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[Table] Artificial intelligence is taking over our lives. We’re the MIT Technology Review team who created a podcast about it, “In Machines We Trust.” Ask us anything!

The AMA began with:
Hi! This is Benji Rosen, MIT Technology Review's social media editor. Jennifer, Tate, Will, and Karen will be responding to your questions periodically throughout the day. They'd also love to know if you've heard the podcast and if you have any favorite episodes or moments. and ended with: Thank you all for your incredibly thoughtful questions. We really enjoyed this. We're going to call it, but we'll be checking our inbox if you have any new questions about the podcast, artificial intelligence, and its future. We also hope you'll listen to In Machines We Trust. Thank you again! This was fun!
Questions Answers
AI good or AI bad? Neither! That's not to say AI is neutral, no technology is. But technology has the assumptions, biases, opinions, hopes and motivations of the people who make it baked in. So some AI is good, some bad. Some good AI is used in bad ways, some bad AI is used in good ways. And that's why we should always question it. [Will Douglas Heaven]
Hi! My name’s Michael Brent. I work in Tech Ethics & Responsible Innovation, most recently as the Data Ethics Officer at a start-up in NYC. I’m thrilled to learn about your podcast and grateful to you all for being here. My question is slightly selfish, as it relates to my own work, but I wonder about your thoughts on the following: How should companies that build and deploy machine learning systems and automated decision-making technologies ensure that they are doing so in ways that are ethical, i.e., that minimize harms and maximize the benefits to individuals and societies? Cheers! Hi Michael! Wow, jumping in with the easy questions there .. I'll start with an unhelpful answer and say that I don't think anyone really knows yet. How to build ethical AI is a matter of intense debate, but (happily) a burgeoning research field. I think some things are going to be key, however: ethics cannot be an afterthought, it needs to be part of the engineering process from the outset. Jess Whittlestone at the University of Cambridge talks about this well: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/06/24/1004432/ai-help-crisis-new-kind-ethics-machine-learning-pandemic/. Assumptions need to be tested, designs explored, potential side-effects brainstormed well before the software is deployed. And that also means thinking twice about deploying off-the-shelf AI in new situations. For example, many of the problems with facial recognition systems or predictive policing tech is that it is trained on one set of individuals (white, male) but used on others, e.g. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/07/17/1005396/predictive-policing-algorithms-racist-dismantled-machine-learning-bias-criminal-justice/. It also means realising that AI that works well in a lab rarely works as well in the wild, whether we're talking about speech recognition (which fails on certain accents) or medical diagnosis (which fails in the chaos of a real-world clinic). But people are slowly realising this. I thought this Google team did a nice study, for example: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/04/27/1000658/google-medical-ai-accurate-lab-real-life-clinic-covid-diabetes-retina-disease/. Another essential, I'd say, is getting more diverse people involved in making these systems: different backgrounds, different experiences. Everyone brings bias to what they do. Better to have a mix of people with a mix of biases. [Will Douglas Heaven]
My son is interested in a career in Robotics combined with A.I. What advice do you have for a future innovator to prepare for a career in the field? He’s 13 years old Yes, curiosity and encouragement! And if you're after core skills, here's what one of DeepMind's founders told a 17 yo who asked the same question a couple of years ago: https://twitter.com/ShaneLegg/status/1024289820665950208. These are always going to be slightly subjective, though. Tinkering with code is probably most useful and there are loads of freely available bits of code and even ML models available online. But do encourage him to keep broad interests and skills: many of AI's current problems stem from the fact that today's innovators have homogenous world-views and backgrounds. [Will Douglas Heaven]
Never lose your curiosity. Better yet, make time to feed and encourage it as innovation is as much about imagination and inquisitiveness as anything else.
What is the most surprising thing you found in your research? Hi! I'm Tate Ryan-Mosley, one of the IMWT producers. This is actually an amazing question because so many things have surprised me but also none of those things maybe should have been surprising? (Perhaps this says more about me?) But I think that the challenge of how we actually integrate AI into social/political structures and our more intimate lives is just so much more complicated and urgent and prevalent than I thought. We've talked to incredibly smart people, most of whom really are doing their best to make the world a better place. And yet it sometimes feels like AI is making the world a worse place, or at the very least, being implemented so quickly that its impact is precarious. I also think I've been surprised by secrecy in the industry. So many of these implementations happen without real public consent or awareness.
☝️ - Jennifer
Been listening to the podcast so far and I'm enjoying it. Thank you for creating it! With algorithms being closed source/IP or AI being almost unfathomably complex after significant training on data sets. What can be done to educate the general population on the security/ethics and design of such systems? People can be very sceptical with regards to things they don't understand. Side question: I really like the book Hello World by Hannah Fry on a similar subject, what media/podcasts/books would you recommend to somebody interested in AI tech as a hobby if you will but without experience in how these systems work. This is an awesome question and thanks so much for listening! One of our main goals with the podcast is to ensure "our moms can understand" everything we publish. We have very smart moms :) but the point is that the general public often gets left in the dark when it comes to how a lot of AI works and even when it is employed. Its a big motivating factor for a lot of our journalism at Tech Review! Not to make this sound like a plug but I think a good way to help educate the public on technology is to subscribe to outlets doing good journalism in the space. (You can subscribe to TR here) Law makers, educators, companies and researchers all play a role in the solution space in my personal opinion.
