Reflections on “Inside Amazon’s artificial intelligence flywheel” [Levy]

Inside Amazon’s artificial intelligence flywheel — from wired.com by Steven Levy
How deep learning came to power Alexa, Amazon Web Services, and nearly every other division of the company.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Amazon loves to use the word flywheel to describe how various parts of its massive business work as a single perpetual motion machine. It now has a powerful AI flywheel, where machine-learning innovations in one part of the company fuel the efforts of other teams, who in turn can build products or offer services to affect other groups, or even the company at large. Offering its machine-learning platforms to outsiders as a paid service makes the effort itself profitable—and in certain cases scoops up yet more data to level up the technology even more.

It took a lot of six-pagers to transform Amazon from a deep-learning wannabe into a formidable power. The results of this transformation can be seen throughout the company—including in a recommendations system that now runs on a totally new machine-learning infrastructure. Amazon is smarter in suggesting what you should read next, what items you should add to your shopping list, and what movie you might want to watch tonight. And this year Thirumalai started a new job, heading Amazon search, where he intends to use deep learning in every aspect of the service.

“If you asked me seven or eight years ago how big a force Amazon was in AI, I would have said, ‘They aren’t,’” says Pedro Domingos, a top computer science professor at the University of Washington. “But they have really come on aggressively. Now they are becoming a force.”

Maybe the force.

 

 

From DSC:
When will we begin to see more mainstream recommendation engines for learning-based materials? With the demand for people to reinvent themselves, such a next generation learning platform can’t come soon enough!

  • Turning over control to learners to create/enhance their own web-based learner profiles; and allowing people to say who can access their learning profiles.
  • AI-based recommendation engines to help people identify curated, effective digital playlists for what they want to learn about.
  • Voice-driven interfaces.
  • Matching employees to employers.
  • Matching one’s learning preferences (not styles) with the content being presented as one piece of a personalized learning experience.
  • From cradle to grave. Lifelong learning.
  • Multimedia-based, interactive content.
  • Asynchronously and synchronously connecting with others learning about the same content.
  • Online-based tutoring/assistance; remote assistance.
  • Reinvent. Staying relevant. Surviving.
  • Competency-based learning.

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re about to embark on a period in American history where career reinvention will be critical, perhaps more so than it’s ever been before. In the next decade, as many as 50 million American workers—a third of the total—will need to change careers, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Automation, in the form of AI (artificial intelligence) and RPA (robotic process automation), is the primary driver. McKinsey observes: “There are few precedents in which societies have successfully retrained such large numbers of people.”

Bill Triant and Ryan Craig

 

 

 

Also relevant/see:

Online education’s expansion continues in higher ed with a focus on tech skills — from educationdive.com by James Paterson

Dive Brief:

  • Online learning continues to expand in higher ed with the addition of several online master’s degrees and a new for-profit college that offers a hybrid of vocational training and liberal arts curriculum online.
  • Inside Higher Ed reported the nonprofit learning provider edX is offering nine master’s degrees through five U.S. universities — the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, Arizona State University and the University of California, San Diego. The programs include cybersecurity, data science, analytics, computer science and marketing, and they cost from around $10,000 to $22,000. Most offer stackable certificates, helping students who change their educational trajectory.
  • Former Harvard University Dean of Social Science Stephen Kosslyn, meanwhile, will open Foundry College in January. The for-profit, two-year program targets adult learners who want to upskill, and it includes training in soft skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Students will pay about $1,000 per course, though the college is waiving tuition for its first cohort.

 

 

 

 

In the 2030 and beyond world, employers will no longer be a separate entity from the education establishment. Pressures from both the supply and demand side are so large that employers and learners will end up, by default, co-designing new learning experiences, where all learning counts.

 

OBJECTIVES FOR CONVENINGS

  • Identify the skills everyone will need to navigate the changing relationship between machine intelligence and people over the next 10-12 years.
  • Develop implications for work, workers, students, working learners, employers, and policymakers.
  • Identify a preliminary set of actions that need to be taken now to best prepare for the changing work + learn ecosystem.

Three key questions guided the discussions:

  1. What are the LEAST and MOST essential skills needed for the future?
  2. Where and how will tomorrow’s workers and learners acquire the skills they really need?
  3. Who is accountable for making sure individuals can thrive in this new economy?

