Google’s DeepMind: Advance in AI

Google’s DeepMind: Advance in AI

Acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is a British artificial intelligence company founded in September 2010. The company has created a neural network that learns how to play video games in a fashion similar to that of humans, as well as a Neural turing machine, a network that may be able to access an external memory like a conventional turing machine, resulting in a computer that imitates the short-term memory of the human brain.

The company became famous in 2016 after its AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player for the first time, and made headlines again after beating Lee Sedol, the world champion in a five game tournament.

Google's DeepMind has made another big advance in artificial intelligence by getting a machine to master the Chinese game of Go without help from human players. Although AlphaGo started by learning from thousands of games played by humans, the new AlphaGo Zero began with a blank Go board and no data bar the rules. After learning the rules, AlphaGo Zero played itself. Within 72 hours it was good enough to beat the original program by 100 games to zero.

DeepMind's chief executive, Demis Hassabis, said the system could now have more general applications in scientific research. We're quite excited because we think this is now good enough to make some real progress on some real problems even though we're obviously a long way from full AI, he said.

The software defeated leading South Korean Go player Lee Se-don by four games to one last year in a game where there are more possible legal board positions than there are atoms in the universe. AlphaGo also defeated world's number one Go player, China's Ke Jie.

Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the goal is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China over 2,500 years ago, and thus, it's believed to be the oldest board game that is still played today. The rules are simpler than those of chess and the player usually has a choice of 200 moves throughout the game, compared with about 20 in chess. Top human players usually rely on instinct to win.

The achievements of AlphaGo required the combination of vast amounts of data - records of thousands of games - and a vast computer-processing power.

David Silver, lead researched on AlphaGo, said the team took a different approach with AlphaGo Zero. "The new version starts from a neural network that knows nothing at all about the game of Go," he explained. "The only knowledge it has is the rules of the game. Apart from that, it figures everything out just by playing games against itself."

While AlphaGo took months to get to the point where it could take on a professional, AlphaGo Zero got there in just three days, and only using a fraction of the processing power.

"It shows it's the novel algorithms that count, not the computer power or the data," says Mr Silver.

He highlighted an idea that some may find scary: in just a few days a machine has surpassed the knowledge of this game acquired by humanity over thousands of years.

"We've actually removed the constraints of human knowledge and it's able, therefore, to create knowledge itself from first principles, from a blank slate," he said.

While AlphaGo learned from and improved upon human strategies, AlphaGo Zero devised techniques which the professional player who advised DeepMind admitted had never seen before. It is able to do this by using a novel form of reinforcement learning, in which AlphaGo Zero becomes its own teacher. The system starts off with a neural network that knows nothing about the game of Go. It then plays games against itself, by combining this neural network with a powerful search algorithm. As it plays, the neural network is tuned and updated to predict moves, as well as the eventual winner of the games.

This updated neural network is then recombined with the search algorithm to create a new, stronger version of AlphaGo Zero, and the process begins again. In each iteration, the performance of the system improves by a small amount, and the quality of the self-play games increases, leading to more and more accurate neural networks and ever stronger versions of AlphaGo Zero.

This technique is more powerful than previous versions of AlphaGo because it is no longer constrained by the limits of human knowledge. Instead, it is able to learn tabula rasa from the strongest player in the world: AlphaGo itself.

Many of the research team have now moved on to new projects where they want to apply the same software to new areas. Demis Hassabis stated that some areas of interest include drug design and the discovery of new materials.

Some might see AI as a threat, but Hassabis looks into the future with optimism. I hope these kind of algorithms will be routinely working with us as scientific experts medical experts on advancing the frontiers of science and medicine - that's what I hope," he says.

Nonetheless, he and his colleagues are aware of the dangers of applying AI techniques to the real world at a fast pace. A game with clear rules and no element of luck is one thing, but the random real world is another.

China pioneers next revolution in mobile tech

China pioneers next revolution in mobile tech

The fifth generation of mobile connection is just around the corner. Just like it happened with 4G, 5G will eventually become the leading mobile technology. The only difference is that this time it's not the U.S. or Japan, but China that is pioneering the cutting edge of mobile technology.

