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Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics And AI Autonomous Cars 

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Since it is life-or-death on the line, it is conceivable that we should consider applying Asimov’s three laws of robots to self-driving cars. (Credit: Getty Images)  

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider 

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to spur widespread adoption of robots into our everyday lives. Robots that once seemed so expensive that they could only be afforded for heavy-duty manufacturing purposes have gradually come down in cost and equally been reduced in size. You can consider that Roomba vacuum cleaner in your home to be a type of robot, though we still do not have the ever-promised home butler robot that was supposed to take care of our daily routine chores.   

Perhaps one of the most well-known facets about robots is the legendary set of three rules proffered by writer Isaac Asimov. His science fiction tale entitled The Three Laws was published in 1942 and has seemingly been unstoppable in terms of ongoing interest and embrace.   

Here are the three rules that he cleverly devised: 

1)      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, 

2)      A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law, 

3)      A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. 

When you read Asimov’s remarks about robots, you might want to substitute the word “robot” for simply the overarching moniker of AI. I say this because you are likely to otherwise narrowly interpret his three rules as though they apply only to a robot that happens to look like us, conventionally having legs, arms, a head, a body, and so on.   

Not all robots are necessarily so arranged.   

Some of the latest robots look like animals. Perhaps you’ve seen the popular online videos of robots that are four-legged and appear to be a dog or a similar kind of creature. There are even robots that resemble insects. They look kind of creepy but nonetheless are important as a means to figure out how we might utilize robotics in all manner of possibilities.   

A robot doesn’t have to be biologically inspired. A robotic vacuum cleaner does not particularly look like any animal or insect. You can expect that we will have all sorts of robots that look quite unusual and do not appear to be based solely on any living organism.   

Some robots are right in front of our eyes, and yet we do not think of them as robots. One such example is the advent of AI-based true self-driving cars. 

A car that is being driven by an AI system can be said to be a type of robot. The reason you might not think of a self-driving car as a robot is that it does not have that walking-talking robot sitting in the driver’s seat. Instead, the computer system hidden in the underbody or trunk of the car is doing the driving. This seems to escape our attention and thus the vehicle doesn’t readily appear to be a kind of robot, though indeed it is. 

In case you are wondering, there are encouraging efforts underway to create walking-talking robots that would be able to drive a car. Imagine how that would shake up our world.   

Right now, the crafting of a self-driving car involves modifying the car to be self-driving. If we had robots that could walk around, sit down in a car, and drive the vehicle, this would mean that all existing cars could essentially be considered self-driving cars (meaning that they could be driven by such robots, rather than having a human drive the car). Instead of gradually junking conventional cars for the arrival of self-driving cars, there would be no need to devise a wholly-contained self-driving car, and we would rely upon those meandering robots to be our drivers. 

At this time, the fastest or soonest path to having self-driving cars is the build-it into the vehicle approach. Some believe there is a bitter irony in this approach. They contend that these emergent self-driving cars are going to inevitably be usurped by those walking-talking robots. In that sense, the self-driving car of today will become outdated and outmoded, giving way to once again having conventional driving controls so that either the vehicle can be driven by a human or be driven by a driving robot. 

As an added twist, there are some that hope we will be so far along on adopting self-driving cars that we will not use independent robots to drive our cars.   

Here’s the logic. 

If a robot driver is sitting at the wheel, this suggests that the conventional driving controls are still going to be available inside a car. This also implies that humans will still be able to drive a car, whenever they wish to do so. But the belief is that the AI driving systems, whether built-in or as part of a walking-talking robot, will be better drivers and reduce the incidences of drunk driving and other adverse driving behaviors. In short, a true self-driving car will not have any driving controls, precluding a walking-talking robot from driving (presumably) and precluding (thankfully, some assert) a human from driving.   

This leads to the thinking that maybe the world will have completely switched to true self-driving cars and though a walking-talking driving robot might become feasible, things will be so far along that no one will turn back the clock and reintroduce conventional cars. 

That seems somewhat like wishful thinking. One way or another, the central goal seems to be to take the human driver out of the equation. This puts a self-driving car—one that has the AI driving system built-in or a robot driver—into a position to decide life or death.   

If that seems rather doom-and-gloom, consider the moment you put your beloved teenaged newbie driver at the driving controls. The specter of life-or-death suddenly becomes quite pronounced. The teenaged driver usually also senses this duty, .   

Since life and death are on the line, here is today’s intriguing question: Do the Asimov three rules of robots apply to AI-based true self-driving cars, and if so, what should be done about it?   

Let’s unpack the matter and see. 

For my framework about AI autonomous cars, see the link here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/   

Why this is a moonshot effort, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/ 

For more about the levels as a type of Richter scale, see my discussion here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/   

For the argument about bifurcating the levels, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/reframing-ai-levels-for-self-driving-cars-bifurcation-of-autonomy/   

Understanding The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars 

As a clarification, true self-driving cars are ones that the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.   

