Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence
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How Are Zombies Empowered by Algorithms?

And other random thoughts on recent AI headlines

My take on recent news headlines in AI and related topics:

HEADLINE | BBC chief accuses Netflix of failing to take risks because its decisions are made by robots (The Telegraph)

Ever scroll through Netflix and not see anything interesting enough to watch? According to the BBC, Netflix has an “insatiable greed for data-gathering.” Those without experience who wade through data analytics will often stub their toes when interpreting results. “Where [Netflix is] led by algorithm[s], we [the BBC] need to be led by pure creativity.”

They might have a point. Consider zombies. The successful series The Walking Dead (2010–) spawned the offshoot series Fear the Walking Dead (2015–). This further success gave rise to the Netflix series Z Nation (2014-2018) and then, most recently, Black Summer (2019–). The common theme of all these programs is fleeing zombies in a dystopian future. How unoriginal.1

And as we repeatedly note at Mind Matters News, algorithms—including the ones used by Netflix—can’t be creative.

HEADLINE | Most top AI researchers in the U.S. are foreign (Axios).

I frequently receive email requests from China, Bangladesh, and Iran asking for support to pursue a graduate engineering degree. The applicants often make excellent researchers.

Many engineering and STEM professors are thus fished with tempting bait. Through funding agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and even the US Department of Defense, the United States financially supports many foreign nationals in the pursuit of their graduate research degrees with research stipends. Some try to stay in the US after their degrees are earned. Others are eager to go home and work in and for their own countries.

HEADLINE | Paralyzed woman controls robotic arm with her mind (CBS News, 2012)

The brain-controlled prosthetic arm is a marvel! A paralyzed woman can feed herself a bar of chocolate using a robotic arm that she manipulates by means of a brain implant. Many others have followed since then. Thank you, DARPA!

HEADLINE | The Pentagon’s Push to Program Soldiers’ Brains: The military wants future super-soldiers to control robots with their thoughts (The Atlantic).

Speaking of brain waves, I already control my computer keyboard accurately with my brain. My fingers are informed by my brain what to type and the magic happens.

Have you ever tried typing using voice recognition software? I was forced to when I broke my wrist. Even after much practice, many problems with accuracy remain. Ambiguities pop up everywhere especially when two words sound the same but mean quite different things (homonyms).

Typing directly from brain waves will be even more problematic.

HEADLINE | Could an artificial intelligence be considered a person under the law? (PBS News Hour)

Since “U.S. corporations have been given rights of free speech and religion, why not AI?” For that matter, why not the incredibly complex Boeing 787 Dreamliner that flies itself? Why not the latest and greatest cell phone with chatbot apps?

Why not? Because they are all machines incapable of consciousness, qualia, sentience, and creativity. AI does what it does “for the same reason a calculator adds or a toaster toasts: because it is a machine designed for that purpose.”

HEADLINE | Google CEO Tells Senators That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide “Broad Benefits” (The Intercept)

In a free society that celebrates liberty, “beneficial censorship” in politics is an oxymoron.

HEADLINE | How to 3D-print a living, beating heart (New Scientist)

The promise that “bioprinting” will print you a new kidney or a new spleen sounds awesome! The bad news is that the researcher tells us “We’re still decades away.” In a couple of decades, no one will be around to be held accountable for making this claim today. Wild promises of events far in the future are hype, clickbait, or the promotion of research funding.

PAPER | The Chicken’s legs Size Classification using Image Processing and Deep Neural Network

Publish or perish is still a reality in supply-side academics where the currency consists largely of (a) the amount of external funding attracted and (b) the number of papers produced. Using deep learning to classify the size of chicken legs is killing a fly with a sledgehammer. This looks to be an example of a paper of questionable value being published so a professor’s dean will have another bean to count.

HEADLINE | The clever way Walmart is trying to beat Amazon (Fast Company)

WalMart’s strategy leverages the fact that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a store. Using existing, paid-for real estate as a warehouse slashes storage and delivery costs, relative to Amazon. In any event, competition makes services better and lowers prices. Bravo to Walmart for butting heads with Amazon!

1 Even the idea of beating a story idea senseless through repetition is not original. In the 1960s, there was an uninspiring explosion of Westerns on network television. Spurred by the success of the iconic series Gunsmoke, which premiered in 1955, the number of weekly Westerns ballooned to thirty. Therefore, unoriginal programming does not require the input of AI.

Also by Robert J. Marks: Random thoughts on recent AI headlines (March 18, 2019)


Top Ten AI hypes of 2018


Robert J. Marks II

Director, Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Besides serving as Director, Robert J. Marks Ph.D. hosts the Mind Matters podcast for the Bradley Center. He is Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America. He was Charter President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He is coauthor of the books Neural Smithing: Supervised Learning in Feedforward Artificial Neural Networks (MIT Press) and Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics (World Scientific). For more information, see Dr. Marks’s expanded bio.

How Are Zombies Empowered by Algorithms?

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