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AI

Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI Is Going To Decimate Middle Class Jobs (businessinsider.com) 348

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that "the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining." He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines. Automation will, "in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote. "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive." He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: "We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent." Combined with other issues -- overpopulation, climate change, disease -- we are, Hawking warns ominously, at "the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity." Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.
Social Networks

Facebook Developing AI To Flag Offensive Live Videos (reuters.com) 104

Facebook is working on automatically flagging offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company's director of applied machine learning. Reuters added: The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site. Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company "community standards." Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company. Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is "an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies," he said.
AI

Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen (bloomberg.com) 84

Amazon's Echo speakers have garnered a lot of interest over the past few months. Many people believe that they like Amazon Echo because of how easy it's to operate -- there is no display, you talk with Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, which is reasonably good at understanding your queries. But in what seems like a deviation from the idea that made Echos so popular, Amazon is reportedly working on an Echo-like speaker, only this time it is more premium and has a 7-inch display, too. From a report on Bloomberg: The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company's voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.
China

Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics (fortune.com) 19

Microsoft's Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive. From a report on Fortune: Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or "Steamed Bun Xi," a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report. "Am I stupid? Once I answer you'd take a screengrab," read one answer to a question that contained the words "topple the Communist Party." Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. "I don't want to talk about it," Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money. In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice's interaction. "We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice," a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. "With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics." The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.
Transportation

Self-Driving Trucks Begin Real-World Tests on Ohio's Highways (cbsnews.com) 177

An anonymous reader writes: "A vehicle from self-driving truck maker Otto will travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 on Monday in central Ohio..." reports the Associated Press. The truck "will travel in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck will be positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said Friday, adding that 'safety is obviously No. 1.'"

Ohio sees this route as "a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year" -- although next week the truck will also start driving on the Ohio Turnpike.

Google

Google's DeepMind Made an AI Watch Close To 5000 Videos So That It Surpasses Humans in Lip-Reading (thetechportal.com) 80

A new AI tool created by Google and Oxford University researchers could significantly improve the success of lip-reading and understanding for the hearing impaired. In a recently released paper on the work, the pair explained how the Google DeepMind-powered system was able to correctly interpret more words than a trained human expert. From a report: To accomplish the task, a cohort of scientists fed thousands of hours of TV footage -- 5000 to be precise -- from the BBC to a neural network. It was made to watch six different TV shows, which aired between the period of January 2010 and December 2015. This included 118,000 difference sentences and some 17,500 unique words. To understand the progress, it successfully deciphered words with a 46.8 percent accuracy. The neural network had to recognize the same based on mouth movement analysis. The under 50 percent accuracy might seem laughable to you but let me put things in perspective for you. When the same set of TV shows were shown to a professional lip-reader, they were able to decipher only 12.4 percent of words without error. Thus, one can understand the great difference in the capability of the AI as compared to a human expert in that particular field.
PlayStation (Games)

Virtual Reality is Pushing Gaming Into Another 'Golden Age': Xbox Co-founder (cnbc.com) 114

From a CNBC report:The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. "We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."
Communications

Google's AI Translation Tool Creates Its Own Secret Language (techcrunch.com) 69

After a little over a month of learning more languages to translate beyond Spanish, Google's recently announced Neural Machine Translation system has used deep learning to develop its own internal language. TechCrunch reports: GNMT's creators were curious about something. If you teach the translation system to translate English to Korean and vice versa, and also English to Japanese and vice versa... could it translate Korean to Japanese, without resorting to English as a bridge between them? They made this helpful gif to illustrate the idea of what they call "zero-shot translation" (it's the orange one). As it turns out -- yes! It produces "reasonable" translations between two languages that it has not explicitly linked in any way. Remember, no English allowed. But this raised a second question. If the computer is able to make connections between concepts and words that have not been formally linked... does that mean that the computer has formed a concept of shared meaning for those words, meaning at a deeper level than simply that one word or phrase is the equivalent of another? In other words, has the computer developed its own internal language to represent the concepts it uses to translate between other languages? Based on how various sentences are related to one another in the memory space of the neural network, Google's language and AI boffins think that it has. The paper describing the researchers' work (primarily on efficient multi-language translation but touching on the mysterious interlingua) can be read at Arxiv.
Transportation

Flying Robot Ambulance Finally Takes Its First Flight (popsci.com) 43

What weighs 2,400 pounds, flies 100 miles per hour, and doesn't haven't a pilot? An anonymous reader writes: This week Popular Science remembers a 2007 article which discovered "an amazing machine of the future, almost like a flying car, that seemed plausible but just out of reach" -- and reports that it's now finally performed "a full, autonomous flight on a preplanned route." Designed to provide unmanned emergency evacuations, it's been described as "a hovercar-like aircraft" flown with a built-in AI-controlled flight system.

