A new immersive classroom uses AI and VR to teach Mandarin Chinese — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao
Students will learn the language by ordering food or haggling with street vendors on a virtual Beijing street.

Excerpt:

Often the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in an environment where people speak it. The constant exposure, along with the pressure to communicate, helps you swiftly pick up and practice new vocabulary. But not everyone gets the opportunity to live or study abroad.

In a new collaboration with IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a university based in Troy, New York, now offers its students studying Chinese another option: a 360-degree virtual environment that teleports them to the busy streets of Beijing or a crowded Chinese restaurant. Students get to haggle with street vendors or order food, and the environment is equipped with different AI capabilities to respond to them in real time.

 

 

10 things we should all demand from Big Tech right now — from vox.com by Sigal Samuel
We need an algorithmic bill of rights. AI experts helped us write one.

We need an algorithmic bill of rights. AI experts helped us write one.

Excerpts:

  1. Transparency: We have the right to know when an algorithm is making a decision about us, which factors are being considered by the algorithm, and how those factors are being weighted.
  2. Explanation: We have the right to be given explanations about how algorithms affect us in a specific situation, and these explanations should be clear enough that the average person will be able to understand them.
  3. Consent: We have the right to give or refuse consent for any AI application that has a material impact on our lives or uses sensitive data, such as biometric data.
  4. Freedom from bias: We have the right to evidence showing that algorithms have been tested for bias related to race, gender, and other protected characteristics — before they’re rolled out. The algorithms must meet standards of fairness and nondiscrimination and ensure just outcomes. (Inserted comment from DSC: Is this even possible? I hope so, but I have my doubts especially given the enormous lack of diversity within the large tech companies.)
  5. Feedback mechanism: We have the right to exert some degree of control over the way algorithms work.
  6. Portability: We have the right to easily transfer all our data from one provider to another.
  7. Redress: We have the right to seek redress if we believe an algorithmic system has unfairly penalized or harmed us.
  8. Algorithmic literacy: We have the right to free educational resources about algorithmic systems.
  9. Independent oversight: We have the right to expect that an independent oversight body will be appointed to conduct retrospective reviews of algorithmic systems gone wrong. The results of these investigations should be made public.
  10. Federal and global governance: We have the right to robust federal and global governance structures with human rights at their center. Algorithmic systems don’t stop at national borders, and they are increasingly used to decide who gets to cross borders, making international governance crucial.

 

This raises the question: Who should be tasked with enforcing these norms? Government regulators? The tech companies themselves?

 

 

San Francisco becomes first city to bar police from using facial recognition— from cnet.com by Laura Hautala
It won’t be the last city to consider a similar law.

San Francisco becomes first city to bar police from using facial recognition

Excerpt:

The city of San Francisco approved an ordinance on Tuesday [5/14/19] barring the police department and other city agencies from using facial recognition technology on residents. It’s the first such ban of the technology in the country.

The ordinance, which passed by a vote of 8 to 1, also creates a process for the police department to disclose what surveillance technology they use, such as license plate readers and cell-site simulators that can track residents’ movements over time. But it singles out facial recognition as too harmful to residents’ civil liberties to even consider using.

“Facial surveillance technology is a huge legal and civil liberties risk now due to its significant error rate, and it will be worse when it becomes perfectly accurate mass surveillance tracking us as we move about our daily lives,” said Brian Hofer, the executive director of privacy advocacy group Secure Justice.

For example, Microsoft asked the federal government in July to regulate facial recognition technology before it gets more widespread, and said it declined to sell the technology to law enforcement. As it is, the technology is on track to become pervasive in airports and shopping centers and other tech companies like Amazon are selling the technology to police departments.

