Launching Friday Science Bites and a preview: AI

A number of blogs I read do a special thing on Fridays:  they post a number links to the world wide web the author found amusing, relevant, or otherwise noteworthy.

I love this concept, and want to incorporate it into my blog, but with a twist.  My links will be to sites with cool science stories, headlines, or otherwise compelling content.  In addition to helping give this blog some direction, this is going to be excellent motivation for me to stay up on my science content that hopefully will feature in future stories.

Readers, get ready for Friday Science Bites!

As a sneak preview, today I want to share something I read over lunch that simply astounded me.  Over a delicious home-cooked (not by me!) beef stir fry, I picked up the June 25 issue of The Economist magazine and began perusing their Special Report on Artificial Intelligence.

For those not in the know, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past 5 years.  Part of this development is due to a new way of “teaching” machines, made possible by the ever-expanding datasets available on the internet and other accessible arenas.  One important, and concrete example: the ImageNet Challenge.

The ImageNet Challenge asks machines to identify images with previously selected identifiers — the examples given in the article are “balloons” and “strawberries”.  Contestants must sift through images, and label them appropriately.  In 2010, the best machine to do this had a 72% success rate, meaning than 27% of the time, the machine selected the wrong image or missed the image completely.  Big deal — on average, humans have a 95% success rate.  But in 2015, the winning contestant achieved a 96% success rate.  The punchline?  This contestant was not a human, but a machine.

For the first time in this challenge, the machine outwitted a human.  Between this and the recent defeat of a human by a machine in the board game Go, we are witnessing a dramatic leap in the capability of AI.

This is not a test.  This is happening.

What are your impressions of AI?  Does this news excite you? Terrify you? Both?

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