AI, machine learning, and other frothy tech subjects remained overhyped in 2019

Rodney Brooks (previously) is a distinguished computer scientist and roboticist (he's served as as head of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and CTO of Irobot); two years ago, he published a list of "dated predictions" intended to cool down some of the hype about self-driving cars, machine learning, and robotics, hype that he viewed as dangerously gaseous. Read the rest

This company wants to use AI to help you pretend to increase diversity

Generated Photos is the latest stupid startup that sounds like a joke from "Silicon Valley" that someone took too far. From their announcement on Medium:

Generated Photos is the free resource of 100k faces for you to use however you wish. But these aren’t just common faces. They were produced completely by artificial intelligence — none of these people are real! Generated photos are created from scratch by AI systems.

In other words, they're Deepfakes for other peoples' ad campaigns.

I've spent enough time around higher ed administration that I've seen firsthand how universities will recruit a perfect United-Colors-Of-Benetton rainbow of students for admissions ads. But this takes that to a whole new level. Why even bother trying to build relationships with non-white-dudes, when you can just generate some friendly colorful faces for promotional use and call it a day?

The company's website brags of "democratizing creative photography and video," which is some impressively nauseating PR speak. In their defense, "We aim to make creative works both more accessible and higher quality through generative processes" sounds a lot better than "Auto-diversify the avatars for your army of Twitter sockpuppets!"

But my favorite part is how openly they acknowledge the poor quality of their images. "A part of the process is training and refining the generative models," the company explains in a Medium post. "The iterations move fast although not everything is perfect yet. So you will also have some fun with the pack of AI-generated photos. When you see a face that is a bit ‘off’, just give it some slack." Read the rest

An exclusive interview with an AI neural network based on Mark Zuckerberg

Ever since the glorious disaster that was Cambridge Analytica and the entire political climate of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg has been making the rounds from press outlets to private meetings with Republican donors to Congressional testimonies to more private meetings with Republican donors, all with increasing frequency. But he has yet to grant an audience to the Guardian since they broke the initial story with whistleblower testimony.

So naturally, the Guardian enlisted the help of Botnick Studios to create a neural network trained on some 200,000+ words from Zuckerberg's interviews, speeches, and blogposts over the last three years. And they interviewed that instead.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this "Zuckerbot" sounds about as convincing as the real Zuckerberg — which is to say like an eerily fabricated alien simulacrum of a human being. For example, here's how it describes the purpose of Facebook:

First, I want to thank you all for being a part of my mission. The purpose of Facebook is to bring about internet for people in the digital room. It is about advertising dollars to people who pay to be able to pay. We believe in building $8bn of voice on the platform for dads who are hungry for coffee.

And on his secret meetings with Donald Trump:

Is anything ever secure? Is anything ever secret? Guess what? The answer is a clear maybe. Or maybe not. I am going to say quiet words in your face just like I did with him and Congress. You can’t expect me to tell you a secret that I didn’t share with him but I am confident that we are sharing the same infrastructure.

Read the rest

What happens when you feed Trump’s “I WANT NOTHING” note to a Neural Network?

Donald Trump’s desperate PR attempt “speech” from this morning read kind of like the lyric sheet from some obscure Radiohead-wannabe art-rock band.

So naturally, comedian Emily Heller took it to the next level by feeding it into OpenAI’s “Talk To Transformer” Neural Network.

I assumed this was real, but I still wanted to try it out for myself. And wow, the results were not disappointing.

First up: the opening scene to a noir novel. Not quite “shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not losing any supporters”-level, but it’s close.

So I tried again. And this time, the Neural Network came out with a straight-up Ramones song.

On my third try, the Artificial Intelligence showed a greater capacity for aspiring towards human emotions than Trump himself ever has.

And this one basically just sounds like Trump talking in his sleep during a wet dream.

As we can see from below, even the Neural Network knows that dozens of women have credibly accused the President of sexual assault.

And finally, this one that … actually just sounds like the way Trump talks on a good day.

You can try to fill-in-the-blanks on your own with OpenAI’s Talk To Transformer neural network. Whatever it is the machine spews out will still probably be more coherent and articulate than anything Trump himself has ever come up with. Read the rest

The second book in Martha Well's 'Murderbot Diaries' is wonderful

In Artificial Condition, Martha Well's soap opera loving rogue security AI remains cantankerous and awesome.

Murderbot is an AI security robot with a busted autonomy regulator. So long as they can keep the regulator a secret, they can remain fully aware and independent. Mostly they want to watch soap operas. Soap operas and to be left the hell alone.

I absolutely adore Murderbot. Murderbot wants quality time on their own.

In the second installment Murderbot sets out to learn about the event from which they named themselves, wherein many humans died and their AI regulator was broken. Murderbot has no direct recollection of what went on and believes this knowledge will change everything.

Murderbot teams up with an AI research ship named ART and heads off to the mining colony where it all went down.

Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries Book 2 via Amazon Read the rest

The problem with artificial intelligence is that it will do exactly what we ask it to do

Janelle Shane is an AI researcher. In this TED talk she explains that we should not be afraid that AIs are going to rebel against us. We should be afraid of AIs because they are going to do exactly what we tell them to do. "It's really easy to accidentally give AI the wrong problem to solve," she says, "and often we don't realize that until something has actually gone wrong." Read the rest

You can purchase science fiction novels written by artificial intelligence

Even the covers to this collection of AI-written science fiction novels were created by AI. The reviews are also written by AI. Titles include Bitches of the Points, Auro-Minds and the Hungers, The Table in 10, and Breath Chanter. Of course it's an art project and the writing is a mess, but an excerpt from any of the books could be slipped in the pages of a Gor novel without anyone being the wiser.

