Good news for humanity: Germany joins list of countries that won’t use autonomous weapons


Lieutenant General Ludwig Leinhos, head of Germany’s Cyber and Information Space Command, told panel members at the Munich Security Conference yesterday that Germany would abstain from using autonomous weapons. According to the “Campaign To Stop Killer Robots” Germany joins 22 other countries in pledging to keep AI-powered weapons off the battlefield. That leaves just 170 countries who’re either undecided or not interested in banning autonomous weaponry. Reuters reports General Leihnhos told the panel Germany needed to prepare to defend itself against such weapons, but had no plans to obtain them: We have a very clear position. We have no intention…

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A Renowned Futurist Says We Should Merge With AI to Protect Humanity

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already besting human intelligence in a number ways. Google and DeepMind’s AlphaGo Zero is arguably the greatest Go player in the world, and it learned the game by teaching itself. DeepMind researchers claim they never even reached the limit of the AI’s potential, meaning it could be capable of even more impressive tasks.

AlphaGoZero is just one of many AIs under development across the globe, and as the industry continues to grow, these systems are going to get smarter and smarter. According to futurist Ian Pearson, humanity’s only option if it wants to maintain pace is to merge with AI.

Pearson made this assertion today, February 13, during a panel hosted by CNBC at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

“The fact is that AI can go further than humans, it could be billions of times smarter than humans at this point,” said Pearson. “So we really do need to make sure that we have some means of keeping up. The way to protect against that is to link that AI to your brain so you have the same IQ…as the computer.”

Pearson isn’t the first to suggest humans merge with AI. Elon Musk has floated the idea in the past, and he even started a company, Neuralink, to work on developing the technology necessary to make it happen.

Pearson cited Musk’s reservations about developing advanced AI during the panel: “I don’t actually think it’s safe, just like Elon Musk…to develop these superhuman computers until we have a direct link to the human brain…and then don’t get way ahead.”

Some foresee such a merger leading to the creation of enhanced humans.

During a World Government Summit panel on Monday, Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity and co-founder of Google X, said he believed AI would eventually make people “superhuman,” and last year, Ray Kurzweil, Google’s chief engineer, said AI would enhance, rather than displace, humanity.

In truth, augmenting humans was on a lot of people’s minds at the World Government Summit, which drew industry leaders, experts, and government officials from around the world.

“Such a gathering has been much needed and will help the international community embrace the enormously positive impact of AI while at the same time getting prepared to mitigate potential downsides,” Cyrus Hodes, Vice President and Director of the AI Initiative, told Futurism.

If Pearson is right, we’ll need all of those powerful minds working together to ensure humans remain in control of AI and not the other way around.

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Futurism

Point ‘n Tap Adventure ‘The Uncertain’ Coming December 7th – Experience the End of Humanity

I think by now it’s fair to say that robots will outlive us all (especially if Elon Musk continues to build autonomous vehicles), and the upcoming adventure game The Uncertain explores the possibility of such a future. In The Uncertain, which is making its jump over from Steam, you play as an engineering robot called RT-217NP, who (just like Wall-E) is very curious about the human race, which has managed to wipe itself out in a series of (probably unnecessary and stupid) wars. He can only experience humanity through the items it has left behind. But, as is usually the case, there’s a mystery waiting to be solved.

The Uncertain is a classic 3D Adventure game (so expect to combine inventory objects and solve plenty of puzzles) with a nice art style and interesting ideas. It’s also an episodic adventure game, so we are only getting Episode 1 (which offers around 4 hours of gameplay). Episode 1 of The Uncertain will release December 7th and will cost $ 2.99, not much to witness the end of humanity. Head over to our forum thread for more.

TouchArcade

New Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Poised To Transform Humanity

Prosthetics and Mind Control

According to studies presented at Neuroscience 2017, the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience, technology that allows prosthetics to be controlled by the human brain is progressing at an unprecedented rate.

There are millions of people around the world that are unable to use some part of their body as a result of illness, injury, or amputation. While the field of prosthetics has come a long way, even the best solutions typically only offer partial functionality.

“Unlike many pharmacological or biologic therapies to help people with neurological injuries or disease, engineering solutions have the potential for immediate and sometimes dramatic restoration of function,” said Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital, Brown University, a neurotechnology expert who moderated the conference. “It is really exciting to see how the growth of fundamental neuroscience and neuroengineering research over many years is leading to the creation of technologies that will help to reduce the burden of neurological and psychiatric disease.”

