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Robots Won't Try To Kill Us, Says Stanford's 100-Year Study Of AI
Source: Steven Melendez




For many people, talking about artificial intelligence and its implications for the future of humanity inspires the conversational equivalent of that internet argument about the dress being blue or gold. Some people will see abundant possibility; others, the period at the end of humanity’s story, as they conflate AI with killer robots and super-intelligent machines that will come to regard us as pets—or worse.

A Stanford University-hosted project is under way to look past all that—past the pop-culture takes on AI, the warnings from tech thinkers, and the breathless hype about assistive AI tools in our phones and other devices. The project was set up to take the long view of AI—a very, very long view.

Its formal name: One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence. The study is an ongoing endowed project, and its goal is for a standing committee of scientists to regularly commission reports that take expansive looks at how AI will touch different aspects of daily life.

The first of those reports, the 28,000-word "Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030," has just been released. It’s the result of a yearlong dive into the likely effects that AI advancements will have on a typical North American city a little more than a decade from now.
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"The portrayal of artificial intelligence in the movies and in literature is fictional," says Peter Stone, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin who was the lead author on the 2030 report. "It’s a misconception of people . . . that AI is one thing. We also found that the general public is either very positively disposed to AI and excited about it, sometimes in a way that’s unrealistic, or scared of it and saying it’s going to destroy us, but also in a way that’s unrealistic."
"The study presents AI as something a bit like the modern smartphone. It’s not that it’s literally taken over your life, but most people at the same time can’t imagine functioning without one."

As part of their analysis, Stone and his coauthors drill down into several aspects of future urban life where they say AI is either already upending the status quo or has the potential to do so. And while they avoid being prescriptive, preferring instead to provide a kind of jumping-off point for scientists, the public, lawmakers, and industry, AI in the kind of future they describe is pervasive, wielding significant influence.

In sectors that range from transportation to health care, education, and the workplace, the study presents AI as something a bit like the modern smartphone. It’s not that it’s literally taken over your life, but most people at the same time can’t imagine functioning without one.

Says the report on transportation: "Transportation is likely to be one of the first domains in which the general public will be asked to trust the reliability and safety of an AI system for a critical task. Autonomous transportation will soon be commonplace and, as most people’s first experience with physically embodied AI systems, will strongly influence the public’s perception of AI."

In health care, the study argues that the current health care delivery system "remains structurally ill-suited" for rapidly deploying high-tech advances and AI capabilities. Looking ahead another 15 years, though, it foresees a time when sufficiently advanced AI systems "coupled with sufficient data and well-targeted systems" take away some computational types of tasks from physicians.

AI will also make it faster to extract insights from population-level data and make more personalized diagnoses and treatments possible. "Looking ahead, many tasks that appear in health care will be amenable to augmentation but will not be fully automated. For example, robots may be able to deliver goods to the right room in a hospital, but then require a person to pick them up and place them in their final location."

Policing and public safety is another area where the study finds that potential abounds, though it’s fraught with complexity. Among the pros: AI could help policing become more targeted. As AI in fields like image quality and facial recognition improves, cameras will better help with crime prevention and prosecution "through greater accuracy of event classification" and in the processing of video to ferret out anomalies. AI can also help law enforcement with social network analysis.

"Law enforcement agencies are increasingly interested in trying to detect plans for disruptive events from social media, and also to monitor activity at large gatherings of people to analyze security," the study argues. "There is significant work on crowd simulations to determine how crowds can be controlled. At the same time, legitimate concerns have been raised about the potential for law enforcement agencies to overreach and use such tools to violate people’s privacy."

And when it comes to employment and the workplace, the study sees AI as replacing tasks rather than jobs, while also helping to create new kinds of jobs.

The authors conclude by saying they’ve found no cause for concern that AI poses an imminent threat to humanity. No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, they write, nor are they likely to be in the near future.

