The Ultimate Impact of Intelligent Automation Will Not Just Be Measured by Its Efficiency, but Also by How It Will Uplift Humanity | Dr. Asish Banerjee

From robot-assisted surgery to email spam filters, there is much we gain from artificial intelligence. However, people are often wary of systems that they don’t fully understand. Dr. Ashis Banerjee, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, has made it his mission to educate people about the ways in which automation can contribute to the betterment of humankind.


Man Wins Art Fair With AI Generated Art

A video game designer in Pueblo, Colorado, won an art fair with artwork generated by artificial intelligence software. Jason M. Allen entered his work titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” into a state fair and received first place, winning a prize of $300. He had spent 80 hours tinkering with an AI art generator named Midjourney to create his final piece.

The two competition judges, Cal Duran and Dagny McKinley told The Pueblo Chieftain that while they did not know an AI created the work, they still would have awarded Allen the prize. In Duran’s mind, the chief purpose of any artwork is to tell a story.

“Even as this controversy is coming out, it’s still invoking that. It’s still causing an uproar. That in itself is kind of remarkable.”

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In order to generate art using an AI like Midjourney, a user must input keywords that the AI uses to make associations between prompts and images on the internet. It recognizes shapes, colors, and patterns within existing art and photos. The resulting piece of art is an amalgamation of those elements.

The recent development of AI-generated art engines such as DALL-E has started a debate on the ethics of art and the implications of automating creativity. While automation is becoming increasingly more common in other sectors of society, people previously considered the automation of art, music and writing beyond technological capability.

Even iPhone users can download AI art generators from Apple’s app store, albeit much weaker ones. Nonetheless, these apps can craft a piece of art within 15 seconds based on as little as one keyword. Even an online poetry generator titled “Verse by Verse” exists. Google programmed the software to compose poetry in the voice of historically famous poets.

Allen told The Pueblo Chieftain that Midjourney had also aided his team in creating concept art for their game designs. While inputting keywords may seem easy, Allen claims it is difficult to put in a prompt that is just right to generate the desired image.

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Judge McKinley is optimistic about the replicability of the quote-on-quote “artist” if AI art becomes commonplace. “Yes, it will likely take away some jobs from artists, but the technology exists and we can’t go backwards,” McKinley said.

“For me, nothing can replicate human work because human work is flawed and it is those flaws that bring humanity to art. How does an artist create their own style and voice? That is what makes art interesting.”

Understandably, many artists are unhappy with the potential automation of the creative process.

RJ Palmer, a concept artist, wrote on Twitter, “what makes this AI different is that it’s explicitly trained on current working artists.” Artists are not paid for their work but instead used to generate digital art pulled from their original ideas. Palmer writes that it is “actively anti-artist.”


AI Rapper FN Meka Dropped From Capitol Records After Being Called Out For Racial Stereotyping 

Capitol Records has dropped AI rapper FN Meka and offered its “deepest apologies to the Black community,” after the virtual celebrity was criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes. This comes just 10 days after the record label signed FN Meka. 

FN Meka is an AI (Artificially Intelligent) rapper who was given the appearance of a Black Male cyborg. He was initially created in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, co founders of Factory New, a “first of its kind, next-generation music company, specializing in virtual beings” as performers. 

According to Martini, the rapper’s songs are performed by an anonymous Black man, but the music and lyrics are generated by an AI that analyzes popular music. Capitol Records boasted about how he was “the world’s first AR [Augmented Reality] artist to sign with a major label.” 

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However, within the 10 days that FN Meka was signed to the label, backlash against Capitol Records and the creators of the AI rapper grew due to his use of the N-word in his 2019 song ‘Moonwalkin,’ and an Instagram post that showed FN Meka being beaten by a police officer in prison. 

Capitol Records announced on Tuesday that it had “severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately.” 

Just hours before Capitol’s statement Industry Blackout, “a unified body of Black people in the industry committed to changing the community,” released their own statement on FN Meka. 

“FN Meka is offensive and a direct insult to the Black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.” 

“This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life,” Industry Blackout wrote in their statement to Capitol. 

“For example, Gunna, a Black artist who is featured on a song with FN Meka, is currently incarcerated for rapping the same type of lyrics this robot mimics. The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for such,” the group explained. 