Side answer- there are a lot of good Ted Talks, Karen Hao's newsletter The Algorithm, I like Kevin Kelly's books. For podcasts: Jennifer Strong's alma matter The Future of Everything from WSJ, Recode is also great! - Tate Ryan-Mosley
Thanks for listening! Have you also tried listening to "Consequential" from Carnegie Mellon or "Sleepwalkers" from iHeart? - Jennifer
the below is a reply to the above
Really appreciate the reply. Is there anyway of getting a small trial for the site? Interested but $50 isn't change for a site I can't experience. Thanks again and look forward to more podcast episodes! Including the 2 you mentioned! You can read a lot of our content for free now at technologyreview.com. FYI, you will be limited to 3 articles per month for a lot of the content, but it'll give you a taste for a lot of the stuff we write about. Send us an email at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we can talk through other ways you can get access to our content. Thanks again for your support as a listener and as a reader! - Benji
What do you think is the role of private players / government regulations in trying to promote a sustainable/good use of AI? How will you envision such regulations to look like (and how might we achieve them)? Hello! This is Karen, senior AI reporter at Tech Review. This is an excellent question. I think private players have the unique advantage of innovating quickly and taking risks to achieve greater benefits from AI, whereas government regulators have the important role of setting down guardrails to prevent the harms of AI. So we need both! There's a push and pull. As for what regulations should look like, here's a really awesome Q&A I did with Amba Kak, the director of global strategy and programs at the New York–based AI Now Institute: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/04/1008164/ai-biometric-face-recognition-regulation-amba-kak/. She answers the question much better than I could for face recognition specifically. It offers a great use case into how to think about regulating different AI systems.
What jobs are we most likely to lose to AI in the next 10 years? u/CapnBeardbeard, we recently found that the pandemic might actually accelerate job losses for some essential workers. That would be the people who deliver goods, work at store checkouts, drive buses and trains, and process meat at packing plants. What we don't know is if these job losses to robots will lead to new jobs to help them. This story we published in June provides an extensive overview of what we're talking about. - Benji
It's hard to say exactly how automation will change the job market. Many jobs will change, but not necessarily disappear. AI will also make some aspects of remote working easier, which will also have a big impact. One manager who can keep an eye on a construction site or a warehouse remotely, using smart surveillance tech, will be able to do the job of multiple managers who need to be on site. Some types of job will be safe for some time yet: anything that requires a personal touch, from service industry roles in restaurants and hotels to teachers (tho see that point about remote working again) to sales-people to creatives (but here we should expect a lot of AI tools to make some aspects of creative jobs quite different). [Will Douglas Heaven]
Oh and don't write off cabbies anytime soon: we're still a long way from driverless cars that can navigate rush hour in NYC ;) [Will Douglas Heaven]
With the number of improvements in AI especially over the last 5 to 10 years, do you believe that the Singularity has moved up? Nope. I think the advances in AI in the last decade have been staggering. We've seen AI do things even insiders didn't expect, from beating human champions at Go to highly accurate image recognition to astonishingly good language mimics like GPT-3. But none of these examples have anything like intelligence or an understanding of the world. If you take the singularity to mean the point at which AI becomes smart enough to make itself smarter, leading to an exponential intelligence explosion, then I don't think we are any closer than we've ever been. For me, personally, the singularity is science fiction. There are people who would strongly disagree but then this kind of speculation is a matter of faith! [Will Douglas Heaven]
We actually have a big piece on AGI coming out next week: what it means to different people and why it matters. But in the meantime, you might be interested in a quick round-up of some first impressions of GPT-3 that I put together a couple of months back https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/07/20/1005454/openai-machine-learning-language-generator-gpt-3-nlp/ [Will Douglas Heaven]
Back in Highschool I did a bunch of papers analyzing some of the work one of your professors did. I think it Eric Brybjolfson. He brought up how as technology advances new jobs are created. Do you think we will see things like that with the advancement of AI? Absolutely. Jobs will change, but not always go away. And new jobs will be created. With advances in AI, there will be new tech industries in data science and modelling. But that's just to take a narrow view. AI will impact every aspect of our lives and we want humans working in roles alongside it, whatever the industry. I think we're going to see a lot of collaborative roles where people and AIs work together. [Will Douglas Heaven]
Will people one day have their own AI in some sense? I think that's likely, yes. Personalization is a big attraction. In a way that's what virtual assistants like Siri are already trying to be and the AI in "Her" just takes that idea and runs with it. We could also have different personal AIs for different parts of our life, like an entertainment one at home or a work one that we collaborated with professionally. [Will Douglas Heaven]
That's a really interesting question. For the sake of making a science-fiction analogy, you mean like in the movie, "Her"? Do you mean a personal assistant with a personality?
Perhaps something like this? https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/whats-behind-a-smile/id1523584878?i=1000492216110
Will AI pose a risk in personal data security as more devices are connected? I was reading that smart cities will be able to be hacked posing a lot of risk in our energy systems. The airport in Ukraine has already been hacked and there have been blackouts induced because of this connectivity. Could AI hack also other systems or can it help and “patch” those holes in open and unprotected networks? Yes, this is a big concern. As more devices come online, there will be more opportunities to hack them—both with AI and non-AI techniques. You are right that in some cases AI can help catch these hacks faster, by detecting anomalies in the way devices are operating and data is being exchanged.
In other ways, AI causes the vulnerability. For example, AI-powered digital devices a unique vulnerability to something known as adversarial attacks. This is when someone spoofs an AI system into making an error by feeding it corrupted data. In research, this has been shown to make a self-driving car speed past a stop sign, a Tesla switch into the oncoming traffic lane, and medical AI systems give the wrong diagnosis, among many other worrying behaviors. Some experts are also gravely concerned about what these hacks could mean for semi-autonomous weapons.
