This Week: May 16, 2018

High Schoolers Teach AI to Unlock Secrets of the Vatican:

If you’ve ever read a Dan Brown book, chances are you know about the Vatican Secret Archives, a great treasure trove of documents that are largely inaccessible because they are largely hand-written. Now a project called In Codice Ratio is using machine learning to learn to read these archives — thanks to some help from a bunch of Italian high school students.

This could potentially do for handwritten documents what Google Books did for printed matter: open up letters, journals, diaries, and other papers to researchers around the world, making it far easier to both read these documents and search for relevant material.


From Big Data to Big Indicators:

As Andrew Zolli explains in Stanford Social Innovation Review, we are moving into an era when machine learning will tap the power of Big Data to create “Big Indicators” that help us track the health of the Earth.

Imagine a daily, accurate, and continuously updated tally of the amount of carbon lost through deforestation; or a precise measure of the net loss of biodiversity; or real-time, spatially explicit assessment of the number of people entering (or exiting) poverty; or an actionable estimate of the total value of coastal infrastructure at risk from extreme weather events. These are big indicators.


“Google Duplex” AI Conversing with Real People:

This is amazing technology. Google’s voice recognition technology and voice synthesis technology are coming together in something called Google Duplex. The results are chillingly good, and, like all technology, this one has the potential for great good and terrible harm. Watch this demo showing Google Assistant scheduling a hair appointment with a real human over the phone:

These technologies will utterly change the way we relate to organizations. As companies automate communications with us and we with them, we will increasingly be communicating through what I call a “bot sandwich.”

Google and “Digital Well-Being”:

The above Duplex technology could be classified as part of Google’s new “Digital Well-Being” initiative. Through it, the company is helping people to achieve “Time Well Spent,” which apparently is a thing now, with its own “TWS” acronym, and even its own nonprofit.


Is AI Really a Black Box?

Greg Corrado, Principle Scientist at Google and co-founder of the Google Brain program has this to say about AI transparency:

There’s this pathology that AI or deep learning is a black box, but it really isn’t. We didn’t study how it works because, for a long time, it really didn’t work well. But now that it’s working well, there are a lot of tools and techniques that go into examining how these systems work. 

It’s critical that we share as much as possible about how these things work, I don’t believe these technologies should live in walled gardens but instead we should develop tools that can be used by everyone in the community … The same tools that my applied machine learning team uses to tackle problems that we’re interested in, those same tools are accessible to you to try to solve the same problems in the same way.

2 thoughts on “This Week: May 16, 2018”

  1. Bill Ed Abraham

    Very interesting articles. The Google Duplex was particularly fascinating, as is Google itself. Recently I went to Google Maps to locate an address in Fort Myers. In the same general vicinity was the location of my dentist, an address I had searched previously. On the map, it had a location and name of the dentist, but also on the map, it had the date and time of my next appointment! The appointment had been made in person, and I had no gmail communication with the office about it. So it puzzles me, how Google obtained that information and saw fit to put in on the map, when I was not searching for that address. Obviously I have very basic knowledge of such things, but this was amazing to me.

    1. Thanks, Bill. That is quite amazing about the Google Maps trick. They fairly regularly pull stuff from email, but I’m wondering in this case whether you may have entered it into Google Calendar and it picked it up from that.

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