Musk-Backed 'Slaughterbots' Video Will Warn the UN About Killer Microdrones ( 215

An anonymous reader quotes A graphic new video posits a very scary future in which swarms of killer microdrones are dispatched to kill political activists and U.S. lawmakers. Armed with explosive charges, the palm-sized quadcopters use real-time data mining and artificial intelligence to find and kill their targets. The makers of the seven-minute film titled Slaughterbots are hoping the startling dramatization will draw attention to what they view as a looming crisis -- the development of lethal, autonomous weapons, that select and fire on human targets without human guidance.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mitigating existential risks posed by advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, commissioned the film. Founded by a group of scientists and business leaders, the institute is backed by AI-skeptics Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others. The institute is also behind the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organizations which have banded together to call for a preemptive ban on lethal autonomous weapons... The film will be screened this week at the United Nations in Geneva during a meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons... The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is hosting a series of meetings at this year's event to propose a worldwide ban on lethal autonomous weapons, which could potentially be developed as flying drones, self-driving tanks, or automated sentry guns.

"This short film is more than just speculation," says Stuart Russell, a U.C. Berkeley considered an expert in artificial intelligence.

"It shows the results of integrating and miniaturizing technologies we already have."

Stanford Trains AI To Diagnose Pneumonia Better Than a Radiologist In Just Two Months ( 75

A new paper from Stanford University reveals how artificial intelligence algorithms can be quickly trained to diagnose pneumonia better than a radiologist. "Using 100,000 x-ray images released by the National Institutes of Health on Sept. 27, the research published Nov. 14 (without peer review) on the website ArXiv claims its AI can detect pneumonia from x-rays with similar accuracy to four trained radiologists," reports Quartz. From the report: That's not all -- the AI was trained to analyze x-rays for 14 diseases NIH included in the dataset, including fibrosis, hernias, and cell masses. The AI's results for each of the 14 diseases had fewer false positives and false negatives than the benchmark research from the NIH team that was released with the data. The paper includes Google Brain founder Andrew Ng as a co-author, who also served as chief scientist at Baidu and recently founded He's often been publicly bullish on AI's use in healthcare. These algorithms will undoubtedly get better -- accuracy on the ImageNet challenge rose from 75% to 95% in just five years -- but this research shows the speed at which these systems are built is increasing as well.

An Inside Look At the First Church of Artificial Intelligence ( 119

mirandakatz writes: This summer, Backchannel reported that Anthony Levandowski, the controversial engineer at the heart of the Uber/Waymo lawsuit, had filed paperwork for a new religion called the Way of the Future. Today, investigative reporter Mark Harris has all the details on what that AI-based religion actually likes -- and Levandowski granted him his first interview about the new religion and his only public interview since Waymo filed its suit in February. As Levandowski tells him, we can see a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals -- and that's why it's so important that we treat AI as a god, not a demon to be warded off. "Do you want to be a pet or livestock?" he asks. "We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that's biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don't want to go there."

Without Humans, Artificial Intelligence Is Still Pretty Stupid ( 95

Christopher Mims, writing for WSJ: The internet giants that tout their AI bona fides have tried to make their algorithms as human-free as possible, and that's been a problem. It has become increasingly apparent over the past year that building systems without humans "in the loop" -- especially in the case of Facebook and the ads it linked to 470 "inauthentic" Russian-backed accounts -- can lead to disastrous outcomes, as actual human brains figure out how to exploit them. Whether it's winning at games like Go or keeping watch for Russian influence operations, the best AI-powered systems require humans to play an active role in their creation, tending and operation (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Facebook, of course, is now a prime example of this trend. The company recently announced it would add 10,000 content moderators to the 10,000 it already employs -- a hiring surge that will impact its future profitability, said Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Study Finds Robot Surgeons Are Actually Slower and More Expensive ( 44

"Robot-assisted surgery costs more time and money than traditional methods, but isn't more effective, for certain types of operations," reports the Register, in an article shared by schwit1: In a study of almost 24,000 laparoscopic surgeries just published in The Journal of American Medicine, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data from 416 hospitals around the U.S. from 2003 to 2015. Robotic assistance provides 3D-visualization, a broader range of motion for instruments, and better ergonomics for physicians, according to the study. While it has advantages in scenarios where a high-degree of precision is required or where improved outcomes have been demonstrated (like radical prostatectomy), it appears to be a waste of resources for the two operations examined... But the patient outcomes were more or less the same.