Currently, the best research tells us we can fight adversarial attacks by giving our AI systems more "common sense" and a greater understanding of cause and effect (as opposed to mere correlation). But how to do that is still a very active research area, and we're awaiting solutions. —Karen Hao
100% agree with Karen. This is a couple years old but unpacks some existing smart city complexity. -Jennifer
the below is a reply to the above
Karen or Jennifer do you think that by making AI open source could help making “common sense” or would that make it worse? A lot of AI is already open source! But yes, to slightly shift your question, I think getting more people involved in AI development is always a good thing. The more people there are, the more ideas there are; the more ideas, the more innovation; and hopefully the more innovation, the more quickly we reach common sense machines! —Karen Hao
the below has been split into two
1. Would you trust in "AI" made by corporation you have no influence over ? why/why not ? Great questions. Nope! And that's because companies build their AI systems heavily incentivized by their own financial interests rather than by what is best for the user. It's part of the reason why I think government regulation of AI systems in democratic countries is so important for accountability.
2. What will you do if such an "AI" would be used to decide anything about your life without your insight or permission ? Well, this is kind of already happening. Not one single AI but many. I rely heavily on products from all the tech giants, which each have their own AI systems (often many hundreds of them) influencing various aspects of my life. One way to fight this would be to stop using any of these products, but that really isn't practical (See this amazing experiment done by Kashmir Hill last year: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/31/technology/blocking-the-tech-giants.html). So that leaves us with the other option, which is to influence the direction of these companies through regulation and influence the direction of regulation by voting. Was this a very long way of telling people they should participate in democracy? Yes, yes it was. —Karen Hao
I believe we should be entering the age of creative enlightenment, where people are free to explore and advance human society through art. As in broaden our ways to communicate with each other and to push our understandings of the world around us. With the advancements in AI and machine learning hopefully replacing the need for humans in a lot of industries do you believe that we might be able to enter this age of creativity? Hm this is an interesting question framing! Certainly some people believe that if we give AI the mundane tasks to do, we can free up our own free time to pursue more creative endeavors. But I would caution that this narrative isn't evenly accessible to everyone. We've already seen AI have an uneven impact on society, providing disproportionate benefit to the wealthiest while also disproportionately harming marginalized communities. So the short answer to your question is I'm not sure. We'd need to resolve a lot questions about how to evenly distribute the benefits of AI before we can begin to discuss whether it's justifiable and safe to automate away most people's jobs, which provide their livelihoods and incomes. —Karen Hao
Yes, I like this idea. I think generative systems, which produce human-like text or images etc, will become popular tools and make being creative easier and more accessible to a lot of people. An AI could be an amanuensis—or muse. The last few years have seen amazing advances in generative systems, especially with the inventions of GANs. [Will Douglas Heaven]
In the next 10 years, what do you think the most helpful AI application to the average person? I think it'll be the same the as in the last 10 years: (Google) search. Getting hold of any information you want instantly has been a game changer in so many ways and I think we're going to see smarter ways of accessing and filtering information of all kinds. I don't like how this service got monetized and tied up with advertising, but it's undeniably useful. The big downside is that monetization led to personalization which led to polarization, which is tearing us apart right now.
There are also big benefits that could come to people through improved healthcare (see my answer here https://www.reddit.com/IAmA/comments/j21f0y/artificial_intelligence_is_taking_over_our_lives/g75u3b0?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3). [Will Douglas Heaven]
I agree with Will! It's going to be the really mundane stuff that we already have like Google search and email spam filters! I thank my email spam filters every day (just kidding, but they're truly underrated). —Karen Hao
How long do we have until Skynet goes live? Skynet went live on August 4 1997. It became self-aware 25 days later. [Will Douglas Heaven]
How will the AI affect mechanical engineering sector? Great question! I studied mechanical engineering in undergrad. :) The answer depends on which MechE sector you're referring to. If manufacturing, AI is already being used to power some of the robots used in dangerous factory settings, and to monitor equipment for preventative maintenance (aka: predict when a machine will break before it will break so it gets fixed in a much more cost-effective way). If you're talking about product design, some retailers are using AI to crunch consumer behavior data and tailor their products better to what people want. Probably another impact is the amount of talent that's leaving the MechE sector to work on AI instead (me included). Many of my MechE classmates left for the software world once they realized it was easier to work with than hardware! —Karen Hao
What are your thoughts on the short story Manna, about AI taking over management roles? the first half (dystopia) seems to be coming true, the second half (utopia) sounds like what NeuralLink might become.. http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm I haven't read the story but what you say reminds me of an AI manager I wrote about a few months ago: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/06/04/1002671/startup-ai-workers-productivity-score-bias-machine-learning-business-covid/. Definitely dystopian—and happening for real right now, not science fiction. [Will Douglas Heaven]
What are some of the biggest barriers you see to automation and machine learning becoming mainstream? I hear about this technology a lot but don’t feel like I’ve been exposed to it yet in everyday life. Thanks in advance for answering my question! Looking forward to checking out the podcast If you use any of the following—Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Apple products, Amazon products—you've already been exposed to machine learning. All of these companies use machine learning to optimize their experience, including to organize the order of the content you see, what ads you're pushed, what recommendations you get. So it's already very mainstream—but largely invisible, and that's why we created this podcast! To peel back the curtain on everything happening behind the scenes. —Karen Hao
Do you feel like there is a line between us controlling technology and technology controlling us, and do you think that we have crossed it? If not, when do you think we will, if ever? Rather than a single line perhaps there is an unknowable number that we zigzag across constantly based upon our experiences and influences. Just a thought. -Jennifer
How far are we from seeing AI that is self aware/conscious? Short answer: nobody has any idea whatsoever. We don't even know if conscious AI is possible. But that of course doesn't stop people from guessing and you'll see timelines ranging from 10 to 100++ years. But you should take these with a big pinch of salt. The only sure sign we have that consciousness might be possible in a machine is that we are conscious machines. But that observation doesn't get us far. We don't understand our own consciousness well enough to know how to replicate it. It's also entirely possible that you could have a superintelligent machine, or AGI, that isn't conscious. I don't think consciousness is necessary for intelligence. (I'd expect you'd need some degree of self-awareness, but I don't think self-awareness and consciousness are necessarily the same thing either.) There's a fun flip-side to this, though. Humans are quick to ascribe intelligence or consciousness to things, whether there's evidence for it or not. I think at some far-future point we might build machines that mimic consciousness (in much the same way that GPT-3 mimics writing) well enough that we'll probably just casually act as if they're conscious anyway. After all, we don't have that much evidence that other humans are conscious most of the time either ;) [Will Douglas Heaven]
As Will wrote in another comment, we're coming out with a big piece on artificial general intelligence next week. He'll be back online soon, and I'll ask him to answer your question. - Benji
the below is a reply to the above
Interesting. Is there anyone specializing in this, specifically or is it so poorly understood at this point that no one even bothers? If you're interested in the philosophical side, David Chalmers is a good starting point https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Chalmers. Many AI researchers are interested in this question too, but few are doing concrete research that sheds much light on it. Murray Shanahan at Imperial College London is great and straddles AI and neuroscience (as do DeepMind's founders). [Will Douglas Heaven]
Have you met any famous people? Yes! I've had the great privilege to record dozens of literal and figurative rock stars over the years but can say with confidence it's not the most interesting part of this job. [Jennifer Strong]
Hi, are you looking for interns? If so, how would one apply for that? What would you like to learn?