However, we’re now able to create prosthetics that interface directly with the human nervous system and organic tissue. By leveraging advances in brain-computer interfaces, we might be able to produce replacement body parts that offer far more capability than is currently available.

The findings presented at the event included word that neural signals from a spinal cord taken from a rodent had been used to control cultured muscle fibers in a lab setting. This could cultivate further investigations into how the nervous system controls the movement of a body.

An amputee’s prosthetic hand was also shown to improve the subject’s motor skills and reduce phantom pain, contributing to a greater sense of ownership over the replacement body part. Furthermore, a tetraplegic patient was seen to adapt their neural activity in order to maintain control of a brain-computer interface.

These developments are all very encouraging in their own right, but taken as a whole they demonstrate just how quickly this field is progressing forward. The next few years should yield some impressive results in terms of new prosthetics – and we’re already seeing some groundbreaking projects come to pass.

Augmented Humans

It’s a grim reality that soldiers often need prosthetic limbs once their tour of duty comes to an end. To that end, the US Department of Veteran Affairs has become a major force in pushing forward the state of prosthetics. The research and development that it supports doesn’t just benefit military personnel, but all manner of people.

The First Cyborg Olympics [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Lots of work is being done to ensure that replacement limbs are better than ever before – but it’s not just the top tier of prosthetics that are being improved. 3D printing is allowing for solutions to become more widely available and at a lower cost.

The ability to replace body parts isn’t just limited to prosthetic limbs. A 3D printed heart recently underwent trials, and could reportedly perform all the functions of the real thing. There are even ongoing efforts to create wireless ‘cyborg eyes’ that would allow blind people to see once again.

New advances in brain-computer interfaces could benefit all kinds of projects. Whether it’s a replacement eye, or a prosthetic leg, the ability to control the synthetic body part as naturally as possible is a huge step forward from previous methodology.

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The World’s Scientists Just Issued an Official “Warning to Humanity”

Second Notice

The profound, negative effect of human activity on our environment is widely discussed, yet many continue to deny that we have a problem. In an attempt to remedy that, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries signed “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” an article published in the November 13 issue of BioScience.

The scientists’ warning outlines the specific dangers of the path we’re currently taking and offers suggestions for setting a new course. The idea is to energize the public to put pressure on governments around the world to address the issue.

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

This effort follows in the footsteps of “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” an article published by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992. A total of 1,700 experts signed off on that document, which should demonstrate just how much more worrisome the situation has gotten over the last quarter-century.

“[A Second Notice] is a way to revisit the warning that was put out 25 years ago and kind of take stock — What has happened since? Has there been progress? — to revisit the questions that warning put out there,” paper co-author Eileen Crist of Virginia Tech told Futurism.

Point of No Return?

According to the latest “Warning to Humanity” article, the situation is undeniably bleak, with the authors providing a host of damning statistics that illustrate just how much damage has already been done over the past 25 years.

The amount of fresh water available per capita has dropped by 26 percent. Almost 300 million acres of forestland have been destroyed. The global population of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish has dropped by 29 percent, while the human population has increased by 35 percent.

“The consensus is that we have not done enough,” said Crist. She notes the Montreal Protocol and its effect on ozone depletion as an exception, but acknowledges that most issues have grown worse.

“Deforestation continues, and we’re in the throes of a mass extinction event. Scientists warn that, in this century, if we continue to go as we’ve been going, we’re likely to lose 50 to 75 percent of the Earth’s species,” said Crist. “The importance of that cannot be overstated. This is not something that can be fixed. It’s not something that has a solution later on. It’s just permanent.”

The “Warning to Humanity” article isn’t just a recap of the current situation, though. It also notes measures that could potentially reverse some of the damage that’s already been done or at least mitigate the impact moving forward.

These actions include the establishment of more protected wild spaces on land and at sea, better anti-poaching regulations and restrictions of wildlife trading, improvements to programs that offer family planning and education to women, a widespread shift toward plant-based diets, and a far-reaching transition to renewable and otherwise green sources of energy.

Closing the Gap

To Crist, there’s clearly a disconnect between the way experts look at the impact human activity is having on our environment and the way the general public sees the situation.

“There is a really big gap between what the scientific community knows, and is aware of, and is writing about, and what is generally out there in the public,” she said, acknowledging that “the public” is an amorphous group, and it’s not entirely accurate to make a sweeping generalization.

Ideally, the report will help narrow that gap by providing the average person with access to a large quantity of scientifically accurate information, getting members of the public rethinking their stance on environmental issues. “We are hoping that our paper will ignite a wide-spread public debate about the global environment and climate,” co-author William Ripple said in a press release.

