AI and the Zone of Hubris

AI progress and a landscape of problem conditions

I’ve mentioned this ‘Zone of Hubris’ idea in a couple of earlier posts, and it’s time I made it clear what I mean by this slightly over-blown phrase.

The basic idea is that the sort of AI we are making at the moment is being developed against a range of problems with very clear success metrics, and relatively high levels of available information. Recent rapid progress is giving rise to significant confidence in our ability to begin to address really useful problems with the aid of AI (nothing in this post relates to currently imaginary super-intelligent Artificial General Intelligence).

This is likely to lead us to seek to apply our shiny new successes more ambitiously – as well we should. But we need to be aware that we have been sharpening these tools in a particular arena, and that it is not at all certain that they will work well in different circumstances.

“Well, of course..” you might say; “we’re quite aware of that – that’s exactly how we’ve been proceeding – moving into new problem domains, realising that our existing tools don’t work, and building new ones”. Well yes, but I would suggest that it hasn’t so much been a case of building new tools, as it is has been about refining old ones. As is made clear in some earlier posts, most of the building blocks of today’s AI were formulated decades ago, and on top of that, there appears to have been fairly strong selection for problem spaces that are amenable to game/game-theoretic approaches.

‘Hubris’ is defined as ‘excessive or foolish pride or self-confidence‘. Continue reading “AI and the Zone of Hubris”

Games and Game-Theory – the trouble with paradigms…

First of a few posts with my own thoughts arising from the recent New Scientist ‘Instant Expert’ event.

gametheory
credit: xkcd.com

Games and Game Theory appear to be the ruling paradigm for the current AI top dogs. Both Irina Higgins and Simon Lucas made clear cases for the choice of gaming environments as AI training grounds, and referenced Game Theory, too.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to argue with them – but I do think it is worth examining the assumptions that underlie gaming approaches and Game Theory, and considering these as they relate to the problem spaces which we dearly wish that AI could help us with. As you might guess, I am not sanguine… Continue reading “Games and Game-Theory – the trouble with paradigms…”

New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session Two; Embodiment Perspectives – Pentti Haikonen

PenttiHaikonenPentti Haikonen is adjunct professor in the philosophy department at the University of Illinois at Springfield. An electronics engineer by training, he has constructed the experimental robot XCR-1, designed to exhibit conscious-like behaviour, and has written several books on approaches to developing conscious robots.

Despite his strong Finnish accent, the fourth presentation of this event by Pentti Haikonen achieved easily the most engaged response from the audience during the day with videos of his XCR-1 robot.

xczr-1a

Continue reading “New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session Two; Embodiment Perspectives – Pentti Haikonen”

New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session Two; Embodiment Perspectives – Kerstin Dautenhahn

Kerstin Dautenhahn is Professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Hertfordshire. Her research interests include social learning, human-robot interaction and social robotics. She is the co-creator of KASPAR, a robot designed to help children with autism develop communication skills.
Making the third presentation at this event, Kerstin explained her background in biological cybernetics, and the ways that her work revolves around the interactions between humans and robots/AI, concerned particularly with systems that aim to help people.
She was concerned to be immediately clear: robots are not people.
Elaborating, she pointed out that each robot you encounter is a de novo creation, not only lacking a common biological heritage with humans – making them unavoidably alien, but without any necessary shared characteristics (either deep or apparent) with any other robot.
Further, now and for the foreseeable future (in her opinion), robots have no psychology – there is no ‘mind’ in there.
The term robot, then, is a moving target, without a firm definition (I was surprised that we weren’t reminded of the etymological origin of the word ‘robot’ in the Czech word for ‘slave’), so that any conversation about robots must be particularly clear as to terms. This, however, is difficult, because of two very strong human traits;

Continue reading “New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session Two; Embodiment Perspectives – Kerstin Dautenhahn”

New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session One; the Mainstream – Irina Higgins

irinahiggins

Irina Higgins is a senior research scientist at DeepMind, and has a background in neuroscience.

The second presentation at this event largely focused on telling a story about DeepMind’s development of AlphaGo – using this as a vehicle to explain DeepMind’s approach and give insights into its culture.

