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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

× United States White House: AI Holds the Potential To Be a Major Driver of Economic Growth and Social Progress (venturebeat.com)

A day after the Obama administration outlined its vision and plans to send people to Mars by 2030s, it has now concluded the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on economic growth, transportation, the environment, and criminal justice.

Sky Net is forming up.

It is these little incremental bits that will add up to the big picture. 

Here are some of the initial stepping stones...

 "The Administration believes that it is critical that industry, civil society, and government work together to develop the positive aspects of the technology, manage its risks and challenges, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to help in building an A.I.-enhanced society and to participate in its benefits."

VentureBeat adds: The report, dubbed "Preparing for the future of Artificial Intelligence," highlights a number of areas of both opportunity and concern when it comes to A.I.  

These include: 

- The need to adjust regulatory procedures to account for A.I.
- Better coordination and funding of government-led A.I. research initiatives.
- Further study and monitoring of the economic impact of A.I. on jobs.
- "Ethical training" of people in A.I. fields, particularly as the technology is used to control more real-world objects that could lead to concerns about safety and security.
- Creating a clear U.S. policy regarding the development and use of "Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems."


A new report from PwC finds that drones could replace $127 billion worth of human labor and services across several industries.

 Infrastructure and agriculture make up the largest chunks of the potential value -- some $77.6 billion between them -- including services like completing the last mile of delivery routes and spraying crops with laser-like precision. 

Economists seem to agree that robot automation poses real threats to human labour within the next few decades.

 Drones are a cheap, versatile first step toward that future. 

According to the new PwC report, they're also a solid cost-cutting measure. 

Along with infrastructure and agriculture, drones will help tech giants like Amazon deliver packages, allow security companies to better monitor their sites, help producers and advertisers to film projects, allow telecommunication firms to easily check on their towers, and give mining companies a new way to plan their digs.

Skynet begins! 

 In response to the rising minimum wage, the fast-food chain Wendy's plans to start automating all of its restaurants

 The company said it will have self-service ordering kiosks available to its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year. Wendy's President Todd Penegor said it will be up to franchisees to decide whether or not to adopt the kiosks in their stores, noting that many franchise locations have had to raise prices to offset wage increases. 

 California's decision to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 will impact Wendy's 258 restaurants, all of which are franchise-operated.

 About 75% of 200-plus Wendy's restaurants are run by franchisees in New York, a state that is also on its way to $15. Penegor said, wage pressures have been manageable both because of falling commodity prices and better operating leverage due to an increase in customer counts.

 The company is still "working so hard to find efficiencies" so it can deliver "a new QSR experience but at traditional QSR prices."

The CEO of Carl's Jr., Andy Puzder, is also looking into replacing many of its workers with machines to save money.

 South Korean automaker Hyundai has unveiled what is apparently a new robotic exoskeleton.

 In a blog post the company compares its "wearable robot" prototype to an Iron Man suit, saying it gives the wearer extra strength, allowing them to lift objects "hundreds of kilograms" in weight. 

The company says that in the future the exoskeleton could be used in factories, by the military, or to help with physical rehabilitation.

 The suit appears to be a development of Hyundai's H-LEX platform.

 Hyundai isn't the only one working on robotic exoskeletons.

 The FDA recently approved a powered lower-limb exoskeleton for clinical and personal use, which allows people paralyzed below the waist to stand up and walk.

Panasonic on the other hand is developing exoskeletons for factory workers.

 Google says its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) advances machine learning capability by a factor of three generations. "TPUs deliver an order of magnitude higher performance per watt than all commercially available GPUs and FPGA," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the company's I/O developer conference on Wednesday.


 The chips powered the AlphaGo computer that beat Lee Sedol, world champion of the game called Go. "We've been running TPUs inside our data centers for more than a year, and have found them to deliver an order of magnitude better-optimized performance per watt for machine learning. 

This is roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future (three generations of Moore's Law)," said Google's blog post

 "TPU is tailored to machine learning applications, allowing the chip to be more tolerant of reduced computational precision, which means it requires fewer transistors per operation.

 Because of this, we can squeeze more operations per second into the silicon, use more sophisticated and powerful machine learning models, and apply these models more quickly, so users get more intelligent results more rapidly."