However, he also acknowledges the potential for a different reading. “Some people might be tempted to dismiss this evidence and think we are just being alarmist,” said Ripple. “Scientists are in the business of analyzing data and looking at the long-term consequences. Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path.”

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Drugs, Rape, Massacres: How AI Is Exposing Children to the Worst of Humanity

A Controversial New Artist

A freakish new art form is climbing in popularity on Youtube. It’s so subversive that it has the New York Times and the London Economic both up in arms. James Bridle was so unsettled that he averred in a recent jeremiad on the subject: “I don’t want what I’m talking about here anywhere near my own site… Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level.” Welcome to #Elsagate.

The scandal centers on AI-produced “children’s videos” whose content is structured according to trending searches on Youtube, often resulting in ghoulish outcomes involving the likes of Disney, DC, and Marvel characters. Bridle was particularly unnerved by a piece called “BURIED ALIVE Outdoor Playground Finger Family Song Nursery Rhymes Animation Education Learning Video.” Apparently, chatbots automatically view videos like these and post inane comments about them, artificially driving up the their popularity. The trending content is then advertised to an audience mostly composed of horrified toddlers clicking on the links by accident, adults sharing the videos out of shock, genuine fans of the surreal, and of course, other AI.

Most of the videos don’t technically violate Youtube’s Community Guidelines, but they come awfully close, incorporating scatological humor, sexualized scenarios, and occasionally even serious acts of violence and exploitation. Imagine putting The Sims on auto-play, breaking copyright to make the characters look like popular cartoons, and recording them as they act out various inappropriate scenarios according to words that are trending on Youtube. Then imagine polluting the Internet with thousands of these videos and cynically marketing them at infants, raking in cash.

According to the New York Times, “Malik Ducard, YouTube’s global head of family and learning content, said that the inappropriate videos were ‘the extreme needle in the haystack,’ (and) that ‘making the app family friendly is of the utmost importance to us.’” But actually, I want to argue in this article that far from being a rare exception to the rule, this kind of video in fact represents an entirely new genre of video-art that I want to call Totsploitation.

A Controversial New Kind of Art

The genre boasts a global audience and videos with tens of millions of views, some of them even acted out by flesh and blood fans. Unlike anything you’ve ever imagined (unless, of course, you’re one of its huge international legion of fans), Totsploitation is cheaply executed and cynically conceived, wallowing in the repetitious and grotesque. Glorified gibberish ruthlessly appropriative of children’s culture, at first glance, its primary aim seems to dupe gullible viewers into watching stultifying gobbledygook for the sake of ad revenue (though since August, Youtube has tried to limit ad revenue from certain videos containing the “inappropriate use of family-friendly characters”).

But there is more to it than that. Seen through the most uncharitable lens, the genre’s characteristic features are troubling reflections not only of warped corporate values sponsoring AI-generated brainrot on a massive scale, but also a commentary on the dark subconscious of humanity, who are driving the creation of this kind of content and clicking on links enmeshing cartoon characters in hellishly violent, misogynistic, or inappropriately sexualized scenarios. If the Internet had nightmares, this is what they would look like.

Image source: Screenshot/Super Mouse TV/ Youtube

But despite appearances, does Totsploitation actually have any educational and artistic value? What do its millions of fans see in it? How can it be controlled? Should it even be censored?

To begin with, let’s start with the question, is Totsploitation actually Art with a capital A?

Mimesis is fundamental to artistic production, and innovation in art is often fueled by the recombination of preexisting motifs in unexpected ways, lampooning the established forms. For example, in the case of Manet’s Olympia, one of the most revolutionary paintings of all time, the artist famously appropriated a classic composition by Titian portraying “Venus” and set the image in a modern bourgeoisie context, using sketchy brushwork to portray a prostitute whose nudity was considered less shocking than her full-frontal gaze. (Interestingly, Titian copied elements of his composition from a Greco-Roman statue, so the meme had a long life.)

After his work was accepted into the prestigious Parisian Salon, Manet’s painting was promptly ridiculed by the press. Journalist Antonin Proust believed that “only the precautions taken by the administration prevented the painting being punctured and torn” by angry spectators. One critic wrote that Olympia showed “inconceivable vulgarity,” and still another harangued readers with the idea that “art sunk so low does not even deserve reproach.” Manet was overwhelmed by all of this, writing to his friend the poet Baudelaire, “They are raining insults on me. Someone must be wrong.” Such was the price for infusing the clichéd pure image of Venus with the ambiance of a modern brothel, sexualizing the nudity of the “goddess.” Attacking contemporary notions of propriety was dangerous, though history would vindicate Manet for testing the limits of popular acceptability and challenging rather than coddling the pearl-clutching prudes in his audience.