Tuesday's route was two minutes long, and "According to Urban Aeronautics, the vehicle's Flight Control System made the decision to land too early." But what's significant is there's no human pilot. "Decisions by the flight controls are checked by the craft's flight management system, like a pilot overseen by a captain...all informed by an array of sensors, including 'two laser altimeters, a radar altimeter, inertial sensors, and an electro-optic payload camera.'"

The test brings the giant unmanned vehicle one step closer to its ultimate goal of becoming "a robot that can fly inside cities, weaving between buildings and hovering above any dangers on the ground below."
AI

Why Automation Won't Displace Human Workers (diginomica.com) 540

"There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly," writes the founder of market research firm Beagle Research Group, arguing that automation won't inevitably lead society to a universal basic income "free lunch" because new jobs arise when "new capabilities, technical and otherwise, innovate them into existence." Heck, computer programmers had no existence until computers. At one point a computer was just someone who was very good at math performing calculations all day...it took a year to check all of the calculations needed to produce the atomic bomb and that work was all done by humans. Imagine how history might be different if even one of them had a pocket calculator. You get the idea. New technology inspires new jobs.
He also argues that historically automation eliminates jobs that were "dull, dirty, and dangerous," and that automation also ends up performing previously-nonexistent jobs -- or work that was forced onto customers in self-service scenarios.
Google

Is Google's AI-Driven Image-Resizing Algorithm Dishonest? (thestack.com) 79

The Stack reports on Google's "new research into upscaling low-resolution images using machine learning to 'fill in' the missing details," arguing this is "a questionable stance...continuing to propagate the idea that images contain some kind of abstract 'DNA', and that there might be some reliable photographic equivalent of polymerase chain reaction which could find deeper truth in low-res images than either the money spent on the equipment or the age of the equipment will allow." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution (RAISR) uses low and high resolution versions of photos in a standard image set to establish templated paths for upward scaling... This effectively uses historical logic, instead of pixel interpolation, to infer what the image would look like if it had been taken at a higher resolution.

It's notable that neither their initial paper nor the supplementary examples feature human faces. It could be argued that using AI-driven techniques to reconstruct images raises some questions about whether upscaled, machine-driven digital enhancements are a legal risk, compared to the far greater expense of upgrading low-res CCTV networks with the necessary resolution, bandwidth and storage to obtain good quality video evidence.

The article points out that "faith in the fidelity of these 'enhanced' images routinely convicts defendants."
AI

Intel Lays Roadmap For 100-Fold AI Performance Boost With Nervana and Knights (hothardware.com) 44

MojoKid writes: Intel is laying out its roadmap to advance artificial intelligence performance across the board. Nervana Systems, a company that Intel acquired just a few months ago, will play a pivotal role in the company's efforts to make waves in an industry dominated by GPU-based solutions. Intel's Nervana chips incorporate technology (which involves a fully-optimized software and hardware stack) that is specially tasked with reducing the amount of time required to train deep-learning models. Nervana hardware will initially be available as an add-in card that plugs into a PCIe slot, which is the quickest way for Intel to get this technology to customers. The first Nervana silicon, codenamed Lake Crest, will make its way to select Intel customers in H1 2017. Intel is also talking about Knights Mill, which is the next generation of the Xeon Phi processor family. The company claims that Knights Mill will deliver a 4x increase in deep learning performance compared to existing Xeon Phi processors and the combined solution with Nervana will offer orders of magnitude gains in deep learning performance. "We expect the Intel Nervana platform to produce breakthrough performance and dramatic reductions in the time to train complex neural networks," said Diane Bryant, Executive VP of Intel's Data Center Group. "We expect Nervana's technologies to produce a breakthrough 100-fold increase in performance in the next three years to train complex neural networks, enabling data scientists to solve their biggest AI challenges faster," added Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
Transportation

Are Tesla Crashes Balanced Out By The Lives That They Save? (eetimes.com) 198

Friday EE Times shared the story of a Tesla crash that occurred during a test drive. "The salesperson suggested that my friend not brake, letting the system do the work. It didn't..." One Oregon news site even argues autopiloted Tesla's may actually have a higher crash rate.

