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Posts Tagged ‘series


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The second episode of the YouTube Original series on artificial intelligence (AI) focused on how it might compensate for human disease or conditions .

One example was how speech recognition, live transcription, and machine learning helped a hearing-impaired scientist communicate. The AI was trained to recognise voice and transcribe his words on his phone screen.

Distinguishing usage of words like “there”, “their”, and “they’re” required machine learning of large datasets of words and sentences so that the AI learnt grammar and syntax. But while such an AI might recognise the way most people speak, the scientist had a strong accent and he had to retrain it to recognise the way he spoke.

Recognising different accents is one thing, recognising speech by individuals afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is another. The nerve cells of people with ALS degenerate over time and this slurs their speech. Samples of speech from people with ALS combined with machine learning might allow them to communicate with others and remote control devices.

Another human condition is diabetic retinopathy — blindness brought on by diabetes. This problem is particularly acute in India because there are not enough eye doctors to screen patients. AI could be trained to read retinal scans to detect early cases of this condition. To do this, doctors grade initial scans on five levels and AI learns to recognise and grade new scans.

This episode took care not to paint only a rosy picture. AI needs to learn and it makes mistakes. The video illustrated this when Google engineers tested phone-based AI on the speech patterns of a person with ALS.

Some cynics might say that the YouTube video is an elaborate advertisement for Google’s growing prowess in AI. But I say that there is more than enough negativity about AI and much of it is based on fiction and ignorance. We need to look forward with responsible, helpful, and powerful possibilities.


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Would you take anything about artificial intelligence seriously if it was delivered by Robert Downey Jr (aka Tony Stark aka Iron Man)?

Well, he is the host a scripted eight-part documentary series, so the authenticity and accuracy of the content is subject to whoever curated and connected the most current information. The series is a “YouTube Original” but there is scant information beyond that.

The first episode focused on the development of digital consciousness, affective (emotional) computing, and human augmentation. The examples explored in this episode included a digital child (BabyX), customer service avatars, and advanced prosthetics.

One of the most important concepts to that a layperson might take away from the episode is that AI is not an independent and all-powerful entity. The best AI now is a combination of human and machine with the latter modelled on the former.

The other concept of capturing, augmenting, and improving upon human intelligence is how far we should go. This is the same question with another technological development — DNA manipulation.

The series seeks like a very promising one and I hope to catch the remaining episodes.

Crash Course is one of the many YouTube channels I subscribe to. It has great content that is pitched at the layperson, but professional enough for use in most classrooms.


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I am looking forward to their next series on “Media Literacy”.

From the announcement video above, I gather that it is not pitched at educators. It is not even designed and presented by an educator in the traditional sense of the word.

But I will be watching all twelve episodes and I am sure I will get an education. I hope to learn something new, to have some good ideas reinforced, and some bad ones challenged.


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