iFlytek, a Chinese AI firm established in 1999, has made headlines worldwide in the last few years for its work on speech technology. MIT announced a five-year collaboration with iFlytek in June 2018, and since then the Chinese firm has helped fund projects focused on areas including human computer interaction and applied voice recognition. But such arrangements have become tricky as US-China relations have become more tense. In an even more concerning turn, iFlytek was accused of supplying technology for surveilling Muslim Uighurs, a group that is known to be facing sever persecution by the Chinese government, in Xinjiang Province. In the wake of tightened guidelines regarding funding from Chinese companies, MIT ended the collaboration, although the institution did not specify its reasons.
Although the world is focused on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change is another major challenge that will bring significant damage if no drastic actions are taken. Immense progress in AI in the past decade shows promise in helping us confront the climate challenge. AI-powered tools may be help in areas from informing urban planning to minimize carbon footprint to designing products that can be more easily recycled. While it’s easy to be starry-eyed about what large tech companies can and are already starting to do at this intersection, concerns about AI bias present an important issue that will need to be tackled to develop responsible AI systems.
Advances & Business
How UV “Roomba” Robots Could Accelerate The Opening Of Mass Transit Systems - As the world turns to opening their economies after the great coronavirus shutdown, several strategies are being explored to prevent a “second wave” outbreak, beyond contact-tracking apps. One strategy involves using autonomous robots to disinfect public transit systems with UV light.
Watch Zoox’s autonomous car drive around San Francisco for an hour - Zoox today published a video showcasing its autonomous system driving for an hour in downtown San Francisco, and performing a range of complex maneuvers in heavy, multi-lane vehicle traffic and dense pedestrian crowds.
Israel is using AI to flag high-risk covid-19 patients - The AI was adapted from an existing system trained to identify people most at risk from the flu, using millions of records from Maccabi going back 27 years.
Concerns & Hype
A tale of two AI cities: The Seattle connection to Israel’s surveillance network - Seattle and Israel’s AI ecosystem have long had close ties, from Microsoft’s and Amazon’s acquisitions of Israeli startups to ongoing academic collaborations.
Coronavirus May Mean Automation Is Coming Sooner Than We Thought - The coronavirus epidemic is presenting us with ample opportunities for increased automation and remote delivery of goods and services.
The Tool Was Supposed To Predict Crime. Now Los Angeles Police Say They Are Dumping It - PredPol is one of the oldest, most controversial predictive policing companies. The LAPD just said it will stop using it because of the coronavirus.
Analysis & Policy
Fairness and AI - How European Union non-discrimination laws are interpreted and enforced vary by context and by state definitions of key terms, like “gender” or “religion.”
Specification gaming: the flip side of AI ingenuity - Specification gaming is a behaviour that satisfies the literal specification of an objective without achieving the intended outcome.