She told us that DeepMind now has 300 scientists, and was keen to emphasise the high-minded aspirations of the organisation – from its mission statement;

Solve intelligence. Use it to make the world a better place.

to its ‘intentionally designed culture’, which aims to mesh the best aspects of industry and academia; the intense focus and resources of the former with the curiosity driven open-ended approach of the latter.

DeepMind’s operating definition of general intelligence is apparently; Continue reading “New Scientist Artificial Intelligence day – Session One; the Mainstream – Irina Higgins”

Security as an Overhead isn’t working

We’re building a medical app. Of course, Therapy-Smarter isn’t collecting deeply intimate data – just basic contact information, some physiotherapist’s notes, exercise prescriptions and exercise performance data – but nevertheless, medical data is medical data- it’s inherently sensitive, and any company that cares about its reputation needs to take data privacy – and thus data security – very seriously indeed.

HealthITbreaches

So, we’ve been thinking about it fairly hard – but not in a technical way; it’s a specialist domain and we assume that we will need to pay people who know what they are doing to advise us on best practice and  then get them to assess our implementation.

No, we’ve been thinking hard about security in terms of business culture, because it seems painfully clear that this is where security weaknesses really come from. That’s right – I’m saying that security weaknesses have much more to do with business culture than they have to do with engineering.

Continue reading “Security as an Overhead isn’t working”

Developing a Digital idea without Developers

This is in many ways a companion piece to my previous post it started out as a version for LinkedIn, but rapidly evolved into something with a different emphasis.

The internet revolution has changed the landscape of our lives, and yet the disruption has only just started. Existing ways of doing business are largely unchanged from the way they were 20 years ago. Hilarious disconnects exist all over, when ultra-slick digital-only processes crash into messy physical transactions.

There is a reason for this. Coders like to code – they like the safe, ordered, complicated-but-not-truly-complex world of programming. And coders are the ones who feel empowered to invent digital businesses. So, of course, the early digital businesses are the ones that can be achieved with purely digital workflows, and don’t require the startup team ever to leave their own world.

Continue reading “Developing a Digital idea without Developers”

Discoverability, the semantic web and the power of patterns

Raoul Vaneigem said;

Everything has been said yet few have taken advantage of it. Since all our knowledge is essentially banal, it can only be of value to minds that are not.

But he wrote this before the internet existed. Today, we might add ;

… and is only discoverable by those with excellent search skills and a willingness to plough through endless irrelevance.

Finding information that meets your needs, is written in a language you understand, on the basis of assumed knowledge that you already possess is not at all easy – despite the cornucopia that is the internet. Or is it, because of the cornucopia…?

The problem applies in reverse for producers of content. How will your (my!) little gem of insight ever be seen by more than a few?

Continue reading “Discoverability, the semantic web and the power of patterns”

Fairphone 2 open sources its OS

Fairphone2 - credit: Fairphone
Fairphone2 - credit: Fairphone
Fairphone2 – credit: Fairphone

I have an FP1 Fairphone. Not the greatest ‘phone ever, but the outcome of an amazing project started by a small group of Dutch activists to develop and sell a smartphone with the best possible ethical and environmental credentials (avoiding conflict minerals, paying attention to worker’s conditions, supporting repairs and recycling, amid other concerns). The FP1 was fairly compromised, but established the outfit, and sold 60,000.

The FP2 is a significant advance, independently verified as the most ethical smartphone available. Most importantly for me, it is based on a chipset which is ‘open’ enough that alternative OS development is practical ( not the case for the FP1). This means that the ‘phone will likely have a longer practical life, with updates potentially available from a variety of sources.

Fairphone understand and support this, and the impulse to write this post is the announcement that Fairphone are going to open the Fairphone OS (an android fork) for community contributions, releasing a set of software tools to support this.

I haven’t got an FP2 yet (not buying a new ‘phone until you really, really need one is the sustainable way, folks, frustrating though it might be). So I’m hoping that, by the time I do, there will be a strong community behind Fairphone, giving me more and better options for using the hardware – which should itself be upgradeable, thanks to modular design.

Interested in Fairphone? Look here. For Computing magazine’s pre-production review, look here.