These driverless vehicles are considered a Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-on’s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).   

There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.   

Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some contend). 

Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different than driving conventional vehicles, so there’s not much new per se to cover about them on this topic (though, as you’ll see in a moment, the points next made are generally applicable).  

For semi-autonomous cars, it is important that the public needs to be forewarned about a disturbing aspect that’s been arising lately, namely that despite those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.   

You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3. 

For why remote piloting or operating of self-driving cars is generally eschewed, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/remote-piloting-is-a-self-driving-car-crutch/   

To be wary of fake news about self-driving cars, see my tips here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/ai-fake-news-about-self-driving-cars/   

The ethical implications of AI driving systems are significant, see my indication here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/   

Be aware of the pitfalls of normalization of deviance when it comes to self-driving cars, here’s my call to arms: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/normalization-of-deviance-endangers-ai-self-driving-cars/   

Self-Driving Cars And Asimov’s Laws 

For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task. All occupants will be passengers; the AI is doing the driving 

Let’s briefly take a look at each of Asimov’s three rules and see how they might apply to true self-driving cars. First, there is the rule that a robot or AI driving system (in this case) shall not injure a human, either doing so by overt action and nor by its inaction.   

That’s a tall order when sitting at the wheel of a car. 

A self-driving car is driving down a street and keenly sensing the surroundings. Unbeknownst to the AI driving system, a small child is standing between two parked cars, hidden from view and hidden from the sensory range and depth of the self-driving car. The AI is driving at the posted speed limit. All of a sudden, the child steps out into the street.   

Some people assume that a self-driving car will never run into anyone since the AI has those state-of-the-art sensory capabilities and won’t be a drunk driver. Unfortunately, in the kind of scenario that I’ve just posited, the self-driving car is going to ram into that child. I say this because the law of physics is paramount over any dreamy notions of what an AI driving system can do. 

If the child has appeared seemingly out of nowhere and now is say a distance of 15 feet from the moving car, and the self-driving car is going at 30 miles per hour, the stopping distance is around 50 to 75 feet, which means that the child could be struck. No two ways about that.  

And this would mean that the AI driving system has just violated Asimov’s first rule. 

The AI has injured a human being. Keep in mind that I’m stipulating that the AI would indeed invoke the brakes of the self-driving car and do whatever it could to avoid the ramming of the child. Nonetheless, there is insufficient time and distance for the AI to avoid the collision.   

Now that we’ve shown the impossibility of always abiding by Asimov’s first rule in terms of strictly adhering to the rule, you could at least argue that the AI driving system attempted to obey the rule. By having used the brakes, it would seem that the AI driving system tried to keep from hitting the child, plus the impact might be somewhat less severe if the vehicle was nearly stopped at the time of impact.   

What about the other part of the first rule that states there should be no inaction that could lead to the harm of a human? 

One supposes that if the self-driving car did not try to stop, this kind of inaction might fall within that realm, namely once again being unsuccessful at observing the rule. We can add a twist to this. Suppose the AI driving system was able to swerve the car, doing so sufficiently to avoid striking the child, but meanwhile, the self-driving car goes smack dab into a redwood tree. There is a passenger inside the self-driving car and this person gets whiplash due to the crash. 

Okay, the child on the street was saved, but the passenger inside the self-driving car is now injured. You can ponder whether the action to save the child was worthy in comparison to the result of injuring the passenger. Also, you can contemplate whether the AI failed to take proper action to avoid the injury to the passenger. This kind of ethical dilemma is often depicted via the infamous Trolley Problem, an aspect that I have vehemently argued is very applicable to self-driving cars and deserves much more rapt attention as the advent of self-driving cars continues.   

All told, we can agree that the first rule of Asimov’s triad is a helpful aspirational goal for an AI-based true self-driving car, though its fulfillment is going to be pretty tough to achieve and will forever likely remain a conundrum for society to wrestle with.   

The second of Asimov’s laws is that the robot or in this case the AI driving system is supposed to obey the orders given to it by a human, excluding situations whereby such a human-issued command conflicts with the first rule (i.e., don’t harm humans).   

This seems straightforward and altogether agreeable. 

Yet, even this rule has its problems.   

I’ve covered in my columns the story last year of a man that used a car to run over a shooter on a bridge that was randomly shooting and killing people. According to authorities, the driver was heroic by having stopped that shooter.   

If the Asimov second law was programmed into the AI driving system of a self-driving car, and suppose a passenger ordered the AI to run over a shooter, presumably the AI would refuse to do so. This is obvious because the instruction would harm a human. But, we know that this was a case that seems to override the convention that you should not use your car to ram into people. 

You might complain that this is a rare exception. I concur.    