 

Also see:

 

Introduction: Leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus
2019 Global Human Capital Trends
— from deloitte.com by Volini?, Schwartz? ?, Roy?, Hauptmann, Van Durme, Denny, and Bersin

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Learning in the flow of life. The number-one trend for 2019 is the need for organizations to change the way people learn; 86 percent of respondents cited this as an important or very important issue. It’s not hard to understand why. Evolving work demands and skills requirements are creating an enormous demand for new skills and capabilities, while a tight labor market is making it challenging for organizations to hire people from outside. Within this context, we see three broader trends in how learning is evolving: It is becoming more integrated with work; it is becoming more personal; and it is shifting—slowly—toward lifelong models. Effective reinvention along these lines requires a culture that supports continuous learning, incentives that motivate people to take advantage of learning opportunities, and a focus on helping individuals identify and develop new, needed skills.

 

People, Power and Technology: The Tech Workers’ View — from doteveryone.org.uk

Excerpt:

People, Power and Technology: The Tech Workers’ View is the first in-depth research into the attitudes of the people who design and build digital technologies in the UK. It shows that workers are calling for an end to the era of moving fast and breaking things.

Significant numbers of highly skilled people are voting with their feet and leaving jobs they feel could have negative consequences for people and society. This is heightening the UK’s tech talent crisis and running up employers’ recruitment and retention bills. Organisations and teams that can understand and meet their teams’ demands to work responsibly will have a new competitive advantage.

While Silicon Valley CEOs have tried to reverse the “techlash” by showing their responsible credentials in the media, this research shows that workers:

    • need guidance and skills to help navigate new dilemmas
    • have an appetite for more responsible leadership
    • want clear government regulation so they can innovate with awareness

Also see:

  • U.K. Tech Staff Quit Over Work On ‘Harmful’ AI Projects — from forbes.com by Sam Shead
    Excerpt:
    An alarming number of technology workers operating in the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence say they are concerned about the products they’re building. Some 59% of U.K. tech workers focusing on AI have experience of working on products that they felt might be harmful for society, according to a report published on Monday by Doteveryone, the think tank set up by lastminute.com cofounder and Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox.

 

 

Microsoft debuts Ideas in Word, a grammar and style suggestions tool powered by AI — from venturebeat.com by Kyle Wiggers; with thanks to Mr. Jack Du Mez for his posting on this over on LinkedIn

Excerpt:

The first day of Microsoft’s Build developer conference is typically chock-full of news, and this year was no exception. During a keynote headlined by CEO Satya Nadella, the Seattle company took the wraps off a slew of updates to Microsoft 365, its lineup of productivity-focused, cloud-hosted software and subscription services. Among the highlights were a new AI-powered grammar and style checker in Word Online, dubbed Ideas in Word, and dynamic email messages in Outlook Mobile.

Ideas in Word builds on Editor, an AI-powered proofreader for Office 365 that was announced in July 2016 and replaced the Spelling & Grammar pane in Office 2016 later that year. Ideas in Words similarly taps natural language processing and machine learning to deliver intelligent, contextually aware suggestions that could improve a document’s readability. For instance, it’ll recommend ways to make phrases more concise, clear, and inclusive, and when it comes across a particularly tricky snippet, it’ll put forward synonyms and alternative phrasings.

 

Also see:

 

 

5 Myths of AI — from thejournal.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

No, artificial intelligence can’t replace the human brain, and no, we’ll never really be able to make AI bias-free. Those are two of the 10 myths IT analyst and consulting firm Gartner tackled in its recent report, Debunking Myths and Misconceptions About Artificial Intelligence.”

 

 

We Built an ‘Unbelievable’ (but Legal) Facial Recognition Machine — from nytimes.com by Sahil Chinoy

“The future of human flourishing depends upon facial recognition technology being banned,” wrote Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern, and Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, last year. ‘Otherwise, people won’t know what it’s like to be in public without being automatically identified, profiled, and potentially exploited.’ Facial recognition is categorically different from other forms of surveillance, Mr. Hartzog said, and uniquely dangerous. Faces are hard to hide and can be observed from far away, unlike a fingerprint. Name and face databases of law-abiding citizens, like driver’s license records, already exist. And for the most part, facial recognition surveillance can be set up using cameras already on the streets.” — Sahil Chinoy; per a weekly e-newsletter from Sam DeBrule at Machine Learnings in Berkeley, CA

Excerpt:

Most people pass through some type of public space in their daily routine — sidewalks, roads, train stations. Thousands walk through Bryant Park every day. But we generally think that a detailed log of our location, and a list of the people we’re with, is private. Facial recognition, applied to the web of cameras that already exists in most cities, is a threat to that privacy.

