Connect with us

Featured

Ethics: the heart of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are more than trendy or futuristic topics – they are real computing advances that are playing out in homes and businesses today, writes ZOAIB HOOSEN, Managing Director, Microsoft.

Published

on

In simple terms, AI is a machine’s ability to reason, and make decisions based on that reasoning, in similar ways to human beings. AI systems learn and evolve over time, so in theory AI can improve itself; the software becomes the software developer.

This creates the potential for exponential gains in analytical and automated processes through AI. Because of this we stand at a critical juncture in the AI journey – a moment in time where we get to define not just what AI can do, but how it does it.

Boosting productivity and unlocking growth

As it goes mainstream – thanks to the cloud, deep learning, and big data – AI will boost productivity and unlock economic growth. It will transform the workplace, and change the shape, look and feel of many industries including health, transport, manufacturing, and more.  But for some, the rise of AI conjures images from the Terminator films or WestWorld TV series. In these stories, humans are at the mercy of these faster, stronger, smarter systems with no ethical hang-ups. These narratives are clear on the problem with AI as they imagine it: no humanity, no heart.

Exploring ethics within capabilities

The ethics of AI goes beyond just regulation and legislation. It’s fundamentally about creating an operating framework that limits and directs the priorities of an AI system.

A real-world example is how one might program a driverless motor vehicle to treat an imminent crash. Should the system act to save its own passenger or should it prioritise the life or safety of a pedestrian? We need to know where we stand on these kinds of issues, to tell learning, thinking machines how they should handle them.  If AI can give us natural language interaction, what are the rules we put in place to manage its responses, or to ensure it doesn’t discriminate against non-native English speakers, for example?  If an AI business analytics system can unlock new sales techniques or customer journeys, are these ethical and fair for customers? What does the system do with the private and personal data it collects before, during and after these interactions?

There is a myriad of concerns at play once you scratch beneath the surface.  At Microsoft we take this responsibility extremely seriously. In fact, one of our three core pillars in this field is: “developing a trusted approach so that AI is developed and deployed in a responsible manner”. This relates directly to the principles of fairness, accountability, transparency and ethics (or FATE) that guide us in ensuring our AI systems are fair, reliable and sage, inclusive, transparent and accountable, and private and secure.

Of course, principles are only as good as the processes that flow from these. In “inclusivity” for example, we believe that to achieve AI that is inclusive, we must nurture inclusivity and diversity in the teams creating the systems – and that the output is just as inclusive. These are the kind of concerns that our internal advisory committee examines, to help ensure our products adhere to these principles.

The bigger picture

We must also be aware that we are not the only player in the game – that AI advances will happen across companies, NGOs and countries. This is where the role of leadership, and the guidance of community, will be critical. We are an active participant in AI-related forums and organisations, such as the Partnership on AI, for this exact reason – and we encourage all AI players to get involved and help us develop the best practices for AI.

Our approach to AI is grounded in, and consistent with, our company mission to help every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.

If we remain true to this – as we always strive to be – then we must also consider how to mitigate any of the potential downsides that might result from technological advancement. One source of fear for many, is the idea that AI will change our workplaces and – in certain cases – eliminate jobs. Mitigating this will necessitate nurturing new skills and preparing the workforce (and those who will soon join it) for the future of work.  The transformative power of AI will also mean more regulation from governments across the globe – and across the progressive-conservative spectrum. This will bring private and public sectors into closer collaboration, so AI providers must be prepared to engage, to train, to advocate, and to listen, as we move towards a consensus on the values that we inculcate into AI systems.

Fear not – we’ve found the sweet spot

Some people will always fear the unknown, and others will always stride forward in pursuit of progress. The sweet spot lies between them – in the power of AI to unlock creativity, potential and insight, while still behaving in an ethical and responsible manner.  Put aside the scary chapters of a science fiction future for a moment. There is another icon of pop culture that applies – Mary Shelley’s classic tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster. In Frankenstein, the doctor is driven by ambition and ego, to create a being made up of parts, reanimated into life. But the doctor is horrified by the creature he creates and abandons it rather than guiding it and helping it into this new life it finds itself in – ultimately leading to deadly consequences.

The spectre of that ghoulish creature looms large in our minds, but – as the novel so wonderfully conveys – the real monster in Frankenstein is the doctor, the flawed man who creates a life without consideration of the chain of events he has set in motion. Similarly, those of us working in AI today need to be sure that we give our own “creation” firm rules and guidelines for operating in the world.

To avoid becoming the Doctor-monster of Shelley’s nightmare, we need to put the heart into the machine.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured

AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

Published

on

Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

Continue Reading

Featured

SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

Published

on

Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2018 World Wide Worx