Furthermore, if we were to open the door to allowing passengers in self-driving cars to tell the AI to run over someone, the resulting chaos and mayhem would be untenable. In short, there is certainly a basis for arguing that the second rule ought to be enforced, even if it means that on those rare occasions it would lead to harm due to inaction. 

The thing is, you don’t have to reach that far beyond the everyday world to find situations that would be nonsensical for an AI driving system to unquestionably obey a passenger. A rider in a self-driving car tells the AI to drive up onto the sidewalk. There are no pedestrians on the sidewalk, thus no one will get hurt.   

I ask you, should the AI driving system obey this humanuttered command?   

No, the AI should not, and we are ultimately going to have to cope with what types of utterances from human passengers the AI driving systems will consider, and which commands will be rejected. 

The third rule that Asimov has postulated is that the robot or in this case the AI driving system must protect its own existence, doing so as long as the first and second rules are not countermanded.   

Should a self-driving car attempt to preserve its existence? 

In a prior column, I mentioned that some believe that self-driving cars will have about a four-year existence, ultimately succumbing to wear-and-tear in just four years of driving. This seems surprising since we expect cars to last much longer, but the difference with self-driving cars is that they will presumably be operating nearly 24×7 and gain a lot more miles than a conventional car (a conventional car sits unused about 95% to 99% of the time).   

Okay, so assume that a self-driving car is nearing its useful end. The vehicle is scheduled to drive itself to the junk heap for recycling.   

Is it acceptable that the AI driving system might decide to avoid going to the recycling center and thus try to preserve its existence?   

I suppose if a human told it to go there, the second rule wins out and the self-driving car has to obey. The AI might be tricky and find some sneaky means to abide by the first and second rule, and nonetheless find a bona fide basis to seek its continued existence (I leave this as a mindful exercise for you to mull over).   

For more details about ODDs, see my indication at this link here: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/amalgamating-of-operational-design-domains-odds-for-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

On the topic of off-road self-driving cars, here’s my details elicitation: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/off-roading-as-a-challenging-use-case-for-ai-autonomous-cars/ 

I’ve urged that there must be a Chief Safety Officer at self-driving car makers, here’s the scoop: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/chief-safety-officers-needed-in-ai-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

Expect that lawsuits are going to gradually become a significant part of the self-driving car industry, see my explanatory details here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-lawsuits-bonanza-ahead/ 

Conclusion   

It would seem that Asimov’s three rules have to be taken with a grain of salt. The AI driving systems can be devised with those rules as part of the overarching architecture, but the rules are aspirationsnot irrefutable and immutable laws.   

Perhaps the most important point of this mental workout about Asimov’s rules is to shed light on something that few are giving due diligence. In the case of AI-based true self-driving cars, there is a lot more to devising and deploying these autonomous vehicles than merely the mechanical facets of driving a car.   

Driving a car is a huge ethical dilemma that humans oftentimes take for granted. We need to sort out the reality of how AI driving systems are going to render life-or-death decisions. This must be done before we start flooding our streets with self-driving cars. 

Asimov said it best: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”   

True words that are greatly worth revisiting.  

Copyright 2021 Dr. Lance EliotThis content is originally posted on AI Trends.  

[Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/] 

http://ai-selfdriving-cars.libsyn.com/website 

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/asimovs-three-laws-of-robotics-and-ai-autonomous-cars/

Artificial Intelligence

Deep Learning vs Machine Learning: How an Emerging Field Influences Traditional Computer Programming

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When two different concepts are greatly intertwined, it can be difficult to separate them as distinct academic topics. That might explain why it’s so difficult to separate deep learning from machine learning as a whole. Considering the current push for both automation as well as instant gratification, a great deal of renewed focus has been heaped on the topic.

Everything from automated manufacturing worfklows to personalized digital medicine could potentially grow to rely on deep learning technology. Defining the exact aspects of this technical discipline that will revolutionize these industries is, however, admittedly much more difficult. Perhaps it’s best to consider deep learning in the context of a greater movement in computer science.

Defining Deep Learning as a Subset of Machine Learning

Machine learning and deep learning are essentially two sides of the same coin. Deep learning techniques are a specific discipline that belong to a much larger field that includes a large variety of trained artificially intelligent agents that can predict the correct response in an equally wide array of situations. What makes deep learning independent of all of these other techniques, however, is the fact that it focuses almost exclusively on teaching agents to accomplish a specific goal by learning the best possible action in a number of virtual environments.

Traditional machine learning algorithms usually teach artificial nodes how to respond to stimuli by rote memorization. This is somewhat similar to human teaching techniques that consist of simple repetition, and therefore might be thought of the computerized equivalent of a student running through times tables until they can recite them. While this is effective in a way, artificially intelligent agents educated in such a manner may not be able to respond to any stimulus outside of the realm of their original design specifications.