This report summarizes the experts’ views on what skills will likely be needed to navigate the work + learn ecosystem over the next 10–15 years—and their suggested steps for better serving the nation’s future needs.

 

In a new world of work, driven especially by AI, institutionally-sanctioned curricula could give way to AI-personalized learning. This would drastically change the nature of existing social contracts between employers and employees, teachers and students, and governments and citizens. Traditional social contracts would need to be renegotiated or revamped entirely. In the process, institutional assessment and evaluation could well shift from top-down to new bottom-up tools and processes for developing capacities, valuing skills, and managing performance through new kinds of reputation or accomplishment scores.

 

In October 2017, Chris Wanstrath, CEO of Github, the foremost code-sharing and social networking resource for programmers today, made a bold statement: “The future of coding is no coding at all.” He believes that the writing of code will be automated in the near future, leaving humans to focus on “higher-level strategy and design of software.” Many of the experts at the convenings agreed. Even creating the AI systems of tomorrow, they asserted, will likely require less human coding than is needed today, with graphic interfaces turning AI programming into a drag-and-drop operation.

Digital fluency does not mean knowing coding languages. Experts at both convenings contended that effectively “befriending the machine” will be less about teaching people to code and more about being able to empathize with AIs and machines, understanding how they “see the world” and “think” and “make decisions.” Machines will create languages to talk to one another.

Here’s a list of many skills the experts do not expect to see much of—if at all—in the future:

  • Coding. Systems will be self-programming.
  • Building AI systems. Graphic interfaces will turn AI programming into drag-and-drop operations.
  • Calendaring, scheduling, and organizing. There won’t be need for email triage.
  • Planning and even decision-making. AI assistants will pick this up.
  • Creating more personalized curricula. Learners may design more of their own personalized learning adventure.
  • Writing and reviewing resumes. Digital portfolios, personal branding, and performance reputation will replace resumes.
  • Language translation and localization. This will happen in real time using translator apps.
  • Legal research and writing. Many of our legal systems will be automated.
  • Validation skills. Machines will check people’s work to validate their skills.
  • Driving. Driverless vehicles will replace the need to learn how to drive.

Here’s a list of the most essential skills needed for the future:

  • Quantitative and algorithmic thinking.  
  • Managing reputation.  
  • Storytelling and interpretive skills.  
  • First principles thinking.  
  • Communicating with machines as machines.  
  • Augmenting high-skilled physical tasks with AI.
  • Optimization and debugging frame of mind.
  • Creativity and growth mindset.
  • Adaptability.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Truth seeking.
  • Cybersecurity.

 

The rise of machine intelligence is just one of the many powerful social, technological, economic, environmental, and political forces that are rapidly and disruptively changing the way everyone will work and learn in the future. Because this largely tech-driven force is so interconnected with other drivers of change, it is nearly impossible to understand the impact of intelligent agents on how we will work and learn without also imagining the ways in which these new tools will reshape how we live.

 

 

 

AI Now Law and Policy Reading List — from medium.com by the AI Now Institute

Excerpt:

Data-driven technologies are widely used in society to make decisions that affect many critical aspects of our lives, from health, education, employment, and criminal justice to economic, social and political norms. Their varied applications, uses, and consequences raise a number of unique and complex legal and policy concerns. As a result, it can be hard to figure out not only how these systems work but what to do about them.

As a starting point, AI Now offers this Law and Policy Reading List tailored for those interested in learning about key concepts, debates, and leading analysis on law and policy issues related to artificial intelligence and other emerging data-driven technologies.

 

MIT plans $1B computing college, AI research effort — from educationdive.com by James Paterson

Dive Brief (emphasis DSC):

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is creating a College of Computing with the help of a $350 million gift from billionaire investor Stephen A. Schwarzman, who is the CEO and co-founder of the private equity firm Blackstone, in a move the university said is its “most significant reshaping” since 1950.
  • Featuring 50 new faculty positions and a new headquarters building, the $1 billion interdisciplinary initiative will bring together computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), data science and related programs across the institution. MIT will establish a new deanship for the college.
  • The new college…will explore and promote AI’s use in non-technology disciplines with a focus on ethical considerations, which are a growing concern as the technology becomes embedded in many fields.