For all its tawdriness, Totsploitation is in a sense grounded in the same grand tendencies in the history of innovation in the arts. By recombining motifs associated with “pure” children’s entertainment and themes connected with adult situations, the artist provokes a reaction not unlike that invited by Manet’s Olympia. The unconventional brushwork, sloppy from a neoclassical perspective, is even paralleled by the sketchy and unfinished quality of these videos. But while Manet explored the fine line separating pornography and portraiture in nude images of women branded “Venus,” the modern Totsploitation artist elicits a shocked response by dwelling on the ambiguous boundaries that distinguish different types of children’s entertainment.

On a positive note, memes from cartoons especially popular with little boys merge neutrally with those of female-centric entertainment like Frozen. More sinister, though, is the genre’s blurring of the naiveté of Nick Junior and Disney, the stylized violence and suspense of DC and Marvel, and the cynicism and explicitness of Adult Swim and softcore hentai. All of this makes Totsploitation intriguing from certain artistic perspectives but horrendous entertainment for infants. To put it in the terms of the Stone Age, this is often TV 14 or MA content masquerading as TV Y on Youtube.

Totsploitation’s closest cousin is another genre featuring mashups of stock cartoon characters, jump cuts, starling soundtracks, and disturbing hypnotic juxtapositions of kid-friendly content with adult violence: the unfortunately named Youtube Poop. It involves “absurdist remixes that ape and mock the lowest technical and aesthetic standards of remix culture to comment on remix culture itself.” Hurricoaster’s The Sky Had a Weegee is a classic example of the genre, incorporating clips from Spongebob Squarepants and the horrendous DOS version of Mario is Missing. Trajce Cvetkovski drew attention to the video when he wrote about it in 2013 because Viacom claimed a copyright infringement against it. Now, it has over 16 million views on Youtube. One of these days, Disney or Marvel might just immortalize a Totspolitation classic in the same way.

However, the similarities between Youtube Poop and Totsploitation only extend so far. The former highlights the ingenuity of human editors as they break down and mock stock narratives drawn from children’s media. The latter is driven by surreal recombinations of stock motifs by cynically minded programmers and their inhuman algorithms, constructing strange and unsettling narratives rather than deconstructing them.

Sometimes, Totsploitation videos contain almost indescribably weird and wonderful imagery, recombinations of motifs so strange that no human could have thought them up. Think of the scene from Cartoon Superheroes Swimming Race INDOOR PLAYGROUND Fun Play Area For Kids Baby Nursery Rhymes Songs from 3:41 onward. The characters dive beneath a swimming pool whose surface is covered with floating fruit. They go on to engage in an epic martial arts battle beneath the waves defying gravity as if they were flying in outer space.

Dali couldn’t have thought this shit up. Sometimes, I even have to admit that the jokes cooked up by the AI are a little funny (perhaps with a helping hand from human editors). At the 4:53 mark of Baby Cartoon Rhymes’ beloved childhood classic Frozen Elsa Spiderman Baby Lazy to School Funny Story New Episodes! Finger Family Nursery Rhymes, for example, a bikini-clad Maleficent inseminates herself with her can of magic sun-tan spray, making Elsa suspect infidelity on the part of Spiderman when she spots the heavily pregnant witch lounging possessively next to him on the beach. Another video in which the sisters from Frozen discuss the blonde one’s fever is like something out of the Red Shoe Diaries. There’s a wtf factor at play here that is right at home with the effects of other kinds of modern art.

Certain tropes like cartoon violence and the presentation of sexualized (though not pornographic) situations are acceptable according to the algorithms at play here and ramped up to the max. After the initial shock, the more you watch the videos, the more the proceedings descend into bathos and then tedium, undercutting the horrific edge of it all. I appreciate that there is inherently something deeply subversive and aesthetically meaningful about any form of art making mincemeat out of beloved corporate mascots and the copyright laws which upholds their status as sacred cows.

“These are videos produced by machines that rage against the Machine.”

These are videos produced by machines that rage against the Machine. On the uncharted frontiers of Youtube, the impossible in the world of over-produced high corporate art is made possible in the realm of cheap automated cartoons. We all know that Spiderman and Elsa could never date in real life. Copyright law would prevent it. But their romance knows no boundaries for the singularity.