A thematically-related economic study presented by the National Bureau for Economic Research on Monday suggests that while AI and machine learning have received substantial investment over the past five years and have been widely touted as a transformative technologies, "there is little sign that they have yet affected aggregate productivity statistics... The simplest possibility is that the optimism about the potential technologies is misplaced and unfounded," muse Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock (MIT), Chad Syverson (University of Chicago) in the paper.

But instead the paper's author suggest that fully realizing the benefits of AI "will require effort and entrepreneurship to develop the needed complements, and adaptability at the individual, organizational, and societal levels to undertake the associated restructuring."

Security Firm Creates Chatbot To Respond To Scam Emails On Your Behalf ( 70

An anonymous reader shares a report: Chatbots. They're usually a waste of your time, so why not have them waste someone else's instead? Better yet: why not have them waste an email scammer's time. That's the premise behind Re:scam , an email chatbot operated by New Zealand cybersecurity firm Netsafe. Next time you get a dodgy email in your inbox, says Netsafe, forward it on to, and a proxy email address will start replying to the scammer for you, doing its very utmost to waste their time.

Philippine Outsourcing Industry Braces For AI ( 44

The outsourcing industry in the Philippines, which has dethroned India as the country with the most call centers in the world, is worried that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will eat into the $23 billion sector. From a report: AI-powered translators could dilute the biggest advantage the Philippines has, the wide use of English, an industry meeting was told this week. Other AI applications could take over process-driven jobs. The Philippines' business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is an economic lifeline for the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people. It employs about 1.15 million people and, along with remittances from overseas workers, remains one of the top two earners of foreign exchange. "I don't think our excellent command of spoken English is going to really be a protection five, 10 years from now. It really will not matter," said Rajneesh Tiwary, chief delivery officer at Sutherland Global Services.

Andrew Ng Wants a New 'New Deal' To Combat Job Automation ( 160

Andrew Ng, formerly the head of AI for Chinese search giant Baidu and, before that, creator of Google's deep-learning Brain project, knows as well as anyone that artificial intelligence is coming for plenty of jobs. Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Ng said he would like to see a "new New Deal" that pays people displaced by technology to study, offering an incentive to learn new skills and reenter the workforce. From a report: Speaking at MIT Technology Review's annual EmTech MIT conference in Cambridge, MA, on Tuesday, Ng said he's visited call centers and spoken to workers, knowing that his teams of software engineers will then write software that will automate aspects of their work. "There are many professions in the crosshairs of AI teams across the world," he said. Ng, who's currently working on a startup called that helps train people on deep-learning technology, has some ideas for helping those in jobs he thinks will be automated, from call-center workers to radiologists, truck drivers, and the like. His suggestion is for an updated version of the New Deal -- the Depression-era economic programs that invested in, among other things, getting unemployed Americans back to work -- that pays displaced workers to learn new job skills.

Hawking: AI Could Be 'Worst Event in the History of Our Civilization' ( 243

An anonymous reader shares a USA Today report: Elon Musk isn't the only high-profile figure concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence. Scientist Stephen Hawking warned AI could serve as the "worst event in the history of our civilization" unless humanity is prepared for its possible risks. Hawking made the remarks during the opening night of the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Hawking expects AI to transform every part of our lives, with the potential to undo damage done to the Earth and cure diseases. However, Hawking said AI could also spur the creation of powerful autonomous weapons of terror that could be used as a tool "by the few to oppress the many." "Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization, or the worst," he said. Hawking called for more research in AI on how to best use the technology, as well as implored scientists to think about AI's impact. "Perhaps we should all stop for a moment and focus our thinking on not only making AI more capable and successful, but maximizing its societal benefit," he said.

