The pandemic has largely overwhelmed the news cycle over the past year and hence influencing and largely deflating the AI hype train. There were a few developments though which I'd consider significant. Some of them very well predicted by articles in this blog, and some surprising. Let's jump right in.
Million Robotaxis in wonderland
Since it is 2021 after all, the most immediate AI flop is related to Tesla robotaxis or rather lack thereof. Elon Musk promised that Tesla would achieve L5 autonomy by the end of 2020 back in April 2019 when he needed to raise money [and reiterated in April 2020]. The famous autonomy day was pumping hype and showing limited demos available to some guests of the show. These demonstration rides were no different from the demo shown in 2016 (as it later turned out, recorded eventually after many failed attempts). In fact Elon Musk claimed in 2016 that self driving problem is essentially solved, here a quote from this interview :
This was later followed by various promises of autonomous coast to coast drive by the end of 2017, later pushed and eventually canceled altogether. To be fair, Musk wasn't the only silicon valley … Read more...
2020 is a very strange year and a dumpster fire in many respects. Everything is still holding together but it feels like the news we get are just progressively more absurd. Similarly is the case with AI where a slow motion train wreck is progressing eliminating more and more hyped up companies and researchers. There are still areas where money is pouring into the field, but it feels like it's a far cry of what it was during the peak hype a few years ago. I fully expect a shift from private to more public money, as the government are always late in the hype cycle. So there could still be more waste to come, though there is a feeling of decline in the air. Anyway let's jump into a few highlights of the recent months.
DeepMind Alpha Fold
DeepMind has been rather quiet and even popular press noticed a significant decrease in the level of hype, but recently they managed to show some progress on protein folding problem. This problem is of high practical importance in biology so at least it's good to see that the company uses their incredible resources on something that we all may eventually … Read more...
Since many of my posts were mostly critical and arguably somewhat cynical , , , at least over the last 2-3 years, I decided to switch gears a little and let my audience know I'm actually a very constructive, busy building stuff most of the time, while my ranting on the blog is mostly a side project to vent, since above everything I'm allergic to naive hype and nonsense.
Nevertheless I've worked in the so called AI/robotics/perception for at least ten years in industry now (and prior to that having done a Phd and a rather satisfying academic career), I've had a slightly different path than many working in the same area and hence have a slightly unusual point of view. For those who never bothered to read the bio, I was excited about connectionism way before it was cool, got slightly bored by it and got drawn into more bio-realistic/neuroscience based models, worked on that a few years and got disillusioned, then worked on robotics for a few years, got disillusioned by that, went on and got a DARPA grant to build the predictive vision model (which summarized all I learned about … Read more...
I've started contemplating this post in mid February 2020 while driving back from Phoenix to San Diego, a few miles after passing Yuma, while staring into the sunset over San Diego mountains on the horizon hundred miles ahead. Since then the world had changed. And by the time you'll read this post a week from now (early April 2020) world will have changed again. And by the summer of 2020 it will have changed several times over. I won't go here too much into the COVID-19 situation, since I'm not a biologist, my personal opinion though it that it is a real deal, it's a dangerous disease spreading like wildfire, something we have not really seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. And since our supply chains are a lot more fragile, our lifestyles a lot more lavish and everybody is levered up, it has all the chances of causing an economic havoc unlike anything we've seen in the past two centuries. With that out of the way, let's move to AI, as certainly the economic downturn will have a huge impact there.
Let's start with the article in technology review that came out in February going deeper inside … Read more...
California DMV disengagements reports are out for 2019, and it is time to plot some data.
As usual, these number are not really measuring reliably the safety of AV's and there are plenty ways to game them, or overreport. Please refer to my last years post for a deeper discussion (and 2017 post here, 2018 post here) on why these numbers are essentially flawed. Nevertheless these are the only official numbers we get, the only glimpse of transparency into this giant corporate endeavor called the "self driving car".
First the disclaimer - this data came from
- California DMV disengagement reports for years 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety fatality data.
- RAND driving to safety report.
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics
all which is easily verifiable. And so here comes the plot everyone is waiting for (click to enlarge):
And as usual a quick commentary:
First of all, the only players who really have a number anywhere in the vicinity of interesting are Waymo, Cruise and Baidu. I'll discuss Baidu later, since their sudden jump in performance seems a bit extraordinary. Nevertheless even Waymo and Cruise disengagements are still approximately … Read more...
