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Posts Tagged ‘IET’

Will our human bias eventually defeat AI?

February 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Each year, I make an effort to attend the IET / BCS Turing Talk in London, and over the past few years I’ve witnessed talks by leading minds in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and even Computer Vision. It is no coincidence that AI takes center stage at this particular point in time, (i.e. the dawn of what the World Economic Forum call the 4th industrial revolution), because AI will likely have the most profound impact of all technologies powering said revolution.

This years edition of the Talk focused on the topic of AI bias, and how it mirrors & magnifies the biases of society and of the people that develop and deploy AI systems. Speaker, Krishna P. Gummadi, painted a clear picture of the resulting bias in data, algorithms and usage of AI, as well as the negative impact on under represented groups in society. He concluded with a 3 point call to action that will help address these issues, as follows:

  • Implement fair learning objectives – develop algorithms that take into account the needs and presence of sub groups within a general population. Error rates are key, especially regarding false: positives, negatives, omission and discovery.
  • Provide unbiased learning data – Address under represented minorities in sample data. Biased labelling can lead to self-fulfilling vicious cycle
  • Ensure unbiased representational data – Address the huge gender bias in AI representation

Don’t be fooled into thinking this will be an easy task. In adopting ethical or fair learning objectives, for example, one must understand and carefully navigate the dilemma inherent in minimizing error rates for one group versus another, versus the needs of an entire population. Furthermore, one may be forgiven for thinking, as the talk posited, that perhaps AI can “be engineered to help humans control (mitigate) bias or unfairness in their own decisions”, but this may be dangerous, or simply lazy & wishful, thinking.

In my opinion, AI does not have the level of maturity required at this time. It’s like raising a child, (with yourself as role model), and scolding her/him for mirroring your worst behaviors, but also expect him/her to figure out where, when and how you got things wrong, then proceed to fix it and you into the bargain! The point is that AI algorithms and the data which drive them are products of our society and cannot be expected to self-correct on the basis of the same flawed input. We need to do the heavy lifting in attempting to correct ourselves then let AI mirror and improve on the effort.

Finally, I think the Turing Talk organizers did well to feature Dr. Gummadi’s research topic, and I, along with the rest of the audience, sat in sometimes uncomfortable silence as he described some glaringly racist, sexist and other undesirable ills that plague society today – made all too concrete via AI enabled outcomes. I say ‘AI enabled outcomes’ because AI programs, algorithms etc. are not necessarily malicious in of themselves but can effectively become so for under-represented groups, with both intended and unintended consequences. Unbiased AI will remain a tall order, unless those that develop and deploy it take the above recommended measures as a crucial first step in that journey.

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Successful Innovation: Is it an Art or Science?

March 25, 2018 Leave a comment

Shock, horror; learning STEM is not the answer! Well at least not according to Dr. Andy Harter in his thought provoking 2018 BCS/IET Turing Lecture. Thankfully, he also described the key qualities critical for success in the fourth industrial revolution. Read on to find out if you’ve got what it takes.

Harter kicked off the lecture with a poignant question about whether successful tech and innovation was down to an art or a science, giving much pause for thought, but more on that later. The following are the key qualities I took away from the lecture:

  • Creativity – This is inherent quality in every individual is not always teachable. However, it is important to nurture and inspire ‘sparky’ individuals. Creativity often works best when one is able to focus on human element and harness seemingly random ideas, thoughts and visions to solve problems.
  • Motivation is key – Necessity is mother of invention, therefore tapping into an area of need with real emotional connections to the individual can often lead to inspired breakthroughs
  • Story Telling – This can capture the imagination and turn mere functionality push into consumer pull. Great storytellers have lasting impact e.g. Nicola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Steven Spielberg
  • Timing – Being too early or too late is as good as being wrong. For example, the ‘way-ahead-of-it’s-time’ Apple Newton PDA was responsible for the ARM chip (aka Acorn RISC Machine) which is used to power so many mobile devices today. Timing is everything.
  • Observation – Learn to observe carefully everything e.g. detail, structure, patterns. This is one quality which can be taught and which only gets better with practice.
  • Time / space to think – The hare vs. tortoise approach to problem solving describes how frenetic pace can get in the way of deep-thought and meaningful insights. Prominent thinkers have used and recommend micro-naps as a boost for productivity.
  • Simplicity – make simplicity a key principle. Know what to leave out and try not to solve problems that don’t exist. Jazz great, Charlie Mingus once said: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity”
  • Adaptation – this is key to survival in nature, business and tech innovation. There are far too many examples of failures to adapt to a changing landscape. Today’s enterprise must embrace the phoenix like business model approach
  • Generosity – Abundance is a state of mind most relevant to the digital age / fourth industrial revolution. Free software, apps and information powered economy is driven by digital abundance on an unprecedented scale.

Aside from the above, I found it interesting that Harter prefaced the above points by showcasing the works of that most forward-looking polymath, Leonardo Da Vinci, whose ground breaking works combine and span the arts and sciences, and so much more besides. In a world chock full of incredible opportunities, with amazing breakthroughs in: A.I., Autonomous vehicles, Internet of Things and Cloud computing, it is plain to see that the most profound impacts will come from combinations thereof.

In conclusion, it’s become more obvious that the polymath mantra to: “study the art of science and the science of art” in full knowledge that “everything connects to everything else”, stands true more-so now than ever, especially for those seeking to succeed in the 4th industrial revolution. In my opinion, any education or training that features and applies both the arts and sciences will beat the rest going forward. Just sayin’.

 

Google, YouTube – Facing the Music

March 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Ok, no one is immune to the current harsh economic realities; not even the mighty Google. A couple of recent headlines indicate the typical response pattern of revenue and cost control measures, but where will it end?

According to an article in yesterday’s Financial Times, (see online version here), Google plans to start targeting ads to search users, based on their browsing patterns and habits. This should be a win-win situation for advertisers and end-users. However privacy advocates are concerned about the implications to personal privacy. For one thing, this is not an opt-in scheme therefore users will have to explicitly request removal, also there is the danger that the browsing information so gathered might get used in ways not originally intended.

Also, earlier this week, Google’s YouTube started blocking some video content in the UK. According to an article on PaidContent, this was due to a breakdown in their music licence renewal negotiations with major UK rights society, PRS for Music. The main bone of contention, as ever, was over money: YouTube thinks the licence fees are too high, PRS for Music think otherwise. As a result:

  • Some videos get blocked in the UK (and UK users miss out on their favourite YouTube videos)
  • Cue the usual headlines, sound-bites, and blog chatter (…ok, guilty as charged)
  • Finally, something happens (e.g. law suites), and the dispute is resolved (or not).

But really, who cares? It’s all become so predictable and boring; this never-ending conflict over costs, control and a Darwinian game of one-upmanship, at the expense of the content creator and the consumer.

In other unrelated matters, last week, I gave a talk to a joint BCS / IET / ACM audience about Digital Piracy, Privacy and the Content Economy in Cambridge University’s William Gates Lecture theatre (a great venue). I got a few questions about the potential for using content control mechanisms to support things like: micro-transactions / usage tracking / audit and reconciliation. My answer was that these could also be used in combination with other measures to enable provision of: open, non-intrusive and measurable access to content for users anywhere, anytime and on any device. But that would be far too easy, and too good to be true, now won’t it?

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.