Image credit: Grant Hindsley / The New York Times
The robots are here. Not to kill us, or to save us for that matter, but to help us… sort of.
With social distancing and remote working becoming the norm, robots have come in handy in various ways, including disinfecting hospitals, aiding doctors and nurses, and performing deliveries. But our current catastrophe has blown up the myth of an “AI takeover” in which human workers will be entirely replaced by such robots. Because machines are still far, far away from matching human intelligence and dexterity, robots are being used to augment humans, rather than replacing them. However, a number of roboticists, who argued their case in an editorial for Science Robotics, are optimistic that with the right amount of funding and development, advancements in medical robotics will allow robots to aid us with everything from social distancing to facilitating interaction during times of pandemic.
We’ve already seen that AI systems are capable of exhibiting different types of bias, resulting from factors such as the availability of data. Biased systems are known to disproportionately impact different groups when employed in contexts such as policing. In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers found that even speech recognition systems have trouble understanding certain groups of people. In particular, the study found that speech recognition systems from Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft “make far fewer errors with users who are white than with users who are black.”
If you’ve been following the news about Clearview AI recently, you’re aware that the company has scraped the internet to construct profiles of as many people as possible, using photos of them from various different sites. You might also know that by snapping a picture of you and performing a search, any of Clearview’s clients can access the pictures from that profile to find out more about you. Thomas Smith went ahead and made the effort to get a hold of Clearview’s profile on him, and he found that anyone who had his profile could discover where he went to school, what line of work he’s in, and the region where he lives.
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