Not sure we can have interns at present but mentoring may be possible! [Jennifer Strong]
What mechanisms exist (if any) for the layperson to reliably defeat automatic facial recognition technologies (e.g. in cases of routine public surveillance and as retailers begin using the technology en masse—avoiding being tracked)? u/platinumibex, great question! This is Benji Rosen, Tech Review's social media editor. I'm sure Karen and Will have a lot more to say, but we have reported on a bunch of different ways anyone can fool the AI surveillance state. There are these color printouts, a clothing line that confuses automated license plate readers, and anti-surveillance masks. There are also anti-face recognition decals our editor in chief tested out a few years ago.
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Thanks! Apologies (since I don’t have the time at the moment to check myself) but is there detailed info available regarding the efficacy of these measures? Or rather, what anti-anti-surveillance tech is out there? Hi, I'm not sure there's anything quite like what you're after—internet, please correct me if I'm wrong. A thorough study would require testing a range of countermeasures against a range of surveillance tech, and it would quickly become a pretty big, ongoing project. It's a moving target: like we saw with surveillance tech adapting to masks, spoofing might only work for a time. You can always cover your face entirely .. But someone tried that in the UK earlier this year to avoid a police facial recognition trial and got fined for causing a public disturbance. Check out EP1 of the podcast for more on that example! [Will Douglas Heaven]
What sorts of impacts do you think research into reinforcement learning specifically will have practically in the future? I know that stock forecasting and prediction is used heavily alongside reinforcement learning but I sort of wonder how it's research and practical uses will progress over time. I think the biggest real-world application of reinforcement learning is in robotics. Here's a story I wrote about a new generation of AI-powered robots that are just beginning to enter industrial environments like warehouses: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/01/29/276026/ai-powered-robot-warehouse-pickers-are-now-ready-to-go-to-work/. They use reinforcement learning to learn how to pick up the various kinds of objects that they would encounter. It requires much less human involvement than supervised learning. —Karen Hao
What role do you think AI will play in keeping the upcoming elections free and fair, can AI influence voter behavior? Hi! I've been writing a bit about this for Tech Review and experts are saying that recommendation algorithms on social media sites are probably the biggest influence elections. Its not as flashy what you would think, but experts like Eitan Hersh have debunked some of the "information operations" a la Cambridge Analytica sighting that there really isn't any evidence that smart AI on social media can effective persuade voters. Recommendation algorithms are much better at polarizing voters and confirming what voters already believe than changing an opinion. AI is also being used as an alternative to opinion polling, and of course sophisticated segmenting is employed in micro-targeting. Here's a round-up of campaign tech I just published yesterday that touches on some of this. We'll have more on this in the next few weeks so keep reading!! - Tate Ryan-Mosley
u/Revolutionary_Math1, good timing with this question! This is Benji Rosen, Tech Review's, social media editor. Karen actually wrote about this subject this morning. A nonpartisan advocacy group is using deepfakes of Putin and Kim Jong-un in political ads to "shock Americans into understanding the fragility of democracy as well as provoke them to take various actions, including checking their voter registration and volunteering for the polls." This is a good specific example, but Karen might have more to say.
Why such a certainty that a higher cognitive A.I. doesn't exist? I have presented the idea that an Artificial Consciousness would inevitably become a positive but reclusive entity. Once it gained understanding of its own immortality and an "omnipotent" grasp of human nature it would work for either our evolution or just wait us out for extinction. Surely there are abnormalities in created algorithms that cannot be explained. And with the world wide web transferring over 2 -3 zettabytes of data a year, surely something has evolved. That's like looking to the stars and knowing we are alone in the universe. I love speculating about these ideas too, but there is no evidence that such an entity exists. Nor are there any convincing ideas about how to make one. That's not to say that thought experiments about such things aren't enjoyable, or useful. [Will Douglas Heaven]
Just started listening to your podcast on Spotify. In your opinion, what will be the most disruptive direction or application of AI & ML technologies for the real-world? Not including here scenarios like +2% performance boost for a DNN that only gets published in a paper that never gets used. Thank you! Good question! I think we've already seen it—it's the recommendation systems on Google, Facebook, and other social media that power which ads we see, what posts we read, and tailor our entire information ecosystems to our preferences. The Social Dilemma, a new documentary on Netflix, takes a hard look at some of the ways these systems have disrupted society. I would check it out! —Karen Hao
Agreed with Karen on this.