The 2030 report comes at a time when other institutions and corporations are dedicating financial resources and the attention of top researchers and scientists to similar studies into AI’s influence on our future.

The University of Cambridge, for example, has opened a new research center to study artificial intelligence. A few weeks after the release of the Stanford report, five tech companies—Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook—collectively announced their launch of a nonprofit called The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society.
"No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, nor are they likely to be in the near future."

A report the White House published in October on AI, "Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence," argues that there’s a clear role for the government to play, a conclusion the Stanford team also makes in the 2030 report.

"One of our recommendations is to ensure that there are people at all levels of government that have expertise in artificial intelligence," Stone says. "So that if and when there are policy decisions that either give a green light to some technology in a particular sector or limit it in some way, that it’s people who have a realistic view of what’s possible and not possible who are helping make those decisions.

"By either educating people in the policy decisions or trying to get people with AI expertise newly into those positions, we think that’ll maximize the chances of the correct decisions being made from a legal and policy perspective."

When the One Hundred Year Study leadership convenes a study panel again in a few years, it will have several items on the agenda. One task will involve an assessment of the state of AI at that point and its progression since the first report. The studies will be continuously knitted together to form a continuum of understanding—a body of thought and research about the field that tries to also take the popular consciousness somewhere that movies and dark visions of the future don’t.

On that last point, "no" is the answer Stone gives to the question of whether we should be scared of robots getting smart enough to destroy us or of some other nefarious byproduct associated with AI.

"Just because we have a car that can drive itself, that doesn’t mean we’ll also have a robot that can fold your laundry or do something else useful for you," Stone says. "Those tasks each require sustained research effort, and . . . it’s not that we’re better at solving one, so we automatically become better at solving others. That’s the leap people mistakenly make, and it’s why they become scared when there’s a breakthrough in one area. They say, 'Oh, well. All of a sudden robots will now be able to do a lot of things we don’t want them to do and they’ll be able to do them spontaneously.'

"Any technology has upsides and potential downsides and can be used by people in evil ways," he continues. "On balance, I’m highly optimistic that artificial intelligence technologies are going to improve the world."
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5 minute read

Most Innovative Companies
Maybe Microsoft Isn't Ignoring Musicians After All

While visual artists are the target for Microsoft's new Surface hardware and Windows "Creators Update," musicians are still in the picture.
Maybe Microsoft Isn't Ignoring Musicians After All

[Photo: Flickr user Daniel Oines]
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Jared Newman 11.20.16 5:00 AM

As a lifelong musician, at first I felt slighted by Microsoft's newfound emphasis on creativity.

The upcoming Surface Studio desktop is a clear nod to visual artists, with a massive touch screen for sketching, painting, and graphic design, while the knoblike Surface Dial peripheral seems perfect for tool selection in Photoshop. Both devices will be buttressed by the Windows 10 Creators Update, which includes new programs for 3D modeling and drawing. Those announcements seemed to leave musicians out of the picture, so I asked makers of music software and digital audio devices whether Microsoft had been neglecting them.

It turns out the answer is no. Instead of feeling abandoned, musicians are intrigued by the new hardware and encouraged by recent under-the-radar improvements for musicians in Windows 10. As a result, Windows could soon do for musicians what it appears to be doing for artists, even if Microsoft hasn't done much to publicize it.
Captive Audience

With digital music, one of the biggest concerns is making sure the software communicates properly with keyboards, mixers, and other gear. This requires having the right drivers, which Microsoft traditionally hasn't done a great job of providing.

But Ernst Nathorst-Böös, CEO of Propellerhead (maker of the popular recording software Reason), says Microsoft is now addressing these issues in Windows 10. In September, the company started testing native support for low-latency USB audio so musicians won't have to rely on a litany of third-party drivers for their gear.

"You can rest assured that whatever you buy in terms of software and hardware will always work, and you will get the performance you need," Nathorst-Böös says.

