Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Posts I've written about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don't miss anything.

Alexa, The Killer App

The superstar of CES® 2017 was not a car, or a robot, or even a TV; it was Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the software that allows you to control compatible devices with your voice. Various reports estimated there were 700–1,100 Alexa-controllable products at the show. I can't verify the number, but "and it works with Alexa" was the running gag at CES. The familiar Amazon/Alexa logo seemed to be everywhere. Continue Reading →
Monochromatic Crowd
I'm not really worried about rogue computers threatening our lives. I'm worried about the small number of programmers and coders charged with realizing the financial and political goals of their patrons. Could a ubiquitous social network skew or even direct an election? Could a traffic control system delay certain people from getting to work on time? Could an AI-enhanced financial services company deny loans or insurance due to zip code or race because it is the "best outcome" based on its programming? Could we train the AI that controls our news, communications and entertainment to restrict us to our comfort zones without even realizing what we've done? Continue Reading →

Should You Fear AI?

HAL9000
Opining about the future of AI at the recent Brilliant Minds event at Symposium Stockholm, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt rejected warnings from Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking about the dangers of AI, saying, "In the case of Stephen Hawking, although a brilliant man, he's not a computer scientist. Elon is also a brilliant man, though he too is a physicist, not a computer scientist." This absurd dismissal of Musk and Hawking was in response to an absurd question about "the possibility of an artificial superintelligence trying to destroy mankind in the near future." However, in Commander #1's immortal words, "We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger." Continue Reading →
Google Home and Amazon Echo
Sometimes I walk into a room and say, “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?” She answers by speaking the current temperature followed by an abbreviated weather report. She’s so human-like, I have to resist the temptation to say “Thank you” when she finishes. Importantly, Alexa is not a she; it is a component of Amazon's Echo natural language processing system. Amazon has anthropomorphized Echo with a female voice and a feminine name, which makes it easy to call Alexa a “she.” Should we be polite when we speak to it, or is it OK to be abrupt or even abusive? The device won’t care. It doesn't have feelings; but how will we teach our children to differentiate between machines that sound and act like people, and other disembodied voices that actually are people? Continue Reading →
Can the Data Poor Survive?
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of companies in the world: data rich and data poor. The richest of the data rich (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc.) are easy to name. But you don't need to be at the top of this list to use data to create value. You need to have the tools in place to turn information (data) into action -- that's what the data rich do that the data poor and the data middle class do not. Continue Reading →
Regression
Because the velocity of data is increasing and will always increase, the need for data literacy is increasing and will always increase. This does not mean that to be successful executive you have to become a data scientist -- quite the contrary. It means that in order to be a successful executive, you need to understand how data is turned into action, be familiar with the methods of data science and data scientific research, and be able to think strategically about how to use data to create value for your business. All other things being equal, there is a significant difference between being literate and being fluent. Continue Reading →
AlphaGo
What made move 37 so interesting is that no one expected it. It was early in game two of the million-dollar Google DeepMind Challenge Match, and AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence (AI) system developed by Google, placed its 19th stone on a part of the game board that no human Go master would have considered. Some called it a "mistake." Others called it "creative" and "unique." But considering that AlphaGo went on to win its third game in a row against one of the strongest Go players in the world, the move should probably have been called what it really was: "intuitive." Continue Reading →
Hello Barbie!
Hello Barbie! is an IoT-enabled Barbie Doll with blonde hair, blue eyes and a built-in surveillance system. She's not the first of her kind (and she won't be the last), but here's what you should know about bringing it, or any connected device, into your home. Continue Reading →

Death by Social Media

Reuters - Stabbing in Israel
The Arabic hashtag #stab is something I'd rather not see on a social media post. Israel's UN ambassador, Danny Danon, recently showed a version of the instructional graphic that accompanied that hashtag to the UN Security Council with the English-language title, "How to Stab a Jew." Mr. Danon was making a point – but also describing a form of warfare so new it does not yet have a name. Continue Reading →

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