Wednesday, November 27, 2019

AI Speaker debates itself at Cambridge Union

Cambridge Independent reports: [edited]

On 21 November, the Cambridge Union Society hosted what turned out to be the most popular debate of term: This house believes artificial intelligence will bring more harm than good.

IBM Research’s Project Debater, the first artificial intelligence platform that can debate humans on complex topics, was the leading ‘speaker’ on both the proposition and opposition.

The night opened with a brief introduction from the principal investigator of Project Debater, Noam Slonim. He explained that the AI system uses a variety of techniques to anticipate the opposition’s choice of evidence: “The AI is not perfect but it’s going in the right direction."

Project Debater launched into its proposition speech in a soothingly monotonous voice. The audience was captivated by its ability to seamlessly weave together a series of arguments from the 511 responses submitted by members of the Union and others.

It was a little unnerving to hear that “AI will not be able to make morally correct decisions, which can lead to disasters. It can only make decisions that it has been programmed to solve, whereas humans can be programmed for all scenarios” from the Debater itself.

It also urged the floor to vote for the motion by raising issues of employment, disconnected societies, and abuse of control.

The AI then proceeded to argue against itself as the first ‘speaker’ of the opposition, claiming that “Artificial Intelligence is the technology of the future designed by humans”.

It continued to assert that AI can eliminate human errors in mundane and repetitive tasks, giving the example of autonomous vehicles.

Following this spectacle of self-sparring, Sharmila Parmanand, second proposition speaker and PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge, spearheaded the human debate against artificial intelligence.She warned against labour displacement and entrenching biases, and raised the critical observation that the context in which AI is being developed – a world plagued by “already-existing power hierarchies” and an “inherently weak regulatory environment” – requires careful consideration.

By contrast, Sylvie Delacroix, professor in Law and Ethics at the University of Birmingham, highlighted that the rise of AI has led us to spiral into an unnecessary degree of paranoia. She compared this fear to people being scared of electricity or cars, which could and can still be used to kill people: “We should see AI as a special tool because of the sheer speed at which it is transforming us”.

She acknowledged that artificial intelligence might be at risk of being manipulated, but also emphasised that as long “as wide a variety of people can select this data,” it can be extremely “beneficial”.

Neil Lawrence, DeepMind professor of machine learning at the University of Cambridge, concluded the proposition debate with the foreboding thought that “over the next 10 years, we will be on a perilous journey that will undermine our very selves”.

He drew particular attention to the dangers of big data: the “new route to manipulating statistics as presented to us”. Lawrence reiterated the importance of precautionary measures: “We should believe that AI should do us harm, because it is the best way to prevent us from doing that harm”.

The debate ended with a final speech from Harish Natarajan, head of economic risk analysis at AKE International in London, who raised the perceptive point that any criticism towards bias in artificial intelligence is made redundant by the fact that “cognitive biases exist on all sides: there is plenty of bias in human interaction”.

He reassured the sceptics that the “benefits of the democratisation of AI will be huge” in a “world that needs multiple layers of improvement”.

And with that, the noes beat the ayes on this occasion.

Image: Tomi Baikie

Monday, November 25, 2019

Brain has huge capacity to rewire itself

Discover Magazine reports: [edited]

In severe cases of epilepsy, a patient’s seizures can become so incessant, and other treatments so ineffective, that doctors will remove half of the brain during childhood to stop them. It's a procedure known as a hemispherectomy. Yet these patients still have intact motor, language and thinking skills.

In a study published Tuesday in Cell Reports, scientists studied six of these patients to see how the human brain rewires itself to adapt after major surgery. After performing brain scans on the patients, the researchers found that the remaining hemisphere formed even stronger connections between different brain networks — regions that control things like walking, talking and memory — than in healthy control subjects.

And the researchers suggest that these connections enable the brain, essentially, to function as if it were still whole.

The six volunteers — who all had hemispherectomies as children — are now high-functioning adults with intact language skills, Kliemann says. Brain scans of the patients were compared to individuals with normal brains, in addition to a database of 1,500 typical brains from the Brain Genomics Superstructure Project.

The research team studied the parts of the brain that control specific functions, such as vision, movement, cognition and emotion. They found that the brain activity in hemispherectomy patients was strikingly similar to the participants who still had all of their brain matter.

Another finding came as more of a surprise. Many brain networks rely on both hemispheres, leading the researchers to predict that they would find weaker connections between different networks in the six patients. But the scans showed that the patients had even stronger connections, which means that different parts of the brain were communicating with each other more consistently. For example, there were more links between the motor and visual networks than in people with typical brains.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Solar Power Breakthrough

CNN Business reports: [edited]

Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius.