Microsoft has also been boosting its support for MIDI, a decades-old protocol that's commonly used to control synthesizers, synchronize instruments, and trigger effects. This summer's Windows 10 Anniversary update, for instance, added support for Bluetooth LE MIDI, a protocol for wireless music devices.

For IK Multimedia, that's a big deal, as it will allow devices like the Blueboard—a foot-pedal controller for guitar effects—to work with Windows. (Blueboard currently works with Mac and iOS devices only, and IK Multimedia is working on Windows support now.)

Between Bluetooth LE MIDI and USB audio, the company can very quickly make its existing hardware available to more customers. "A huge part of the market will be opened for us," says Alessandro Fiorletta, IK Multimedia's software development manager.

But Fiorletta isn't completely satisfied. He notes that earlier versions of Windows still make up a sizable chunk of the IK Multimedia's audience, and Microsoft probably won't bring its music improvements to those versions. But he acknowledges that at least the company has been listening to musicians' concerns lately.

"We've had a lot of discussion with Microsoft about these issues in the past. Now it seems they are finally addressing some of these issues, which is very important," Fiorletta says.
Features in Windows 10 suggest Microsoft is paying more attention to musicians.
Stoked For Surface

Digital music companies don't feel they're being snubbed by Microsoft on the hardware side, either. Although artwork is the obvious use case for Microsoft's Surface Studio and Surface Dial, they could prove useful for music creation as well.

"[Microsoft is] kind of identifying that touch screens are great, but you just need more tactile control," Ryan Wardell, Avid's director of audio workstations and surfaces, says of the knoblike Dial peripheral. Although Avid hasn't decided whether to support the Dial in its Pro Tools music production software, Wardell imagines it could be useful for controlling different mixing parameters and selecting tools.

Propellerhead's Nathorst-Böös is also excited for the Surface Studio's jumbo touch screen, and how it might interact with the Dial, though he balks at the $3,000 starting price tag.

Propellerhead's Reason

"If you can bring that kind of technology and power downmarket and make it available to musicians, I think you could build amazing stuff for that, both for making music and for DJing," he says.

That's not to say Microsoft needs its own hardware to capture music creators. Despite the conventional wisdom around the creative appeal of Mac computers, music makers don't have the same loyalty to Apple's platform that visual artists do. All three companies that I spoke to say their desktop users are split about evenly between Windows and Mac OS X.

Ryan Wardell, Avid's director of audio workstations and surfaces, offers an explanation: Digital musicians tend to build their own computers. Doing so is a natural progression from the musical instruments, recording gear, and mixing tools they've already cobbled together.
Avid ProTools

"A lot of musicians have a unique do-it-yourself mentality, so some people see their ability to extend that to building homegrown computers," Wardell says.

That's precisely what happened with Propellerhead's Nathorst-Böös. After 30 years as a Mac user, he recently built his own desktop PC for his home studio and dedicated it to music creation.

"I think Windows 10 feels great and looks great, and I could buy a really compact small stationary computer for my studio in my home," Nathorst-Böös says. "It's less expensive than a Mac, and it's fast."
Amplifying The Message

Given that music software and hardware companies are satisfied with Windows, perhaps Microsoft's problem is perception. This may be partly Apple's doing, as it's been casting Windows PCs as uninspiring spreadsheet machines for over a decade.

But Microsoft hasn't helped. While Apple has packed the Mac with creative programs like iMovie and GarageBand, Windows hasn't been nearly as ambitious with its own creative software, offering only light photo editing tools and a bare-bones voice recorder in Windows 10.

As for third-party apps, Microsoft occasionally trots out Staffpad in its marketing materials as an example of how Windows can be useful for musicians. But notation is just one facet of music creation, and it's of little use to electronic musicians, producers, and—as the old joke goes—guitarists like me.

Change may be coming on this front as well. In a teaser video for the Windows 10 Creators update coming early next year, Microsoft briefly showed a program called Groove Music Maker, which looked similar to Apple's GarageBand. Just as Microsoft's Surface devices help establish the high end of Windows PCs, a program like Groove Music Maker could help send a message about music creation on Windows 10.

