Last Week in AI #161: AI improves algae for biofuel and carbon capture, more AI decision-making in the military, and more!
AI models help reduce cost of algae production, U.S. military using AI to triage medical treatment in the field.
AI-Directed Algae Blooms Boost Biofuel Prospects
Growing algae is a promising direction for both performing carbon capture and generating biofuels. Algae is attractive compared to trees because they grow faster and can be grown in water. However, scaling up algae production in cost-effective ways has been challenging, but recent applications of AI are helping to change that. Researchers at Texas A&M University developed two machine learning models, one that predicts how light is distributed in a 3D volume of algae, and another to predict how this distribution affects algae growth rate. Together, the models can help the researchers set the optimal algae concentration for growth. This technique allowed them to grow algae at 43g per square meter per day, almost 2X the 25g target growth rate set by the Department of Energy. Coupled with improved algae harvesting techniques the team also developed, they hope to bring down the cost of algae biofuel from $33 per gallon to as low as $5.
Our take: These potential cost reductions are definitely “big if true” numbers that will make algal biofuel competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline. Plus, these algae cultures can be grown by capturing essentially “free” CO2 emitted from industrial plants. Overall this looks to be a promising application of AI in energy production and tackling climate change.
The military wants AI to replace human decision-making in battle
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a new program, In the Moment, that will develop AI models to help make quick decisions regarding medical triage in the field. They’re interested in two types of scenarios - small combat unit injuries in battle and mass casualty events, such as when civilians are involved. The program is in its early stages, as DARPA is currently soliciting assistance from private corporations. DARPA hopes this algorithmic approach can leverage information that human experts don’t have ready access to, such as the inventory of the medical supplies available in nearby hospitals. There are concerns with such applications of AI in life-and-death scenarios, especially with AI bias and performance flaws. Still, DARPA remains hopeful and argues that the program will “treat patients better and save lives.”
Our take: I’m skeptical about this particular approach. Although algorithmic systems may have more access to information that people programmed them to know, they will likely be not as flexible and adaptable to more in-the-moment contexts, where it is hard to know prior what the important information is. Such adaptation to new “edge cases” is something human experts are much better than machines at doing, and something I’d imagine would be quite common in battlefield situations. Couple that with the known flaws and failures of recent applications of AI in medical diagnosis, it is hard to imagine such an AI system being robust enough that the military would be confident to deploy.
Artificial intelligence beats eight world champions at bridge - "An artificial intelligence has beaten eight world champions at bridge, a game in which human supremacy has resisted the march of the machines until now."
Following Reinforcement Learning Methods in Telecom Networks - "The ultimate goal is to create a zero-touch system that allows people to maintain control over and monitor automated operations with minimal interruption. As a result, engineers in the telecom industry want to deploy intelligent agents throughout the network, each of which may learn from data and collaborate with other agents."
IBM continues advancing disease progression modeling and biomarkers research using the latest in AI - "New research by IBM and JDRF published in Nature Communications advances AI’s ability to better predict onset of Type I diabetes."
IBM Researchers Showcase Their Non-Von Neumann AI Hardware Breakthrough in Neuromorphic Computing That Can Help Create Machines To Recognize Objects Just Like Humans - "Researchers from IBM’s Zurich lab have argued that these recognition techniques could be improved by enhancing AI hardware."
Google Maps blocked 100 million abusive edits in 2021 thanks to AI - "Using machine learning to ward off trolls"
Spotify Employs Natural Language Search/Semantic Search For Podcast Episodes - "This method matches a query with a textual document that is semantically connected rather than requiring exact word matches."
Auto-generated Summaries in Google Docs - "Google Docs now automatically generates suggestions to aid document writers in creating content summaries, when they are available"
Otter.ai adds AI-generated meeting summaries and new home feed - "Otter.ai made its name as a slick, AI-powered transcription service."
Google rolls out A.I. improvements to aid with Search safety and ‘personal crisis’ queries - "Google today announced it will be rolling out improvements to its A.I. model to make Google Search a safer experience and one that’s better at handling sensitive queries, including those around topics like suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse, and domestic violence."
Boston Dynamics’ Stretch now commercially available - "Stretch is a mobile robot that unloads floor-loaded trailers and containers. "
Nemesysco spinoff unveils emotional detection and AI tools for metaverse - "Nemesysco is in the process of spinning off a new voice analytics company called Emotion Logic, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and measure human emotions and improve automated communications and interactions in metaverse worlds."
