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Monday, November 06, 2017

How to ensure AI is good for girls: a robot for every child | The Sydney Morning Herald - Comment

"Rapid progress is being made in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics" insist Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of NSW. 

University of NSW professor Toby Walsh with the robot Baxter.
Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald

Milestones are being passed in areas as diverse as transcription (computers now outperform humans at transcribing spoken Mandarin), diagnosis (computers outperform the best doctors at diagnosing pulmonary disease) and warfare (computers outperform the best human pilots in air to air combat).

Most experts in AI estimate it will take at least 50 years to get to human-level intelligence in machines. A serious research effort in "AI safety" has begun to prepare for this moment and ensure the goals of any such intelligent or super-intelligent machines align with those of humanity. Fears that the machines will take over remain more the concern of Hollywood than the laboratory.

Australia is close to the front of this revolution and punches above its weight in AI research. The impact AI will have on society will likely be felt early on in Australia compared with many other developed countries. We will not have the luxury of observing what happens in the US or elsewhere. We will need to lead the way in adapting to the changes and challenges.

Among these challenges are issues such as protection of privacy and transparency as more decisions are handed to machines. Closely connected to concerns about transparency are issues around trust. How do we know when to trust a machine? When we observe a computer performing intelligently on one problem, we often tend to suppose it will work equally well on another. However, AI remains brittle. Our smart computers can be surprisingly dumb when the problem changes even slightly.

In safety and security-critical areas, there are already well-developed tools and techniques for verification and validation of computer systems. Yet despite what high-tech companies such as Google might have us believe, algorithms – especially those using Machine Learning – can be biased. Algorithmic discrimination will start to trouble society increasingly. If we are not careful, many of our hard-fought rights against racial, religious, sexual, age and other types of discrimination will be lost to machines that are not transparent and that we should not trust.

Other aspects of our society will also be affected by AI. We are already witnessing the impact of algorithms on politics and political debate through data-driven political marketing while globally there is an arms race under way today to develop "killer robots"...

For many, education stops when they leave school or university. Ultimately, just as the Industrial Revolution made it essential that universal education was provided to the young, the AI revolution will make it essential that education is provided to people at every age of their lives.

The gender imbalance in AI and robotics could have serious implications for the world AI algorithms shape.
Photo: AP

In Australia and the US, a major problem within the field of computer science, and especially within Artificial Intelligence, is the "sea of dudes" problem. The under-representation of women in AI and robotics is undesirable for many reasons. Women will be disadvantaged in an increasingly technically focused job market. But it may also result in AI systems that fail to address issues relevant to half the population, and even to systems that perpetuate sexism. More initiatives are needed to get young girls interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in general, and AI and robotics in particular.

Providing one robot per child could be one solution. There is evidence that access to robots, especially at an early age, can help bring girls into STEM. 
Read more... 

Additional resources 
Home page of Toby Walsh
Toby Walsh - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 


Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


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