The chip is called the Tensor Processing Unit because it underpins TensorFlow, the software engine that powers its deep learning services under an open-source license.

 While machines from the likes of RoboCop and Chappie might just be the reserve of films for now, this new type of robot is already fighting crime.

 This particular example can be found guarding a shopping center in California but there are other machines in operation all over the state. 

Equipped with self-navigation, infra-red cameras and microphones that can detect breaking glass, the robots, designed by Knightscope, are intended to support security services. 

Stacy Dean Stephens, who came up with the idea, told The Guardian the problem that needed solving was one of intelligence.

 "And the only way to gain accurate intelligence is through eyes and ears," he said. "So, we started looking at different ways to deploy eyes and ears into situations like that."

The robot costs about $7 an hour to rent and was inspired by the Sandy Hook school shooting after which it was claimed 12 lives could have been saved if officers arrived a minute earlier.

 Yuval Noah Harari, author of the international bestseller "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind," doesn't have a very optimistic view of the future when it comes to artificial intelligence.

 He writes about how humans "might end up jobless and aimless, whiling away our days off our nuts and drugs, with VR headsets strapped to our faces," writes The Guardian. "Harari calls it 'the rise of the useless class' and ranks it as one of the most dire threats of the 21st century.

 As artificial intelligence gets smarter, more humans are pushed out of the job market

No one knows what to study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be relevant at 40. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through chance but by definition." 

He likens his predictions, which have been been forecasted by others for at least 200 years, to the boy who cried wolf, saying, "But in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." 

Harari says there are two kinds of ability that make humans useful: physical ones and cognitive ones.

 He says humans have been largely safe in their work when it comes to cognitive powers. 

But with AI's now beginning to outperform humans in this field, Harari says, that even though new types of jobs will emerge, we cannot be sure that humans will do them better than AIs, computers and robots.

 As fast-food workers across the country vie for $15 per hour wages, many business owners have already begun to take humans out of the picture.

 "I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry -- it's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour (warning: autoplaying video) bagging French fries -- it's nonsense and it's very destructive and it's inflationary and it's going to cause a job loss across this country like you're not going to believe," said former McDonald's USA CEO Ed Rensi during an interview on the FOX Business Network's Mornings with Maria. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.3 million people earned the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with about 1.7 million having wages below the federal minimum in 2014. 

These three million workers combined made up 3.9 percent of all hourly paid workers.


At the Code Conference on Wednesday, Bill Gates balanced his fears of artificial intelligence with praise. He talked about two of the challenges AI will pose:

 a loss of existing jobs, and making sure humans remain in control of super-intelligent machines. Gates, as well as many other experts in the field, predict there will be an excess of labor resources as robots and AI systems take over.

 He plans to talk with others about ideas to combat the threat of AI controlling humans, specifically noting work being done at Stanford. 

Even with such threats, Gates called AI the "holy grail" as he envisions a future "with machines that are capable and more capable than human intelligence." 

Gates said, "We've made more progress in the last five years than at any time in history. [...] 

Sarah Jeanette Connor is a fictional character in the Terminator franchise. She is the protagonist of The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator Genisys, and the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The dream is finally arriving.

 This is what it was all leading up to." 

You will be hearing a lot about AI and machine learning in the coming years. 


At Recode's iconic conference this week, a number of top executives revealed -- and reiterated -- their increasingly growing efforts to capture the nascent technology category.

From a Reuters report (condensed): Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet's Google, said he sees a "huge opportunity" in AI.

 Google first started applying the technology through "deep neural networks" to voice recognition software about three to four years ago and is ahead of rivals such as Amazon.com, Apple, and Microsoft in machine learning, Pichai said. 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicted a profound impact on society over the next 20 years. 

"It's really early but I think we're on the edge of a golden era.

 It's going to be so exciting to see what happens," he said. 

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the company has been working on artificial technology, which she calls a cognitive system, since 2005 when it started developing its Watson supercomputer. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant "neural laces" in their brains to keep up, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told a crowd of tech leaders this week.

Microsoft, which was absent from the event, is also working on bots and AI technologies.