That’s why deep learning specialists have developed alternative algorithms that are considered to be somewhat superior to this method, though they are admittedly far more hardware intensive in many ways. Subrountines used by deep learning agents may be based around generative adversarial networks, convolutional neural node structures or a practical form of restricted Boltzmann machine. These stand in sharp contrast to the binary trees and linked lists used by conventional machine learning firmware as well as a majority of modern file systems.

Self-organizing maps have also widely been in deep learning, though their applications in other AI research fields have typically been much less promising. When it comes to defining the deep learning vs machine learning debate, however, it’s highly likely that technicians will be looking more for practical applications than for theoretical academic discussion in the coming months. Suffice it to say that machine learning encompasses everything from the simplest AI to the most sophisticated predictive algorithms while deep learning constitutes a more selective subset of these techniques.

Practical Applications of Deep Learning Technology

Depending on how a particular program is authored, deep learning techniques could be deployed along supervised or semi-supervised neural networks. Theoretically, it’d also be possible to do so via a completely unsupervised node layout, and it’s this technique that has quickly become the most promising. Unsupervised networks may be useful for medical image analysis, since this application often presents unique pieces of graphical information to a computer program that have to be tested against known inputs.

Traditional binary tree or blockchain-based learning systems have struggled to identify the same patterns in dramatically different scenarios, because the information remains hidden in a structure that would have otherwise been designed to present data effectively. It’s essentially a natural form of steganography, and it has confounded computer algorithms in the healthcare industry. However, this new type of unsupervised learning node could virtually educate itself on how to match these patterns even in a data structure that isn’t organized along the normal lines that a computer would expect it to be.

Others have proposed implementing semi-supervised artificially intelligent marketing agents that could eliminate much of the concern over ethics regarding existing deal-closing software. Instead of trying to reach as large a customer base as possible, these tools would calculate the odds of any given individual needing a product at a given time. In order to do so, it would need certain types of information provided by the organization that it works on behalf of, but it would eventually be able to predict all further actions on its own.

While some companies are currently relying on tools that utilize traditional machine learning technology to achieve the same goals, these are often wrought with privacy and ethical concerns. The advent of deep structured learning algorithms have enabled software engineers to come up with new systems that don’t suffer from these drawbacks.

Developing a Private Automated Learning Environment

Conventional machine learning programs often run into serious privacy concerns because of the fact that they need a huge amount of input in order to draw any usable conclusions. Deep learning image recognition software works by processing a smaller subset of inputs, thus ensuring that it doesn’t need as much information to do its job. This is of particular importance for those who are concerned about the possibility of consumer data leaks.

Considering new regulatory stances on many of these issues, it’s also quickly become something that’s become important from a compliance standpoint as well. As toxicology labs begin using bioactivity-focused deep structured learning packages, it’s likely that regulators will express additional concerns in regards to the amount of information needed to perform any given task with this kind of sensitive data. Computer scientists have had to scale back what some have called a veritable fire hose of bytes that tell more of a story than most would be comfortable with.

In a way, these developments hearken back to an earlier time when it was believed that each process in a system should only have the amount of privileges necessary to complete its job. As machine learning engineers embrace this paradigm, it’s highly likely that future developments will be considerably more secure simply because they don’t require the massive amount of data mining necessary to power today’s existing operations.

Image Credit: toptal.io

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Artificial Intelligence

Extra Crunch roundup: Tonal EC-1, Deliveroo’s rocky IPO, is Substack really worth $650M?

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For this morning’s column, Alex Wilhelm looked back on the last few months, “a busy season for technology exits” that followed a hot Q4 2020.

We’re seeing signs of an IPO market that may be cooling, but even so, “there are sufficient SPACs to take the entire recent Y Combinator class public,” he notes.

Once we factor in private equity firms with pockets full of money, it’s evident that late-stage companies have three solid choices for leveling up.

Seeking more insight into these liquidity options, Alex interviewed:

  • DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, whose company went public via IPO;
  • Latch CFO Garth Mitchell, who discussed his startup’s merger with real estate SPAC $TSIA;
  • Brian Cruver, founder and CEO of AlertMedia, which recently sold to a private equity firm.

After recapping their deals, each executive explains how their company determined which flashing red “EXIT” sign to follow. As Alex observed, “choosing which option is best from a buffet’s worth of possibilities is an interesting task.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch! Have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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The Tonal EC-1

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

On Tuesday, we published a four-part series on Tonal, a home fitness startup that has raised $200 million since it launched in 2018. The company’s patented hardware combines digital weights, coaching and AI in a wall-mounted system that sells for $2,995.

By any measure, it is poised for success — sales increased 800% between December 2019 and 2020, and by the end of this year, the company will have 60 retail locations. On Wednesday, Tonal reported a $250 million Series E that valued the company at $1.6 billion.

