There’s a lot of fear about this. If you read the media, Hollywood, surely our jobs are going to be done by machines. It’s always framed as an us versus them story. It’s us against the machines. Have a look at Google suggest, especially the last one, and people are worried.
Now, I think it’s actually a much more hopeful story than that. I don’t think our jobs get done by machine. But a lot of the tasks that we do every day will. So we need to understand what is going to get replaced, what’s not. What should we be focused on? What should we help our kids focus on, if you’re a parent?
So let’s start with a bit of a definition of what actually is AI. AI is just the science of making things smart or appear smart. But that covers a ton of stuff – that covers vision, robotics, and language. And people are just slapping AI on to the name of their company, and doubling their valuation. Because it’s a very, very broad definition. What we’re really interested in is this little corner of AI called machine learning. Machines that learn without explicitly being taught.
Machines are learning how to do stuff. So instead of us writing the code, the machines are writing their own code. And it’s improving really, really, really fast for a couple of reasons. We are feeding the machines, more data. Data is fuel for machine learning. And since we invented these little things called smartphones, we are giving the machines a ton of data. We are being used by the machine most of the time. And the computers have gotten much, much, much, much faster, which means they’re able to build these better algorithms.
The best illustration I can give you of this, is this. Take a machine, give it tens of thousands of pictures of people, and then say to the machine, give us what you think a human being looks like. 2014, it came up with this. It’s a bit blurry. I’ve made it a little bit bigger than it actually was. But yeah, eyes are at the top, mouth at the bottom. It’s not terrible. 2015, we’re up to color. So again, this person doesn’t exist. This is a machine saying this is what I think a human being looks like. And some of the examples are really wonky. And the nose is out here in the shoulders down here. This is like the best from 2015. If you see this guy hanging around the school, please call the authorities. 2016, not bad. And then a big leap, 2017, kinda looks like the guy that was in Thor. But it’s not, this isn’t a real human being. Do you want to see what they did in 2018? The imperfections in the skin, a little bit of blemish on the hair. She doesn’t exist.
If you want to look smart at the next dinner party, essentially, what machine learning is all about is prediction. Purists would kill me for this because there’s a lot more to it. But it’s essentially about predicting the next little bit, predicting who’s going to click, predicting what movie you’re going to watch, predicting which book you’re going to buy.
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