"I welcome that, even though it would be competition for us," Propellerhead's Ernst Nathorst-Böös says, "because it helps people understand the idea that their computer can be a musical instrument and a music-making device."

IK Multimedia's Fiorletta agrees. After more than a decade in the digital music business, he's still surprised that guitar players never think to liberate their instruments from the amplifier for recording or effects.

"They're not aware," he says, "that the computers they have can be useful for playing music."
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3 minute read

Hit The Ground Running
Three Mistakes You'll Regret When You're Trying To Leave A Crappy Job

The stress of trying to break free from a bad job can be tough to deal with, but these common behaviors make things worse.
Three Mistakes You'll Regret When You're Trying To Leave A Crappy Job

[Photo: Jamie Choy/iStock]
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Richard Moy, The Muse 11.17.16 5:00 AM

There are plenty of things you could do to cope when you hate your job. You could vent. You could try to find a solution. Or, you could throw yourself into a job search because you can’t stomach the idea of going back for one more day. All three of those moves are reasonable.

But what you can’t do is make the following three mistakes because they’ll only hurt your reputation and career. And that’s not good for you at all.

Mistake No. 1: You Stop Caring

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. I’m not telling you to find a way to be passionate about a gig that you just can’t stand. But you can’t flaunt your feelings in a way that’s disrespectful to everyone around you. For example, just because you’re not pumped to start your day doesn’t make it okay to casually stroll into work 30 minutes late with your headphones blasting while everyone else is trying to work.

Nor is it acceptable to completely mail it in because you couldn’t care less if a project or task even gets done. This behavior doesn’t just affect your coworkers, but eventually you, too.
"The people sitting in that room are your future references, and you want to leave this job on the most positive note possible."

Remember: The people sitting in that room are your future references, and you want to leave this job on the most positive note possible. Not to mention, it’s probably not their fault that you’re no longer fulfilled, so taking it out on them makes you a crappy coworker (and if it is their fault, consider this great practice in dealing with challenging people).
Mistake No. 2: You Procrastinate On Your Job Search

There’s probably at least a little part of you who thinks that no matter how bad your job is, you’re just way too tired to go home after a long day of work and start looking for something new. And I get it. Doing something you don’t enjoy is exhausting. The problem is that nobody’s going to do this for you, so you’re going to be stuck at your job indefinitely if you constantly avoid it.

Want to make the whole thing easier to swallow? Block out time for searching on your calendar for an hour here and there throughout the week. You’ll quickly notice that having a regularly scheduled block (or blocks) of time set aside will not only make you hate job searching less, but you’ll maybe look forward to cranking out a few applications in the time you’ve set aside for yourself. Just one more thing you can check off your to-do list.

Mistake No. 3: You Keep Your Frustration To Yourself

I know you might be thinking, "I’m being a good trouper. Why should anyone know how much I can’t stand this place?" Your resilience is admirable, but the truth is that at some point, you’ll bottle up a lot of frustration to the point where you take it out on someone (or something) in an incredibly unproductive way.
"Your resilience is admirable, but the truth is that at some point, you’ll bottle up a lot of frustration."

Not only that, but there’s really nothing to gain from trying to figure it all out yourself. While you might think that your closest friends and family appreciate the fact that you’re not "bothering" them about what’s happening at work, the truth is that they probably have a feeling that things aren’t awesome right now anyway. So go ahead and trust them with what you’re thinking. And don’t worry—if they run out of things to say to make you feel better or get sick of hearing you complain, they’ll let you know.

As a band I still love once sang: Work sucks, I know. I want nothing more than for you to find something that you love to do for money, and I completely understand your predicament. It might be hard to drag yourself to the office to do that thing you hate to do, but you that doesn’t give you free rein to start behaving unprofessionally on the job. You’re better than that and you owe it to future you to step it up a notch.



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