Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘AI’ Category

AI Time

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Happy Monday. Reminder that tomorrow’s the big autumn Apple launch event. Keynote starts at 10 a.m. PDT tomorrow and is expected to introduce a range of new products, as well as release info for the company’s various OSes. Oh, and expect a launch date for the Apple Arcade.

Meanwhile, if you’re an AI professor, life has never been so good. A U of Rochester study was conducted that found 153 AI professors in N. American universities left their posts for industry over the past 15 years, with an additional 68 working there while retaining part-time professorial duties.

This has led to graduating students being less likely to build new AI companies, and when they did, attracting smaller amounts of funding. The study argues this AI brain drain could hamper innovation and growth across the economy. Who else is going to teach those self-driving cars to rear-end unsuspecting human drivers??!

A NY Times opinion piece suggests there are larger problems looming on the AI front…namely, that current AI systems don’t grasp basic concepts like time, space and causality. Example they use, via a simple Google search: “Did George Washington own a computer?” None of Google’s first 10 search results gave the correct answer.

I guess asking about the cherry tree is a non starter.

Written by turbotodd

September 9, 2019 at 9:54 am

Deepfake Left On One!

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If you’re concerned about deepfakes, fear not: Facebook, Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition, and academics from seven universities have launched a contest to find better ways of identifying deepfakes.

Participants in the Deepface Detection Challenge will be given access to a collection of deepfake videos that Facebook plans to release in December, and will feature professional actors who consented to having their faces used in deepfakes (in other words, out of work actors).

From Facebook’s AI Blog: “‘Deepfake’ techniques, which present realistic AI-generated videos of real people doing and saying fictional things, have significant implications for determining the legitimacy of information presented online. Yet the industry doesn’t have a great data set or benchmark for detecting them.”

“…The goal of the challenge is to produce technology that everyone can use to better detect when AI has been used to alter a video in order to mislead the viewer. The Deepfake Detection Challenge will include a data set and leaderboard, as well as grants and awards, to spur the industry to create new ways of detecting and preventing media manipulated via AI from being used to mislead others.”

Written by turbotodd

September 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

Not The Turing Test

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I continue to see bits and specs of what our coming AI overlords are capable of. Most recently, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence unveiled a system (called “Aristo”) that passed an eighth-grade science test. To which I ask, where was Aristo when I needed it??

According to a report from Cade Metz in The New York Times, Aristo correctly answered more than 90% of the questions on an eighth-grade science test, and more than 80% on a 12th-grade exam. The system was built for multiple-choice tests, and took standard exams designed for students in New York, minus any questions that required pictures or diagrams.

The Times’ piece suggests the new research could lead to systems that carry on a decent conversation, but could also encourage the spread of false information. The backbone of the technology is powered by neural networks that can learn the idiosyncrasies of language by analyzing articles and books (and not entirely dissimilar with what IBM did with Watson on “Jeopardy!” eight years ago.)

At Microsoft, Jingjing Liu and her fellow AI researchers have tried to build a system that can pass the GRE, a test common for admission graduate schools, but the math section has proved “far too challenging.”

Time for a Princeton Review prep course?

Written by turbotodd

September 5, 2019 at 9:53 am

Two Algos Walk Into a Bar…

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Two AI algos walk into a bar. First algo says to the other algo, “Are you self-aware?” Second algo replies, “The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.”

Two seasoned tech executives meet on the stage of the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai yesterday, different entities, similar results.

I watched most of the interview between Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tesla’s Elon Musk on replay, one in which they discussed everything from going (or not) to Mars, jobs, education, and humanity’s AI-shaped future.

They seemed on somewhat opposite ends of the AI spectrum.

Ma seemed more optimistic, while Musk’s take was more sobering, conveying we were doomed in our attempts to keep up with AI.

Ma’s take was that we’ll never be controlled by machines. Musk pointed out that Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue in chess in 1997!!

