Author Karen Hao
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Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes

Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The industry is often compared to the oil industry: once mined and refined, data, like oil, can be a highly lucrative commodity. Now it seems the metaphor may extend even further. Like its fossil-fuel counterpart, the process of deep learning has an outsize environmental impact.In a , researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, performed a life cycle assessment for training several common large AI models. They found that the process can emit more than 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent—nearly five times the lifetime...

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Author Karen Hao
Jun 6
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A radical new technique lets AI learn with practically no data

A radical new technique lets AI learn with practically no data

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Machine learning typically requires tons of examples. To get an AI model to recognize a horse, you need to show it thousands of images of horses. This is what makes the technology computationally expensive—and very different from human learning. A child often needs to see just a few examples of an object, or even only one, before being able to recognize it for life. In fact, children sometimes don’t need any examples to identify something. Shown photos of a horse and a rhino, and told a unicorn is something in between, they can recognize the...

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Author Karen Hao
Oct 16
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Live facial recognition is tracking kids suspected of being criminals

Live facial recognition is tracking kids suspected of being criminals

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In a national database in Argentina, tens of thousands of entries detail the names, birthdays, and national IDs of people suspected of crimes. The database, known as the Consulta Nacional de Rebeldías y Capturas (National Register of Fugitives and Arrests), or CONARC, began in 2009 as a part of an effort to improve law enforcement for serious crimes. But there are several things off about CONARC. For one, it’s a plain-text spreadsheet file without password protection, which can be readily found via Google Search and downloaded by anyone. For...

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Author Karen Hao
Oct 9
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Inside the strange new world of being a deepfake actor

Inside the strange new world of being a deepfake actor

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In 2019, two multimedia artists, Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund, set about to pursue a provocative idea. Deepfake video and audio had been advancing in parallel but had yet to be integrated into a complete experience. Could they do it in a way that demonstrated the technology’s full potential while educating people about how it could be abused? To bring the experiment to life, they chose an equally provocative subject: they would create an . Before the launch, US president Richard Nixon’s speechwriters had prepared two versions of his...

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Author Karen Hao
Oct 9
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Deepfake Putin is here to warn Americans about their self-inflicted doom

Deepfake Putin is here to warn Americans about their self-inflicted doom

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The news: Two political ads will broadcast on social media today, featuring deepfake versions of Russian president Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Both deepfake leaders will be giving the same message: that America doesn’t need any election interference from them; it will ruin its democracy by itself. What are they for? Yes, the ads sound creepy, but they’re meant for a good cause. They’re part of a campaign from the nonpartisan advocacy group RepresentUs to protect voting rights during the upcoming US presidential...

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Author Karen Hao
Sep 29
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Why kids need special protection from AI’s influence

Why kids need special protection from AI’s influence

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Algorithms can change the course of children’s lives. Kids are interacting with Alexas that can record their voice data and influence their speech and social development. They’re binging videos on TikTok and YouTube pushed to them by recommendation systems that end up shaping their worldviews. Algorithms are also increasingly used to determine what their education is like, whether they’ll receive health care, and even whether . Sometimes this can have devastating effects: this past summer, for example, thousands of students after —used in lieu...

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Author Karen Hao
Sep 17
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A college kid created a fake, AI-generated blog. It reached #1 on Hacker News.

A college kid created a fake, AI-generated blog. It reached #1 on Hacker News.

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.At the start of the week, Liam Porr had only heard of GPT-3. By the end, the college student had used the to produce under a fake name. It was meant as a fun experiment. But then one of his posts found its way to the number-one spot on Hacker News. Few people noticed that his blog was completely AI-generated. Some even hit “Subscribe.” While many have speculated about how GPT-3, the most powerful language-generating AI tool to date, could affect content production, this is one of the only known cases to illustrate the potential. What stood out...

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Author Karen Hao
Aug 14
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AI is learning when it should and shouldn’t defer to a human

AI is learning when it should and shouldn’t defer to a human

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The context: Studies show that when people and AI systems work together, they can outperform either one acting alone. Medical diagnostic systems are often checked over by human doctors, and content moderation systems filter what they can before requiring human assistance. But algorithms are rarely designed to optimize for this AI-to-human handover. If they were, the AI system would only defer to its human counterpart if the person could actually make a better decision. The research: Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory...

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Author Karen Hao
Aug 5
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The problems AI has today go back centuries

The problems AI has today go back centuries

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In March of 2015, protests broke out at the University of Cape Town in South Africa over the campus statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes, a mining magnate who had gifted the land on which the university was built, had committed genocide against Africans and laid the foundations for apartheid. Under the rallying banner of “Rhodes Must Fall,” students demanded that the statue be removed. Their protests sparked a global movement to eradicate the colonial legacies that endure in education. The events also provoked Shakir Mohamed, a...