Farmers In India Are Using AI To Increase Crop Yields ( 50

Reader joshtops shares an incredible story about how thousands of farmers in India are making use of AI and other technologies provided by Microsoft to ensure that they plow the field and sow the seeds at the right time. Prior to this, they were relying on their traditional instincts, which many of them say, had failed them in the recent years. From the story: The fields had been freshly plowed. The furrows ran straight and deep. Yet, thousands of farmers across Indian states of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Karnataka waited to get a text message before they sowed the seeds. The SMS, which was delivered in Telugu and Kannada, their native languages, told them when to sow their groundnut crops. In a few dozen villages in Telengana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are receiving automated voice calls that tell them whether their cotton crops are at risk of a pest attack, based on weather conditions and crop stage. Meanwhile in Karnataka, the state government can get price forecasts for essential commodities such as tur (split red gram) three months in advance for planning for the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Welcome to digital agriculture, where technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Machine Learning, Satellite Imagery and advanced analytics are empowering small-holder farmers to increase their income through higher crop yield and greater price control. "Sowing date as such is very critical to ensure that farmers harvest a good crop. And if it fails, it results in loss as a lot of costs are incurred for seeds, as well as the fertilizer applications," says Dr. Suhas P. Wani, Director, Asia Region, of the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world. Microsoft in collaboration with ICRISAT, developed an AI Sowing App powered by Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI. The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow. The best part -- the farmers don't need to install any sensors in their fields or incur any capital expenditure. All they need is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages.

Humans Are Still Better Than AI at StarCraft ( 142

29-year-old professional StarCraft player Song Byung-gu won 4-0 in the world's first contest between AI systems and professional human players, writes MIT Technology Review. An anonymous reader quotes their report: One of the bots, dubbed "CherryPi," was developed by Facebook's AI research lab. The other bots came from Australia, Norway, and Korea. The contest took place at Sejong University in Seoul, Korea, which has hosted annual StarCraft AI competitions since 2010. Those previous events matched AI systems against each other (rather than against humans) and were organized, in part, by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a U.S.-based engineering association.

Though it has not attracted as much global scrutiny as the March 2016 tournament between Alphabet's AlphaGo bot and a human Go champion, the recent Sejong competition is significant because the AI research community considers StarCraft a particularly difficult game for bots to master. Following AlphaGo's lopsided victory over Lee Sedol last year, and other AI achievements in chess and Atari video games, attention shifted to whether bots could also defeat humans in real-time games such as StarCraft... Executives at Alphabet's AI-focused division, DeepMind, have hinted that they are interested in organizing such a competition in the future.

The event wouldn't be much of a contest if it were held now. During the Sejong competition, Song, who ranks among the best StarCraft players globally, trounced all four bots involved in less than 27 minutes total. (The longest match lasted about 10 and a half minutes; the shortest, just four and a half.) That was true even though the bots were able to move much faster and control multiple tasks at the same time. At one point, the StarCraft bot developed in Norway was completing 19,000 actions per minute. Most professional StarCraft players can't make more than a few hundred moves a minute.


Eric Schmidt and Bob Work: Our AI 'Sputnik Moment' Is Now ( 174

schwit1 shares a report from Breaking Defense: China's just announced an AI strategy designed to assure it will be dominant in the host of technologies by 2030. "If you believe this is important, as I believe, then we need to get our act together as a country," [Alphabet Exec Chairman Eric] Schmidt said this morning. In a Q and A session at the event organized by the Center for a New American Security, Schmidt said he thought the U.S. will maintain its lead over the People's Republic of China for the next five years, but he expects China to catch up about then and pass us "extremely quickly." How important does China think AI can be? Former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told Breaking Defense the Chinese estimate they can boost economic growth with AI by 26 percent by 2030. "It's quite stunning," Work said. And, of course, the PRC's government has published a national strategy and released it to the world. What's the best response by the United States, I asked Work after Schmidt spoke. The federal government needs to answer this question at its highest levels, as happened after the Soviet Union stunned the world and launched the first satellite, Sputnik, Work said.

