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Last Week in AI #22

Robots in Hospitals, AI for Science, and more!

Last Week in AI #22

Image credit: Katherine Schwab/Fast Company

Mini Briefs

As summarized in our AI job automation editorial, the number of healthcare jobs like nursing will grow the fastest in advanced economies. There are not enough nurses however, and startups like Diligent Robotics are hoping to fill this job shortage by making indoor delivery robots, like Moxi.

It’s important to note that Moxi will not replace nurses or interact with patients directly. Its use cases are currently limited to delivering supplies such as medicine and water in preprogrammed routes and schedules. Still, robots like Moxi can reduce the amount of manual, repetitive tasks nurses do, and in the process allowing nurses to “do work they care most about.”

AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed

Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory applied word2vec, a common technique in Natural Language Processing to learn the relative associatiations of words from large bodies of text, to a corpus of material science papers. The learned word2vec model was able to propose new material names from parsing historical papers before they were discovered by researchers, prompting many news articles to report “AI has learned to make scientific discoveries.”

Word2vec is a relatively simple technique, and in essence it computes how similar two words are by how similar their surrounding words tend to be. Just because the model knows that similar elements are referred to in similar fashions however, doesn’t mean it can “understand concepts such as the periodic table and the chemical structure of molecules.” The reporting around this Nature paper has grossly overestimated the capabilities of this language model, which cannot make scientific discoveries as doing so requires more than proposing candidate materials to study.

Advances & Business

Concerns & Hype

  • The Racist History Behind Facial Recognition - Researchers recently learned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement used facial recognition on millions of driver’s license photographs without the license-holders’ knowledge, the latest revelation about governments employing the technology in ways that threaten civil liberties.

  • Amazon to Retrain a Third of Its U.S. Workers as Automation Advances - Amazon has increasingly turned to robots and automation technology to fetch products from the shelves of its warehouses to ship to customers. Now the company says it needs to help its workers adapt to the rapid change.

  • Are Commercial Labs Stealing Academia’s AI Thunder? - Commercial research labs run by Google Research, DeepMind, and OpenAI are taking central stage in the artificial intelligence era. The eye-popping achievements of these massively-funded AI labs are constantly producing headlines in tech journals and even mainstream media.

  • Shopping Centers Exploring Facial Recognition in Brave New World of Retail - As their struggle with store closings persists, some U.S. mall owners and retailers are stepping up their use of technology that recognizes people’s faces but stops short of identifying and recording them.

  • Predictive policing AI is a bigger scam than psychic detectives - Law enforcement agencies around the world have recently begun extricating themselves from expensive, ineffective predictive policing systems. The machine learning equivalent of psychic detectives, it turns out, simply doesn’t work.

  • 70% of US employees no longer fear AI - Despite previous concerns of AI stealing jobs, US workers hold positive outlooks on the new tech, according to a Genesys report. The report surveyed more than 1,000 US workers to determine current sentiments around integrating AI in companies.

  • Americans Surveyed See Artificial Intelligence as Jobs Killer - While more Americans see businesses moving jobs abroad as a greater economic threat than artificial intelligence, the majority of workers expect that AI will also be a jobs killer. As companies ramp up hiring to develop AI, workers agree they need retraining for today’s in-demand skills.

  • FBI, ICE find state driver’s license photos are a gold mine for facial-recognition searches - Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have turned state driver’s license databases into a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent, newly released documents show.

  • As Cameras Track Detroit’s Residents, a Debate Ensues Over Racial Bias - Twenty-four hours a day, video from thousands of cameras stationed around Detroit, at gas stations, restaurants, mini-marts, apartment buildings, churches and schools, streams into the Police Department’s downtown headquarters.

Expert Opinions & Discussion within the field

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