But there's also been stories about Teslas that have saved lives -- like the grateful driver whose Model S slammed on the brakes to prevent a collision with a pedestrian, and another man whose Tesla drove him 20 miles to a hospital after he'd suddenly experienced a pulmonary embolism. (Slate wrote a story about the incident titled "Code is My Co-Pilot".) Now an anonymous Slashdot reader asks: How many successes has the autopilot had in saving life and reducing damage to property? What is the ratio of these successes to the very public failures?
I'd be curious to hear what Slashdot readers think. If you add it all up, are self-driving cars keeping us safer -- or just making us drive more recklessly?
AI

IBM's Project Intu brings Watson's Capabilities To Any Device (siliconangle.com) 17

IBM has launched a new system-agnostic platform called Project Intu with which it aims to bring "embodied cognition" to a range of devices. From a report on SiliconAngle: In IBM's parlance, "cognitive computing" refers to machine learning. The idea behind Project Intu is that developers will be able to use the platform to embed the various machine learning functions offered by IBM's Watson service into various applications and devices, and make them work across a wide spectrum of form factors. So, for example, developers will be able to use Project Intu's capabilities to embed machine learning capabilities into pretty much any kind of device, from avatars to drones to robots and just about any other kind of Internet of Things' device. As a result, these devices will be able to "interact more naturally" with users via a range of emotions and behaviors, leading to more meaningful and immersive experiences for users, IBM said. What's more, because Project Intu is system-agnostic, developers can use it to build cognitive experiences on a wide range of operating systems, be it Raspberry PI, MacOS, Windows or Linux. Project Intu is still an experimental platform, and it can be accessed via the Watson Developer Cloud, the Intu Gateway and also on GitHub.
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: Should Web Browsers Have 'Fact Checking' Capability Built-In? 240

Reader dryriver writes: There is no shortage of internet websites these days that peddle "information", "knowledge", "analysis", "explanations" or even supposed "facts" that don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny -- one quick trip over to Wikipedia, Snopes, an academic journal or another reasonably factual/unbiased source, and you realize that you've just been fed a triple dose of factually inaccurate horsecrap masquerading as "fact". Unfortunately, many millions of more naive internet users appear to frequent sites daily that very blatantly peddle "untruths", "pseudo-facts" or even "agitprop-like disinformation", the latter sometimes paid for by someone somewhere. No small number of these more gullible internet users then wind up believing just about everything they read or watch on these sites, and in some cases cause other gullible people in the offline world to believe in them too. Now here is an interesting idea: What if your internet browser -- whether Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or other -- was able provide an "information accuracy rating" of some sort when you visit a certain URL. Perhaps something like "11,992 internet users give this website a factual accuracy rating of 3.7/10. This may mean that the website you are visiting is prone to presenting information that may not be factually accurate." You could also take this 2 steps further. You could have a small army of "certified fact checkers" -- people with scientific credentials, positions in academia or similar -- provide a rolling "expert rating" on the very worst of these websites, displayed as "warning scores" by the web browser. Or you could have a keyword analysis algorithm/AI/web crawler go through the webpage you are looking at, try to cross-reference the information presented to you against a selection of "more trusted sources" in the background, and warn you if information presented on a webpage as "fact" simply does not check out. Is this a good idea? Could it be made to work technically? Might a browser feature like this make the internet as a whole a "more factually accurate place" to get information from?That's a remarkable idea. It appears to me that many companies are working on it -- albeit not fast enough, many can say. Google, for instance, recently began adding "Fact check" to some stories in search results. I am not sure how every participating player in this game could implement this in their respective web browsers though. Then there is this fundamental issue: the ability to quickly check whether or not something is indeed accurate. There's too much noise out there, and many publications and blogs report on things (upcoming products, for instance) before things are official. How do you verify such stories? If the NYTimes says, for instance, Apple is not going to launch any iPhone next year, and every website cites NYTimes and republishes it, how do you fact check that? And at last, a lot of fake stories circulate on Facebook. You may think it's a problem. Obama may think it's a problem, but does Facebook see it as a problem? For all it care, those stories are still generating engagement on its site.
Social Networks

Facebook Puts Deep Learning in the Palm of Your Hand (fortune.com) 46

Facebook has built a simple-looking video tool to show off a sophisticated use of artificial intelligence on cell phones. From a report on Fortune: During an event at its office in Menlo Park, Calif., last Friday afternoon, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer showed off software that takes a live Facebook video feed from a cell phone and converts the image in real time into a selection of artistic styles, such as that of Van Gogh. It might sound like a simple filter, but usually, an algorithm of this nature would need to send that type of information back to a server in a data center to process the pixels on more powerful machines. The Facebook crew crafted a less power-hungry and computing-intensive deep learning system they call "Caffe2Go," that uses the computing power in a cell phone. Facebook's Schroepfer showed the algorithm and other applications of artificial intelligence at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday. Last Friday, he called the system a "pretty big leap" and "a real neural net running on a phone in real time."
AI