To demonstrate how easy it is to track people without their knowledge, we collected public images of people who worked near Bryant Park (available on their employers’ websites, for the most part) and ran one day of footage through Amazon’s commercial facial recognition service. Our system detected 2,750 faces from a nine-hour period (not necessarily unique people, since a person could be captured in multiple frames). It returned several possible identifications, including one frame matched to a head shot of Richard Madonna, a professor at the SUNY College of Optometry, with an 89 percent similarity score. The total cost: about $60.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
What do you think about this emerging technology and its potential impact on our society — and on other societies like China? Again I ask…what kind of future do we want?

As for me, my face is against the use of facial recognition technology in the United States — as I don’t trust where this could lead.

This wild, wild, west situation continues to develop. For example, note how AI and facial recognition get their foot in the door via techs installed years ago:

The cameras in Bryant Park were installed more than a decade ago so that people could see whether the lawn was open for sunbathing, for example, or check how busy the ice skating rink was in the winter. They are not intended to be a security device, according to the corporation that runs the park.

So Amazon’s use of facial recognition is but another foot in the door. 

This needs to be stopped. Now.

 

Facial recognition technology is a menace disguised as a gift. It’s an irresistible tool for oppression that’s perfectly suited for governments to display unprecedented authoritarian control and an all-out privacy-eviscerating machine.

We should keep this Trojan horse outside of the city. (source)

 

AI’s white guy problem isn’t going away — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao
A new report says current initiatives to fix the field’s diversity crisis are too narrow and shallow to be effective.

Excerpt:

The numbers tell the tale of the AI industry’s dire lack of diversity. Women account for only 18% of authors at leading AI conferences, 20% of AI professorships, and 15% and 10% of research staff at Facebook and Google, respectively. Racial diversity is even worse: black workers represent only 2.5% of Google’s entire workforce and 4% of Facebook’s and Microsoft’s. No data is available for transgender people and other gender minorities—but it’s unlikely the trend is being bucked there either.

This is deeply troubling when the influence of the industry has dramatically grown to affect everything from hiring and housing to criminal justice and the military. Along the way, the technology has automated the biases of its creators to alarming effect: devaluing women’s résumés, perpetuating employment and housing discrimination, and enshrining racist policing practices and prison convictions.

 

Along these lines, also see:

‘Disastrous’ lack of diversity in AI industry perpetuates bias, study finds — from by theguardian.com by Kari Paul
Report says an overwhelmingly white and male field has reached ‘a moment of reckoning’ over discriminatory systems

Excerpt:

Lack of diversity in the artificial intelligence field has reached “a moment of reckoning”, according to new findings published by a New York University research center. A “diversity disaster” has contributed to flawed systems that perpetuate gender and racial biases found the survey, published by the AI Now Institute, of more than 150 studies and reports.

The AI field, which is overwhelmingly white and male, is at risk of replicating or perpetuating historical biases and power imbalances, the report said. Examples cited include image recognition services making offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots adopting hate speech, and Amazon technology failing to recognize users with darker skin colors. The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself, the report said.

 

 

Microsoft rolls out healthcare bot: How it will change healthcare industry — from yourtechdiet.com by Brian Curtis

Excerpt:

AI and the Healthcare Industry
This technology is evidently the game changer in the healthcare industry. According to the reports by Frost & Sullivan, the AI market for healthcare is likely to experience a CAGR of 40% by 2021, and has the potential to change industry outcomes by 30-40%, while cutting treatment costs in half.

In the words of Satya Nadella, “AI is the runtime that is going to shape all of what we do going forward in terms of the applications as well as the platform advances”.