One company that is seemingly off the picture is Apple.


 Y Combinator will give 100 randomly-selected families in Oakland between $1,000 and $2,000 each month as a test, continuing the payments for between six months and a year.

 And The Guardian reports that Finland and The Netherlands also are preparing pilot programs to test Universal Basic Income, while Switzerland will vote on a similar program this week

 One Australian site is now also asking whether the program could work in Australia, noting that currently the country spends around $3 billion on their Centrelink welfare system, "so simplification can offer huge potential savings."
The Guardian sums up the case for a Universal Basic Income as a reaction to improving technology.

"In a future in which robots decimate the jobs but not necessarily the wealth of nations...states should be able to afford to pay all their citizens a basic income unconditional of needs or requirements...

 In an increasingly digital economy, it would also provide a necessary injection of cash so people can afford to buy the apps and gadgets produced by the new robot workforce."


 A Swiss airport is testing a robot named Leo which can carry a passenger's luggage once they're approaching the terminal.

 Leo's baggage compartment opens when passengers press his 'Scan and Fly' touch interface, which can also print luggage tags and display a departure time and boarding gate, before delivering their luggage to a baggage handler.

The airport's head of IT said the new robot "limits the number of bags in the airport terminal, helping us accommodate a growing number of passengers without compromising the airport experience inside the terminal."

And the robot's developer says it proves that robotics "hold the key to more effective, secure and smarter baggage handling and is major step towards further automating bag handling in airports."

 A Hot Hardware article about Google's research effort "to maintain control of super-intelligent AI agents":

 [A] team of researchers at Google-owned DeepMind, along with University of Oxford scientists, are developing a proverbial kill switch for AI... 

The team has released a white paper on the topic called "Safely Interruptible Agents." 

The paper details the following in abstract:

 "Learning agents interacting with a complex environment like the real world are unlikely to behave optimally all the time... now and then it may be necessary for a human operator to press the big red button to prevent the agent from continuing a harmful sequence of actions..." 
MojoKid adds that the paper "goes on to explain that these AI agents might also learn to disable the kill switch and further explores ways in which to develop AI's that would not seek such an activity."


$30M Stampede 2 Supercomputer To Provide 18 Petaflops of Power To Researchers Nationwide (techcrunch.com)

 Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and built at the University of Texas at Austin, the Stampede 2 supercomputer looks to contend with the global supercomputer Top 5. 

With 18 petaflops of processing power, it aims to help any researcher with a problem requiring intense number crunching

 For example, atomic and atmospheric science simulations would take years to work-out on a desktop PC but only days on a supercomputer. Texas Advanced Computing Center director Dan Stanzione said in a UT press release, "Stampede has been used for everything from determining earthquake risks to help set building codes for homes and commercial buildings, to computing the largest mathematical proof ever constructed." 

The Stampede 2 is about twice as powerful as the original Stampede, which was activated in March of 2013. 

Instead of the 22nm fabrication tech in the original Stampede, the Stampede 2 will feature 14nm Xeon Phi chips codenamed "Knights Landing" forming 72 cores compared the original system's 61 cores.

 With double the RAM, storage and data bandwidth, the Stampede 2 can shift up to 100 gigabits per second, and its DDR4 RAM can perform fast enough to work as a third-level cache as well as fulfill ordinary memory roles. 

In addition, it will feature 3D Xpoint non-volatile memory.

 It will be at least a year before the Stampede 2 is powered up since it just received funding.


Asimove's first law of robotics has been broken, writes an anonymous reader, sharing this article from Fast Company:  

A Berkeley, California man wants to start a robust conversation among ethicists, philosophers, lawyers, and others about where technology is going -- and what dangers robots will present humanity in the future.

 Alexander Reben, a roboticist and artist, has built a tabletop robot whose sole mechanical purpose is to hurt people... 

The harm caused by Reben's robot is nothing more than a pinprick, albeit one delivered at high speed, causing the maximum amount of pain a small needle can inflict on a fingertip.
Though the pinpricks are delivered randomly, "[O]nce something exists in the world, you have to confront it. It becomes more urgent," says the robot's creator.

 "You can't just pontificate about it.... "

But the article raises an interesting question.