According to a report published by CSS Insights, 1 billion people will be using 5G connections by 2023. The mobile industry analysts forecasts that China will account for half of all 5G users by 2022. The report predicts that China will maintain a sizeable hold until 2025, accounting for 40 percent of global 5G connections that year. This adoption is expected to take place faster than 4G, but several factors might hinder its progress.

China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei , and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past, Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight, told CNBC.

According to the report, China will take the lead in 5G users, while Japan, the U.S. or South Korea will launch the first commercial 5G network. Meanwhile, Europe is expected to trail behind by at least a year.

Although 1 billion people are expected to use5G by 2023, the report doesn't foresee the new mobile generation having a dramatic presence in the Internet of Things (IoT). There are no clear expectations on how it will affect autonomous cars, and CSS states that such mission critical services will have to wait even longer to come to the fore.

CSS cautions there are still some uncertainties pertaining how and where network operators will deploy vast numbers of new base stations, the lack of clear business case for operators, and consumers' willingness to upgrade their smartphones. It all depends on users buying new devices that take advantage of 5G. Otherwise there's no point in continuing investing in it. Meanwhile, Europe is expected to face its own challenges, stemming from market fragmentation, the availability of spectrum, and the influence of regulators.

According to the forecast, mobile broadband access on smartphone will be the principal area of 5G adoption, representing a colossal 99 percent of total 5G connections by 2025.

Kester Mann, Principal Analyst, Operators at CSS Insight said: The unrelenting hype that has surrounded 5G for several years has seen a diverse range of applications put forward as the main drivers of adoption. Some of them will be relevant at different times of the technology's development, but the never-ending need for speed and people's apparently limitless demand for video consumption will dominate 5G networks.

However, CSS Insight sees fixed wireless access as 5G's first commercial application. The report forecasts that the US will be an early adopter, boosted by leading advocates like AT&T and Verizon. However, the long-term opportunity will remain small and the report expects it to represent only a small fraction of total connections.

Although the industry is apparently obsessed with everything being connected in the future, 5G will account for a relatively low number of connections in the Internet of Things (IoT) during the forecast period. 4G will fill the gap and will continue to satisfy demand until narrowband technology is fully supported within the 5G standard. Network operators have only just begun investing in LTW technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M to support devices that have life spans of several years. According the report, significant numbers of 5G connections in this area are unlikely before the second half of the 2020s.

Other services, the so-called mission critical services, such as autonomous driving - regularly touted as a killer application in 5G - will have to wait even longer to come to the fore.

Geoff Blaber, VP Research, America at CCS Insight comments: 5G is about creating a network that can scale up and adapt to radically new applications. For operators, network capacity is the near-term justification; the Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical services may not see exponential growth in the next few years but they remain a central part of the vision for 5G. Operators will have to carefully balance the period between investment and generating revenue from new services.

Remarkable Technology Quotes

Remarkable Technology Quotes

Technology has revolutionised the way we live and interact with one another, and as such it has inspired people to describe it in a very clever or emotive way. While some believe that technology has decreased our humanity, others view it as a way to bring the world closer together. For good or for evil, here are some of the best quotes by people who have reflected on the impact technology has had on our lives.

Technology is anything that wasn't around you when you were born. - Alan Kay (Computer Scientist)

All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness. - Mark Kennedy (Author)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic. - Arthur C. Clarke (Author)

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless. - Thomas Edison (Inventor)

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. The human spirit must prevail over technology. - Albert Einstein (Scientist)

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. - Elbert Hubbard (Author)

Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet. -Douglas Adams (Author)

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons. - R. Buckminster Fuller (Inventor and Author)

I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex. - Kurt Vonnegut (Author)

You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steamroller will not plant flowers. - Walter Lippmann (Author)

The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers. - Sydney Harris (Journalist)

If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner. - Omar Bradley (General, US Army)

The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art. - John Lasseter (Director)

Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. - Arthur Schlesinger (Historian)

