Demystifying AI – Spotlight #470

Good Monday Morning

It’s August 14th. Here are agencies accepting donations to help Maui recover.

Today’s Spotlight is 931 words — about 3 1/2 minutes to read.

3 Stories to Know

1. Meta’s Legal ChallengeMeta wants a new hearing following a ruling that its ad-targeting system may have facilitated discrimination. The ruling allowed plaintiffs, including civil rights groups, to pursue claims of race, gender, and other bias in advertising. 

2.Acoustic Attack on Keystrokes: A newly discovered acoustic attack can steal data by detecting keystrokes with an alarming 95% accuracy. Using built-in microphones on devices, the method listens to the sounds of typing, translating them into the actual keys pressed. Heads up: this is elite level hacking, not someone looking for your Facebook password.

3. TikTok’s U.S. Retail Push: TikTok is venturing into e-commerce in the U.S. by selling made-in-China goods, aiming to leverage its massive user base. The move marks a significant shift for the platform and aligns with parent company ByteDance’s broader e-commerce ambitions.

Spotlight on What to Know About AI

This week, Spotlight begins to demystify the intricate world of AI, unpacking the terminology, unraveling the mechanisms, and delving into the current debates.

Essential Definitions

Machine Learning (ML): A method where computers analyze data to predict outcomes, like Netflix’s recommendation system.

Large Language Model (LLM): A specialized form of ML trained on vast text data, enabling tools like chatbots to communicate naturally with people.

Generative AI: AI models creating content like the text or images in Dall-E’s or MidJourney’s art generation.

The Human Touch in AI Training

Human involvement in AI extends far beyond mere data processing. It’s not just a handful of experts either; thousands of people worldwide are engaged in the meticulous task of labeling data. This process involves identifying and categorizing elements within images, texts, and other forms of data.

For instance, labeling various plant species in photos teaches an AI to recognize similar patterns, while in other cases, humans might be transcribing and annotating spoken language. This extensive human interaction underlines the complexity of AI and is essential to its success.

The magnitude of this human involvement also brings challenges, such as ensuring quality and dealing with the sheer volume of data that requires annotation. Some projects might involve millions of individual pieces of data, each one needing precise labeling. While self-teaching algorithms exist, they concern scientists due to potential inaccuracies, emphasizing the irreplaceable role of human insight.

Machine Learning vs. True AI

ML predicts and analyzes data, forecasting weather patterns, whereas true AI (AGI) would interpret the weather’s impact on daily life. While ML is prevalent in tools like Google’s search engine, AGI is still a concept from science fiction, epitomized by HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” or Data from “Star Trek”. 

Coming Next Week

Next week, Spotlight takes you further into the realm of AI, exploring ethical dilemmas, corporate strategies, and the latest corporate events at Zoom, Google, and the New York Times  that are impacting the industry.

Practical AI

QuotableThese tools don’t work. They don’t do what they say they do. They’re not detectors of AI.”
— Deborah Weber-Wultf, a member of a multi-university research group evaluating 14 software programs that purportedly detect AI output.

NYC’s AI Bias Law: New York City’s new law targets AI bias in hiring, requiring audits for discrimination. This pioneering legislation aims to promote transparency and fairness in employment, while again, keeping humans in the mix.

Tool of the Week: Lifewire provides a walk-through demonstrating how to use Google Bard in Google Sheets.

Did That Really Happen — Heinz Ketchup’s Sugar Content

A viral social media claim stated that Heinz Tomato Ketchup contains a staggering amount of sugar. Snopes found the claim partially true; while Heinz ketchup does contain sugar, the amount is in line with industry standards and clearly labeled on the packaging. 

Following Up — Amazon’s Packaging Revolution

We told you last week that Amazon is retrenching. Now there’s news that Amazon may ditch unnecessary outer packaging for its Prime customers, aiming to reduce waste and save on costs. There are significant savings from reduced materials and shipping weights if it works. The long-term impact on both Amazon’s bottom line and the environment is yet to be determined.

Protip — Venmo Privacy Alert

Venmo’s social feed can inadvertently expose sensitive financial details. If you’ve ever used the platform, follow Brian Chen’s advice to review your privacy settings to ensure that your personal information remains confidential.’

Screening Room — Hyundai puts its family SUV in Grand Theft Auto

Science Fiction World — New Force of Nature? 

Researchers at Fermilab near Chicago are closing in on the potential discovery of a fifth fundamental force of nature, building on findings from 2021. Evidence from the behavior of sub-atomic particles called muons suggests they are being influenced by an unknown force. This discovery, part of the ‘g minus two (g-2)’ experiment, may lead to a revolution in physics.

 Coffee Break — Smarter Than A Scammer?

The Washington Post has another great interactive quiz for you to test your wits against digital scammers.

Sign of the Times

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