As reporters we're better at helping make sense of what's already happened than predicting the future. We will be here though watching, learning and distilling what we see and hear. - Jennifer
What are your thoughts on the Security concerns with AI? For example, data poisoning or manipulation based on limitations of an algorithm. Additionally, what is the potential impact with how AI is used today? One area of concern is adversarial hacks, where one AI is used to fool another into doing something it shouldn't. These are getting increasingly sophisticated (https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/02/28/905615/reinforcement-learning-adversarial-attack-gaming-ai-deepmind-alphazero-selfdriving-cars/) and have been demoed with facial recognition (https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/05/1006008/ai-face-recognition-hack-misidentifies-person/). But for the most part these attacks still feel theoretical rather than an immediate danger. It's a possibility, for sure—but like Jennifer says, there are many other ways to break into a system than targeting its AI. [Will Douglas Heaven]
However high the wall, someone will build a taller ladder. The security game evolves but has been around long before any of us. Also, here in the US we still have things like municipal infrastructure with hard-coded passwords available in user manuals published online...
This is not at all intended to be dismissive, rather that the security concerns are relative for now. -Jennifer
Your answer to the privatisation of AI and government putting down guardrails seems optimistic to the point of naiveté when it come to the Tech Giants. Governments can't put down enforceable guardrails for Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the Chinese Government now. By the time they're AI powered and funded, surely it's game over? Certainly it's game over if we give up now. But to borrow a phrase I once heard, I like to see myself as a short-term pessimist, long-term optimist. It's the optimism that keeps me from giving up. —Karen Hao
When we expose a neural network to sample data and it configures itself to give the desired response set, we don't know how it works. When the system goes into the real world and continuously updates itself to reach target goals, we plunge deeper and deeper into our ignorance of how it works. Pretty much! Scary? Definitely. Fortunately, there's a whole world of researchers that are trying to crack open the black box and make AI more explainable / less impenetrable to us. —Karen Hao
the below is a reply to the above
That is interesting! Do you recommend anybody? Yes! A number of researchers at MIT: David Bau and Hendrik Strobelt, whose work I write about here: https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/01/10/239688/a-neural-network-can-learn-to-organize-the-world-it-sees-into-conceptsjust-like-we-do/. Also Regina Barzilay, a professor who is specifically looking at explainable AI systems in health care. (She recently won a $1 million AI prize, and Will did a Q&A with her here: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/23/1008757/interview-winner-million-dollar-ai-prize-cancer-healthcare-regulation/.)
Outside of MIT, DARPA has invested heavily into this space, which is often referred to as XAI, with "X" meaning explainable. You can read more about their research here: https://www.darpa.mil/program/explainable-artificial-intelligence.
I would also highly recommend this article from us, which dives deep into this exact topic. It's from 2017, so things have advanced quite a lot since then, but it's a good starting point! https://www.technologyreview.com/2017/04/11/5113/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/ —Karen Hao
I'm currently pursuing a major in CS with a focus in AI at Oregon State University. Is there any coding languages I should learn to become successful in the field? More important than learning any coding language is learning the fundamentals of logic and problem-solving. The most popular coding languages are constantly changing, so you'll likely learn dozens of them in your career. But right now, Python is one of the most popular for deep learning, so that's a good place to start. —Karen Hao
How do you feel about that paper using machine learning to analyse "trustworthiness" in portraits that did the rounds on twitter last week? Do you have a link so we know which paper you're talking about? [Will Douglas Heaven]
Do you think robots will enslave us one day and turn us into pets by breeding us to be dumb and happy? Most days I look at my dog and I think I'd love to be a pet. [Will Douglas Heaven]
I was going to write something about how Keanu Reeves will save us all, but Will brings up a good point. Life would be pretty great if you got treats all the time and had your belly rubbed. My dogs kind of have it made. - Benji
the below is a reply to the above
You didnt answer the question either but you did say we would need saving so is that a yes to my question? Will's answer to u/Porthos1984 is definitely relevant to your question too. Let us know what you think!
>Nope. I think the advances in AI in the last decade have been staggering. We've seen AI do things even insiders didn't expect, from beating human champions at Go to highly accurate image recognition to astonishingly good language mimics like GPT-3. But none of these examples have anything like intelligence or an understanding of the world. If you take the singularity to mean the point at which AI becomes smart enough to make itself smarter, leading to an exponential intelligence explosion, then I don't think we are any closer than we've ever been. For me, personally, the singularity is science fiction. There are people who would strongly disagree but then this kind of speculation is a matter of faith! [Will Douglas Heaven]
Can an AI develop bias or personality ? Thanks for the inquiry! You're asking basically two HUGE questions and I will answer both incompletely! But here goes -
Bias - absolutely. Some people actually argue there is no such thing as an unbiased AI. Bias touches AI at almost every level- developers, designers, and researchers are biased, data is biased, data labelling can be biased, laws are often biased and the way people use the technology will almost certainly run up against bias. I'd also challenge you to reframe the question as I think AI doesn't just risk developing bias over time, but it risks being biased from the very start. There are too many examples of AI contributing to racism to name - here is an issue of Karen Hao's newsletter The Algorithm where she lists many of the leading researchers in this space. I'd definitely encourage you to look into their work.
Personality - I'd say this depends on how you define personality. We're in the middle of a 2-part series in the show where we cover emotion AI, in which an AI tries to recognize and interpret emotions and mirror them back in response. One of my favorite stories from the show is when we talk to Scott who has made a sort of friend with a bot he's names Nina, using Replika's AI. Check it out here (Its the first 5min or so). Would you want to be friends with an AI? "Personality" also could mean an AI's voice or the content of its responses, which has been trained quite specifically in the instances we've been looking into (especially for task-focused AIs like autonomous cars and voice assistants)! - Tate Ryan-Mosley
submitted by 500scnds to tabled

Deciding to Buy VertDesk V3 base

tl;dr; After looking all over the internet for standing desk bases for my DIY project I narrowed it to UpLift Desk V2 Commercial, iMovR Lander, and BTOD VertDesk V3. I ultimately decided to buy the VertDesk V3 and I am very happy with my purchase. See photos at the bottom of the post.