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“Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended,” Martini said when he was asked about the image of FN Meka being beaten by a police officer.

“We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it.”

“We thank those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback in the past couple of days – your input was invaluable as we came to the decision to end our association with the project,” the statement read. 

Back in 2021 Martini, who is white, and Le, who is Asian, explained how they were working on making FN Meka fully AI, meaning he would no longer need a human as a voice. 

“As of now, a human voice performs the vocals, but we are working towards the ability to have a computer come up with and perform its own words – and even collaborate with other computers as ‘co-writers’,” Martini said. 


Europe’s Proposed Artificial Intelligence Law Could Cost Its Economy $36 Billion 

A new law proposed for the European Union designed to regulate artificial intelligence could cost the nation up to 32 billion euros; about $36 billion. The payments would be spread out over five years according to a report from the Center for Data Innovation, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Artificial Intelligence Act is a proposed law put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The act is said to be the :world’s most restrictive regulation of AI” according to the center. 

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“It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers.”

The Center for Data Innovation argued that a small or midsize enterprise with a turnover of 10 million euros will face compliance costs of up to 400,000 euros if it was to deploy an AI system deemed “high risk.” These systems are ones that the commission defines as “affecting people’s fundamental rights or safety.” 

“That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.

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The center argues that “compliance borders” will cost European businesses 10.9 billion euros per year by 2025, or 31 billion euros over the next five years. Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report suggested that this would be more harmful than helpful to many sectors of the economy. 

“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best.”

“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” he added, explaining that AI is already being used by major companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but lawmakers in Europe aren’t even aware of the impact this new law could have. 

Mueller explained that the technology has the potential to improve healthcare and climate modeling for the nation, however, it can also be used to give every citizen a “social score.” The law is still in the works and the debates over its actual benefits are ongoing.

Facebook Scientists Can Now Tell Where Deepfakes Come From 

Artificial intelligence workers at Facebook have developed a new software that can reveal when a picture or video post is a deepfake as well as where it came from. 

Deepfakes are defined as videos that have been digitally altered in some way using AI technology. Typically, these videos show very hyper-realistic celebrity faces, saying whatever the user making the post wants them to say. These videos have become increasingly realistic, and popular, making it extremely hard for humans to tell what’s real, and what’s not. 

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The Facebook researchers claim their new AI software can establish if a piece of media is a deepfake or not based on a single image taken from said video. The software will also be able to identify the AI that was used to create the video, no matter how advanced the technique. 

Tal Hassner, an applied research lead at Facebook, said that it’s “possible to train AI software to look at the photo and tell you with a reasonable degree of accuracy what is the design of the AI model that generated that photo.”

Deepfakes in general are a major threat to internet safety, in fact, Facebook banned them back in January 2020 due to the amount of misinformation they were spreading. Individuals can easily create doctored videos of powerful politicians making wild claims about the US that other world leaders could potentially see and take seriously before it’s determined that the video is indeed fake. 

Hassner said that detecting deepfakes is a “cat and mouse game, they’re becoming easier to produce and harder to detect. One of the main applications of deepfakes so far has been in pornography where a person’s face is swapped onto someone else’s body, but they’ve also been used to make celebrities appear as though they’re doing or saying something they’re not.”

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Nina Schick is a deepfake expert who’s worked closely with the White House and President Biden on this issue. She emphasized that while it’s amazing that we now have the technology to detect when these videos are fake, it’s just as important to find out how well they actually work in the real world and how well they’re able to track and stop individuals from continuing to make them. 

“It’s all well and good testing it on a set of training data in a controlled environment. But one of the big challenges seems to be that there are easy ways to fool detection models, like by compressing an image or a video.”

It’s still unclear how or even if Facebook will be using this technology to combat the amount of misinformation deepfakes work to spread on the platform, but Tassner explained that ideally the technology will be used among all in the future. 

“If someone wanted to abuse them (generative models) and conduct a coordinated attack by uploading things from different sources, we can actually spot that just by saying all of these came from the same mold we’ve never seen before but it has these specific properties, specific attributes,” he said.

Real Estate Technology

New AI Tool Writes Real Estate Descriptions Without Ever Stepping Inside A Home 

A Canadian startup called Listing AI is using new cutting edge artificial intelligence technology to write up computer-generated descriptions that can be surprisingly compelling. Users simply tell the AI software some key details about their home and the technology does the rest. 