Here are a few ways Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot will shape the Healthcare Industry…

 

Also see:

  • Why AI will make healthcare personal — from weforum.org by Peter Schwartz
    Excerpt:
    Digital assistants to provide a 24/7 helping hand
    The digital assistants of the future will be full-time healthcare companions, able to monitor a patient’s condition, transmit results to healthcare providers, and arrange virtual and face-to-face appointments. They will help manage the frequency and dosage of medication, and provide reliable medical advice around the clock. They will remind doctors of patients’ details, ranging from previous illnesses to past drug reactions. And they will assist older people to access the care they need as they age, including hospice care, and help to mitigate the fear and loneliness many elderly people feel.

 

  • Introducing New Alexa Healthcare Skills — from developer.amazon.com by Rachel Jiang
    Excerpts:
    The new healthcare skills that launched today are:Express Scripts (a leading Pharmacy Services Organization)
    Cigna Health Today (by Cigna, the global health service company)
    My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) (by Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading children’s hospital)
    Swedish Health Connect (by Providence St. Joseph Health, a healthcare system with 51 hospitals across 7 states and 829 clinics)
    Atrium Health (a healthcare system with more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations throughout North and South Carolina and Georgia)
    Livongo (a leading consumer digital health company that creates new and different experiences for people with chronic conditions)

Voice as the Next Frontier for Conveniently Accessing Healthcare Services

 

  • Got health care skills? Big Tech wants to hire you — from linkedin.com Jaimy Lee
    Excerpt:
    As tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Google place bigger and bigger bets on the U.S. health care system, it should come as no surprise that the rate at which they are hiring workers with health care skills is booming.We took a deep dive into the big tech companies on this year’s LinkedIn Top Companies list in the U.S., uncovering the most popular health care skills among their workers — and what that says about the future of health care in America.
 

The growing marketplace for AI ethics — from forbes.com by Forbes Insights with Intel AI

Excerpt:

As companies have raced to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) systems at scale, they have also sped through, and sometimes spun out, in the ethical obstacle course AI often presents.

AI-powered loan and credit approval processes have been marred by unforeseen bias. Same with recruiting tools. Smart speakers have secretly turned on and recorded thousands of minutes of audio of their owners.

Unfortunately, there’s no industry-standard, best-practices handbook on AI ethics for companies to follow*—at least not yet. Some large companies, including Microsoft and Google, are developing their own internal ethical frameworks.

A number of think tanks, research organizations, and advocacy groups, meanwhile, have been developing a wide variety of ethical frameworks and guidelines for AI.

 

*Insert DSC:
Read this as a very powerful, chaotic, massive WILD, WILD, WEST.  Can law schools, legislatures, governments, businesses, and more keep up with this new pace of technological change?

 

Also see:

 

Artificial intelligence seeing massive surge in education — from campustechnology.com by David Nagel

Excerpt:

Education will experience the third-largest growth of any sector, coming in slightly behind government (44.3 percent) and “personal and consumer services” (43.3 percent).

The top use cases for AI at present, based on current market share, are:

  • Automated customer service agents (12.5 percent);
  • Sales process recommendation and automation (7.6 percent);
  • Automated threat intelligence and prevention systems (7.5 percent);
  • Program advisors and recommendation systems (6.4 percent); and
  • Automated preventative maintenance, diagnosis and treatment systems (6.2 percent).

 

 

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Is Thomas Frey right? “…by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet.”

From a fairly recent e-newsletter from edsurge.com — though I don’t recall the exact date (emphasis DSC):

New England is home to some of the most famous universities in the world. But the region has also become ground zero for the demographic shifts that promise to disrupt higher education.

This week saw two developments that fit the narrative. On Monday, Southern Vermont College announced that it would shut its doors, becoming the latest small rural private college to do so. Later that same day, the University of Massachusetts said it would start a new online college aimed at a national audience, noting that it expects campus enrollments to erode as the number of traditional college-age students declines in the coming years.

“Make no mistake—this is an existential threat to entire sectors of higher education,” said UMass president Marty Meehan in announcing the online effort.