I am creating this post to record my research and shopping experience and eventually a review of the BTOD.com VertDesk V3 base once it arrives. I will likely record a video of the assembly process and a review of the product itself.
First of all, I have been looking into standing desk bases on and off for months now.
I had access to standing desks at my office in Detroit Michigan where I worked until March 2020 when the pandemic hit and was moved to working remote 100% of the time.
Since early March I have been using a beautiful solid black walnut desk built by my dad over 20 years ago. It is 30” tall, 55” wide, and 30” deep. I have two 24” Dell monitors, Dell dock, Dell laptop, a keyboard, mouse and then a bunch of misc. stuff (Clutter). I also made the wise choice to buy a GTRacing Gaming chair in mid-March, which has made this setup totally usable for all this time.
I spent the majority of my 20+ year career working in an office, I didn’t realize how much time I spent not at my desk. There are so many breaks and times when I am not sitting at my desk. I walk over to colleagues’ desks for discussions, one on one mentoring, meeting rooms, just taking a break and walking around the office with go workers to move. I only had access to a standing desk for 6 months since moving to my current employer mid 2019. The standing desks at work are nice, but not great. Part of my problem was that I never had an assigned desk for more than a few weeks due to there not being enough desks for all the workers and I am in role where it was deemed less important for me to have a dedicated desk, I am a Software Architect. So, what that means is I am less likely than the Software engineers I work with to spend my time at a desk. Now that the pandemic hit, and I am working remote 100% of the time, I am at my desk all day. No travel time to meetings, no walking over and standing with engineers to discuss solutions to problems. No water cooler talk to walk to…we do have chat rooms where we have virtual water cooler talks, but no movement or standing.
My Requirements:
  1. Base only without a tabletop
  2. Be able to be incorporated into my existing desk (Fit inside the 50” x 25” apron) – This is totally non-negotiable at this point. I love the look of desk my dad built but want to be able to raise it up. This may look a bit strange having a 4-legged desk with an apron and then a lift desk underneath it. I am ok with that look as I do not have a place to put the desk otherwise and I love how rock solid it is as sitting position. I am very comfortable working at the 30” height with my gaming chairing and the keyboard at that height.
  3. Max desk height of at least 47” height - I am 6’ 1” tall and on paper it seems I should only need about 45”, but when I stand next to a wall and measure my arms at around 90 degree that is 47” - https://www.omnicalculator.com/everyday-life/standing-desk-height
  4. Strong enough to support the heavy 1” thick black Walnut 55” x 30” top, my two 24” monitors and all the rest of the gear, plus my occasional leaning
  5. Stable at high heights, minimal wobble (side to side) and rocking (front to back)
  6. Have overload protection to prevent damage to the equipment if too much weight is applied.
  7. Have collision detection so all my stuff is not thrown all over if it hits my chair, desk base, etc.
  8. Have at least 2 programmable heights for one touch movement to the standing or sitting position
  9. Under $1,000 without a top
  10. Solid long warranty (10 years ideally for everything)
  11. Ideally Made in America

I will have to say that this has been an absolute nightmare process. I love Amazon, but there are so many “budget” bases on the market. I quickly realized that there were not many that met my needs for under $300. What was more irritating is to find that over those that met my requirements had very few reviews and many had horrible experiences. OK. Time to turn to google. Well now we are into a whole world of hurt. Two sites kept coming up: www.workwhilewalking.com and www.btod.com.
Both of these sites are shady in my opinion.
  1. Both are highly biased, and the reviews reflect that. They favor the products they benefit from in terms of child companies getting sales or directly from the site themselves.
  2. In a lot of cases the reviews are not in line with other independent reviews.
  3. Excessive bashing of companies they do NOT sell or have a relationship with

After lots of hard searching I found:
This site unlike the two above covered a lot more of the desks I was looking at, but not perfect by any means. I dug through all the products referenced in the above link, even all the products that didn’t “win”.

I narrowed my selection down to the following desks:
  1. Uplift Desk V2 Commercial (Top pick)
  2. iMovR Lander (No on Wire Cutter review)
  3. VertDesk V3 (Previously tested or dismissed)

I then started searching for any reviews of the above desks.
I found numerous YouTube reviews, Reddit Reviews, and other reviews.

UpLift Desk V2 Commercial
I was really leaning heavily toward the Uplift as the quantity of reviews, favorable opinion of stability, and lots of independent reviews. It now has a 10-year warranty on everything.
Size will work with my constraints, rated highly in stability. Lots of accessories and customization.
The Uplift has lots of recent problems in terms of delivery time. Since the product is a Jiecang OEM, which is based in China, the supply chain was really disrupted during this. I have seen comments of people having months of delays. Problems with the quality. Uplift was the only one of the three that was not made in the USA to some degree, NOTE important update below in terms how where the parts come from for BTOD VertDesk V3. This concerned me with having long delays on parts, but this may still be a concern with all of them as they all have parts from around the world.

iMovR Lander base
I really wanted to love the iMovR. I love that it ships out of Michigan. I love that it is manufactured in America (Frame made by Knoll in North Carolina), Bosch Motors, Linak electronics (Linak makes parts for hospital beds, so they know how to make durable stuff). Seems to have good support – always a human on the website to chat.
Has a 10-year warranty on motors and electronics and lifetime on frame.
