Global AI Bootcamp, Brisbane 2018
Yesterday, I attended the Global AI Bootcamp Brisbane (at the Precinct, Valley) along with nearly 100 other technology enthusiasts. The event was well organized by David Alzamendi of Wardy IT Solutions and Thiago Passos of SSW Consulting. I rocked up to the event hoping to get an update on the rapidly evolving Data Platform offerings from Microsoft. While the event did meet most of my expectations, it planted one particular seed of thought in my head. As I walked away at end of the day, I was enthralled about the rigorous, almost paranoic, awareness and research of the social responsibility that AI developers and solution providers should exert.
Role of Ethics in AI
The event started with playback of the recorded keynote address by distinguished researchers of Microsoft AI. It was probably the small shot of long black coffee I had just had, I sat there wide-eyed and amazed by the wise words of Hanna Wallach, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, NYC. Hanna’s research covers a broad range of topics; she was clearly passionate about the impact of AI on society – FATE (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics in AI). I had never thought about ethics in AI the same way, but it made perfect sense.
The one reaction that the average Joe has to AI is the notion that it is almost magical, but always reliable and authentic. That’s a dangerous prejudice! AI, much like any other branch of science, can be used for good or bad. The elevated status that AI enjoys amongst the masses, thanks to Hollywood movies, and research companies pitching AI as the field of science that would shape 21st century, leads to the belief that AI = TRUTH! Those in the know, are aware that inherent biases in training data sets lead to biases in scoring. My heart skips a beat just to think how a technologically illiterate person may be led to believe utter lies, much like the predictions of this highly controversial Israeli company – Faception. They claim to be able to apply facial personality analytics technology to predict a person’s IQ, their personality – whether they are an academic researcher or a terrorist, for instance, just by looking at their face.
Utilizing advanced machine learning techniques we developed and continue to evolve an array of classifiers. These classifiers represent a certain persona, with a unique personality type, a collection of personality traits or behaviors. Our algorithms can score an individual according to their fit to these classifiers (sic).
When Vanessa Love, Assistant Director of Integration and DevOps at Australian Bureau of Statistics, talked about Faception during her session – I ain’t afraid of no terminator – at the Bootcamp, my initial impression was that the company was called out on its claims and was obviously identified as a scam. I could resonate with her frustration and anger as she went on to explain how Faception was working with governments, and clients in Fintech and Retail. There are numerous such shocking applications of AI. For instance, Stanford researchers built an AI solution that could predict a person’s sexuality from facial analysis. The only aspect that is more appalling than the intent of their research is the fact that the average Joe doesn’t read the T&Cs – in this case, their model was correct only 81% and 71% of the times in predictions for males and females respectively. So, what about the 48 wrong predictions for every 152 correct predictions? Vanessa also mentioned Amazon’s AI enabled recruiting tool that was stood down due to racial and sexist biases. In this case, AI helped to reveal the truth about inherent historical bias in recruitment practices at one of the biggest technology companies. So, sometimes AI = TRUTH. Tricky? Food for thought!
Will AI enslave human beings?
The age-old question! This is a recurring question I am asked when I discuss AI with less technologically-literate acquaintances. I usually go on to explain how Machine Learning works, and the differences between Supervised and Unsupervised learning. The key point I try to drive home is that AI is not a person or a thing, and more importantly, like all software solutions, it is error prone and not to be taken for granted. When we do take technology for granted, self-driving cars kill people and auto-pilot programs crash planes. Technology is meant to aid and assist, not render humanity obsolete!
Developing AI, responsibly
Luckily, researchers like Hanna Wallach and Yoshua Bengio are actively working on building a code of conduct for AI research and application. A result of that vigil is the Montreal Declaration for Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence, inked earlier this month. At the time, I read about it and quickly slid that thought to the slow sectors of my brain. I signed the declaration a little while ago. As a technologist, I not only have the responsibility to develop AI responsibly, but also educate others about the pros and cons of AI solutions.
Other interesting learnings from the Bootcamp
Jernej Kavka, Software Architect at SSW Consulting, presented his experiments with Real-Time Face Recognition using Microsoft Cognitive Services. He explained how his team successfully reduced costs by 99% by applying caching and pre-processing. I found his session remarkable.
Joseph Zhou, Data Scientist and Solution Development Consultant at Avanade – talked about drag-and-drop AI using Azure Machine Learning Services. I found his session crisp and relevant. Later, Yousry Mohamed, Consultant at Readify, explained how to apply DevOps practices in Azure Machine Learning and automating model-selection using “a bit of simple code”. As always, Yousry’s presentation was animated and wonderful.
A day well spent!
Overall, it was a day well spent. Thanks to all sponsors and volunteers for making the event happen! I could tell everyone was excited to be there, and we all went home with various thoughts in our little heads, a little wiser than we were at start of the day. The thought in my head was – what about the Tesla driver who relied on the self-driving capability, what about the black Facebook employee who the soap dispenser denied, what happens when AI goes wrong?