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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As We Head On Into 2017 Sky Net Is Becoming More Of A Reality Like Never Before

  The Pentagon may soon be unleashing a 21st-century version of locusts on its adversaries after officials on Monday said it had successfully tested a swarm of 103 micro-drones.

 The important step in the development of new autonomous weapon systems was made possible by improvements in artificial intelligence, holding open the possibility that groups of small robots could act together under human direction. 

Military strategists have high hopes for such drone swarms that would be cheap to produce and able to overwhelm opponents' defenses with their great numbers.

 The test of the micro-drone swarm in October included 103 Perdix micro-drones measuring around six inches (16 centimeters) launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the Pentagon said in a statement.


To combat the robot revolution, the European Parliament's legal affairs committee has proposed that robots be equipped with emergency "kill switches" to prevent them from causing excessive damage. 

Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes.

 "A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics," said Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal.

"To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework."

CNN Money reports: The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines. 

For example, designers should include "kill switches" so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. 

They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn't work as designed. 

The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the "laws of robotics" described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. 

The proposal also says that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations. 

That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments. 

"You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human," said Delvaux. 

"You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you."

The report cites the example of care robots, saying that people who are physically dependent on them could develop emotional attachments.

 The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme -- similar to car insurance -- that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots.

 The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of "electronic persons." 

This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently.

 It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations -- for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause.

 If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security. 


NASA Is Making New Robots That Can Control Themselves 

 NASA wants humans and robots to work together as teams.

 To ensure that, the space agency's autonomous robotics group is currently developing new technology to improve how humans explore the solar system, and how robots can help. 

When NASA began working with remotely operated robots several years ago, Fong said the scientists needed a piece of software that would allow them to look at terrain and sensor data coming from autonomous robots. 

That led to the creation of VERVE, a "3D robot user interface," which allows scientists to see and grasp the three-dimensional world of remotely operated robots. 

VERVE has been used with NASA's K10 planetary rovers (a prototype mobile robot that can travel bumpy terrain), with its K-Rex planetary rovers (robot to determine soil moisture), with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station (ISS), and with the new robot Astrobee (a robot that can fly around the ISS).

In 2013, NASA carried out a series of tests with astronauts on the ISS, during which astronauts who were flying 200 miles above Earth remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in California. Because of time delay, astronauts can't just "joystick a robot," said Maria Bualat, deputy lead of intelligent robotics group at the NASA Ames Research Center.

 "You need a robot that can operate on its own, complete tasks on its own," she said. 

"On the other hand, you still want the human in the loop, because the human brings a lot of experience and very powerful cognitive ability that can deal with issues that the autonomy's not quite ready to handle." 

That's why, according to NASA, human capabilities and robotic capabilities comprise a powerful combination.

 Computers are keeping secrets. A team from Google Brain, Google’s deep learning project, has shown that machines can learn how to protect their messages from prying eyes.

 Artificial Intelligence Chart. 

US Army 'Will Have More Robot Soldiers Than Humans' By 2025, Says Former British Spy (express.co.uk) 

 John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly two decades, has told Daily Express that the U.S. was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025.

 At a meeting with police and counter-terrorism officials in London, he said: "At some point around 2025 or thereabouts the U.S. army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers

Many of those combat robots are trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs.

 But some of them are rather more exciting than trucks. 

So we will see in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers." 

Daily Express reports: 

 Robotic military equipment is already being used by the U.S Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships.

 In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the U.S. Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines.

 Drones have been a feature of U.S. operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. 

However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the U.S. Mr. Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines.

 The cyber security expert said: 

"Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together." 

Check it out!

Stephen Hawking: AI Will Be Either the Best or the Worst Thing To Humanity (betanews.com) 

 At the opening of the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking offered his insight into the positive and negative implications of creating a true AI

He said, via BetaNews:

We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. 

So it's a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence. 

The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge... 

With the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one -- industrialization. 

And surely we will aim to fully eradicate disease and poverty. 

Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. 

But it could also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.

 Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many.

 It will bring great disruption to our economy. 

AI will be either the best, or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. 

We do not yet know which.

Andy Stern (former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which today represents close to 2 million workers in the United States and Canada) has spent his career organizing workers. 

He has a warning for all of us: our jobs are really, really doomed.

Stern adds that one of the only way outs of this is a universal basic income.

Stern has been arguing about the need for a universal basic income (UBI) for more than a year now.

Stern pointed out that people with college degrees are not making anywhere near the kind of progress that their parents made, and that it's not their fault.

He adds: 
The possibility that you can end up with job security and retirement attached to it is statistically diminishing over time. 

The American dream doesn't have to be dead, but it is dying. 

All the resources and assets are available to make it real.

 It's just that we have a huge distribution problem. 

Unions and the government used to play an important part at the top of the market, but this is less true today. 

The market completely distributes toward those at the top. Unions simply aren't as effective in terms of their impact on the economy, and government has been somewhat on the sidelines in recent years.

 Making a case for the need of universal basic income, he adds:A universal basic income is essentially giving every single working-age American a check every month, much like we do with social security for elderly people.

 It's an unconditional stipend, as it were.

 The reason it's necessary is we're now learning through lots of reputable research that technological change is accelerating, and that this process will continue to displace workers and terminate careers. 

A significant number of tasks now performed by humans will be performed by machines and artificial intelligence.

  He warned that we could very well see five million jobs eliminated by the end of the decade because of technology.

 He elaborates: 

It looks like the Hunger Games.

 It's more of what we're beginning to see now: an enclave of extremely successful people at the center and then everyone else on the margins.

 There will be fewer opportunities in a hollowed out and increasingly zero-sum economy.

 If capital trumps labor, the people who own will keep getting wealthier and the people who supply labor will become less necessary.

 And this is exactly what AI and robotics and software are now doing: substituting capital for labor.


The DeepMind artificial intelligence (AI) being developed by Google's parent company, Alphabet, can now intelligently build on what's already inside its memory, the system's programmers have announced. 

An anonymous reader writes: 

Their new hybrid system -- called a Differential Neural Computer (DNC) -- pairs a neural network with the vast data storage of conventional computers, and the AI is smart enough to navigate and learn from this external data bank.

 What the DNC is doing is effectively combining external memory (like the external hard drive where all your photos get stored) with the neural network approach of AI, where a massive number of interconnected nodes work dynamically to simulate a brain. 

"These models... can learn from examples like neural networks, but they can also store complex data like computers," write DeepMind researchers Alexander Graves and Greg Wayne in a blog post.

 At the heart of the DNC is a controller that constantly optimizes its responses, comparing its results with the desired and correct ones. 

Over time, it's able to get more and more accurate, figuring out how to use its memory data banks at the same time.

 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.

 "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."

 Earlier this week, the Obama administration discussed a new strategic plan aimed at fostering the development of AI-centered technologies in the United States.

 What's striking about it is, the Washington Post notes, although the United States was an early leader in deep-learning research (a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning), China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source).

From the report: 

 The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how quickly China's research priorities have shifted. The quality of China's research is also striking.

 The chart narrows the research to include only those papers that were cited at least once by other researchers, an indication that the papers were influential in the field.


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.


Google's DeepMind Made an AI Watch Close To 5000 Videos So That It Surpasses Humans in Lip-Reading (thetechportal.com)

 A new AI tool created by Google and Oxford University researchers could significantly improve the success of lip-reading and understanding for the hearing impaired.

 In a recently released paper on the work, the pair explained how the Google DeepMind-powered
system was able to correctly interpret more words than a trained human expert.

 From a report: To accomplish the task, a cohort of scientists fed thousands of hours of TV footage -- 5000 to be precise -- from the BBC to a neural network.

 It was made to watch six different TV shows, which aired between the period of January 2010 and December 2015. 

This included 118,000 difference sentences and some 17,500 unique words. 

To understand the progress, it successfully deciphered words with a 46.8 percent accuracy

 The neural network had to recognize the same based on mouth movement analysis. 