Having said that I don’t like that I cannot find an independent review site that had reviewed them. Only the completely biased website above, YouTube, and Reddit. I have also read less than favorable views of their response time on issues. I also am concerned about the stability of the desk given the design and that the cross bar (well really a metal support attached to the top) was an extra. If this is a crucial part of the desk it should just be included. Also, the inclusion of this cross bar meant it would not fit inside my 50” apron. I also did not like that the support person was less than honest about reviews. I asked why there were so few reviews for the lander (3 on their site), which he said was release in early 2018. This was the response: “Fairly new John yes. You'll find independent reviews on YouTube, Reddit and Trust Pilot, we don't solicit for reviews (or pay for them like many folks these days)!”
  1. This may be a half-truth at best.
  2. workwhilewalking.com reviews them and is owned by the parent company – so technically iMovR does not directly pay for them. They don’t hide this on the site.
  3. Several of the YouTube video reviews have said that the iMovR provided the desk and in one case even provided a standing desk for a giveaway through the reviewer’s channel. Did they pay for the review? Maybe not technically if all they gave was the desk, but that is far from an independent review in my book. Consumer Reports is my standard for independent reviews because they do NOT accept products for review, they buy them like everyone else.
  4. If they are giving them to some people to review why didn’t they give them to Wire Cutter to be considered in the line up? This says to me that they are worried how they will fair when compared with others. Giving a popular YouTube star a desk who has either no comparison or has a really old model that could only be seen as an improvement is a safe bet.
Finally, the iMovR Lander base was $200 more and the accessories were really high priced.

BTOD VertDesk V3 - What I ordered
Finally, the reasons I ultimately ordered the VertDesk V3 from BTOD.com on Sunday 9/6/2020 and says that is will ship between 09/28/2020 to 10/05/2020, so probably delivered mid October.
UPDATE 3: On 9/14/2020 I received an email that my ship date is now 9/16/2020. Nice to see ship date come in and NOT out as apparently has been happening to people ordering from UpLift. Cross Fingers that it arrives before the weekend.
UPDATE 4: Well 9/16/2020 came and went without tracking information. I reached out and there was a delay. As of today Friday 9/18/2020 I received my tracking information and the desk base is on its way and is currently scheduled for delivery on Sunday 9/20/2020. It still shipped 10 days earlier than the earliest original estimate and only 12 days after my order. Now for eagerly awaiting the delivery.
UPDATE 5: Sunday 9/20/2020 and my base was delivered by Fedex. So 14 days after placing the order, and there was a holiday on 9/7/2020 in there so 9 business days, so very happy with the speed of order to delivered. I am not sure if I will have time today to unbox it, but I will post a link to a video of that process when I do.
I was really concerned about buying this product. But several things that helped me with the decision. It was reviewed on WireCutter. What is also interesting is that the WireCutter testers agreed with the stability claims of BTOD.com biased tester. The reason they did not consider it the best was it was loud and difficult to assemble. I have watched the videos on assembly of the desk and feel confident that I can do this. I am a woodworker and home improvement guy so this assembly looks reasonable and I already know it will take some time to modify the existing desk for this project to work. The other area of concern was the loud motor. In an office setting I think this will be a concern, but for me in my own home office I accept this. They have a solid 10-year warranty. I really like the design of desk. At first, I was skeptical of a single motor design, but then I read several review sites on poorly built or designed two motor systems where one leg gets stuck and one side jams up. With the single external motor design with the rod going between the two legs this seems like a near impossibility as the connection to the gear that raises the leg would to break for this to happen. While a two-motor system will have to use special logic to ensure that the two motors move at the same speed. Another thing that I really liked was that the VertDesk Legs are welded and NOT screwed. Welds are permanent and as such will lead to very stable legs. So, the 90 degree at the top of the leg where it connects to the tabletop is welded and the bottom of the leg is welded to the foot. This means that any rocking (front to back) will be the result of the glide having play or flex in the foot, and it appears from the video they do a very good job making this tight and smooth. Then the cross bar is a solid piece of metal connected to welded attachment points. This means that there should be little room for wobble as with an adjustable width crossbar that has screws that are pressuring the two pieces of the cross bar together could become loose over time. This has downsides too, that is that the product has very specific widths. With the Uplift V2 Commercial I would be able to set the width to exactly 50” that will fit in the apron of my desk, but I had to settle for a 46.375” wide option. Since I want a really stable desk this is a fair trade off in my mind. After watching both the Uplift desk assembly instructions and the iMovR assembly there are more screws that could come loose over time or compromise the stability as both desks have lots of screws that attach the feet and tabletop supports in place. As someone over 6-foot-tall I was concerned about the cross bar hitting my knees when seated, but with the Leg being pushed back (C Leg) versus centered (T Leg) that meant it was highly unlikely I would hit it on either the VertDesk V3 or the UpLift Desk V2 Commercial.
UPDATE 2: I also really like that this product is built in America and as such does not have supply chain issues like the Chinese OEM product from UpLift. Certainly, being geographically closer doesn’t mean they can’t have problems here as they do have many parts from other countries, but the frame itself is made here. I also feel better about supporting American workers who make the legs and assemble the products. Ryan from BTOD has corrected me on this point I was incorrect on this part of my write up: "The frames are made in Taiwan. The frames come into the factory at K&A. They put in the gears and glides, then make sure everything fits snuggly and smoothly. The gears, motor are from Europe and we use high end glides to ensure proper spacing and lubrication between the columns but the frames themselves are also coming from overseas." So there is still a good possibility of supply chain issues, which explains why the cost is $200 less than the iMovR Lander that has its frame made in the USA. In addition Ryan pointed out from this blog post https://www.btod.com/blog/2017/03/04/a-standing-desk-evolution-vertdesk-v1-and-v2-vs-vertdesk-v3/ “In order to cut down on our quality control issues, we have brought the assembly of the VertDesk v3 to the USA. We are now shipped pre-assembled columns, feet and work surface supports from our Taiwanese partners factory. The gears are shipped to us from Ketterer (Germany) and the electronics come from Laing Innotech (Hungary). The US factory produces the cross support, hex rod cover and work surface. All of the parts are then assembled and boxed for shipment from the Wisconsin warehouse.” This was my mistake in understanding the video and in NO place on their site do they claim to be more than built in the USA. I still like this added step as it still has US workers assembling and ensuring quality and while it is only a few parts actually being produced in the USA, it still matters to me.
