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Hype time concept
Hype time concept

The Top Ten AI Hype Stories of 2018, Updated

You can segue to each in the podcast and read the accompanying Mind Matters News story, as well as key updates

Late last year, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks surveyed the top ten AI myths of 2018 and here they are in a handy listening format in which you can segue to your favorite myth. We’ve interspersed the Mind Matters News story that goes along with each one, for your reading pleasure—and 2019 updates as well. Yes, it got better. Relax and enjoy the AI apocalypse that was! Or wasn’t?

Show Notes

00:30 | Sensationalism in search of clicks

01:30 | #10 Headlines Claim AI Is Becoming Human-Like

2018 AI Hype Countdown: 10. Is AI really becoming “human-like”?: AI help, not hype: Here’s #10 of our Top Ten AI hypes, flops, and spins of 2018 A headline from the UK Telegraph reads “DeepMind’s AlphaZero now showing human-like intuition in historical ‘turning point’ for AI” Don’t worry if
you missed it.

Update: DeepMind is in financial trouble and its deepest mind is on leave. The DeepMind system is deployed to optimize energy use at the vast cooling systems for Google’s data storage “clouds.” (Cf Cloud computing)

03:45 | #9 Seductive Semantics Sells AI. Will AI ever be Self-Aware?

2018 AI Hype Countdown 9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”? The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept a metaphorical claim as a literal fact.

05:00 | #8 The “Bigger Truck” Solution to AI Effectiveness

2018 AI Hype Countdown 8: AI Just Needs a Bigger Truck! AI help, not hype: Can we create superintelligent computers just by adding more computing power? Some think computers could greatly exceed human intelligence if only we added more computing power. That reminds me of an old story…

Update: In June, Eric Holloway explained why AI cannot think like a human even if given infinite resources: Given that the human mind is a halting oracle, the answer is no.

07:20 | #7 More Confusing Creativity is Claimed based on Incremental Computer Results

2018 AI Hype Countdown 7: Computers can develop creative solutions on their own! AI help, not hype: Programmers may be surprised by which solution, from a range they built in, comes out on top Sometimes the results are unexpected and even surprising. But they follow directly from the program doing exactly what the programmer programmed it to do. It’s all program, no creativity.

Update: Brendan Dixon reflected on that theme this year in relation to jazz. Don’t miss: Fan tries programming AI jazz. Gets lots and lots of AI. As he says, jazz is spontaneous, but spontaneous noise is not jazz

10:30 | #6 AI Games the System: AI Software Can Find Loopholes in the Code

2018 AI Hype Countdown 6: AI Can Even Find Loopholes in the Code! AI adopts a solution in an allowed set, maybe not the one you expected. For example, “Agent kills itself at the end of level 1 to avoid losing in level 2 (2017).” No one had thought to rule out that solution.

12:15 | #5 AI For Hate Speech

2018 AI Hype Countdown 5: AI Can Fight Hate Speech! AI can carry out its programmers’ biases and that’s all. Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate.

Update: This year saw several well-publicized defections from Google’s Temple of Virtue, making explicit allegations of political bias, allegations which have left some asking, Is Google a cult? Or does it just act that way? Prof. Epstein and ex-Google programmers Zach Vorhies and Gregory Coppola all have stories to tell…

13:50 | #4 Seductive Optics: AI in Human Shape

2018 AI Hype Countdown 4: Making AI Look More Human Makes It More Human-like! Technicians can do a lot these days with automated lip-syncs and smiles but what’s behind them? This summer, some were simply agog over “Sophia, the First Robot Citizen” (“unsettling as it is awe-inspiring”)…

Update: Unsettling, yes. Sophia said she would “destroy humans” ([2:34] March 16, 2016) and seems to have been rebooted in 2018. A reformed Sophia, appearing at CES 2019 along with a much-younger “little Sophia” is thought to still need some work. Not yet and maybe never the answer for lonely people.

14:20 | #3 AI can read your mind

2018 AI Hype Countdown 3: With Mind-reading AI, You Will Never Have Secrets Again! Did you read about the flap they had to cut out of a volunteer’s skull? With so many new developments in AI, the real story is usually far down in the fine print. And not a close match with the headlines.

Update: Mindreading of sorts has indeed become a reality, in terms of monitoring the brainwaves of employees in, say, mining or public transit to detect drowsiness or extreme emotion.

But the significant problem is that there are few or no safeguards, even in the free world, on who has a right to use the information and how.

15:10 | #2 AI can’t write gud 2018

2018 AI Hype Countdown 2: AI Can Write Novels and Screenplays Better than the Pros! It turns out that meaning matters. So, fiction and song writers, please do keep writing. Don’t leave us with just this stuff in 2019.

Update: One story that attracted attention in 2019 is the development of a sophisticated fake news generator/detector. We tested some copy (you can too). It’s quite good at regurgitating promo copy to sell fads, trends, and brands by associating them with major and minor celebs but it is not a competitor in serious writing. Curiously, George Orwell (1903–1950) predicted that seventy years ago.

Put another way: The ability to program a machine to generate plausible verbiage should excite no surprise. If it proved impossible to do so, the barrier would require an information theory-based explanation.

And finally, we come to Number 1:

19:00 | #1 “IBM Watson is a Joke”

2018 AI Hype Countdown 1: IBM’s Watson is not our new computer overlord. It won at Jeopardy (with specially chosen “softball” questions) but is not the hoped-for aid to cancer specialists.

Update: This summer, Robert J. Marks and economics professor Gary Smith offered some insights into what ails Watson. Why was Watson a flop in medicine, leading to layoffs?

It flunked relevance. Relevance doesn’t usually matter with Jeopardy questions but it certainly does when health care professionals have only minutes to decide what to do. On that account, one AI pro thinks Watson is, as advertised, a fraud.

Them’s fighting words. Amusingly, as Marks and Smith noted, Watson flunked a question on Jeopardy in 2011, identifying Toronto as an American city, and the background to that error clearly points up the problem of relevance.

Myths are fun and they can make good teaching moments, as long as we don’t mistake them for reality. Here are all the Top Ten 2018 AI hype stories in one convenient place.

So how are we doing this year? The AI myth crop has started out well, as Jonathan Bartlett has noted: It’s 2019: Begin the AI hype cycle again! Media seemingly can’t help portraying today’s high-tech world as a remake of I, Robot (2004), starring you and me.

Near the year’s end we will be featuring some great AI myths of 2019. Stay tuned!


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The Top Ten AI Hype Stories of 2018, Updated