Ma projected AI would likely take over more jobs, but that would leave us humans with ample free time to pursue our passions!

Rich stuff from the guy who in April declared the blessing of working 12-hour days, 6 day weeks.

But I’m still rooting for Alibaba’s AI bots (or Musk’s brain-attached Neuralink) to save us all from a life of 72-hour work weeks and soon.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Written by turbotodd

August 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Knock Knock

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Happy Hump Day.  The GZERO Signal warns this morning that the AI backlash has been recently accelerating.

Noting Bernie Sanders becoming the first 2020 prez candidate to call for an outright ban on facial recognition in policing….European policymakers weighing regs to curtail “indiscriminate” use of AI by companies and governments…Hong Kongers donning masks to prevent authorities from using their faces ID to them.

Wayback machine “Minority Report” showing, anyone? I’ll bring the GMO popcorn!

On the Chimerica front, the Google’s apparently taking no chances on the US-China trade war. 9to5 Google is reporting the Droid is set to move production of its Pixel phone from China to Vietnam, but suggest it’s unclear whether this move will affect the production of the upcoming Google Pixel 4.

If it did, that would be some awfully fast production line and supply chain retooling. Good morning, Vietnam!

Google is also putting its algos to work on the Nest Hello doorbell, which The Verge is reporting can now detect deliveries and notify U.S. users of such for a mere $5/month with its Nest Aware service.

No word yet if the Nest Hello could help say goodbye to porch thieves watching your arriving Prime packages.

Written by turbotodd

August 28, 2019 at 9:52 am

Mr. Speaker

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Canalys is reporting that the global smart speaker market grew 55.4% in Q219 to reach 26.1M units. While Amazon kept its global lead at 6.6M units, Baidu gew 3,700% to reach 4.5M units, serving only the Chinese domestic market. That shifted Baidu in front of Google, which shipped 4.3M.

Also on the Chinese front, facial recognition startup Megvii filed for a Hong Kong IPO at a roughly $4B valuation. Megvii sells AI products that range from facial reco to algorithms designed for traffic management.

Some other Monday morning AI funding rounds:

Versatile Natures, $5.5M (seed), nurtured in Autodesk’s Build Space in Tel Aviv since April 2017, uses AI to improve construction processes.

Capacity (formerly Jane.ai), $13.2M Series B, AI that helps companies maintain a searchable index by consolidating info from various apps.

And Tech Nation reports that UK tech startups hit a record $6.7B in the seven months of 2019, suggesting there’s no Brexit brakes on innovation!

Speaking of brakes, after President Trump’s Tweets raising tariffs on China whipsawed global markets Friday, U.S. markets seem to have settled down after the President tweeted this AM: “Talks are continuing.”

Your 401K: It’s better just not to look. No, really.

Written by turbotodd

August 26, 2019 at 9:51 am

TPS Reports Get AIed

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Interesting case studies are starting to emerge around AI.

One in particular I read about was Airbus SE, which The Wall Street Journal reported is using AI to squeeze cost out of its finance function.

The article reports that less than half of companies’ accounts payable activity worldwide is currently automated, according to the CFO Consulting practice at Accenture Strategy. That number is expected to rise to 80% by 2025.

Less than two years ago for Airbus Americas employees would review about 25,000 travel and expense reports filed by employees in Texas every year. Manual processing could take up to an hour to review.

The new system developed by AppZen matches reports against a repository of accepted vendors, expense types and amounts to spot anomalies. Now humans only review details seen as “noncompliant," which the Journal article reports is only one or two lines in a 30-line report.

If the report’s a go, it’s automatically validated and payment initiated, and if it’s flagged noncompliant, high risk reports are blocked from payment and reviewed by a human analyst.

Bottom line: Airbus’ initial investment of $50,000 paid off and resulted another $50,000 savings in year one, and they expect to save $100K this year and $200K in 2020.

You can learn more about some other AI cases here.