This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. - Don DeLillo (Author)

This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy. - Cory Doctorow (Journalist)

The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book. - Northrop Frye

It's supposed to be automatic, but actually you have to push this button. - John Brunner (author)

Books may look like nothing more than words on a page, but they are actually an infinitely complex imaginotransference technology that translates odd, inky squiggles into pictures inside your head. - Jasper Fforde (novelist)

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. - Aldous Huxley

Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it. - Max Frisch

Technology frightens me to death. It's designed by engineers to impress other engineers. And they always come with instruction booklets that are written by engineers for other engineers - which is why almost no technology every works. - John Cleese

The great myth of our times is that technology is communication. - Libby Larsen

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. - Pablo Picasso

TV and the Internet are good because they keep stupid people from spending too much time out in public. - Douglas Coupland (Canadian novelist and artist)

The downside of technology

The downside of technology

Although technology has allowed us to find any place on the planet by using Google Maps or manage our finances from out smart phone, there's also a downside to technology.

Although having a GPS might be very practical to find a destination while navigating unfamiliar routes, constantly looking down at a GPS app while driving might lead cause an accident as it distracts the driver from watching the road.

According to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the human brain has a limited capacity in processing information at one time. Therefore, a GPS app might distract the driver from focusing on the road as they try to recall the on-screen directions, increasing the risk of accidents.

Hearing someone next to you talking on a phone might be distract you from what you are doing. According to a study by the University of San Diego, in this situation the brain tries to fill in the blanks in a halfalog - one half of a conversation. When this happens, people find it hard to concentrate on their present activity.

Although kindles have made available almost any you book you can think of anywhere and anytime, according to a study published on Research Gate, people who read a short story printed on paper are more likely to remember more details compared to those who read it on a Kindle.

The study's lead researcher from the University of Stavager in Norway, Anne Mangen, said that those reading on paper also have a tactile sense of progress as they touch and manipulate the pages. The experience is not the same with a kindle, as you flip through digital pages with the swipe of a finger.

[The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you're reading, said Mangen.

Although autocorrect might be very convenient at times as it fixes typos and it corrects mistakes, it might worsen your grammar and proofreading skills. Apparently, the brain is able to understand words as long as the first and last letters are correct. Nonetheless, once the brain grows familiar with typos and grammar mistakes, people may stop seeing the difference between what's correct and what's wrong. This phenomenon might lead to failure in noticing their own mistakes while proofreading.

Detractors, including industry leaders, scientists and scholars, argue that the abuse of technology in our daily lives may hinder contemplative thought, conversation, patience and a sense of play previous generations enjoyed.

Endless hours under the influence of hyper-connectivity might hinder human attention and depth of discourse. Meanwhile, shorter attention spans and a need for instant gratification can make it harder to concentrate on and solve complex problems. Always being online can affect genuine human interaction among friends and family.

Multitasking and spending just 140 characters or less on a topic has led to a distracted generation without direction or the ability engage in deeper thinking.

According to Mashable, technology has also altered our sleeping habits. Technophiles are used to falling asleep with their laptops nearby after watching an episode on Netflix on catching with friends on social media. Other read an episode of a book on their Kindle. Those habits might be keeping us from getting enough sleep. Some neuroscientists argue that the light emitted by electronic devices' screens might mess with your body's internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones.

Although technology may have negative effects on our brain, it makes it easier for artists and non-artists alike to engage with creative media. According to author Clay Shirkey, social media prompts users to engage with texts, images and videos in a way that simply watching television doesn't. As social media encourages users to share images and words with a community, they feel more inclined to create and share something of their own, which includes but is not limited to a Flickr album, a book review, a contribution to Wikipedia or a DIY project.

"We do things because they're interesting, because they're engaging, because they're the right things to do, because they contribute to the world," said Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, in a conversation with Wired and Shirkey.

"Once we stop thinking of all that time as individual minutes to be whiled away and start thinking of it as a social asset than can be harnessed, it all looks very different," said Shirkey. "The buildup of free time among the world's educated population — maybe a trillion hours per year — is a new resource."