Despite all of this, the fact remains that as they are currently marketed, Totsploitation videos are wreaking havoc on the internet and exploiting a vulnerable generation of children around the world in the most twisted way imaginable—crushing their dreams about their childhood idols by associating beloved characters with tawdriness and terrifying violence.  However, censorship is not the answer. Technically infeasible, it would not only set a horrendous precedent, but represent capitalist interests stifling a popular and inherently anti-corporate art form.

A Controversial New Teacher

I think that there is something inherently reckless about entrusting the education of our children to algorithms designed to maximize profit rather than deferring to human content developers and educators with the best interests of children at heart. Even totally innocent series like the Zool Babies contain harmful content because the AI is insensitive to potentially inappropriate subject matter. Usually, the videos just contain vapid repetitions of a song concerning five babies becoming a smaller and smaller group until only one baby remains.

But consider the video Five Little Babies Bathing In a Tub | Zool Babies Fun Songs | Nursery Rhymes For Babies. In one of the songs, we have, “Five little babies sitting on a wall. One slipped off and fell from the wall. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, no more baby sitting on a wall (18:12 onward). In their Halloween song, one of the babies even gives another a graphic scar (1:02). It astounds me that this crap has hundreds of millions of views on Youtube.

When adult-themed Totsploitation is thrown into the mix, matters become graver still. At first, the sinister effect is almost unnoticeable. An otherwise banal video of dancing Elsa’s by Cartoon Rhymes transforms for a few moments into a frightening battle involving dinosaurs (14:53 onward). In still another video by Cartoon Rhymes, scenes involving harmless Claymation are juxtaposed with a brutal stabbing (11:27) and gun violence (12:22). In a video produced by Animals for Kids, children dressed as superheroes inject passerby with hypodermic needles (27:27).

Image source: Screenshot/Animals for Kids/Youtube

Other videos incorporate imagery of sexual slavery. One of them rages with such misogynistic brutality that it is clear the aggression derives from male programmers and not hapless AI.[7] Incorporating images of physical abuse and rape,  “Spiderman & Elsa Kiss! Spiderman, Elsa & Anna Compilation (Superheroes)” is the product of predatory developers interested not only in lining their pockets with clickbait, but eviscerating some of the most treasured values of contemporary emancipated liberal society in the West.

Make no mistake about it. Youtube’s twofold greed is the ultimate culprit here, grounded in a desire to make money by promoting the videos on the one hand and save money by resorting to the use of robots to censor and categorize content on the other. How about hiring more living and breathing people to monitor these videos and imposing a practical rating system that accurately reflects their true maturity level? Due to the recent fervor over the issue, it seems initial steps in this direction have already been taken.

“And all of this in a generation that has defunded Public Television.”

But since Youtube has been making similar claims about monitoring the videos since August, their assurances might be taken cum grano salis. The creepiest content is often buried so deep within otherwise banal videos that much of it is sure to slip past censors.

While I cannot deny the artistic value of elements of Totsploitation, it is obviously deeply traumatizing fodder for infants and should be properly rated and categorized by human beings rather than deceptively marketed to innocent toddlers by a machine, preying on their gullibility. We are literally peddling drugs, rape, misogyny, and massacres to our children. And all of this in a generation that has defunded Public Television! Talk about a collective failure on a massive scale. The price of all this immorality will be nothing less than a generation of children with scarred imaginations. Somebody do something, quick.

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Tech giants should leave internet policing up to AI, for the sake of humanity


30 years ago, Peter Weller took on the role as Robocop, a dystopian entity revived by mega corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) as a superhuman law enforcer running the Detroit Police Department. Badass cop, but maybe not the most effective one. Robocop had a fourth classified law never to arrest or attack anyone from OCP — the company that made it. But gone are the days when this sci-fi action film was perceived as just another fanatical blockbuster. We have entered an era that some perceive as concerningly familiar — except in this version of events, tech giants YouTube, Facebook,…

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Bill Gates: “Humanity Will See Its Last Case of Polio This Year”

Completely Eradicated

For a long time, polio was one of the most feared diseases around the world. And although its first recorded case dates back to 1789, polio epidemics actually predate recorded history. Currently, in 2017, it looks like polio’s long reign of terror is about to officially end, according to updates on Tuesday from the Rotary International’s fifth annual World Polio Day celebration co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Progress in fighting polio might be one of the world’s best-kept secrets in global health,” Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates wrote in his foundation’s 2017 annual letter. “If things stay stable in the conflicted areas, humanity will see its last case of polio this year.”