According to Listing AI co-founder Mustafa Al-Hayali, the technology isn’t meant to do all the work for real estate agents, otherwise there would be risk of this technology fully replacing us. Instead, Al-Hayali claims the technology is meant to do about 80% to 90% of the work.

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“I don’t believe it’s meant to replace a person when it comes to completing a task, but it’s supposed to make their job a whole lot easier. It can generate ideas you can use.”

Al-Hayali said he and his co-founder, Corey Pollock, a Shopify senior project manager, came up with the idea for Listing AI after both became new homeowners in Toronto. “As we each navigated that process, we noticed property descriptions that were inaccurate or even copied from a previous time the property was up for sale. I bought my condo in March 2020 — just before Covid forced many people to start relying on virtual visits and other ways of learning about properties remotely, which made thorough descriptions that much more important.”

They built the website within the past month and launched it publicly this week. Listing Ai simply asks that users provide all manner of data about the house, and then the software polishes it so it can better be used by the AI. 

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According to Al-Hayali, “after that, the information is processed by GPT-3, an AI model from nonprofit research company OpenAI. GPT-3 was trained on text from billions of web pages so that it would be adept at responding to written prompts by generating everything from news articles to recipes to poetry.”

Users are currently able to sign up for a free trial that allows them to generate several listings. For unlimited access users can pay $9 a month, or $84 a year, although the website claims that these are launch prices, and regular prices will be $12 a month, or $105 a year. 

Scott Ward is a traditional real estate agent who recently spoke with CNN about the future of the industry and this type of AI technology being implemented. “I had a few issues with Listing AI’s word choices, like I’d never describe the Oakland house that I put through it as ‘rustic-chic’, and I hate the word ‘boasts’ in property descriptions.” 

“I agree that there are plenty of poorly written home descriptions out there, and that automating the process could help some people. For example, it could be useful if people are not familiar with this kind of writing process or they’re selling a number of similar homes, such as tract housing.”

So like with most new technologies, it’s going to take some time to see how well it fits in the current way of doing things in the industry.

Scientists Want To Use Artificial Intelligence To ‘Predict The Next Coronavirus’

A team of scientists are working to use artificial intelligence (AI) to work out when another novel coronavirus could emerge. The researchers are using a combination of fundamental biology as well as machine learning to get a better grasp over where these viruses come from. 

The computer algorithm being used has already predicted a multitude of potential hosts that new virus strains have been detected in during past studies, and could potentially be detected in during future outbreaks. The findings themselves have been published in the journal of Nature Communications. 

Dr. Marcus Blagrove is a virologist from the University of Liverpool in the UK who was involved in the study. He explained that the goal of the study was to hopefully get a grasp on where the next coronavirus could come from. 

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“One way coronaviruses are generated is through recombination between two existing coronaviruses. Basically two viruses infect the same cell and recombine into a ‘daughter’ virus, or an entirely new strain of the virus we’ve been fighting.”

Researchers were able to place existing biological evidence into an AI algorithm, which then taught the computer how to spot certain viruses and host species that are the most likely to be the source of the recombination based on environmental stats. 

The team first “asked” their AI algorithm to look at certain biological patterns so that they could predict which mammals may be the most susceptible to known coronavirus strains. This would mean that those specific species are most vulnerable to being the host for recombinations as well. The initial research showed links between 411 coronavirus strains and 876 potential mammal species hosts. 

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Lead researcher Dr. Maya Wardeh was able to use existing biological knowledge to teach the algorithm to search for specific patterns that equated to a correlation between the species and virus strains. 

“We were able to predict which species had the chance for many coronaviruses to infect them, either because they are very closely related to a species known to carry a coronavirus or because they share the same geographical space.”

The Asian palm civet and greater horseshoe bat, for example, were predicted to be host to 32 and 68 different coronaviruses, respectively. And in species including the common hedgehog, the European rabbit and the dromedary camel, the algorithm predicted that Sars-CoV-2 might recombine with other, existing coronaviruses,” she continued.

The scientists behind the study claim that their findings could help target the surveillance for new diseases, and potentially prevent another pandemic from occurring before it even starts.  Dr Wardeh explained, however, that these findings are “not a reason to demonize these species. Spill-over of viruses into human populations tends to be linked to human activities like wildlife trade and farming. But it’s virtually impossible to survey all animals all the time, so our approach enables prioritization. It says these are the species to watch. If we can find them before they get into humans, then we could work on developing drugs and vaccines and on stopping them getting into humans in the first place.”