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Author Karen Hao
Jul 31
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OpenAI’s fiction-spewing AI is learning to generate images

OpenAI’s fiction-spewing AI is learning to generate images

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In February of last year, the San Francisco–based research lab OpenAI that its could now write convincing passages of English. Feed the beginning of a sentence or paragraph into GPT-2, as it was called, and it could continue the thought for as long as an essay with almost human-like coherence. Now, the lab is exploring what would happen if the same algorithm were instead fed part of an image. , which were given an honorable mention for best paper at this week’s International Conference on Machine Learning, open up a new avenue for image...

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Author Karen Hao
Jul 16
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Human rights activists want to use AI to help prove war crimes in court

Human rights activists want to use AI to help prove war crimes in court

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In 2015, alarmed by an escalating civil war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia led an air campaign against the country to defeat what it deemed a threatening rise of Shia power. The intervention, launched with eight other largely Sunni Arab states, was meant to last only a few weeks, Saudi officials had said. Nearly five years later, it still hasn’t stopped. By some estimates, the coalition has since carried out over 20,000 air strikes, many of which have killed Yemeni civilians and destroyed their property, allegedly in direct violation of international...

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Author Karen Hao
Jun 25
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A US government study confirms most face recognition systems are racist

A US government study confirms most face recognition systems are racist

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Almost 200 face recognition algorithms—a majority in the industry—had worse performance on nonwhite faces, according to a .What they tested: The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tested every algorithm on two of the most common tasks for face recognition. The first, known as “one-to-one” matching, involves matching a photo of someone to another photo of the same person in a database. This is used to unlock smartphones or check passports, for example. The second, known as “one-to-many” searching, involves determining...

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Author Karen Hao
Dec 20
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The two-year fight to stop Amazon from selling face recognition to the police

The two-year fight to stop Amazon from selling face recognition to the police

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.In the summer of 2018, nearly 70 civil rights and research organizations to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon stop providing face recognition technology to governments. As part of an increased focus on the role that tech companies were playing in , it called on Amazon to “stand up for civil rights and civil liberties.” “As advertised,” it said, “Rekognition is a powerful surveillance system readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.” Along with the letter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington...

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Author Karen Hao
Jun 12
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First the trade war, then the pandemic. Now Chinese manufacturers are turning inward.

First the trade war, then the pandemic. Now Chinese manufacturers are turning inward.

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Ask Zhu Kaiyu about his factory, and he can rattle off a series of statistics meant to impress: 15,000 square meters, 800 employees, 300 machines, 5 million articles of clothing sold per year. Zhu opened his factory for knitted apparel in Dongguan, in China’s Guangdong province, in 2002. He’s proud to be the trusted manufacturing partner for foreign companies like Full Beauty Brands, the owner of several American brands for plus-size men’s and women’s apparel. In a normal year, he says, 30% of his revenue comes from overseas. But in 2018,...

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Author Karen Hao
Jun 3
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Facebook claims its new chatbot beats Google’s as the best in the world

Facebook claims its new chatbot beats Google’s as the best in the world

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.For all the progress that chatbots and virtual assistants have made, they’re still terrible conversationalists. Most are highly task-oriented: you make a demand and they comply. Some are highly frustrating: they never seem to get what you’re looking for. Others are awfully boring: they lack the charm of a human companion. It’s fine when you’re only looking to set a timer. But as these bots become increasingly popular as interfaces for everything from retail to health care to financial services, the inadequacies only grow more apparent. Now...

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Author Karen Hao
Apr 29
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A hybrid AI model lets it reason about the world’s physics like a child

A hybrid AI model lets it reason about the world’s physics like a child

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.A new data set reveals just how bad AI is at reasoning—and suggests that a new hybrid approach might be the best way forward.Questions, questions: Known as CLEVRER, consists of 20,000 short synthetic video clips and more than 300,000 question and answer pairings that reason about the events in the videos. Each video shows a simple world of toy objects that collide with one another following simulated physics. In one, a red rubber ball hits a blue rubber cylinder, which continues on to hit a metal cylinder.The questions fall into four...

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Author Karen Hao
Mar 6
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AI can’t predict how a child’s life will turn out even with a ton of data

AI can’t predict how a child’s life will turn out even with a ton of data

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Policymakers often draw on the work of social scientists to predict how specific policies might affect social outcomes such as the employment or crime rates. The idea is that if they can understand how different factors might change the trajectory of someone’s life, they can propose interventions to promote the best outcomes. In recent years, though, they have increasingly relied upon machine learning, which promises to produce far more precise predictions by crunching far greater amounts of data. Such models are now used to predict the...

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Author Karen Hao
Apr 2
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