A Wave Of Billion-Dollar Language AI Startups Is Coming - "Next-generation language AI is poised to make the leap from academic research to widespread real-world adoption, generating many billions of dollars of value and transforming entire industries in the years ahead."
Anch.AI launches free Ethical Governance Platform to encourage adoption of responsible AI practices - "Swedish startup anch.AI announced the availability of its Ethical Governance Platform today, bundling a number of useful tools for companies seeking responsible artificial intelligence governance. "
Waymo says fully driverless rides are coming to San Francisco - "Waymo plans to start offering rides in its fully autonomous vehicles — without human safety drivers behind the wheel — in San Francisco."
A ghost is driving the car' — my peaceful and productive experience in a Waymo self-driving van - "That's what my 5-year-old daughter said as I FaceTimed her recently from the backseat of a Waymo autonomous vehicle in the suburbs here. Motorists and pedestrians who passed by had a similar reaction. They pointed, stared and even gasped when they noticed there was no one in the driver's seat."
Selected AI startups from YC’s Winter ’22 batch - "Dozens of startups in Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 cohort do something that could be described as artificial intelligence. Though the term has lost much of its meaning, it’s still an important part of the tech landscape, and both using it and enabling it are fertile ground for new companies."
Meta's A.I. exodus: Top talent quits as the lab tries to keep pace with rivals - "Facebook parent Meta has lost some of its top artificial intelligence scientists this year as the company continues its pivot toward the metaverse. At least four prominent members of Meta AI have departed in recent months, according to people familiar with the matter and LinkedIn analysis."
Black Crow AI raises $25M to predict which products ecommerce customers will buy - "In the pandemic era, where digital storefronts have become a matter of course for retailers, data analytics is proving its worth."
That smiling LinkedIn profile face might be a computer-generated fake - "By using fake profiles, companies can cast a wide net online without beefing up their own sales staff or hitting LinkedIn's limits on messages."
The miseducation of A.I. : Systems trained using the internet can develop gender, race, and age bias, new study finds - "A new report from Stanford University’s Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) unit found that A.I. systems being trained using the internet are inheriting and adapting the worst of it, including articles shared on Reddit."
A.I. drones used in the Ukraine war raise fears of killer robots wreaking havoc across future battlefields - "Fighting in Ukraine hints at how technology may one day pull the trigger."
Chatbots could one day replace search engines. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea. - "Language models are mindless mimics that do not understand what they are saying—so why do we pretend they’re experts?"
Senate AI data bill gets House counterpart - "The Good AI Act would set up a working group to establish best practices to ensure that federal contractors protect and secure data collected with artificial intelligence like facial recognition."
Could Congress fix AI bias with privacy rules? - "Some in Congress think a privacy law could prevent artificial intelligence-enabled discrimination — but others worry strict rules could make the problem worse."
Artificial Intelligence: DOD Should Improve Strategies, Inventory Process, and Collaboration Guidance - "The 2018 Department of Defense (DOD) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy defines AI as the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. The strategy and associated plans include some, but not all, characteristics of a comprehensive strategy."
AI-Influenced Weapons Need Better Regulation - "With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the backdrop, the United Nations recently held a meeting to discuss the use of autonomous weapons systems, commonly referred to as killer robots."
Six Steps to Responsible AI in the Federal Government - "There is widespread agreement that responsible artificial intelligence requires principles such as fairness, transparency, privacy, human safety, and explainability."
China Has Pioneered a Law To Empower People Over Algorithms - "with very little effort, algorithms could be modified to protect our sensitive psychology instead of exploiting it. They could be trained to optimize well-being instead of engagement"
Europe’s AI Act contains powers to order AI models destroyed or retrained, says legal expert - "The European Union’s planned risk-based framework for regulating artificial intelligence includes powers for oversight bodies to order the withdrawal of a commercial AI system or require that an AI model be retrained if it’s deemed high risk"
AI-generated pranks for your computer to play on you - "I've tried various methods of using AI to generate April Fools pranks for you to play on other people (although often they turned out to be pranks you play on yourself). But this is the first time I've tried to generate pranks for a computer to play."
Ordering Pizza With A.I. Sounds Like Hell - "A popular pizza chain is launching an A.I. phone ordering system. Does this help anyone?"
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