 

Also see:

Alexa Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss at AWS re:Invent 2018 — from developer.amazon.com

Excerpts — with an eye towards where this might be leading in terms of learning spaces:

Alexa and AWS IoT — Voice is a natural interface to interact not just with the world around us, but also with physical assets and things, such as connected home devices, including lights, thermostats, or TVs. Learn how you can connect and control devices in your home using the AWS IoT platform and Alexa Skills Kit.

Connect Any Device to Alexa and Control Any Feature with the Updated Smart Home Skill API — Learn about the latest update to the Smart Home Skill API, featuring new capability interfaces you can use as building blocks to connect any device to Alexa, including those that fall outside of the traditional smart home categories of lighting, locks, thermostats, sensors, cameras, and audio/video gear. Start learning about how you can create a smarter home with Alexa.

Workshop: Build an Alexa Skill with Multiple Models — Learn how to build an Alexa skill that utilizes multiple interaction models and combines functionality into a single skill. Build an Alexa smart home skill from scratch that implements both custom interactions and smart home functionality within a single skill. Check out these resources to start learning:

 

7 Internet of Things examples that are super futuristic— from blog.hubspot.com by Caroline Forsey

 

Spray-on antennas will revolutionize the Internet of Things — from networkworld.com
Researchers at Drexel University have developed a method to spray on antennas that outperform traditional metal antennas, opening the door to faster and easier IoT deployments.

 

7 ways to keep your smart home from being hacked — from marketwatch.com

 

An open letter to Microsoft and Google’s Partnership on AI — from wired.com by Gerd Leonhard
In a world where machines may have an IQ of 50,000, what will happen to the values and ethics that underpin privacy and free will?

Excerpt:

This open letter is my modest contribution to the unfolding of this new partnership. Data is the new oil – which now makes your companies the most powerful entities on the globe, way beyond oil companies and banks. The rise of ‘AI everywhere’ is certain to only accelerate this trend. Yet unlike the giants of the fossil-fuel era, there is little oversight on what exactly you can and will do with this new data-oil, and what rules you’ll need to follow once you have built that AI-in-the-sky. There appears to be very little public stewardship, while accepting responsibility for the consequences of your inventions is rather slow in surfacing.

 

In a world where machines may have an IQ of 50,000 and the Internet of Things may encompass 500 billion devices, what will happen with those important social contracts, values and ethics that underpin crucial issues such as privacy, anonymity and free will?

 

 

My book identifies what I call the “Megashifts”. They are changing society at warp speed, and your organisations are in the eye of the storm: digitization, mobilisation and screenification, automation, intelligisation, disintermediation, virtualisation and robotisation, to name the most prominent. Megashifts are not simply trends or paradigm shifts, they are complete game changers transforming multiple domains simultaneously.

 

 

If the question is no longer about if technology can do something, but why…who decides this?

Gerd Leonhard

 

 

From DSC:
Though this letter was written 2 years ago back in October of 2016, the messages, reflections, and questions that Gerd puts on the table are very much still relevant today.  The leaders of these powerful companies have enormous power — power to do good, or to do evil. Power to help or power to hurt. Power to be a positive force for societies throughout the globe and to help create dreams, or power to create dystopian societies while developing a future filled with nightmares. The state of the human heart is extremely key here — though many will hate me saying that. But it’s true. At the end of the day, we need to very much care about — and be extremely aware of — the characters and values of the leaders of these powerful companies. 

 

 

Also relevant/see:

Spray-on antennas will revolutionize the Internet of Things — from networkworld.com by Patrick Nelson
Researchers at Drexel University have developed a method to spray on antennas that outperform traditional metal antennas, opening the door to faster and easier IoT deployments.

 From DSC:
Again, it’s not too hard to imagine in this arena that technologies can be used for good or for ill.

 

 
 

The 11 coolest announcements Google made at its biggest product event of the year — from businessinsider.com by Dave Smith

Excerpt:

On Tuesday (10/9), Google invited journalists to New York City to debut its newest smartphone, the Pixel 3, among several other hardware goodies.

Google made dozens of announcements in its 75-minute event, but a handful of “wow” moments stole the show.

Here are the 11 coolest announcements Google made at its big hardware event…

 

 

 

Google’s Pixel 3 event in 6 minutes — from businessinsider.com

 

 

Google unveiled its new Home Hub but it might be ‘late to the market’ — from barrons.com by Emily Bary

Excerpt:

Alphabet ’s Google has sold millions of voice-enabled speakers, but it inched toward the future at a Tuesday launch event when it introduced the Home Hub smart screen.