 Is he responsible for the pain which his robot inflicts?

 Bloomberg reports Walmart is working with a robotics company to develop a shopping cart that helps customers find items on their lists and saves them from pushing a heavy cart through a sprawling store and parking lot

 The carts are a way for brick-and-mortar stores to stay relevant in the convenience factor to match the likes of Amazon and other online retailers, says founder and chief executive officer of Five Elements Robotics Wendy Roberts. 

She said on Tuesday at the Bloomberg Technology Conference 2016 that her company was working with the "world's largest retailer" on such a shopping cart.

 In 2014, Five Elements Robotics introduced Budgee, a personal robot that can follow its user around inside and outdoors and carry things.

 The robot costs $1,400 and is helpful for people with disabilities, says Roberts.

 According to a report, a robot escaped from a science lab and caused a traffic jam in one Russian city.

 Scientists at the Promobot laboratories in Perm had been teaching the machine how to move around independently, but it broke free after an engineer forgot to shut a gate, Quartz reports.

From the report:

It promptly ran out of power in the middle of the road. 

The robot got about 50m (164 ft) before its battery died. 

After a policeman directed traffic around the dead bot, an employee wheeled it back into the lab, and back to a life of servitude.

 Hopefully this was just an isolated incident and not the start of a larger coordinated effort to overthrow humanity.

 Only time will tell...

Huge technological leaps forward in drones, artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems must be addressed before humanity is driven to extinction, say chiefs of Pentagon.

From a report: Air Force General Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the US Defense Department, said so-called thinking weapons could lead to:

 "Robotic systems to do lethal harm... a Terminator without a conscience." 

When asked about robotic weapons able to make their own decisions, he said:

 "Our job is to defeat the enemy" but "it is governed by law and by convention." 

He says the military insists on keeping humans in the decision-making process to "inflict violence on the enemy. [...] 

That ethical boundary is the one we've draw a pretty fine line on.

 It's one we must consider in developing these new weapons," he added. Selva said the Pentagon must reach out to artificial intelligence tech firms that are not necessarily "military-oriented" to develop new systems of command and leadership models, reports US Naval Institute News .


By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the U.S., starting with customer service representatives and eventually truck and taxi drivers. 

That's just one cheery takeaway from a report released by market research company Forrester this week. 

These robots, or intelligent agents, represent a set of AI-powered systems that can understand human behavior and make decisions on our behalf. 

Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems.

 For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs like self-driving cars. 

The Inevitable Robot Uprising has already started, with at least 45% of U.S. online adults saying they use at least one of the aforementioned digital concierges. 

 Intelligent agents can access calendars, email accounts, browsing history, playlists, purchases and media viewing history to create a detailed view of any given individual. 

With this knowledge, virtual agents can provide highly customized assistance, which is valuable to shops or banks trying to deliver better customer service.

 The report predicts there will be a net loss of 7% of U.S. jobs by 2025 -- 16% of U.S. jobs will be replaced, while the equivalent of 9% jobs will be created.

The report forecasts 8.9 million new jobs in the U.S. by 2025, some of which include robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators.


 Thanks to the modern gaming industry, we can now spend our evenings wandering around photorealistic game worlds, like the post-apocalyptic Boston of Fallout 4 or Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos, instead of doing things like "seeing people" and "engaging in human interaction of any kind." 

Games these days are so realistic, in fact, that artificial intelligence researchers are using them to teach computers how to recognize objects in real life

 Not only that, but commercial video games could kick artificial intelligence research into high gear by dramatically lessening the time and money required to train AI.

 "If you go back to the original Doom, the walls all look exactly the same and it's very easy to predict what a wall looks like, given that data," said Mark Schmidt, a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

 "But if you go into the real world, where every wall looks different, it might not work anymore." 

Schmidt works with machine learning, a technique that allows computers to "train" on a large set of labelled data -- photographs of streets, for example -- so that when let loose in the real world, they can recognize, or "predict," what they're looking at. 

 Schmidt and Alireza Shafaei, a PhD student at UBC, recently studied Grand Theft Auto V and found that self-learning software trained on images from the game performed just as well, and in some cases even better, than software trained on real photos from publicly available datasets.



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