Friday, July 8, 2016

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 86


On a post-apocalyptic 2077 Earth, Tech 49 named ‘Jack’ (played by Tom Cruise) works with drones to protect the fusion generators fueling colonists relocating to Saturn’s moon.  Hostile aliens capture, reprogram and arm one of the drones with a nuclear weapon. Sally, a computer-generated image being manipulated by the aliens, comforts a besieged Tech 49…

You can’t blame yourself… Drones are unreliable… Sometimes things go wrong.”

Sixty-two years earlier (in 2015), Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai (below) inherited the home planet of the Alphabet universe from Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Per Pichai, the post-mobile Google is “normalizing” home and car computer interactivity. The trick to all this is solving complex computations using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Old school computer programming has been replaced by techniques such as artificial neural networks (ANN) that recognize patterns, repeats and interconnections across big data sets. Pichai believes, “We’ve been making very meaningful progress… The rate has reached an inflection point.

How far behind can the dystopic Earth-destroying rise of The Machines be?

Of course – Pichai’s vision has the benefits outweighing the costs, with changes taking place over decades, allowing society to “adapt” to automation. But what if this new social contract between man and The Machines is an algorithm that only Google can solve? “Technology is always disruptive”, says 43 year-old Pichai. “But it’s a force for making people’s lives better. It’s also an incredibly democratizing force over time.” He noted that young Google employees who had recently been diagnosed with cancer would soon benefit from machine learning medicine and AI cures.
Yes indeed, by all means, let’s humanize The Machine.

And when the EU competition commissioners in Brussels ruled that Google exerts too much market power, its new CEO’s response was that pre-installed apps make mobile devices user-ready on purchase. “When you press factory reset on that phone, it needs to work.

And what mere mortal has the guts to de-boot Google’s big machine?

Agnostic on Brexit, Pichai remains committed to both UK and EU markets being part of a Google-controlled unified digital market. “We always find it hard to deal with country by country laws and regulations. That complexity hurts.” Of course, such fragmentation could be viewed as democratic, pro-competition, market-based and/or institutionally protective. But, no doubt “there’s an app for that.”  So Google is hiring more tax-paying engineers in Britain, and now commands a growing army of math geniuses.

Bill Gates was born sixty-two years ago, in the year before the first AI research conference at Dartmouth College.

When Bill was recently asked by Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker if technology can go too far, he responded that, "When you get into gene editing and saying 'OK' should people be able to pick characteristics of babies, you get very strong negative reactions to it being used like that." Gates expanded on the thought, adding, "In the digital space where people have sup intelligence and computers taking over and that... Technology rarely comes in a totally pure form."

The same Bill Gates once called AI the "Holy Grail" of computing.

Asked whether he worries about the future of augmented reality, machine learning and AI on society (and the related unemployment and income inequality), Gates felt that, "Overwhelmingly, every one of those technologies provides way more positive opportunity than threat." But Gates drew a hard line on technology-enabled autonomous weapons, characterizing it as "purely a negative thing." To emphasize his point, Gates elaborated, "The idea that someone would take biological tools and create a weapon is very scary, and that would be the ultimate misuse of the advanced technology."

Jim Breyer, 2005 backer of Facebook (now valued at $326B), says AI will be bigger than social media and the internet. He thinks AI will create new wealth in the film & entertainment industry, where it was used to get the Interstellar movie trailer ready for its social media launch.

Carnegie Mellon University Dean of Computer Science Andrew Moore, who worked on A at Google, believes that in ten years, "We'll talk as friends" with Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Assistant.

But Superintelligence author Nick Bostrom, writing about AI in 2014, warned readers that "we humans are like small children playing with a bomb."

Engineers link powerful computers together to create ANN’s that recognize complex patterns… faces, bank fraud, speech, driving, even cancer. ANN’s are connected to readily scaleable cloud computing infrastructure. The end game is developing machines that can think abstractly and adapt – machine learning. All the mega-data sampling companies – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and IBM – have major AI projects underway.

Current ANN’s are pre-autonomous.Child-like, they can only digest carefully structured and annotated data that engineers feed them to learn, “just like any kind of learning organism.” 

ANN’s are not used much in medicine… yet.

Since the 1960’s, the Stanford University Vision Lab focuses on connecting computer vision to human vision. Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) scientists are developing “human-centered artificial intelligence” for autonomous vehicles, visual recognition and vision acuity. SAIL director, Li Fei-Fei, wants AI to co-habitate with people, and to adopt humanistic thinking.

Google’s 2014 $400M acquisition of London-based DeepMind recently led to a machine learning victory; it took Google’s AlphaGo the power of 1,200 processors and 170 graphics-processing chips to defeat the world’s reigning Go strategy game champion (above). Google and the UK government's National Health Service (NHS) have just partnered to study whether computers can be trained to detect degenerative eye diseases leading to blindness. Of note, between 2015 and 2022, the biggest increase in blockbuster drug sales in the EU will be Regeneron's Eylea (1.7B Euros) for wet macular degeneration (below).

Back to the future... just one Bill Gates lifetime ahead...

That is one pissed off weapon,”… says Jack.

No,” responds Sally. It’s just a machine.”

As Tech 49 ascends to destroy the aliens’ massive orbiting space station, he quotes Lord Macauley’s epic 1881 poem… ”And how can man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, in the temples of his Gods?”

We in the Square know that Horatius (above) and two compatriots faced certain death when repelling 6th century B.C. Clusium invaders streaming into ancient Rome across the Sublician Bridge. 

But in 2016 A.D., who stands bravely against the odds in the AI temple of the Gods? 

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