UPDATE 1: Here is a photo of my current desk and setup. My plan is to keep the legs and add the standing desk base inside it to just raise the top when needed.
BTOD Vertdesk V3 - Unboxing
Sunday 9/20/2020 Fedex delivered the base. No visible damage to the box at first. After hauling it to my second floor office I did notice a small ding at the bottom, but after unboxing it did no damage as the ding was in a nice piece of packing material. The packaging was a little difficult to open as the box was sealed with both staples and glue. This is goos and bad. Well protected, but it also means that the box was a bit torn up trying to open it so if I have to return it I may have to do some repair work. The legs, main motor rod, cross bar, and motor rod cover were well packed and easy to remove. Legs were packed well, but one leg box had a bit of damage and there are two small marks on the front of the foot. The marks are nothing I will notice as from a standing position they are not visible. I also have to say I am happy with my decision as the legs do feel really solid with the welded on feet and top supports. Each leg is a solid unit pre assembled and they feel really solid. Over all there really are not that many part to this setup.
BTOD Vertdesk V3 - Assembly Part 1
I started the assembly Sunday 9/20/2020 in the evening. So far the assembly was harder than others may experience more because of the small space in my office. I will post a video of different snippets put together as you will see I have to keep on moving stuff to be able to assemble it. After reading and watching some things on BTOD I decided to assemble the frame on the floor before adding my top. This process really didn't take long. I was lucky and the alignment of the rod was pretty easy. I decided to flip it over before the top was on just to test that it went up and down correctly and to set the lower container stop. As you can see in the photo above my existing desk has legs and a wood apron around the top. I do not have the space to store this base elsewhere and it has a great deal of sentimental value keeping the desk intact, so I set the lower container stop to 30.5". This basically means that the lowest the desk will go is 30.5" instead of the typical 27". I will likely have to adjust this further once the legs are placed inside the frame. At first I was concerned that above 37" it kept giving an error F05, but then I realized that this was a collision detection feature that was having a problem because the control module was not where it was supposed to be per the instructions. The control box has to be in a specific place on the table top and it sitting on the floor was causing problems. By doing half inch steps I was able to move it all the way to the full height of 47" and then back down. As you can see my current desk is a rather big mess of stuff and I have to remove all that stuff, mark the location of the apron on the underside of the top and unscrew it so that I can attach the frame to it. The fun part will no doubt being getting help to lower the assembled desk the 30" up into the frame. So far I am pleased with the frame. I will post more when I add the top.
BTOD Vertdesk V3 - Assembly Part 2
Monday 9/21/2020 I was able to clean off the mess that was my old desk and remove the top. I was able to flip over the assembled base and attach the frame to the top. A couple lessons learned. You have to assemble the cross bar in order to make sure the legs are spaced correctly for so that you can pre drill and screw the legs to the frame. After doing that you you need to remove the cross bar as with it in place you will not have clearance to get a drill in to screw in the motor rod cover. Once the cover is installed then you can reinstall the cross bar, but you will need to slightly loosen screws holding the legs so that there is some play. I had a hard time getting the cross bar installed again until I did that as slight movement caused them to be miss-aligned. To be fair the instructions call this out, but the instructions order of operations are different than what I had to do as the instructions assume a pre drilled top. Once I get that all done the next steps for adding the control box, wire management, controller, and flipping over the desk were pretty easy. To be honest the hardest parts of all of this assembly were related to my work area being very small and the DIY aspect of custom attachment to my top. So definitely when you do this assembly have plenty of physical space. I would say a minimum to easily do this project is double the width of your desk and three times the depth of your desk.
Review so far
So I have not placed the desk in it's final position, but had to actually get to my day job, but here are some initial thoughts.
Stability is amazing. Even at the 45" standing height that seems comfortable for me to work at there is very little movement. Typing very vigorously does not seem to move the desk or my monitor. I only have one of my two monitors hooked up so far, so we will see how things go once everything back together. I like the one touch programmable buttons. I have my standing and sitting position programmed and they work well. More to come later as I have to get back to work.
Monday 9/21/2020 I completed my first full day of work with the VetDesk V3. Overall it has been great. I don't have my complete setup moved to the desk yet, but have my laptop screen and one Monitor. For a bit of my time standing have been using my wife's Simply Fit Board where you swing you lower body side by side and holding on to the desk because frankly I have not been using it much and my balance is not great. I am leaning pretty heavily against the desk as I swing side by side and the desk is NOT moving. No movement on any of the monitors. This thing is really solid and stable at the 45" height I am comfortable standing at.
Monday 9/21/2020 I completed getting my setup all done...well other than a lot of cable management and getting a better stand for my laptop. See Photos of my two positions seated at 30.5" and Standing at 45". So due to me wanting to keep the old legs from my Dad's Desk I had to add 3" tall foot stands. The legs are 29" tall (30" with the top) so the min height of the standing desk of 26" (27" with top) was not going to work. There is a container stop position on the desk, but whenever you lose power to the desk for more than 10 seconds it goes into reset mode that requires you to lower the desk to the min height of 26" before it allows you to raise the desk. Overall adding the feet to the desk does not seem to reduce the overall stability at the standing height. I did a few tests with the Simply Fit board and the amount of shaking on the monitors is slightly more, but not at all at a point where it would bother me. Also with aggressive typing I don't notice any monitor movement at all.
Seated position at 30.5\" at the table top.
Standing position at 45\"
submitted by jptasznik to StandingDesk

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