Google AI loves cats

Last week the media was full of stories about a new Google X Lab project that has created an AI which seems to love cats. I couldn’t avoid the story because friends kept emailing me links to it – this story in the Financial Times is fairly typical
    Google built a huge neural network using 16,000 computer processors to see what it would learn when exposed to 10 million clips randomly selected from YouTube videos. There are basically two types of machine learning; supervised when you say “here’s an example of X,” “here’s an example of Y” and “here’s another example of X,” and unsupervised learning where there is no instructor. Google’s system was unsupervised, it just looked at all the YouTube clips and tried to find interesting patterns. It did – cats! Google’s system can now look at a YouTube clip and tell you, with some certainty, if there is a cat in it or not.
   Before we leap to conclusions that AIs like cats or want pets first consider an old experiment conducted with neural nets for the Pentagon. They wanted to find Russian tanks in spy photos; so using supervised learning they showed a neural net hundreds of photos, some of which had tanks in and some which did not. After training the neural net could, again with some confidence, identify tanks in photos it had never previously seen. Success they thought. Later they discovered that most of the photos they had of tanks were taken on cloudy days, whereas most of the photos of countryside without tanks were sunny days. The computer had learnt to see if it was cloudy or sunny – the tanks were a coincidence. Google’s network may recognize cats but not as we do.
   Actually the cats were a by-product, Google system can recognise 20,000 different things in the YouTube clips.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/google-ai-loves-cats.html

PINK MILK – a drama for #Turing

A drama infused with dance, PINK MILK is inspired by the true story of Alan Turing – the man basically responsible for ending WWII in Britain but later criminally charged for being gay who chose chemical castration over prison and whose death is shrouded in mystery.  Movement, nosebleeds, electronic and a talking daisy.  PINK MILK, inspired by the father of Computer Science, explodes themes of creation, destruction and eternal love.
   You can help make this happen by donating via KickStarter.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/pink-milk-drama-for-turing.html

#Darwin and #Turing’s perfect and beautiful machine

The Atlantic has recently published an essay by the philosopher Daniel Dennett titled “A Perfect and Beautiful Machine: What Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Reveals About Artificial Intelligence”  If you read nothing else today read this, it’s quite brilliant. In this essay Dennett shows that Darwin’s theory of evolution and Turing’s universal machine and even artificial intelligence are founded on the same world view. Namely, that evolution has no comprehension of what it is doing just as a computer has no comprehension. However, despite this absence of understanding evolution and computers are both highly competent – they achieve results.
    I’m paraphrasing, so let’s use Dennett’s own words, he calls this “a strange inversion of reasoning. To this day many people cannot get their heads around the unsettling idea that a purposeless, mindless process can crank away through the eons, generating ever more subtle, efficient, and complex organisms without having the slightest whiff of understanding of what it is doing. Turing’s idea was a similar — in fact remarkably similar — strange inversion of reasoning. The Pre-Turing world was one in which computers were people, who had to understand mathematics in order to do their jobs. Turing realized that this was just not necessary: you could take the tasks they performed and squeeze out the last tiny smidgens of understanding, leaving nothing but brute, mechanical actions. In order to be a perfect and beautiful computing machine, it is not requisite to know what arithmetic is.
   The essay goes on to consider what impact this “strange inversion of reasoning” has for artificial intelligence. I highly recommend it to you. The essay is from an edited book to be published shortly called Alan Turing: his work and impact, edited by S. Barry Cooper and Jan van Leeuwen.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/darwin-and-turings-perfect-and.html

#Turing and the #Olympic torch

How apt, a photo of the Olympic torch be passed on at the Turing statue in Manchester on Turing’s birthday. Not just because it was the centenary of Turing’s birth but also because he was a very keen long distance runner – he even tried out for the 1948 British Olympic marathon team. He was carrying an injury at the time and didn’t make the cut.

However, as you can see in the photo above, from Turing’s race number he was anticipating Twitter.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/turing-and-olympic-torch.html

IT meltdown at UK bank

We’re all used to the occasional story about a bank crediting the wrong amount into someone’s account and of them making similar small mistakes that are caused by human error – a bank teller keying in the wrong account details or the incorrect amount. However, for the last week in the UK  the NatWest bank has been virtually crippled by a systemic software failure.
    There’s a very good article explaining what went wrong in the Guardian. Basically problems began last Tuesday night when NatWest “updated a key piece of software – CA-7, which controls the batch processing systems that deal with retail banking transactions – ahead of the regular nightly run”. Somebody managed to corrupt the schedule in which the batch jobs are run so that they were run in an incorrect order. This doesn’t sound like a big problem, but imagine you are expecting $500 to arrive in your account, which you will then use to pay your rent. Then imagine your rent is paid before the money arrives in your account causing you to become overdrawn because the processing schedule was incorrect. Now multiply this problem by millions and millions of transactions. The NatWest is apparently still trying to unravel the mess and play catch-up, whilst assuring customers that their money is safe.
   One theory stated in the Guardian piece is that the outsourcing the Batch Processing IT jobs to India has contributed to the problem because “unless you keep an army of people who know exactly how the system works, there may be problems maintaining it“.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/it-meltdown-at-uk-bank.html

#Turing centenary RadioLive interview

The interview I gave with Graeme Hill for RadioLive on Turing’s centenary is now available as an MP3 from DivShare. You can stream it from the player below or download the MP3 audio as a podcast. You can stream a Flash version from RadioLive’s website.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/turing-centenary-radiolive-interview.html

#Turing and the Apple logo

This story never seems to die. Over Turing’s centenary weekend the story that the Apple logo (the apple with a bite out) may be a reference to Turing and the poisoned apple it’s alleged he committed suicide with cropped up all over the world. Articles like this one for CNN are typical – they all claim that Steve Jobs enjoyed the myth and never debunked it despite the fact that the logos designer, Rob Janoff, categorically stated that he’d never heard of Alan Turing when he designed the logo.
    Regular readers of this blog will know that I reported back in 2011 that Stephen Fry said on his BBC TV show QI that he’d asked Jobs about the Apple logo and Turing. Jobs replied It isn’t true, but God we wish it were!”  It seems though that this is one creation myth that isn’t going to go away. We all just want the Apple logo to refer to Turing. It’s appropriateness is even more extraordinary when you look at the old rainbow colored Apple logo, which could imply a reference to Turing’s homosexuality. In fact the rainbow colors were used by Apple to simply point out that the Apple II supported color graphics. However, I don’t think we’re going to let the truth stand in the way of a good story anytime soon.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/06/turing-and-apple-logo.html