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Last Week in AI #77

AI's struggles in 2020, robots rising in the pandemic, Chinese AI surveillance, and more!

Last Week in AI #77

Image credit: Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Mini Briefs

AI is struggling to adjust to 2020

2020 has been a hectic time, even for AI. Algorithms are struggling to keep up with the changing social and cultural norms that we’ve adopted during the pandemic. For workplace AI, computer vision models struggle to caption new scenes or situations that we find ourselves working or living in. Furthermore, with masks now commonplace, facial recognition systems are struggling to consistently and accurately identify individuals. These changes show us that we still have a long way to go before computers can still see and interpret the world accurately. This newfound responsibility lies on data scientists and researchers who build products with models that affect real world systems to ensure that models are accurate and robust.

Why Microsoft wants to Acquire TikTok

TikTok’s young and highly engaged userbase is not the only reason why Microsoft is interested in an acquisition. TikTok poses as a video data mine for Microsoft to keep up with its biggest AI rivals, who all have their own video services. Google owns Youtube, Amazon owns Twitch, and Facebook has its own video stores sourced from its millions of users. With TikTok, Microsoft can finally have a large source of consumer video data to train new AI models as well as understand consumer trends.

Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic — And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever

With many people displaced due to the pandemic, it appears that this has accelerated corporate adoption of automation technologies. With companies on survival mode to figure out how to operate without their usual workforce capacity, economists estimate that 42% of lost jobs are lost forever. To adapt to this rapid change, employee upskilling in traditional service industry jobs are of high importance. Certifications for IT support and various technology centered jobs are quickly becoming the next domain for people displaced by the pandemic to recover from job losses.

The Panopticon Is Already Here

President Xi’s ambitions to use AI’s analytics to push China to the forefront of surveillance technologies has ramifications for geopolitics in the region and serves as the beginnings for digital systems that could identify dissenters in real-time. In a country with a highly engaged online population with 1 billion mobile phones, each data point can be time-stamped and geo-tagged. For vulnerable groups like China’s Uighurs who have faced decades of discrimination and land confiscation, pervasive surveillance can lead to more suppressive measures that endanger their livelihoods and religion.


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