Rise of the Machines Must Be Monitored, Say Global Finance Regulators ( 53

A reader shares a report: Replacing bank and insurance workers with machines risks creating a dependency on outside technology companies beyond the reach of regulators, the global Financial Stability Board (FSB) said on Wednesday. The FSB, which coordinates financial regulation across the Group of 20 Economies (G20), said in its first report on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that the risks they pose need monitoring. AI and machine learning refer to technology that is replacing traditional methods to assess the creditworthiness of customers, to crunch data, price insurance contracts and spot profitable trades across markets. There are no international regulatory standards for AI and machine learning, but the FSB left open whether new rules are needed.

'We Can't Compete': Universities Are Losing Their Best AI Scientists ( 268

The Guardian shares the story of a PhD student at Imperial College London who abruptly stopped coming to the facility, even as he had one-year of studies left. From the story: Eventually, the professor called him. He had left for a six-figure salary at Apple. "He was offered such a huge amount of money that he simply stopped everything and left," said Maja Pantic, professor of affective and behavioural computing at Imperial. "It's five times the salary I can offer. It's unbelievable. We cannot compete." It is not an isolated case, the report says. Adding: Across the country, talented computer scientists are being lured from academia by private sector offers that are hard to turn down. According to a Guardian survey of Britain's top ranking research universities, tech firms are hiring AI experts at a prodigious rate, fuelling a brain drain that has already hit research and teaching. One university executive warned of a "missing generation" of academics who would normally teach students and be the creative force behind research projects. The impact of the brain drain may reach far beyond academia. Pantic said the majority of top AI researchers moved to a handful of companies, meaning their skills and experience were not shared through society. "That's a problem because only a diffusion of innovation, rather than its concentration into just a few companies, can mitigate the dramatic disruptions and negative effects that AI may bring about."

NVIDIA-Powered Neural Network Produces Freakishly Natural Fake Human Photos ( 140

MojoKid writes: NVIDIA released a paper recently detailing a new machine learning methodology for generating unique and realistic looking faces using a generative adversarial network (GAN). The result is the ability to artificially render photorealistic human faces of "unprecedented quality." NVIDIA achieves this by using an algorithm that pairs two neural networks -- a generator and a discriminator -- that compete against each other. The generator starts from a low resolution image and builds upon it, while the discriminator assesses the results, sort of like a constant critic, pointing out where things have gone wrong. The GAN is not a new technology, but where NVIDIA differentiates is through the progressive training method it developed. NVIDIA took a database of photographs of famous people and used that to train its system. By working together, the neural networks were able to produce fake images that are nearly indistinguishable from real human photographs, and a little creepy too.

MIT Researchers Trained AI To Write Horror Stories Based On 140,000 Reddit Posts ( 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Shelley is an AI program that generates the beginnings of horror stories, and it's trained by original horror fiction posted to Reddit. Designed by researchers from MIT Media Lab, Shelley launched on Twitter on Oct. 21. Shelley, named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, is interactive. After the program tweets a few opening lines, it asks people on Twitter to continue the story, and if the story is popular, it responds to those responses. Using information from 140,000 stories from Reddit's r/nosleep, Shelley produces story beginnings that range in creepiness, and in quality. There's some classic "scary stuff," like a narrator who thinks she's alone and then sees eyes in the dark, but also premises one can only imagine are Reddit-user-inspired, like family porn.

Google Has a New Plan for China (and It's Not About Search) ( 59

An anonymous reader shares a report: More than seven years after exiting China, Google is taking the boldest steps yet to come back. And it's not with a search engine. Instead, Google's ingress is centered around artificial intelligence. The internet giant is actively promoting TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build AI systems, as a way to forge business ties in the world's largest online market, according to people familiar with the company's plans. It's a wide pitch targeting China's academics and tech titans. At the same time, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is adding more personnel to scour Chinese companies for potential AI investments, these people said. "China is a tremendous opportunity for any company because it is by far the single largest homogeneous market," said Kai Fu Lee, who headed Google's China operations before the company left in 2010. The market dwarfs any other, given how many Chinese people are online, and data from that "can be used to advance products, especially those relating to artificial intelligence," he added.