Google isn’t the first company to roll out a screen-enabled home device with voice-assistant technology— Amazon.com released its Echo Show in July 2017. Meanwhile, Lenovo has gotten good reviews for its Smart Display, and Facebook introduced the Portal on Monday.

For the most part, though, consumers have stuck to voice-only devices, and it will be up to Google and its rivals to convince them that an added screen is worth paying for. They’ll also have to reassure consumers that they can trust big tech to maintain their privacy, an admittedly harder task these days after recent security issues at Google and Facebook.

 

Amazon was right to realize early on that consumers aren’t always comfortable buying items they can’t even see pictures of, and that it’s hard to remember directions you’ve heard but not seen.

 

 

Google has announced its first smart speaker with a screen — from businessinsider.com by Brandt Ranj

  • Google has announced the Google Hub, its first smart home speaker with a screen. It’s available for pre-order at Best Buy, Target, and Walmart for $149. The Hub will be released on October 22.
  • The Hub has a 7″ touchscreen and sits on a base with a built-in speaker and microphones, which you can use to play music, watch videos, get directions, and control smart home accessories with your voice.
  • Its biggest advantage is its ability to hook into Google’s first-party services, like YouTube and Google Maps, which none of its competitors can use.
  • If you’re an Android or Chromecast user, trust Google more than Amazon, or want a smaller smart home speaker with a screen, the Google Hub is now your best bet.

 

 

Google is shutting down Google+ for consumers following security lapse — from theverge.com by Ashley Carman

Excerpt:

Google is going to shut down the consumer version of Google+ over the next 10 months, the company writes in a blog post today. The decision follows the revelation of a previously undisclosed security flaw that exposed users’ profile data that was remedied in March 2018.

 

 

Google shutters Google+ after users’ personal data exposed — from cbsnews.com

 

 

Google+ is shutting down, and the site’s few loyal users are mourning – from cnbc.com by Jillian D’Onfro

  • Even though Google had diverted resources away from Google+, there’s a small loyal base of users devastated to see it go away.
  • One fan said the company is using its recently revealed security breach as an excuse to shutter the site.
  • Google said it will be closing Google+ in the coming months.

 

 

 

Jarvish’s smart motorcycle helmets will offer Alexa and Siri support and an AR display

 

Jarvish’s smart motorcycle helmets will offer Alexa and Siri support and an AR display — from the verge.com by Chaim Gartenberg

Excerpt:

The Jarvish X is the more basic of the two models. It offers integrated microphones and speakers for Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa support so wearers have access things like directions, weather updates, and control music through voice control. There’s also a 2K, front-facing camera built into the helmet so you can record your ride. It’s set to cost $799 when it hits Kickstarter in January.

 

 

 

Evaluating the impact of artificial intelligence on human rights — from today.law.harvard.edu by Carolyn Schmitt
Report from Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society provides new foundational framework for considering risks and benefits of AI on human rights

Excerpt:

From using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine credit scores to using AI to determine whether a defendant or criminal may offend again, AI-based tools are increasingly being used by people and organizations in positions of authority to make important, often life-altering decisions. But how do these instances impact human rights, such as the right to equality before the law, and the right to an education?

A new report from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC) addresses this issue and weighs the positive and negative impacts of AI on human rights through six “use cases” of algorithmic decision-making systems, including criminal justice risk assessments and credit scores. Whereas many other reports and studies have focused on ethical issues of AI, the BKC report is one of the first efforts to analyze the impacts of AI through a human rights lens, and proposes a new framework for thinking about the impact of AI on human rights. The report was funded, in part, by the Digital Inclusion Lab at Global Affairs Canada.

“One of the things I liked a lot about this project and about a lot of the work we’re doing [in the Algorithms and Justice track of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative] is that it’s extremely current and tangible. There are a lot of far-off science fiction scenarios that we’re trying to think about, but there’s also stuff happening right now,” says Professor Christopher Bavitz, the WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law, Managing Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at BKC, and senior author on the report. Bavitz also leads the Algorithms and Justice track of the BKC project on the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, which developed this report.

 

 

Also see:

  • Morality in the Machines — from today.law.harvard.edu by Erick Trickey
    Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society are collaborating with MIT scholars to study driverless cars, social media feeds, and criminal justice algorithms, to make sure openness and ethics inform artificial intelligence.

 

 

 

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