied to the election of our representatives from local parish councils to our regional MPs (or actually standing yourself)1¬†there are also a lot of other ways to be involved.¬† In addition to raising issues with your local representative, parliament has cross bench committees that seek input from the public and to help create policy or consider draft legislation.

Our elected parliament is not made up of individuals who are experts in all fields.  Even government departments are not necessarily headed by individuals with large amounts of relevant experience.  It is critical that these individuals are informed by those with the experience and expertise in the issues that  are being considered.  Without this critical input, our democracy is weakened. Continue reading Submitting evidence to parliament committees

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

ReWork Deep Learning London 2016 Day 1 Morning

Entering the conference (c) ReWork
Entering the conference (c) ReWork

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.

Continue reading ReWork Deep Learning London 2016 Day 1 Morning

Using Literate Programming in Research

Literate Programming by Donald Knuth
Literate Programming by Donald Knuth

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

So I get a blue shirt… Chief Science Officer

Chief Science Officers have a lot to live up to... (image credit Wikipedia)
Chief Science Officers have a lot to live up to… (image credit Wikipedia)

I’ve been with my current company for 9 months as Chief Information Officer and had responsibility for everything technical from production systems down to ensuring the phone systems worked and everything in between.¬† The only technical responsibilities not under me was the actual development and QA of our products.¬† CIO is a thankless role – when everything is going right, questions are raised over the size of the team and the need to replace servers and budget for new projects.¬† When something breaks, for whatever reason, you are the focus of the negativity until it is resolved.¬† The past 9 months have been a rollercoaster of business needs, including many sleepless nights.¬† However, I can look back on this knowing that when I do finally get around to writing about my experiences as a woman in IT I will have a lot of fun stories for the CIO chapter1.¬† While I didn’t have the opportunity to finish off as many of the improvement projects as I would have liked, I’ve built up a fantastic team and know that they’ll continue to do a fantastic job going forward.

This week, I finished the handover of all my old responsibilities and started the role I was actually hired for back in 2015, but didn’t start with because the business needed a strong pair of hands elsewhere. I am now Chief Science Officer and have a new team of Computer Vision researchers and am taking over all of the data science and machine learning activities worldwide.¬† I’ve been given a remit of thought leadership with the team, so I’ll be attending (and speaking at) conferences, writing blog posts, publishing papers and let’s not forget that I’ll be neck deep in the research myself, leading a team of academics within a corporate environment on computer science research.
While I won’t be able to talk about what we’re doing until we’re ready to make it public, I will be blogging about the kit we’re using and some generic machine learning issues, as well as interesting papers as and when I find them.
It’s going to be a pretty exciting time – there are several cool projects that we’ve started and I’ve given myself some harsh deadlines so that we can have some results ready for a conference…