Our deep dive examines Tonal’s origins, product development timeline, its go-to-market strategy and other aspects that combined to spark investor interest and customer delight.

We call this format the “EC-1,” since these stories are as comprehensive and illuminating as the S-1 forms startups must file with the SEC before going public.

Here’s how the Tonal EC-1 breaks down:

We have more EC-1s in the works about other late-stage startups that are doing big things well and making news in the process.

What to make of Deliveroo’s rough IPO debut

Why did Deliveroo struggle when it began to trade? Is it suffering from cultural dissonance between its high-growth model and more conservative European investors?

Let’s peek at the numbers and find out.

Kaltura puts debut on hold. Is the tech IPO window closing?

The Exchange doubts many folks expected the IPO climate to get so chilly without warning. But we could be in for a Q2 pause in the formerly scorching climate for tech debuts.

Is Substack really worth $650M?

A $65 million Series B is remarkable, even by 2021 standards. But the fact that a16z is pouring more capital into the alt-media space is not a surprise.

Substack is a place where publications have bled some well-known talent, shifting the center of gravity in media. Let’s take a look at Substack’s historical growth.

RPA market surges as investors, vendors capitalize on pandemic-driven tech shift

Business process organization and analytics. Business process visualization and representation, automated workflow system concept. Vector concept creative illustration

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Robotic process automation came to the fore during the pandemic as companies took steps to digitally transform. When employees couldn’t be in the same office together, it became crucial to cobble together more automated workflows that required fewer people in the loop.

RPA has enabled executives to provide a level of automation that essentially buys them time to update systems to more modern approaches while reducing the large number of mundane manual tasks that are part of every industry’s workflow.

E-commerce roll-ups are the next wave of disruption in consumer packaged goods

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This year is all about the roll-ups, the aggregation of smaller companies into larger firms, creating a potentially compelling path for equity value. The interest in creating value through e-commerce brands is particularly striking.

Just a year ago, digitally native brands had fallen out of favor with venture capitalists after so many failed to create venture-scale returns. So what’s the roll-up hype about?

Hack takes: A CISO and a hacker detail how they’d respond to the Exchange breach

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Image Credits: TarikVision (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The cyber world has entered a new era in which attacks are becoming more frequent and happening on a larger scale than ever before. Massive hacks affecting thousands of high-level American companies and agencies have dominated the news recently. Chief among these are the December SolarWinds/FireEye breach and the more recent Microsoft Exchange server breach.

Everyone wants to know: If you’ve been hit with the Exchange breach, what should you do?

5 machine learning essentials nontechnical leaders need to understand

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Machine learning has become the foundation of business and growth acceleration because of the incredible pace of change and development in this space.

But for engineering and team leaders without an ML background, this can also feel overwhelming and intimidating.

Here are best practices and must-know components broken down into five practical and easily applicable lessons.

Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace

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Image Credits: Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

Embedded procurement is the natural evolution of embedded fintech.

In this next wave, businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps, rather than through sales reps, distributors or an individual merchant’s website.

Knowing when your startup should go all-in on business development

One red line with arrow head breaking out from a business or finance growth chart canvas.

Image Credits: twomeows / Getty Images

There’s a persistent fallacy swirling around that any startup growing pain or scaling problem can be solved with business development.

That’s frankly not true.

Dear Sophie: What should I know about prenups and getting a green card through marriage?

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Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I’m a founder of a startup on an E-2 investor visa and just got engaged! My soon-to-be spouse will sponsor me for a green card.

Are there any minimum salary requirements for her to sponsor me? Is there anything I should keep in mind before starting the green card process?

— Betrothed in Belmont

Startups must curb bureaucracy to ensure agile data governance

Image of a computer, phone and clock on a desk tied in red tape.

Image Credits: RichVintage / Getty Images

Many organizations perceive data management as being akin to data governance, where responsibilities are centered around establishing controls and audit procedures, and things are viewed from a defensive lens.

That defensiveness is admittedly justified, particularly given the potential financial and reputational damages caused by data mismanagement and leakage.

Nonetheless, there’s an element of myopia here, and being excessively cautious can prevent organizations from realizing the benefits of data-driven collaboration, particularly when it comes to software and product development.

Bring CISOs into the C-suite to bake cybersecurity into company culture

Mixed race businesswoman using tablet computer in server room

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Cyber strategy and company strategy are inextricably linked. Consequently, chief information security officers in the C-Suite will be just as common and influential as CFOs in maximizing shareholder value.

How is edtech spending its extra capital?

Money tree: an adult hand reaches for dollar bills growing on a leafless tree

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Edtech unicorns have boatloads of cash to spend following the capital boost to the sector in 2020. As a result, edtech M&A activity has continued to swell.

The idea of a well-capitalized startup buying competitors to complement its core business is nothing new, but exits in this sector are notable because the money used to buy startups can be seen as an effect of the pandemic’s impact on remote education.