Earlier last week I posted a poll on twitter asking If my readers would like me to post a GPT generated article. The votes were very evenly distributed:
The remainder of this article is generated using GPT-2 network (using this site) primed on bits of my other articles to covey some of the style. The images were generated by https://app.generative.photos/ from RosebudAI - a recent hot startup in the AI space. When done reading, please consider future historians analyzing the outburst of AI in 2010-2020 and decide if they'd be impressed or will they be like "WTF were they thinking back then!?".
The study was done in the summer of 2014, but there have been so many recent news stories about Uber (and similar companies) and the impact it has had on public safety, ”We're very happy” to add to the body of knowledge we've accumulated.
What can we learn about the state of public transportation?
Our findings indicate that if public transportation is to be made safe, “we have to build the systems on a much higher level”, and that this will require substantial change from the traditional public-sector perspective. We've discussed the problems in the above graphic:
In … Read more...
It's been 7 months since my last commentary on the field, and as it became regular appearance in this blog (and in fact many people apparently enjoy this form and keep asking for it), it is a time for another one. For those new to the blog, here we generally strip the AI news coverage out of fluff and try to get to the substance, often with a fair dose of sarcasm and cynicism. The more pompous and grandiose the PR statement, the more sarcasm and cynicism - just to provide some balance in nature. The field of AI never fails to deliver on pompous and grandiose fake news hence I predict there will be a material for this blog for many years to come. Now that the introductory stuff is behind and you've been warned, let us go straight to what happened in the field since May 2019.
Self driving cars
As time goes, more and more cracks are showing on the self driving car narrative. In June, one of the prominent startups in the competition - Drive.ai got acqui-hired by Apple, reportedly days before it would have ran out of cash. For those not … Read more...
Welcome back. First of all, apologies for not posting as frequently as I used to. As you might imagine, blogging is not my full time job and I'm currently extremely involved in a very exciting startup (something I'm going to write about soon). On weekends and evening I'm busy with 7mo infant to help care for and altogether that leaves me with very little time. But I'll try to make it better soon, since a lot is going on in the AI space and signs of cooling are visible now all over the place.
In this post I'd like to focus on the recent book by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis, Rebooting AI. Let's jump in.
If you are a person who is not necessarily deeply involved in recent (recent 10 years or so) developments in AI and instead you've been building your image of the field based on flashy PR statements by various big companies (including Google, Facebook, Intel, IBM and numerous smaller players) - this is a book for you. The first part of the book goes thoroughly through various press releases and "revolutionary" products and tracks how these projects either spectacularly or quietly failed.
Reading the first … Read more...
This post is not about AI and not about winter. I have a few of those coming, but this one is about something different. I hope you don't mind.
A friend of mine recently gave a lot to think about by stating the following thought experiment:
Imagine you are taken back in time. To what extent would you be able to advance the civilization of the given era with all the knowledge in your head (no notebooks).
Initially the reaction is obviously that since we all live and breathe the current technical civilization, one should be able to recover almost everything right? There are some many uncertainties to which we already know the answers, so this should be much easier than to get there without such insight?
When you actually give some thought to it, you will realize that things may not be so easy. First of all, in most cases if somebody was taken back in time but left in the same place, they would end up in a middle of nowhere and would have to first survive to even get into contact with any contemporary humans. Say San Diego 300 years ago was an empty costal desert, and … Read more...
It's been roughly a year since I posted my viral "AI winter is well on its way" post and like I promised I'll periodically post an update on the general AI landscape. I posted one some 6 months ago and now is time for another one. And there has been a lot of stuff going on lately and none of it has changed my mind - the AI bubble is bursting. And as with every bubble bursting we are in a blowoff phase in which those who have the most to lose are pulling out the most outrageous confidence pumping pieces they could think of, the ultimate strategy to con some more naive people to give them money. But let's go over what has been going on.
The serious stuff
Firstly let's go over the non-comical stuff. Three of the founding fathers of deep learning - Geoffrey Hinton, Yoshua Bengio and Yann Lecun - received a Turing award - the most prestigious award given out in computer science. If you think that I will somehow question this judgement you will be disappointed, I think deep learning is well worth the Turing award. The one thing that in … Read more...