Written by turbotodd

August 20, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Posted in 2019, AI, artificial intelligence

Tagged with ,

No Debate

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If you didn’t hear about IBM’s Project Debater earlier in the year when it debated a real live (and really smart) human, here’s your chance to learn more about what you missed out on the first time around.

Reader’s D: Project Debater uses machine learning and AI to form arguments and rebuttals in debates with humans. The technology was developed over a 6 1/2-year period, and drew on expertise in fields ranging from philosophy to NLP.

One of my favorite must read emails, “Morning Brew,” has a derivative called “Emerging Tech Brew,” and they just added some more color to the Project Debater palate:

“Six months ago, Debater squared off with a top-ranked human counterpart on the merits of preschool subsidies. Though the AI system lost, it strung together minutes-long speeches, crafted a rebuttal, delivered its points persuasively, and even cracked some jokes.”

What’s next:

“IBM’s not scheduling any rematches soon. Now, it’s “pursuing other directions to commercialize the technology and further the science,” [IBM Researcher Noam] Slonim said. That means converting the advanced research into language-comprehension tech for large companies.

There’s no debate in my mind whatsoever it’s a big step up in the field of AI.

Written by turbotodd

August 13, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Moving Insurance

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You may think the insurance business is boring, but hey, my dad was an insurance agent, and he sure was never boring (anything, but!)

But he’s been retired for a few years, and the insurance biz is changing.

Example: TechCrunch is reporting on a London-based startup called Zego, a firm that foresaw the need for gig-economy workers to have insurance. 

Though its first products were pay-as-you-go scooter and car insurance for food delivery workers, it has now announced a $42M Series B raise that will help it cater to a variety of “the new mobility services,” including ride-hailing, ridesharing, car rental and scooter sharing.

From a risk management perspective, things get even more interesting, because the company will now offer a range of policies, “from minute-by-minute insurance to annual cover[age], providing more flexibility than traditional insurers, with pricing based on usage data from vehicles.”

Zego’s mission statement in a nutshell can be found in this quote:

Sten Saar, CEO and co-founder of Zego, said: “When we built Zego from scratch three years ago, our mission was to transform the insurance sector by creating products which truly reflected the rapidly changing world of transport… The world is becoming more urbanized and because of this, we are moving from traditional ownership of vehicles to shared ‘usership’. This means that the rigid model of insurance that has existed for hundreds of years is no longer fit for purpose.”

Written by turbotodd

June 18, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Turbo’s Take: Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2019

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Mary Meeker is speaking again at this year’s Code Conference, and delivering her always highly-anticipated Internet Trends Report.

Following is a CC from Vox’s highlights.

  • Some 51 percent of the world — 3.8 billion people — were internet users last year, up from 49 percent (3.6 billion) in 2017. Growth slowed to about 6 percent in 2018 because so many people have come online that new users are harder to come by. Sales of smartphones — which are the primary internet access point for many people across the globe — are declining as much of the world that is going to be online already is.
  • As of last week, seven out of 10 of the world’s most valuable companies by market cap are tech companies, with only Berkshire Hathaway, Visa, and Johnson & Johnson making the Top 10 as non-tech companies:
  1. Microsoft
  2. Amazon
  3. Apple
  4. Alphabet
  5. Berkshire Hathaway
  6. Facebook
  7. Alibaba
  8. Tencent
  9. Visa
  10. Johnson & Johnson
  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.
  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.
  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.
  • There are a number of problems ahead for targeted advertising, including GDPR impact and other regulation, as well as pushes for more privacy from hardware and software companies like Apple and Facebook.
  • Americans are spending more time with digital media than ever: 6.3 hours a day in 2018, up 7 percent from the year before. Most of that growth is coming from mobile and other connected devices, while time spent on computers declines. People are also getting more concerned about time spent online, as more than a quarter of US adults say they’re “almost constantly online.”
  • Innovation at tech companies outside the US has remained robust. Popular areas include fulfillment, delivery, and payments.
  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.
  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.
  • As privacy becomes a bigger selling point, expect more options to make your online communications safe. In Q1, 87 percent of global web traffic was encrypted, up from 53 percent three years ago.
  • The internet will become more of a cesspool: Getting rid of problematic content becomes more difficult on a large scale, and the very nature of internet communication allows that content to be amplified much more than before. Some issues: 42 percent of US teens have experienced offensive name-calling online, terrorists are being radicalized on sites like YouTube, and social media has encouraged increased political polarization.
  • Of the top 25 most valuable tech companies, 60 percent were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants. They employed 1.9 million people last year. New stricter immigration laws could negatively impact the tech industry and perhaps prevent our next Elon Musk from getting to the US.
  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