But in the past week, the consolidation environment made a clear statement: Pandemic-proven startups are scooping up talent — and fast.

Tech in Mexico: A confluence of Latin America, the US and Asia

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Image Credits: Orbon Alija (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Knowledge transfer is not the only trend flowing in the U.S.-Asia-LatAm nexus. Competition is afoot as well.

Because of similar market conditions, Asian tech giants are directly expanding into Mexico and other LatAm countries.

How we improved net retention by 30+ points in 2 quarters

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What did COVID do to all our models?

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What did COVID do to all our models?

An interview with Dean Abbott and John Elder about change management, complexity, interpretability, and the risk of AI taking over humanity.


By Heather Fyson, KNIME

What did COVID do to all our models?

After the KNIME Fall Summit, the dinosaurs went back home… well, switched off their laptops. Dean Abbott and John Elder, longstanding data science experts, were invited to the Fall Summit by Michael to join him in a discussion of The Future of Data Science: A Fireside Chat with Industry Dinosaurs. The result was a sparkling conversation about data science challenges and new trends. Since switching off the studio lights, Rosaria has distilled and expanded some of the highlights about change management, complexity, interpretability, and more in the data science world. Let’s see where it brought us.

What is your experience with change management in AI, when reality changes and models have to be updated? What did COVID do to all our models?

 
[Dean] Machine Learning (ML) algorithms assume consistency between past and future. When things change, the models fail. COVID has changed our habits, and therefore our data. Pre-COVID models struggle to deal with the new situation.

[John] A simple example would be the Traffic layer on Google Maps. After lockdowns hit country after country in 2020, Google Maps traffic estimates were very inaccurate for a while. It had been built on fairly stable training data but now that system was thrown completely out of whack.

How do you figure out when the world has changed and the models don’t work anymore?

 
[Dean] Here’s a little trick I use: I partition my data by time and label records as “before” and “after”. I then build a classification model to discriminate the “after” vs. the “before” from the same inputs the model uses. If the discrimination is possible, then the “after” is different from the “before”, the world has changed, the data has changed, and the models must be retrained.

How complicated is it to retrain models in projects, especially after years of customization?

 
[John] Training models is usually the easiest step of all! The vast majority of otherwise successful projects die in the implementation phase. The greatest time is spent in the data cleansing and preparation phase. And the most problems are missed or made in the business understanding / project definition phase. So if you understand what the flaw is and can obtain new data and have the implementation framework in place, creating a new model is, by comparison, very straightforward.

Based on your decades-long experience, how complex is it to put together a really functioning Data Science application?

 
[John] It can vary of course, by complexity. Most of our projects get functioning prototypes at least in a few months. But for all, I cannot stress enough the importance of feedback: You have to talk to people much more often than you want to. And listen! We learn new things about the business problem, the data, or constraints, each time. Not all us quantitative people are skilled at speaking with humans, so it often takes a team. But the whole team of stakeholders has to learn to speak the same language.

[Dean] It is important to talk to our business counterpart. People fear change and don’t want to change the current status. One key problem really is psychological. The analysts are often seen as an annoyance. So, we have to build the trust between the business counterpart and the analytics geeks. The start of a project should always include the following step: Sync up domain experts / project managers, the analysts, and the IT and infrastructure (DevOps) team so everyone is clear on the objectives of the project and how it will be executed. Analysts are number 11 on the top 10 list of people they have to see every day! Let’s avoid embodying data scientist arrogance: “The business can’t understand us/our techniques, but we know what works best”. What we don’t understand, however, are the domains experts are actually experts in the domain we are working in! Translation of data science assumptions and approaches into language that is understood by the domain experts is key!

The latest trend now is deep learning, apparently it can solve everything. I got a question from a student lately, asking “why do we need to learn other ML algorithms if deep learning is the state of the art to solve data science problems”?

 
[Dean] Deep learning sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room. It feels so much like the early 1990s when neural networks ascended with similar optimism! Deep Learning is a set of powerful techniques for sure, but they are hard to implement and optimize. XGBoost, Ensembles of trees, are also powerful but currently more mainstream. The vast majority of problems we need to solve using advanced analytics really don’t require complex solutions, so start simple; deep learning is overkill in these situations. It is best to use the Occam’s razor principle: if two models perform the same, adopt the simplest.

About complexity. The other trend, opposite to deep learning, is ML interpretability. Here, you greatly (excessively?) simplify the model in order to be able to explain it. Is interpretability that important?

