Without a strong understanding of machine learning, it’s easy to be swept away by headlines that read “Facebook engineers panic. Pull plug on AI after bots develop their own language” or “You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot — and Sooner Than You Think.”
With a newsfeed flooded with articles predicting a dark future for anyone without a metallic heart or algorithmic brain, it’s hard to look the other way.
To challenge this flawed depiction of our future, Katherine Bailey dedicated her Acquia Engage session to weeding out some misconceptions around artificial intelligence to get to the bottom of how machine learning tactics can make a positive and tangible impact.
AI has become a blanket term often used to describe a range of emerging technologies. In the process, our understanding of what AI is, and can realistically do, has blurred. As the principal data scientist at Acquia, Bailey sought to bring the real potential of machine learning and more reasonable concerns to the forefront.
The Issues that Matter
Machine learning is a specific set of techniques that enable machines to learn from data, and make predictions. A primary concern for many people is the idea of singularity: the point in time when machines reach a higher level of intelligence than humans and, in turn, take over the world (essentially).
In reality, this is nonsense. There are plenty of things to worry about with the future of machine learning, and the singularity is not one of them.
What’s more of a cause for concern is the machine learning bias we see on a regular basis. For example, there are certain systems that claim to predict your interests based on your name, and some that conclude “man” is to “computer programmer” as “woman” is to “homemaker.” Even worse, some claim to predict terrorists based on facial features. Clearly, there are major flaws with the methodology powering these predictions, and these issues should be addressed.
Machines only learn from the data at their disposal. When the biases of our past and present fuel the predictions of the future, it’s a tall order to expect AI to operate independently of human flaws. If we want machine learning to affect our lives in productive and ethical ways, awareness of this fact is critical.