[via Bruce Sterling] Read the rest

The worst thing about deepfakes is that we know about them

Roko's Basilisk is a notorious thought experiment regarding artificial intelligence and our own perceptions of reality, particularly as it relates to a hypothetically powerful AI. It's kind of like Newcomb's Paradox, with a little more Battlestar Galactica-style AI genocide.

If you want to know more about it, feel free to click the link. But be warned: the whole point of Roko's Basilisk is that the mere knowledge of Roko's Basilisk also makes you complicit in Roko's Basilisk. If Roko's Basilisk is real—a question which is intrinsic to the thought experiment itself—then the potential contained within that hypothetical idea is enough to sow the seeds to self-destructive doubt. And that's how Roko's Basilisk wins.

You don't need to know the specific details of Roko's Basilisk to understand how the concept could relate to the growing phenomenon of deepfakes—the manipulation of deep Learning technology to create deceptively realistic videos, like adding Nicholas Cage's face into every movie. The cybersecurity firm DeepTrace recently released a report on the myriad ways that deepfakes threaten our trust in knowledge, and in our own eyes. And their conclusion? The mere idea of deepfakes is enough to bring the worst case scenario to life—even if we never actually reach that worst case scenario in practice.

Nicholas Cage as Amy Adams, because Deepfakes.

In reality, deepfakes haven't actually been used to successfully falsify videos of politicians to use as large-scale propaganda; like most things on the internet, they're mostly used for porn. But the fact that they could be used to deceive the public is itself enough to make public trust spiral downwards, causing us to debate both what is true, and the methods by which we determine what is true. Read the rest

AI Drama: Google DeepMind's Mustafa Suleyman abruptly placed on leave, no reason given for departure

Google DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman has been placed on leave from the applied artificial intelligence lab he ran. Read the rest

Uganda installs Huawei's AI-powered facial recognition surveillance system 'nationwide'

“The cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security.” — Ugandan Police.

Why didn't OpenAI release the "Unicorn" version of its AI storytelling software?

GPT-2 is OpenAI's language model that produces astonishingly lucid text responses to short text inputs. I've been playing around with a small model of GPT-2 (here are installation instructions) for a while and am shocked by the quality of many of its responses. The language model is probabilistic, too, so it gives a new output every time you enter the same prompt. For example, I fed it with this fake news prompt:

Food scientists have developed a process to turn people who have died from ebola into delicious food. The disease victims' bodies are freeze dried, then ground into fine powder and mixed with salt and spices. "Tastes like chicken," say taste testers. The first batch of “Ebola Bowls” will be released on a limited basis at Whole Foods stores by Thanksgiving.

Here are five outputs from the above prompt:

GPT-2 OUTPUT (1): The bowl is made from raw chicken and other animals, which are ground and cooked in water to release oil and protein. This is the best way to cook the human body, says Dr. John D'Agostino, who led the study and now works for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The researchers believe that the Ebola bite is the most common way that people develop Ebola and that some people may carry the virus to other parts of the body. The virus can spread from person to person by contact with bodily fluids.

The study was published in the journal Infectious Diseases. Other scientists are still studying the safety and efficacy of the meal.

Read the rest

This AI turns your headshot into a portrait painted by a master

AI Portraits does an amazing job of creating original portraits based on photos of faces. The generative network was trained with 45,000 portrait images.

"Not only colors, but shapes, the lines of the face are completely redesigned by the model. In the above example, the model decides upon a Renaissance style, highlighting the elegance of the aquiline nose, the smoothness of the forehead."

Notice how the AI didn't show Isabella Rossellini's teeth. I tried it with a photo where I'm smiling and got the same result:

According to the folks who made AI Portraits, "Portrait masters rarely paint smiling people because smiles and laughter were commonly associated with a more comic aspect of genre painting, and because the display of such an overt expression as smiling can seem to distort the face of the sitter. This inability of artificial intelligence to reproduce our smiles is teaching us something about the history of art." Read the rest

Instagram's new solution against bullying: Artificial Intelligence, and 'Restrict'

Instagram launched a new feature today, Restrict, intended to help vulnerable users avoid abuse. Facebook's Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri says the company will also be focusing on new uses for AI to crack down on bullying. Read the rest

Microsoft takes down MS Celeb facial recognition database, 10 million+ pics of ~100,000 faces, maybe yours, scraped under Creative Commons

Military research and Chinese firms had access to the data Microsoft scraped under Creative Commons licenses.

What the rest of the world doesn't know about Chinese AI

ChinAI Jeff Ding's weekly newsletter reporting on the Chinese AI scene; on the occasion of the newsletter's first anniversary, Ding has posted a roundup of things about the Chinese AI scene that the rest of the world doesn't know about, or harbors incorrect beliefs about. Read the rest

Where to catch me this weekend at SXSW

I'm heading back to Austin for the SXSW Interactive festival and you can catch me three times this weekend: first on the Untold AI panel with Malka Older, Rashida Richardson and Christopher Noessel (5-6PM, Fairmont Manchester AB); then at the EFF Austin Party with Cindy Cohn and Bruce Sterling (7PM, 1309 Bonham Terrace); and on Sunday, I'm giving a keynote for Berlin's Re:Publica conference, which has its own track at SXSW; I'm speaking about Europe's new Copyright Directive and its dread Article 13 at 1PM at Buffalo Billiards, 201 East 6th Street. Read the rest

Trump signs 'American AI Initiative' executive order to prioritize federal funding for artificial intelligence research

There aren't many details in Trump's “American A.I. Initiative,” but the point appears to be: send a message of technological dominance to China.

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