Samsung To Launch AI Digital Assistant Service For Galaxy S8 (reuters.com) 67

Samsung plans to launch an "artificial intelligence" digital assistant with its upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone, it told Reuters. The announcement comes a month after the company acquired AI startup Viv, a voice assistant that aims to handle everyday tasks for you on its own. The company plans to incorporate this capability on its home appliances and wearable devices as well. From the report:Samsung is counting on the Galaxy S8 to help revive smartphone momentum after scrapping the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7, which will hit its profit by $5.4 billion over three quarters through the first quarter of 2017. Investors and analysts say the Galaxy S8 must be a strong device in order for Samsung to win back customers and revive earnings momentum. Samsung did not comment on what types of services would be offered through the AI assistant that will be launched on the Galaxy S8, which is expected to go on sale early next year. It said the AI assistant would allow customers to use third-party service seamlessly. "Developers can attach and upload services to our agent," said Samsung Executive Vice President Rhee Injong during a briefing, referring to its AI assistant. "Even if Samsung doesn't do anything on its own, the more services that get attached the smarter this agent will get, learn more new services and provide them to end-users with ease."
AI

Elon Musk Predicts Automation Will Lead To A Universal Basic Income (mashable.com) 426

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable's new article about Tesla/SpaceX founder Elon Musk: Tech innovators in the self-driving car and AI industries talk a lot about how many human jobs will be innovated out of existence, but they rarely explain what will happen to all those newly jobless humans. In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Musk said that he believes the solution to taking care of human workers who are displaced by robots and software is creating a (presumably government-backed) universal basic income for all. "There's a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," said Musk. "I'm not sure what else one would do. That's what I think would happen."
And what will this world look like? "People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things," Musk told CNBC's interviewer. "Certainly more leisure time." President Obama has also talked about "redesigning the social compact" with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, and in August predicted the question of whether there's support for the Universal Basic Income is "a debate that we'll be having over the next 10 or 20 years."
AI

Google's DeepMind AI Plans To Take On StarCraft II (venturebeat.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google and Blizzard are opening up StarCraft II to anyone who wants to teach artificial intelligence systems how to conduct warfare. Researchers can now use Google's DeepMind A.I. to test various theories for ways that machines can learn to make sense of complicated systems, in this case Blizzard's beloved real-time strategy game. In StarCraft II, players fight against one another by gathering resources to pay for defensive and offensive units. It has a healthy competitive community that is known for having a ludicrously high skill level. But considering that DeepMind A.I. has previously conquered complicated turn-based games like chess and go, a real-time strategy game makes sense as the next frontier. The companies announced the collaboration today at the BlizzCon fan event in Anaheim, California, and Google's DeepMind A.I. division posted a blog about the partnership and why StarCraft II is so ideal for machine-learning research. If you're wondering how much humans will have to teach A.I. about how to play and win at StarCraft, the answer is very little. DeepMind learned to beat the best go players in the world by teaching itself through trial and error. All the researchers had to do was explain how to determine success, and the A.I. can then begin playing games against itself on a loop while always reinforcing any strategies that lead to more success. For StarCraft, that will likely mean asking the A.I. to prioritize how long it survives and/or how much damage it does to the enemy's primary base. Or, maybe, researchers will find that defining success in a more abstract way will lead to better results, discovering the answers to all of this is the entire point of Google and Blizzard teaming up.
Google

Google Moves To Upgrade App Store, Aims To Help Developers Bolster Revenue (reuters.com) 25

Google plans to double down on its efforts to help developers of Android apps build their businesses as concerns mount that the app economy has reached saturation. The company is sharpening Google Play store recommendations with AI and expanding support for various payment platforms, among other initiatives, reports Reuters, citing company's top executive. From the article:Many smartphone users, meanwhile, appear to have tired of downloading apps altogether, especially as messaging services like Snapchat perform more of the functions that once required a separate app. Games remain a focus of the Google Play store, and Nintendo is building a version of its popular Super Mario Run game for Android, said Sameer Samat, who leads product management for the Google Play store. The store is also expanding to new platforms, including wearable devices, virtual reality headsets and Google's Chromebook laptops. "What we are excited about is giving developers that single entry point for more and more of the computing ecosystem," said Samat. Google has eased the once-complicated process of developing apps for the Play store, said James Knight, a former Google employee who launched Pembroke, a consultancy that helps developers convert Apple-compatible iOS apps to Android. A big part of Google's new effort involves emerging markets, where Android is stronger relative to the iPhone. To improve app recommendations for users, the Play store has also made extensive use of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that gleans insights from vast troves of data.

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