My takeaways:

  • There’s lots of confusion ahead for advertising, advertisers, and advertisees. Who’s going to “own” the advertising audience moving forward with a battle royale going on between handset and other device makers, developers, third-party advertising entities, e-retailers and advertising disrupters, particularly as issues of accountability, brand safety, and privacy/data regulation get fought over. And in the U.S., expect to see more First Amendment issues get challenged.
  • Mobile has become the killer app, for both advertising and, ergo, for content consumption. While broadcast TV will continue to thrive if, for no other reason, real-time sporting events, increasingly the eyeballs that matter (Generations Y, Z, and beyond…including millennials) will be watching content on something other than a TV via a mechanism that is IP-based and on the move. Agencies, advertisers, platforms, and all points beyond must adjust if they want to stay relevant.
  • E-payments are (including mobile) are, in my estimation, still a killer app that are ridiculously underserved and undertapped in the U.S. Go to China and the whole ecosystem is about WeChat mobile payments, from street vendors to Louis Vutton, and we’re still fiddling around with credit cards in the West. Expect Facebook’s play here to challenge the banking and payment status quo, and possibly even the notion of nation-state fiat currency. They have 2+ billion potential customers. And you thought the U.S. Congress wasn’t just ready for dealing with data legislation?
  • Encryption as a panacea for our privacy ills will have to be counterbalanced by the needs of the national security and sigint apparati around the globe. Don’t expect the nation state to go dark on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. without a fight (and who knows, maybe the encryption’s already on, but so are the virtual microphones). Remember US v Apple iPhone Encryption when President Obama was still president? Yeah, that.
  • Re: Data and antitrust legislation, this is one to keep an eye on. The U.S. so far has outsourced its privacy legislation to the EU vis a vis GDPR (save for some state-based privacy legislative initiatives from the likes of California), and so far as antitrust and tech giants are concerned, there’s such a rich target set and so little resources. Regulators are going to have to pick their battles selectively, and even then, know that their efforts could put giant balls and chains around the ankles of the very innovation they would argue keep us apace on China and ROW. Also, as IBM’s Ginni Rometty says, “Data is the next natural resource.” If China generates data like oil spouting out of the original Spindletop, and the U.S./Europe stand around twiddling their thumbs and capping their virtual wells, the West could rapidly find itself at a competitive disadvantage in the Great AI Wars of the 21st Century, if not outright handicapped.
  • At the same time, we won’t be able to completely tariff our way forward (with China and Huawei, or anybody else). Uncle Sam and the academy need to continue to focus on what made Silicon Valley (and, ergo, America) great in the first place: The embrace of intellectual and academic freedom and research, smart immigration policies that encourage the best and the brightest to come to America…and (should they so choose) stay; forward looking investments and pure R&D from Uncle Sam (not unlike the Space Race, which led to so many of the innovations we enjoy today)…and, you know, rational, enlightened thinking about the future of technology and the positive (and negative) impacts it can have.

I reserve the right to have further reactions as I more fully absorb the entirety of Meeker’s always fascinating and helpful report.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Posted in 2019, AI, privacy

Tagged with , ,

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