Many people these days are fascinated by deep learning, as it enabled new capabilities in many areas, particularly in computer vision. Deep nets are however black boxes and most people have no idea how they work (and frankly most of us, scientists trained in the field can't tell exactly how they work either). But the success of deep learning and a set of its surprising failure modes teach us a valuable lesson about the data we process.
In this post I will present a perspective of what deep learning actually enables, how it relates to classical computer vision (which is far from being dead) and what are the potential dangers of relying on DL for critical applications.
The vision problem
First of all, some things need to be said about the problem of vision/computer vision. In principle it could be formulated as follows: given an image from a camera allow the computer to answer questions about the contents of that image. Such questions can range from "is there a triangle in the image", "is there a human face in the image" to more complex instances such as "is there a dog chasing a cat in the image". Although many of … Read more...
Once upon a time, in the 1980's there was a magical place called Silicon Valley. Wonderful things were about to happen there and many people were about make a ton of money. These things were all related to the miracle of a computer and how it would revolutionize pretty much everything.
Computers had a ton of applications in front of them: completely overhauling office work, enabling entertainment via computer games and changing the way we communicate, shop and use banking system. But back then they were clumsy, slow and expensive. And although the hope was there, many of these things wouldn't be accomplished unless computers somehow got orders of magnitude faster and cheaper.
But there was the Moore's law - over the decade of the 1970' the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubled every ~18 months. If this law were to hold, the future would be rosy and beautiful. The applications would be unlocked for which the markets were awaiting. Money was to be made.
By mid 1990's it was clear that it worked. Computers were getting faster and software was getting more complex so rapidly, that upgrades had to happen on a yearly basis to keep up … Read more...
It has became a tradition that I write a quick update on the state of self driving car development every year when the California DMV releases their disengagement data [ 2017 post here, 2018 post here]. 2018 was an important year for self driving as we had seen the first fatal accident caused by an autonomous vehicle (the infamous Uber crash in Arizona).
Let me start with a disclaimer: I plot disengagements against human crashes and fatalities not because it is a good comparison, but because this is the only comparison we have. There are many reasons why this is not the best measure and depending on the reason the actual "safety" of AV may be either somewhat better or significantly worse than indicated here. Below are some of my reasons:
- A disengagement is a situation in which a machine cannot be trusted and the human operator takes over to avoid any danger. The precise definition under California law is:
“a deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual
… Read more...
Every rule of thumb in data science has a counterexample. Including this one.
In this post I'd like to explore several simple and low dimensional examples that expose how our typical intuitions about the geometry of data may be fatally flawed. This is generally a practical post, focused on examples, but there is a subtle message I'd like to provide. In essence: be careful. It is easy to make data based conclusions which are totally wrong.
Dimensionality reduction is not always a good idea
It is a fairly common practice to reduce the input data dimension via some projection, typically via principal component analysis (PCA) to get a lower-dimensional, more "condensed" data. This often works fine, as often the directions along which data is separable align with the principal axis. But this does not have to be the case, see a synthetic example below:
from sklearn.neural_network import MLPClassifier
from sklearn.preprocessing import StandardScaler
from sklearn.decomposition import PCA
from scipy.stats import ortho_group
from mpl_toolkits.mplot3d import Axes3D
import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
N = 10 # Dimension of the data
M = 500 # Number of samples
# Random rotation matrix
R = ortho_group.rvs(dim=N)
# Data variances
variances = np.sort(np.random.rand((N)))[::-1]
… Read more...
Elon Musk is a polarizing figure. His ideas frequently come about in casual conversations. People are often amused and impressed by his achievements. I must admit, a few years back I thought he is literally the next Steve Jobs, only actually better, since he was onto so many things... I admired SpaceX, thought that Tesla cars had many great solutions in them...
At some point in 2015 or 2016 Elon started talking outrageous stuff in the domain of AI, a domain of my own expertise, which I could tell right away was total bullshit. And then I began looking at all this stuff in detail. Doing some math here and there. Reading various opinions. As a result, my opinion on Musk and many of his ideas has changed somewhat substantially. At this point, I can pretty much say with confidence that 90% of his stuff is utter BS, and the remaining 10% is perhaps impressive but still questionable.
Nevertheless he is quite a character with many fans almost religiously believing everything he says. Any time I meet somebody who is a Musk fan I have to go over these issues so I decided to write this post as a point … Read more...