The under 50 percent accuracy might seem laughable to you but let me put things in perspective for you.

 When the same set of TV shows were shown to a professional lip-reader, they were able to decipher only 12.4 percent of words without error. 

Thus, one can understand the great difference in the capability of the AI as compared to a human expert in that particular field.


From a CNBC report: 

The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

 "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. 

"We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."


 The White House has released a new report warning of a not-too-distant future where artificial intelligence and robotics will take the place of human labor.

 Recode highlights in its report the three key areas the White House says the U.S. government needs to prepare for the next wave of job displacement caused by robotic automation:

  -- Fund more research in robotics and artificial intelligence in order for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in the global technology industry. 

The report calls on the government to steer that research to support a diverse workforce and to focus on combating algorithmic bias in AI. 

-- Invest in and increase STEM education for youth and job retraining for adults in technology-related fields. 

That means offering computer science education for all K-12 students, as well as expanding national workforce retraining by investing six times the current amount spent to keep American workers competitive in a global economy. 

-- Modernize and strengthen the federal social safety net, including public health care, unemployment insurance, welfare and food stamps. The report also calls for increasing the minimum wage, paying workers overtime and and strengthening unions and worker bargaining power.

The report says the government, meaning the the incoming Trump administration, will have to forge ahead with new policies and grapple with the complexities of existing social services to protect the millions of Americans who face displacement by advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. 

The report also calls on the government to keep a close eye on fostering competition in the AI industry, since the companies with the most data will be able to create the most advanced products, effectively preventing new startups from having a chance to even compete.

 Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs.

But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work is also becoming increasingly competent.

From a report on Quartz: One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with "IBM Watson Explorer," starting by this month. 

The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. 

Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.

 From the "Too little To Late" files:

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, have each committed $10 million to fund academic research and development aimed at keeping artificial intelligence systems ethical and to prevent building AI that may harm society.

 Recode reports:  

The fund received an additional $5 million from the Knight Foundation and two other $1 million donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group. 

The $27 million reserve is being anchored by MIT's Media Lab and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. 

The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, the name of the fund, expects to grow as new funders continue to come on board. 

AI systems work by analyzing massive amounts of data, which is first profiled and categorized by humans, with all their prejudices and biases in tow. 

The money will pay for research to investigate how socially responsible artificially intelligent systems can be designed to, say, keep computer programs that are used to make decisions in fields like education, transportation and criminal justice accountable and fair.

 The group also hopes to explore ways to talk with the public about and foster understanding of the complexities of artificial intelligence. 

The two universities will form a governing body along with Hoffman and the Omidyar Network to distribute the funds. 

The $20 million from Hoffman and the Omidyar Network are being given as a philanthropic grant -- not an investment vehicle.


A new report authored by a group of independent U.S. scientists advising the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) on artificial intelligence (AI) claims that perceived existential threats to humanity posed by the technology, such as drones seen by the public as killer robots, are at best "uninformed.

" Still, the scientists acknowledge that AI will be integral to most future DoD systems and platforms, but AI that could act like a human "is at most a small part of AI's relevance to the DoD mission." 

Instead, a key application area of AI for the DoD is in augmenting human performance.

 Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD, first reported by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists, has been researched and written by scientists belonging to JASON, the historically secretive organization that counsels the U.S. government on scientific matters.

 Outlining the potential use cases of AI for the DoD, the JASON scientists make sure to point out that the growing public suspicion of AI is "not always based on fact," especially when it comes to military technologies. 

Highlighting SpaceX boss Elon Musk's opinion that AI "is our biggest existential threat" as an example of this, the report argues that these purported threats "do not align with the most rapidly advancing current research directions of AI as a field, but rather spring from dire predictions about one small area of research within AI, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)." AGI, as the report describes, is the pursuit of developing machines that are capable of long-term decision making and intent, i.e. thinking and acting like a real human. 

"On account of this specific goal, AGI has high visibility, disproportionate to its size or present level of success," the researchers say.

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