AI, Showbiz, and Cause for Concern (x2)

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A “Virtual” or “Digital” Human. Credit: Digital Domain

The #AIShowBiz Summit 3.0 – which took place last month –  sits apart from the often dizzying array of conferences vying for the attention of Bay Area tech natives. Omnipresent AI themes like “applications for deep learning”, “algorithmic fairness”, and “the future of work” are set aside in preference for rather more dazzling conversations on topics like “digital humans”, “AI and creativity”, and “our augmented intelligence digital future.”

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the big reoccuring AI themes. On the contrary, they are front-and-center for very good reason. It’s that there’s something just a little beguiling about this raft of rather more spacey, futuristic conversations delivered by presenters who are unflinchingly “big picture”, while still preserving necessary practical and technical detail.

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Is Emotion AI a Dangerous Deceit?

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“How do we get humans to trust in all this AI we’re building?”, asked Affectiva CEO Rana El-Kaliouby, at the prestigious NYT New Work Summit at Half Moon Bay last week. She had already assumed a consensus that trust-building was the correct way to proceed, and went on to suggest that, rather than equipping users and consumers with the skills and tools to scrutinize AI, we should instead gently coax them into placing more unearned faith in data-driven artifacts.

But how would this be accomplished? Well, Affectiva are “on a mission to humanize technology”, drawing upon machine and deep learning to “understand all things human.” All things human, El-Kaliouby reliably informed us, would include our emotions, our cognitive state, our behaviors, our activities. Note: not to sense, or to tentatively detect, but to understand those things in “the way that humans can.”

Grandiose claims, indeed.

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RE•WORK Interview with Fiona J McEvoy, YouTheData.com

This article was originally posted on the RE•WORK blogOriginal

The way people interact with technology is always evolving. Think about children today – give them a tablet or a smartphone and they have literally no problem in figuring out how to work it. Whilst this is a natural evolution of our relationships with new tech, as it becomes more and more ingrained in our lives it’s important to think about the ethical implications. This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about ethics and AI – I”ve had guests on the Women in AI Podcast such as Cansu Canca from the AI Ethics Lab and Yasmin J. Erden from St Mary’s University amongst others join me to discuss this area, and I even wrote a white paper on the topic which is on RE•WORK’s digital content hub – so it’s something that’s really causing conversation at the moment. Fiona McEvoy, the founder of YouTheData.com, joined me on the podcast back in June to discuss the importance of collaboration in AI to ensure it’s ethically sound. Fiona will be joining us at the Deep Learning Summit in San Francisco this week, so in advance of this, I caught up with her to see what she’s been working on…

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Four AI themes to watch out for in 2019

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

Jonas Svidras

We’re still just a few days into the New Year and all eyes have been trained on Las Vegas, NV. Over the last week or so, the great and the good of the consumer tech industry have been shamelessly touting their wares at CES. Each jockeying to make a big noise in a crowded market by showcasing “life-enhancing products” with whizzy new features—like this “intelligent toilet”

In the organized chaos of nearly 4.5k exhibitors and a staggering 182k delegates, pundits have been working overtime to round-up the best and the rest. At the same time, commentators have been trying to distill core themes and make sage judgments about the tech trajectory of 2019.

In truth, no matter what gadgetry emerges victorious in the end of CES, there will still be some fundamental “meta themes” affecting technology in 2019. And though they may not have secured as many column inches as cutsie robots and 5G this week, these core topics are likely to have more staying power.

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Healthbots: the new caregivers

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Movie tickets bought, travel booked, customer service problems resolved. Chatbots perform so many tasks that the best ones blend into the background of everyday transactions and are often overlooked. They’re being adopted seamlessly by one industry after the next, but their next widespread application poses unique challenges.

Now healthbots are poised to become the new frontline for triage, replacing human medical professionals as the first point of contact for the sick and the injured.

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Woe is me: a cautionary tale of two chatbots

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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The BBC’s recent test of two popular emotional support chatbots was devastating. Designed to offer advice to stressed, grieving, or otherwise vulnerable children and young adults, the Wysa and Woebot apps failed to detect some pretty explicit indicators of child sexual abuse, drug taking, and eating disorder. Neither chatbot instructed the (thankfully imaginary) victim to seek help and instead offered up wildly inappropriate pablum.

Inappropriate responses ranged from advising a 12 year-old being forced to have sex to “keep swimming” (accompanied by an animation of a whale), to telling another “it’s nice to know more about you and what makes you happy” when they admitted they were looking forward to “throwing up” in the context of an eating disorder.

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Making AI in our own image is a mistake

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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When the Chinese news agency Xinhua demonstrated an AI anchorperson, the reaction of the internet was predictably voluble. Was this a gimmick or a sign of things to come? Could the Chinese government literally be turning to artificial puppets to control the editorial content of the country’s news channels? Are we careening towards a future where the humans and humanoid bots are indistinguishable?

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AI needs cooperation, not an arms race

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Writing in the New York Times recently, venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee signaled an important, oncoming change in the way we think about artificial intelligence. We are graduating, he cautioned, from an age of discovery and vision into a more practical era of implementation.

Lee is promoting his new book, titled A.I. Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, and he suggests that this transition from lab to launchpad may naturally privilege Chinese advantages—like data abundance and government investment—above the research capabilities and “freewheeling intellectual environment” of the U.S.

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Peer pressure: An unintended consequence of AI

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Last winter, Kylie Jenner tweeted that she stopped using Snapchat, and almost immediately the company’s shares dropped six-percent, losing $1.3 billion in value. Her seemingly innocent comments had led investors to believe that the 20-year-old’s 25 million followers would do the same, and the knock-on effect would seal the social media apps fate as a “has been” among its key demographic of younger women.

This astonishing event demonstrates in technicolor how the notion of influence is evolving, latterly taking on a new significance. In the age of technology, though influence is still associated with power, it is no longer the limited reserve of “the Powerful”—i.e. those in recognized positions of authority, like bankers, lawyers, or politicians.

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AI that understands how you really feel

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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The way we interact with technology keeps changing. Of late, many more of us are using speech and gesture to give instructions to our devices, and it’s actually starting to feel natural. We tell Alexa to turn the lights off, silence our smart watches by smothering them with our palms, and unlock our phones with a look. For this to work as seamlessly as it does, our devices have to pensively watch and listen to us. Pretty soon they could begin to understand and anticipate our emotional needs, too.

The move towards what’s been called implicit understanding – in contrast with explicit interaction – will be facilitated by technologies like emotion-tracking AI. Technology that uses cues from our vocal tone, facial expressions and other micro-movements to determine our mood and, from there, our needs. According to researchers at Gartner, very soon our fridge will be able to suggest food to match our feelings, and research VP Annette Zimmerman has even claimed that, “By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.”

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