The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.

Heliogen uses computer vision software, automatic edge detection and other sophisticated technology to train a field of mirrors to reflect solar beams to one single spot. Heliogen said it is generating so much heat that its technology could eventually be used to create clean hydrogen at scale. That carbon-free hydrogen could then be turned into a fuel for trucks and airplanes.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

London - Wigan - London, 16 & 17-11-19

Bridge Over Troubled Water: Simon & Garfunkel
Baby Driver
Bridge Over Troubled Water
El Condor Pasa (If I Could)
Keep The Customer Satisfied
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
The Boxer
The Only Living Boy In New York
Why Don't You Write Me
Bye Bye Love
Song For The Asking

Give 'Em Enough Rope: The Clash
Safe European Home
English Civil War
Tommy Gun
Julie's In The Drug Squad
Last Gang In Town
Guns On The Roof
Drug-Stabbing Time
Stay Free
All The Young Punks (New Boots And Contracts)

Get Happy!!: Elvis Costello And The Attractions
Love For Tender
The Imposter
Secondary Modern
King Horse
Men Called Uncle
Clowntime Is Over
New Amsterdam
High Fidelity
I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)
Black And White World
5ive Gears In Reverse
B Movie
Motel Matches
Human Touch
Beaten To The Punch
I Stand Accused
Riot Act

A Walk Across The Rooftops: Blue Nile
A Walk Across The Rooftops
Tinseltown In The Rain
From Rags To Riches
Easter Parade
Automobile Noise

Steve McQueen: Prefab Sprout
Faron Young
When Love Breaks Down
Goodbye Lucille #1
Moving The River
Horsin' Around
Desire As
Blueberry Pies
When The Angels

New York: Lou Reed
Romeo Had Juliette
Halloween Parade
Dirty Blvd
Endless Cycle
There is No Time
Last Great American Whale
Beginning of a Great Adventure
Busload of Faith
Sick of You
Hold On
Good Evening Mr. Waldheim
Xmas in February
Dime Store Mystery

Plumb: Jonatha Brooke & The Story
Nothing Sacred
Where Were You?
No Better
West Point
Made Of Gold
Is This All?
Full-Fledged Strangers
Andrew Duffy's Jig

Songs: Rich Mullins
Sing Your Praise To The Lord
Awesome God
Sometimes By Step
We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are
If I Stand
Screen Door
Let Mercy Lead
Calling Out Your Name
My One Thing
Boy Like Me / Man Like You
While The Nations Rage
Verge Of A Miracle
Hold Me Jesus

Monday, November 11, 2019

Pronghorn – Second-fastest animal in the world

The Generalist Academy reports: [edited]

The pronghorn, also known as the American antelope, is built for speed. It has shock-absorbing toes, hollow hair, thirteen 'gears' (gaits, i.e. leg movement patterns), and takes huge gulping breaths to fuel its push. The pronghorn is the Maserati of even-toed ungulates.

The cheetah can manage short bursts of up to 112 km per hour, but that doesn’t last more than a hundred metres before it has to slow down. Over longer distances its speed is more like 64 km per hour, and the pronghorn has that beat: it can go 88 km per hour for close to a kilometre, or 56 km per hour for 6 km.

Why does it need to be so fast? The cheetah has to be fast to catch its prey, but the pronghorn is a vegetarian, and there are no predators in North America that are anywhere near as speedy. One hypothesis is that there used to be predators fast enough to catch it – the extinct American Cheetah (Miracinonyx trumani) is a good candidate – so the pronghorn evolved to outrun them. And now that the American Cheetah is gone, they’re left to speed on their own.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Carrera Crossroad Electric Bicycle

Cycling Weekly reports: [edited]

Priced at £999.99 the Crossroad Electric is the first electric bike from a recognised brand to drop below the four figure mark.

The electrical assistance is delivered through a Suntour motor system situated in the rear wheel. The external, removable 312 W/h battery promises to provide enough power to provide a range of up to 40 miles on one charge. A larger 418 W/h capacity battery is available.

Power delivery is controlled by a crank-based torque sensor rather than the less-accurate cadence sensors specced on most ‘budget’ e-bikes.

The Carrera Crossroad Electric features a specifically designed aluminium frame and fork. It features dropped seatstays and mounting points for mudguards and rear rack.

The disc brakes are mechanical Tektro versions. The groupset is a mix of Shimano nine-speed Acera and Microshift. Tyres are 32c volume Kenda Kwik Trax.

The medium size bike weighs 19 kilograms. It is available in small, medium and large, to fit riders from 5’4″-6’2″.