The head of the foundation’s polio eradication efforts, Dr. Jay Wenger, is hopeful that polio could indeed disappear by this year’s end — two years earlier than what Gates previously predicted. “What we’re looking at now is sort of the endgame of polio eradication. We are closer than ever, and we’re optimistic that we can see the end of wild poliovirus disease by as early as this year,” he said, as reported by USA Today.

A Victory for Vaccines

Polio could very well be the second disease eradicated in our lifetime, next to smallpox. Dr. Wenger said that there are now only 12 cases of polio in the entire world, and all of them are found within two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen unprecedented progress. In 2015 we could only find 74 cases; in 2016 we found 37, and then this year so far we’ve found only 12 in only two countries.”

This success comes from the unsung heroes that World Polio Day celebrates, those that have helped to spread the first safe and effective oral vaccine against polio, developed by Jonas Salk in 1955. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, launched in 1988 by the World Health Assembly, has since reduced polio incidence by 99.9 percent. This mass vaccination campaign, supported by numerous institutions around the world, made this victory against polio possible.

The Gates Foundation pledged $ 450 million in June to continue supporting efforts against polio. “You might be wondering why we’re spending so much money when there’s only 12 cases,” Dr. Wenger said. “We want to be sure we finish it off.”

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Top Google Scientist Says We Need to Emphasize Humanity While Developing AI

The Future of Developing AI

One of the biggest companies focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) is Google, a company many only associate with the popular search engine. The company’s has been developing AI over the years, which can be seen in some of its current products: Google Assistant, which came to Android smartphones in February; AI assisting the aforementioned search engine helping with job searches; and the Google Home smart speaker. The AI may not be as smart as a first grader yet, but it has the potential to reach a point where it’s smarter than the average person interacting with it.

To reach that point, however, AI may need to become more human-like. At least, that’s what Google Cloud Chief Scientist and Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence and Vision Labs Fei-Fei Li believes. By doing so, AI would become more capable of improving our lives and providing us peace of mind.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review senior editor Will Knight, Li explained that thinking about AI’s impact on the world is one of the most important factors regarding the technology, and that her work with AI has revealed one thing: future developments and advancements need to be more human-centered.

Better AI Development

“If you look at where we are in AI, I would say it’s the great triumph of pattern recognition,” she said. “It is very task-focused, it lacks contextual awareness, and it lacks the kind of flexible learning that humans have. We also want to make technology that makes humans’ lives better, our world safer, our lives more productive and better. All this requires a layer of human-level communication and collaboration.”

Early signs of such communication and collaboration can already be seen, though their true impact has yet to be seen; in July, for example, Google’s DeepMind revealed it began developing AI with imagination, enabling it to think through decisions and plan for the future without human input.

Types of AI: From Reactive to Self-Aware [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Earlier this month, DeepMind stated its new AI is on the verge of being able to perfectly mimic human speech, while the recently unveiled Google Clips camera — powered by AI — is capable of taking pictures for you, eliminating the need to wait for the “perfect” moment.

“If our algorithms are to develop equally sophisticated behaviors, they too must have the capability to ‘imagine’ and reason about the future,” said researchers from DeepMind, speaking on AIs equipped with imagination. “Beyond that they must be able to construct a plan using this knowledge.”

Li’s own thoughts nearly echo DeepMind’s, as she also believes AI need to be able to think and act for themselves. To this end, she said that future research conducted needs to focus on “contextual understanding”, as well as “knowledge abstraction and reasoning.”

AI That Represents Humanity

That said, new features and capabilities won’t be enough to truly advance artificial intelligence. Diversity also needs to play a key role. As Li explained, studies have shown that a diverse team leads to more creative, innovative solutions. AI also cannot be biased or influenced by the morally questionable parts of humanity, otherwise its adoption and incorporation could hinder some groups of people over others.

“When you are making a technology this pervasive and this important for humanity, you want it to carry the values of the entire humanity, and serve the needs of the entire humanity,” said Li. “If the developers of this technology do not represent all walks of life, it is very likely that this will be a biased technology. I say this as a technologist, a researcher, and a mother. And we need to be speaking about this clearly and loudly.”

Look no further than this soap dispenser being incapable of identifying darker skin colors as an indicator of how certain tech sectors are lacking in diversity. Artificial intelligence is expected to radically change the world, and it would certainly be in our best interest if everyone could benefit from it.

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