Each week on a Wednesday Nikolas Badminton, Futurist highlights the top stories from the past week relating to the incredible rise of artificial intelligence and its application in society, the workplace, in cities, and in our lives.
In Artificial Intelligence Bulletin – English Teachers and Racial Bias we see stories about AI English teachers making the grade, racial bias, chatbots, and eye health.
Artificial Intelligence English Teacher Rated 4.5 Stars on Google Play
Acobot LLC announces that since the company published its education app, Learn English with Aco, on Google Play in February 2015, Aco, the artificial intelligence, has benefited more than 2 million Android users in their English learning. Aco, also known as “the virtual American girl,” has received over 44,700 ratings so far and is now rated 4.5 stars out of five stars on average.
Acobot, as its name indicates, is not an education company. “Language tutoring is a difficult job.” says Vic Duan, founder and CEO of the company, “We wanted to challenge Aco with highly complex tasks and let her go beyond routines like flight booking or pizza ordering.” The company then created the Android app and started Aco’s adventure with language teaching.
Read more at Virtual Strategy Magazine
An Obama official says the biggest threat from AI is that we won’t invest enough in it
Artificial intelligence promises to deliver yet another explosion of wealth, argues Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who studies how technology affects business and productivity. Only this time there is a problem: many workers may not share in that new wealth.
“The number one effect of AI is making the pie bigger,” said Brynjolfsson in an interview. “You can have a growing pie but have lots of people who are worse off. That’s the challenge.”
The Obama administration suggests Brynjolfsson may be right. In a speech last week (pdf), Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economist and chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisors, warned that next wave of automation enabled by AI is set to be different than those that came before.
“The issue is not that automation will render the vast majority of the population unemployable,” he says. Instead, jobs created by AI could come too slowly, pay too little, and exclude the least skilled who need them most. Workers who lack the skills or opportunity to quickly find new, decent jobs enabled by automation could find themselves effectively excluded from the job market. That “leaves us with the worry that the only reason we will still have our jobs is because we are willing to do them for lower wages,” says Furman.
Read more at Quartz
Are Robots Susceptible to Racial Bias?
Last week, Dallas police killed gunman Micah Johnson — who fatally shot five officers during a Black Lives Matter protest—using a Northrop Grumman tactical robot, marking what is likely the first robot killing carried out by police in United States history. A statement issued by the Dallas Police Department said that they “utilized the mechanical tactical robot as a last resort,” and to “save the lives of officers and citizens.”
But the use of a lethal robot for the purpose of killing a suspect ushers in a conundrum of new ethical and legal questions, and in the midst of criticisms of increasing police militarization, this may set a precedent for other domestic law enforcement agencies. As Elizabeth Joh, a professor at the University of California–Davis, asks in the New York Times: “If armed robots can take police officers out of harm’s way, in what situations should we permit the police to use them?”
Moreover, what kind of weapons should the robots be equipped with — if at all — and what place does the question of robot use have in the national debate over racial bias in policing? At least robots can’t be racist … right?
Read more at Pacific Standard
Singapore to use intelligent ‘chatbots’ to deliver public service
Singapore has announced a new partnership with Microsoft to create a digital government services platform that will shift towards conversational computing.
Announcing the initiative at the World Cities Summit in the city-state on 12 July, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-In-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, said the new medium, conceptually referred to as “Conversations as a Platform” will use chatbots — intelligent software programmes that simulate human behaviour.
“I believe there are more intuitive ways for government services to be delivered to our citizens,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
The chatbots, which combine human language, artificial intelligence and machine learning, are envisioned to make public and business transactions simpler, more efficient, and more consistent.
“Everybody expects responsive and personalised interactions in real time. The recent quantum improvement of natural language processing means that ‘conversations’ will be the new medium,” he said.
With chatbots, people will have a way to access a service or accomplish a task with just one straightforward conversation, whether spoken or by text, from their phones, computers and other smart devices and without having to navigate several web pages or click on many icons.
Read more at Eco-business
Google DeepMind Tries to Spot Eye Conditions with Artificial Intelligence
Google and the U.K.’s government health service have partnered to study whether computers can be trained to spot degenerative eye problems early enough to prevent blindness.
Google DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence unit owned by Alphabet Inc., announced a research partnership today with the National Health Service to gain access to a million anonymous eye scans. DeepMind will use the data to train its computers to identify eye defects. The aim is to give doctors a digital tool that can read an eye-scan test and recognize problems faster.
Read more at Bloomberg
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.