The approach seems to parallel the U.S. retail sector, where, as a New York Times piece outlines this week, stores like Target and WalMart have thrived by building online strategies aimed at competing with Amazon, while stores like Gap and Payless, which did little to move online, are closing stores. Of course, college is not like any other product or service, and plenty of campuses are touting the richness of the experience that students get by actually coming to a campus. And it’s not clear how many colleges can grow online to a scale that makes their investments pay off.

 

“It’s predicted that over the next several years, four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them.”

University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan

 

 

From DSC:
That last quote from UMass President Marty Meehan made me reflect upon the idea of having one or more enormous entities that will provide “higher education” in the future. I wonder if things will turn out to be that we’ll have more lifelong learning providers and platforms in the future — with the idea of a 60-year curriculum being an interesting idea that may come into fruition.

Long have I predicted that such an enormous entity would come to pass. Back in 2008, I named it the Forthcoming Walmart of Education. But then as the years went by, I got bumbed out on some things that Walmart was doing, and re-branded it the Forthcoming Amazon.com of Higher Education. We’ll see how long that updated title lasts — but you get the point. In fact, the point aligns very nicely with what futurist Thomas Frey has been predicting for years as well:

“I’ve been predicting that by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet,” Frey, the senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute think tank, tells Business Insider. (source)

I realize that education doesn’t always scale well…but I’m thinking that how people learn in the future may be different than how we did things in the past…communities of practice comes to mind…as does new forms of credentialing…as does cloud-based learner profiles…as does the need for highly efficient, cost-effective, and constant opportunities/means to reinvent oneself.

Also see:

 

 

Addendum:

74% of consumers go to Amazon when they’re ready to buy something. That should be keeping retailers up at night. — from cnbc.com

Key points (emphasis DSC)

  • Amazon remains a looming threat for some of the biggest retailers in the country — like Walmart, Target and Macy’s.
  • When consumers are ready to buy a specific product, nearly three-quarters of them, or 74 percent, are going straight to Amazon to do it, according to a new study by Feedvisor.
  • By the end of this year, Amazon is expected to account for 52.4 percent of the e-commerce market in the U.S., up from 48 percent in 2018.

 

“In New England, there will be between 32,000 and 54,000 fewer college-aged students just seven years from now,” Meehan said. “That means colleges and universities will have too much capacity and not enough demand at a time when the economic model in higher education is already straining under its own weight.” (Marty Meehan at WBUR)

 

 

A Chinese subway is experimenting with facial recognition to pay for fares — from theverge.com by Shannon Liao

Excerpt:

Scanning your face on a screen to get into the subway might not be that far off in the future. In China’s tech capital, Shenzhen, a local subway operator is testing facial recognition subway access, powered by a 5G network, as spotted by the South China Morning Post.

The trial is limited to a single station thus far, and it’s not immediately clear how this will work for twins or lookalikes. People entering the station can scan their faces on the screen where they would normally have tapped their phones or subway cards. Their fare then gets automatically deducted from their linked accounts. They will need to have registered their facial data beforehand and linked a payment method to their subway account.

 

 

From DSC:
I don’t want this type of thing here in the United States. But…now what do I do? What about you? What can we do? What paths are open to us to stop this?

I would argue that the new, developing, technological “Wild Wests” in many societies throughout the globe could be dangerous to our futures. Why? Because the pace of change has changed. And these new Wild Wests now have emerging, powerful, ever-more invasive (i.e., privacy-stealing) technologies to deal with — the likes of which the world has never seen or encountered before. With this new, rapid pace of change, societies aren’t able to keep up.

And who is going to use the data? Governments? Large tech companies? Other?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally pro-technology. But this new pace of change could wreak havoc on us. We need time to weigh in on these emerging techs.

 

Addendum on 3/20/19:

  • Chinese Facial Recognition Database Exposes 2.5 Million People — from futurumresearch.com by Shelly Kramer
    Excerpt:
    An artificial intelligence company operating a facial recognition system in China recently left its database exposed online, leaving the personal information of some 2.5 million Chinese citizens vulnerable. Considering how much the Chinese government relies on facial recognition technology, this is a big deal—for both the Chinese government and Chinese citizens.

 

 

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