 
[John] I often find myself fighting interpretability. It is nice, sure, but often comes at too high a cost of the most important model property: reliable accuracy. But many stakeholders believe interpretability is essential, so it becomes a barrier for acceptance. Thus, it is essential to discover what kind of interpretability is needed. Perhaps it is just knowing what the most important variables are? That’s doable with many nonlinear models. Maybe, as with explaining to credit applicants why they were turned down, one just needs to interpret outputs for one case at a time? We can build a linear approximation for a given point. Or, we can generate data from our black box model and build an “interpretable” model of any complexity to fit that data.

Lastly, research has shown that if users have the chance to play with a model – that is, to poke it with trial values of inputs and see its outputs, and perhaps visualize it – they get the same warm feelings of interpretability. Overall, trust – in the people and technology behind the model – is necessary for acceptance, and this is enhanced by regular communication and by including the eventual users of the model in the build phases and decisions of the modeling process.

[Dean] By the way KNIME Analytics Platform has a great feature to quantify the importance of the input variables in a Random Forest! The Random Forest Learner node outputs the statistics of candidate and splitting variables. Remember that, when you use the Random Forest Learner node.

There is an increase in requests for explanations of what a model does. For example, for some security classes, the European Union is demanding verification that the model doesn’t do what it’s not supposed to do. If we have to explain it all, then maybe Machine Learning is not the way to go. No more Machine Learning?

 
[Dean]  Maybe full explainability is too hard to obtain, but we can achieve progress by performing a grid search on model inputs to create something like a score card describing what the model does. This is something like regression testing in hardware and software QA. If a formal proof what models are doing is not possible, then let’s test and test and test! Input Shuffling and Target Shuffling can help to achieve a rough representation of the model behavior.

[John] Talking about understanding what a model does, I would like to raise the problem of reproducibility in science. A huge proportion of journal articles in all fields — 65 to 90% — is believed to be unreplicable. This is a true crisis in science. Medical papers try to tell you how to reproduce their results. ML papers don’t yet seem to care about reproducibility. A recent study showed that only 15% of AI papers share their code.

Let’s talk about Machine Learning Bias. Is it possible to build models that don’t discriminate?

 
[John] (To be a nerd for a second, that word is unfortunately overloaded. To “discriminate” in the ML world word is your very goal: to make a distinction between two classes.) But to your real question, it depends on the data (and on whether the analyst is clever enough to adjust for weaknesses in the data): The models will pull out of the data the information reflected therein. The computer knows nothing about the world except for what’s in the data in front of it. So the analyst has to curate the data — take responsibility for those cases reflecting reality. If certain types of people, for example, are under-represented then the model will pay less attention to them and won’t be as accurate on them going forward. I ask, “What did the data have to go through to get here?” (to get in this dataset) to think of how other cases might have dropped out along the way through the process (that is survivor bias). A skilled data scientist can look for such problems and think of ways to adjust/correct for them.

[Dean] The bias is not in the algorithms. The bias is in the data. If the data is biased, we’re working with a biased view of the world. Math is just math, it is not biased.

Will AI take over humanity?!

 
[John] I believe AI is just good engineering. Will AI exceed human intelligence? In my experience anyone under 40 believes yes, this is inevitable, and most over 40 (like me, obviously): no! AI models are fast, loyal, and obedient. Like a good German Shepherd dog, an AI model will go and get that ball, but it knows nothing about the world other than the data it has been shown. It has no common sense. It is a great assistant for specific tasks, but actually quite dimwitted.

[Dean] On that note, I would like to report two quotes made by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and 1970, from the dawn of AI, that I think describe well the future of AI.

“Within our lifetime some machines may surpass us in general intelligence” (1961)

“In three to eight years we’ll have a machine with the intelligence of a human being” (1970)

These ideas have been around for a long time. Here is one reason why AI will not solve all the problems: We’re judging its behavior based on one number, one number only! (Model error.) For example, predictions of stock prices over the next five years, predicted by building models using root mean square error as the error metric, cannot possibly paint the full picture of what the data are actually doing and severely hampers the model and its ability to flexibly uncover the patterns. We all know that RMSE is too coarse of a measure. Deep Learning algorithms will continue to get better, but we also need to get better at judging how good a model really is. So, no! I do not think that AI will take over humanity.

We have reached the end of this interview. We would like to thank Dean and John for their time and their pills of knowledge. Let’s hope we meet again soon!

About Dean Abbott and John Elder

What did COVID do to all our models Dean Abbott is Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist at SmarterHQ. He is an internationally recognized expert and innovator in data science and predictive analytics, with three decades of experience solving problems in omnichannel customer analytics, fraud detection, risk modeling, text mining & survey analysis. Included frequently in lists of pioneering data scientists and data scientists, he is a popular keynote speaker and workshop instructor at conferences worldwide, also serving on Advisory Boards for the UC/Irvine Predictive Analytics and UCSD Data Science Certificate programs. He is the author of Applied Predictive Analytics (Wiley, 2014) and co-author of The IBM SPSS Modeler Cookbook (Packt Publishing, 2013).


