Yeah, I could love you, better
Better than you once knew
But if you're cheating, cheat on, yeah
'Cause cheating's just the thing you do
It's just a thing you do — Songwriter John Newman
Here’s a spreadsheet listing ways AI agents cheat to maximize their results. Staff favorite: “AI trained to classify skin lesions as potentially cancerous learns that lesions photographed next to a ruler are more likely to be malignant.” (Douglas Emlen, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016; Erik Mueller, Austin, Feb 2016; Sherry Turkle, Rome, Jul 2008)
Last week we noted Samsung’s upcoming foldable phone. We now have a name, Galaxy F, and a price—they’ll go for as much as $1770, but, the company apparently expects to sell a million of ’em. Maybe the most interesting thing is that the release is only a few years off the mark for a prediction made by John Sculley (San Francisco, Jul 1998). From Nancy’s Reinforcements in the TTI/Vanguard archive:
While leading Apple 11 years ago [i.e., 1987], Sculley had a video made of his conception of the personal digital assistant (PDA) 25 years hence…. It had instant access to the world's information resources (as is possible on the Internet, with a fast enough connection and search engine) and was able to send and receive phone messages. Most strikingly, The Knowledge Navigator was imbued with the intelligence to anticipate its user's needs and suggest courses of action appropriate to problem solving. In a two-pound, notebook-sized, wireless package with a full-color, flat, foldable screen, The Knowledge Navigator is a mixture of the possible and the not quite achieved.
We don’t know the weight of the Galaxy F, but, other Samsung phones of similar size are less than a pound. Other than that, Sculley pretty much hit the mark.
China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, has rolled out two AI news anchors. Commentators are saying it isn’t convincing or just not very good but that’s probably missing the point—by not trying to be convincing, the agency avoids falling into the uncanny valley. (John Markoff and Mike Hawley, San Francisco, Dec 2015; Marco Tempest, Boston, Apr 2014; William Swartout, Washington, D.C.)
If you remember the session we had at Less Is More (Washington, D.C., Sep 2018) about network privacy—notably Daniel Kahn Gillmor’s enumeration of everything that Facebook knew about him even though he has never had a Facebook account—it turns out DNA databases have the same problem, as described in a new paper in Science, “Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches.”
The privatization of satellite imagery can lead to infringements of our privacy, but it also has the potential to help investigators develop evidence of human rights violations. A new report by OpenGlobalNow describes 26 such cases. (Nikhil Naik, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Patrick Meier, San Francisco, Dec 2014).
And what about the privacy of a home that has an Amazon Echo device? Should a judicial court be able to compel Amazon to release recordings when they might contain evidence of a crime—a double-murder case in New Hampshire, specifically? (Jason Hong, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Kyle Roche, San Francisco, May 2016)
Being Plan B might be an unfamiliar position for Microsoft, but the company seems to be enjoying it. Its Azure service might be the beneficiary of Google’s discontinuing its cloud contract with the Department of Defense. And now Microsoft has won a sizeable contract from retailer The Gap, who understandably doesn’t want to do business with fellow retailer Amazon. Earlier this year, it similarly garnered a cloud deal with Amazon arch-rival Walmart. We not only had an early talk about Amazon’s cloud (Charlie Bell, Santa Monica, Dec 2007) we also heard about Azure just as it was launching (Amitabh Srivastava, San Diego, Feb 2009).
Meanwhile, Amazon has built out its Amazon/Alexa team to number 10,000 employees. No word on whether they’ll move to Alexandria, Va., or Long Island City, N.Y., but we do note that the latter is neatly situated between NYU’s engineering school (field trip, Brooklyn, June 2018) and Cornell Tech (Deborah Estrin, Jersey City, Oct 2013).
Douglas Rain became operational in 1928 and famous as the voice of the HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, though it wasn’t his only computer role (he played one in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper), nor his only Hal (one of his many Shakespearean turns was as Henry V). Rain passed away this week at 90.
Alex Reben (Boston, Apr 2014) recently gave an unusual TED performance: He put on a mask and portrayed a TED talk that was written by a machine learning program that had studied
hundreds of TED talks. Alex’s meta-TED talk was just posted to YouTube, and it will be his starting point as Alex returns to TTI/Vanguard at our December meeting. (registration, agenda).
Our newsletter will be on hiatus next week as our team observes the U.S. Thanksgiving. We all have much to be grateful for, and chief among those is the TTI/V community. Thank you for being a part of it.
“It can only be attributable to human error.”
The TTI/Vanguard Team