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Posts Tagged ‘London’

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.

AI Lessons from TEDxWomen

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

2018 has been dominated by relentless news coverage on the topic of Artificial Intelligence or AI, (perhaps even moreso than Blockchain – another hot topic du jour), which in turn proclaim doom or nirvana depending with whom you speak, and when. Why, I attended a recent TEDxWomen event at Salesforce Tower in London where I helped facilitate discussions about Robotics and AI, and I must say that given the level of interest and diversity of the group in attendance, it quickly became clear to me that ordinary people’s expectations, perceptions and conversations about the progress of AI needs feeding back to the people and processes that develop it. 

The topics under discussion originate from a couple of TEDWomen talks about: Robotics and developing empathetic AI co-pilot. The first talk featured Ayana Howard’s view that robots can be good yet also biased, sexist and racist, which could make them doubly dangerous given the level of trust and emotional attachment we humans sometimes place in robots. The second talk by Nivruti Rai, focused on tapping into our collective intelligence via a personal agent or ‘co-pilot’ which can provide constant guidance to its human subject, based on ‘wisdom-of-the-crowd’ style insight and thus influencing the users every decision e.g.: choice of meal, traffic navigation, and lifestyle choices, including choice of dates or marriage partners!       

Given the degree of emergent influence and impact on individuals, business and society, it is not surprising the level of trepidation people have about the unknown / unintended consequence of AI and its myriad applications. However, this group surprised me with their pragmatic and optimistic take on these developments, which are summarized in the following top 3 messages we played back to other attendees, as follows:

1. We must Embrace AI – AI is here to stay, therefore embrace it with certain knowledge that controlling AI might not be perfect, but as humans we can adapt and course correct as necessary

2. Absolutely need to address underlying bias issues – Must ensure those that work on AI also represent the diversity of humanity, particularly among typically under-represented minorities 

3. Emerging trends can be startling – Some countries have decided to sanction dating or marriage to AI, perhaps a harbinger of a likely future with evolved AI systems

In conclusion, it is heartening to know that people wish to be actively involved in the evolution and application of AI, especially where it impacts and influences their lives – i.e. before, rather than after the fact. Also, there is reasonable optimism and excitement, laced with trust in our human ability to adapt to the level of change it will undoubtedly manifest on society and people alike. After all, what is the point in having to receive last rites each time you engage an autonomous vehicle, or take advice from your trusted co-pilot? 

Were You Inspired?

August 13, 2012 3 comments

The end of a successful London 2012 Olympics, heralds a return to reality not least for the people of London who played host to the world for two straight weeks. Numerous events, achievements and incidents occurred during the week, but a critical factor for me was the superb organisation which provide some great lessons for any business to embrace and emulate.

Sunset at the Olympic Park

Sunset at the Olympic Park

Below are four great lessons from the London 2012 Olympic Games:

  1. Never promise too much – the organisers of London 2012 did not promise more than they could deliver. In fact, the closing ceremony performance at the Beijing 2008 Games gave little hint of what was to come as the Olympic flag was handed over to London Mayor, Boris Johnson
  2. Wow them with your opener – The opening ceremony for London 2012 was a real eye opener for people on just what the Games could deliver, and they did not disappoint.
  3. Deliver the goods – The most important part of the Olympics are the games, and London 2012 successfully delivered in terms of: organisation, audience participation (apart from early issues with rare tickets vs. empty seats), television coverage (the BBC coverage was outstanding), and a remarkable medal haul for the host nation.
  4. Be gracious in your exit – The games concluded with a music laden closing ceremony, and the Olympic flag was passed with some aplomb to Brazil, the next host nation which also gave a taste of what to expect in Rio de Janeiro come 2016. Even the departure experience at Heathrow Airport was something to write home about.

“Successful”, “fantastic”, “enjoyable”, “brilliant” were some of the descriptive words used by athletes, volunteers, organisers and spectators at these last Games, and those are words that any business should like to hear coming from their clients, customers, employees and partners.