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Top 10 content on data & AI of April 2018

Every month I will publish a blogpost to summarise what I think are the 10 highlights in content on AI & data at large per month. I write this monthly overview with two objectives in mind. First to structure and process my own thoughts, and second to give back to the community. You can consume years worth of great content, just for free. There are some great initiatives that gather the best articles, and they have been very helpful to me. I hope this monthly blog is helpful to you as well.

1. Book: Hans Rosling — Factfullness

Yes, Hans Rosling is that enthusiastic guy explaining (debunking) the relationship between wealth and population growth. Unfortunately he died this year. However, he was writing this book “Factfullness” just before he died, and his son Ola Rosling and daughter in law Anna Rosling finished the last part. It’s by far the best book I read in 2018 so far, and one of the most impactful books I read in a long time. Backed up with data he explains how the world got a better place and continue to improve at an incredible rate, despite popular belief to contrary. His writing style is just as infectious as his video lectures.

2. Article: The economics of artificial intelligence, by McKinsey

This McKinsey report advocates that the value of human judgment will go up when AI will be more dominant. It’s an interesting read. And I think the majority of companies (and media outlets) are focussing too much on the direct impact of AI. But the ripple effects that AI will undoubtedly create will be huge opportunities to explore. This can be one of them.

3. Video: Adobe Summit

For a company that makes more than 7B revenue a year, Adobe has a remarkably low profile in the popular press. Somehow Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon eat up the attention span of the average media outlet. However, Adobe is a force to recon with in my opinion. Since they announced in 2013 to kill individual products and only focus on their platform their stock price quadrupled (and rose with 77% in the last year alone). It’s a lesson on how important platforms are for the success of company. I think the costs of producing content will go down dramatically in the upcoming 10 years with the rise of new tooling thanks to AI. Adobe is at the forefront of that. Unfortunately, you have to dig really deep to get even modest reports from the annual presentations from Adobe at their summit. The best thing you can do is to explore their YouTube channel and explore the Adobe Sensei page (their brand for their AI-system) and an Adobe blogpost about the Summit.

Also look at this post by Colene Chow for their offerings for developers.

4. Article: Machine Behavior Needs to Be an Academic Discipline Iyad Rahwan & Manuel Cebrian, Nautilus

We cannot certify that an AI agent is ethical by looking at its source code, any more than we can certify that humans are good by scanning their brains.” Behavioral studies are needed to steer AI tooling and agents. Making it an academic discipline is a good step in that direction.

5. Article: Apple hires Google AI Chief, Jake Nikas & Cade Metz — New York Times

If you thought Ronaldo and Messi are overpaid, these deals will blow your socks off. Talent gets so incredibly short that Apple will pay John Giannandrea an 8-figure salary over the course of multiple years. (Read this fascinating, or insane, article from the New York Times about it, end of last year.) What is equally fascinating is how close these AI chiefs are to the top. In Google’s case, for instance, new chief Jeff Dean sits in the same room as, and reports directly to CEO, Sundar Pichai.

6. Podcast: Stratechery on Microsoft and the end of Windows

Microsoft also recently reorganized to give AI a central place in its business instead of treating it as a side-project. Yes, big companies take AI very seriously. Satya Nadella sent an email to all his employees to announce that Cloud Services and AI will be the new focus areas of the company. Interestingly enough, Nadella goes even so far that the business unit they sacrifice is Windows, and will now be part of the other departments. The podcast mesmerized over the past, but also looked into this strategic decision in great detail.

7. Article: Canada’s risky bet on AI — The Globe and Mail.

When Prime minister Trudeau explained Quantum Mechanics to a joking reporter in 2016 it was mostly seen as a testament to how technical literate Trudeau is (especially compared to other world leaders). However, it seems that Canada is betting big on AI and are trying to make Toronto the AI Hub of the world. They already have Geoffrey Hinton as a good ambassador, and their labor/migration laws are relatively friendly compared to many other countries. This article questions how a country/region can reap the benefits from such investments. And what would classify as a win? A nice portfolio of patents? A couple of big companies? So far the deep pockets of American giants have been able to persuade talent to come their way.

(Also worth reading is Emmanuel Macron’s piece on AI in Wired , on how he thinks it can restore European sovereignty. I think he is a bit naive here, but it’s a thought-provoking article regardless. Plus it’s interesting to see that even heads-of-state are now positioning their countries on AI.)

8. Book: Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Daugherty & Wilson

A lot of literature on AI is very academic. But these authors take a stance on many issues businesses struggle with. And while I do think sometimes they oversimplify or make wrong assumptions, there are a lot worse places to start your hypotheses off. The authors clearly have a thorough understanding of the field, and come with tons of very concrete advice.

9. Podcast: TWIML: Hyper-Personalizing the Customer Experience w/ AI with Rob Walker

CRM systems will be a very logical first target to improve rapidly with AI. They have the data, they have the mindset already. Rob Walker explains in quite some detail how their product has been improved with AI, and which models they are using, but also what they are still struggling with. It will be interesting to see this field develop in the upcoming years. Salesforce powered up their AI solution Einstein with a partnership with IBM recently.

10. Article: Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet by Michael Jordan, Medium

This is the best article I read this month by far. And if you read only 1 of the 10 articles, I would recommend you this one.

“We need to realize that the current public dialog on AI — which focuses on a narrow subset of industry and a narrow subset of academia — risks blinding us to the challenges and opportunities that are presented by the full scope of AI, IA and II”

As Jordan points out, the current AI field (if there is one, to begin with) has been dominated by paradigma’s that have been created decades ago.(Wiener’s Cybernetics was published in 1948.) Therefore, he argues, we tend to focus on a narrow subset of possibilities currently. The subset that is most interesting to a group of researchers that has been very small until only a couple of years ago. The field is very underdeveloped, and this can lead to huge disasters if we don’t update the groundwork quickly. Jordan argues that changing the umbrella term AI is an important start, to begin with.

Bonus

Video: Interview Yann LeCun by Andrew Ng

Andrew Ng, professor at Stanford, made name for starting one of the first MOOC’s Coursera with one of the first courses on AI basics, where he was the teacher himself. Yann LeCun leads Facebook’s AI efforts as Chief AI Scientist. He is well known for his work on CNN’s and computer vision in particular. It’s a bit unfortunate that Andrew Ng almost comes across as a groupie during the interview, while he is extremely knowledgeable himself as well. I would have liked him to ask at least a couple of critical questions on ethics and specifically about working at Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It’s an interesting interview regardless, and explores a bit of the history of AI. Ng interviewed other top AI researchers too like Geoffrey Hinton an Ian Goodfellow.

Article: Europe divided over robot ‘personhood’ by Delcker, Politico

While I still think that Robot Sophia (and her brother Einstein) is mostly a marketing gimmick, it sparked an interesting debate; when (if ever) can we consider a robot a person? Recently Saudi Arabia granted Sophia citizenship as publicity-stunt. European politicians are very divided, and this promises to be an interesting debate to come.

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