What did COVID do to all our models John Elder founded Elder Research, America’s largest and most experienced data science consultancy in 1995. With offices in Charlottesville VA, Baltimore MD, Raleigh, NC, Washington DC, and London, they’ve solved hundreds of challenges for commercial and government clients by extracting actionable knowledge from all types of data. Dr. Elder co-authored three books — on practical data mining, ensembles, and text mining — two of which won “book of the year” awards. John has created data mining tools, was a discoverer of ensemble methods, chairs international conferences, and is a popular workshop and keynote speaker.


 
Bio: Heather Fyson is the blog editor at KNIME. Initially on the Event Team, her background is actually in translation & proofreading, so by moving to the blog in 2019 she has returned to her real passion of working with texts. P.S. She is always interested to hear your ideas for new articles.

Original. Reposted with permission.

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Source: https://www.kdnuggets.com/2021/04/covid-do-all-our-models.html

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The AI Trends Reshaping Health Care

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Click to learn more about author Ben Lorica.

Applications of AI in health care present a number of challenges and considerations that differ substantially from other industries. Despite this, it has also been one of the leaders in putting AI to work, taking advantage of the cutting-edge technology to improve care. The numbers speak for themselves: The global AI in health care market size is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2020 to $45.2 billion by 2026. Some major factors driving this growth are the sheer volume of health care data and growing complexities of datasets, the need to reduce mounting health care costs, and evolving patient needs.

Deep learning, for example, has made considerable inroads into the clinical environment over the last few years. Computer vision, in particular, has proven its value in medical imaging to assist in screening and diagnosis. Natural language processing (NLP) has provided significant value in addressing both contractual and regulatory concerns with text mining and data sharing. Increasing adoption of AI technology by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to expedite initiatives like vaccine and drug development, as seen in the wake of COVID-19, only exemplifies AI’s massive potential.

We’re already seeing amazing strides in health care AI, but it’s still the early days, and to truly unlock its value, there’s a lot of work to be done in understanding the challenges, tools, and intended users shaping the industry. New research from John Snow Labs and Gradient Flow, 2021 AI in Healthcare Survey Report, sheds light on just this: where we are, where we’re going, and how to get there. The global survey explores the important considerations for health care organizations in varying stages of AI adoption, geographies, and technical prowess to provide an extensive look into the state of AI in health care today.               

One of the most significant findings is around which technologies are top of mind when it comes to AI implementation. When asked what technologies they plan to have in place by the end of 2021, almost half of respondents cited data integration. About one-third cited natural language processing (NLP) and business intelligence (BI) among the technologies they are currently using or plan to use by the end of the year. Half of those considered technical leaders are using – or soon will be using – technologies for data integration, NLP, business intelligence, and data warehousing. This makes sense, considering these tools have the power to help make sense of huge amounts of data, while also keeping regulatory and responsible AI practices in mind.

When asked about intended users for AI tools and technologies, over half of respondents identified clinicians among their target users. This indicates that AI is being used by people tasked with delivering health care services – not just technologists and data scientists, as in years past. That number climbs even higher when evaluating mature organizations, or those that have had AI models in production for more than two years. Interestingly, nearly 60% of respondents from mature organizations also indicated that patients are also users of their AI technologies. With the advent of chatbots and telehealth, it will be interesting to see how AI proliferates for both patients and providers over the next few years.

In considering software for building AI solutions, open-source software (53%) had a slight edge over public cloud providers (42%). Looking ahead one to two years, respondents indicated openness to also using both commercial software and commercial SaaS. Open-source software gives users a level of autonomy over their data that cloud providers can’t, so it’s not a big surprise that a highly regulated industry like health care would be wary of data sharing. Similarly, the majority of companies with experience deploying AI models to production choose to validate models using their own data and monitoring tools, rather than evaluation from third parties or software vendors. While earlier-stage companies are more receptive to exploring third-party partners, more mature organizations are tending to take a more conservative approach.                      

Generally, attitudes remained the same when asked about key criteria used to evaluate AI solutions, software libraries or SaaS solutions, and consulting companies to work with.Although the answers varied slightly for each category,technical leaders considered no data sharing with software vendors or consulting companies, the ability to train their own models, and state-of-the art accuracy as top priorities. Health care-specific models and expertise in health care data engineering, integration, and compliance topped the list when asked about solutions and potential partners. Privacy, accuracy, and health care experience are the forces driving AI adoption. It’s clear that AI is poised for even more growth, as data continues to grow and technology and security measures improve. Health care, which can sometimes be seen as a laggard for quick adoption, is taking to AI and already seeing its significant impact. While its approach, the top tools and technologies, and applications of AI may differ from other industries, it will be exciting to see what’s in store for next year’s survey results.

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Source: https://www.dataversity.net/the-ai-trends-reshaping-health-care/

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