Algorithm Can Identify Suicidal People Using Brain Scans ( 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WIRED: In a study published today in Nature Human Behavior, researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed how suicidal individuals think and feel differently about life and death, by looking at patterns of how their brains light up in an fMRI machine. Then they trained a machine learning algorithm to isolate those signals -- a frontal lobe flare at the mention of the word "death," for example. The computational classifier was able to pick out the suicidal ideators with more than 90 percent accuracy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Furthermore, it was able to distinguish people who had actually attempted self-harm from those who had only thought about it. In today's study, the researchers started with 17 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who had recently reported suicidal ideation to their therapists. Then they recruited 17 neurotypical control participants and put them each inside an fMRI scanner. While inside the tube, subjects saw a random series of 30 words. Ten were generally positive, 10 were generally negative, and 10 were specifically associated with death and suicide. Then researchers asked the subjects to think about each word for three seconds as it showed up on a screen in front of them. "What does 'trouble' mean for you?" "What about 'carefree,' what's the key concept there?" For each word, the researchers recorded the subjects' cerebral blood flow to find out which parts of their brains seemed to be at work.

Seagate's New 'SkyHawk AI' Disk Drive Is Just a Slightly Higher Speced Version of Its Predecessor ( 57

ourlovecanlastforeve shares a report from The Register, where Chris Mellor takes a look at Seagate's recently launched "SkyHawk" and "SkyHawk AI" HDDs. After closer inspection, Mellor concludes that the "AI" variant has a more buzz-worthy name and "slightly higher numbers on the specs" than its "SkyHawk" brethren. From the report: Seagate has bolted "AI" to its SkyHawk disk drive brand, saying it's better suited for next-generation deep learning and video analytics. The marketing department breathlessly describes it as "the first drive created specifically for artificial intelligence (AI) enabled video surveillance solutions." Sai Varanasi, VP product line management, burbled in the same fashion: "We are excited to introduce smart, purpose-built SkyHawk AI solutions that expand the design space for our customers and partners, allowing them to implement next-generation deep learning and video analytics applications." How so? Seagate says the new drive's "high throughput and enhanced caching deliver low latency and excellent random read performance to quickly locate and deliver video images and footage analysis." Both SkyHawk and SkyHawk AI have a 256MB cache buffer and 4.16ms average latency. Where it does differ from SkyHawk is having a higher 550TB/year workload and 2 million hours mean-time-before-failure rating, compared to 180TB/year and a million hours. It's been given a five-year limited warranty and a two-year Seagate Rescue Services contract is included with the drive. In other words the SkyHawk AI is more robust than the standard SkyHawk and transfers data 1.9 per cent faster. Otherwise it seems identical.

Open Source Data Sets? Linux Foundation Introduces 'Community Data License Agreements' ( 31

"In open source philosophy, you share source code. Why not share data?" writes Slashdot reader princelobga. Linux Insider reports on the Linux Foundation's new Community Data License Agreement, "a new framework for sharing large sets of data required for research, collaborative learning and other purposes." CDLAs will allow both individuals and groups to share data sets in the same way they share open source software code, the foundation said. "As systems require data to learn and evolve, no one organization can build, maintain and source all data required," noted Mike Dolan, VP of strategic programs at The Linux Foundation. "Data communities are forming around artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases, autonomous systems, and connected civil infrastructure," he told LinuxInsider. "The CDLA license agreements enable sharing data openly, embodying best practices learned over decades of sharing source code."
A principal analyst at Pund-IT told the site that the new data license "reflects the growing importance of information as a resource for big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence."

Slashdot Top Deals