Smart Home Controls

Some Of The Best Smart Home Gadgets Revealed At CES 2021

CES is known as the biggest electronics show of the year. While the pandemic may have caused the conference to look a little different this year, tech giants still managed to stun smart technology lovers with a slew of new products that would be the perfect addition to anyone’s smart home. Here’s a list of some of the most talked-about gadgets that were released this year at CES 2021: 

Denon Home Sound Bar 550: This soundbar is the perfect addition to any entertainment system. It delivers lifelike audio that is meant to fill a space and “move” in all 360-degrees, to give you that genuine surround sound experience. 

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Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge: Smart refrigerator’s are relatively new to the smart home realm, however, Samsung has been a major trailblazer in these devices. This year, they’ve released an upgraded version of their Family Hub Smart Fridge which now has upgraded widgets to help you order groceries, find recipes, manage your other smart appliances, and so much more!

Samsung AI Robotic Vacuum: When one thinks about artificial intelligence, the last device you would think that it would be implemented into would be a vacuum. Samsung, however, feels the complete opposite, and has released a robotic vacuum that uses AI technology and special sensors to recognize specific objects on the floors and avoid all fragile pieces of furniture. It even has a built in camera so you can watch its route from anywhere. 

LOCKLY Duo Smart Lock: This electronic lock/deadbolt system for your door gives homeowners easy access to their space and a ton of security properties to keep you and your family safe. It’s equipped with dual-locking technology that allows you to lock and unlock the latch and deadbolt in one single motion. It also features voice assistant integration and worldwide monitoring so you’re able to be notified anytime your door is opened when you’re not home. 

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Nobi Smart Lamp For The Elderly: This smart lamp was designed with AI technology specifically to be used to detect falls. This way individuals who are either elderly and can’t move around as well as they used to, or who maybe have some sort of physical disability that puts them at an increased risk of falling, won’t have to worry about getting help should they fall down. The lamp delivers 24/7 battery-free monitoring and will call for help immediately if it senses you’ve fallen over and are struggling to get back up. 

Ampere Power Bluetooth Shower Speaker: There are a ton of waterproof Bluetooth shower speakers on the market now, but little compared to Ampere’s newest shower speaker. Unlike most Bluetooth speakers on the market, Ampere’s doesn’t ever need to be charged. It attaches right onto your shower-head and is thus powered by running water, so it’s constantly recharging as you get yourself clean. 

Samsung Bot Handy Smart Home Robot: In terms of Utopian visions of the future, Samsung’s Smart Home Robot is about as innovative as you can get. The robot literally recognizes and picks up household objects that need to be cleaned up or are in the way, such as cups, bowls, trash, etc. It even can help you clean your room and put away the dishes.  

Woman Coughing with Mask On

New AI Technology Can Detect Covid-19 From The Sound Of Your Cough 

One of the biggest concerns that’s been raised surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic regards asymptomatic individuals who unknowingly spread the virus. Now, thanks to newly developed AI technology, healthcare officials may be able to detect asymptomatic cases simply by the sounds of their coughs. 

The technology came from a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who claim that the model can detect asymptomatic cases by listening to subtle differences between a healthy cough and a Covid-19 cough. As of right now the AI technology is still in its clinical trial period, however, the group has already started the process of seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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The algorithm is based on previous AI models that were able to detect lung conditions such as pneumonia and asthma, and it’s even been used in some screenings for Alzheimer’s disease, as that can cause some major strain or degradation on the vocal cords and respiratory system of certain patients. In fact, the specific Alzheimer’s model is the main one that was used to develop the Covid-19 detecting technology. 

One of the studies co-authors, Brian Subirana, who’s also a research scientist in MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory recently explained in a statement how this technology is able to analyze our vocal cords to make such concrete conclusions. 

Things we easily derive from fluent speech, AI can pick up simply from coughs, including things like the person’s gender, mother tongue or even emotional state. There’s in fact sentiment embedded in how you cough.”

The process began with the group creating a website where volunteers were able to record their coughs using their cell phones or computers. Volunteers were both healthy and infected with Covid-19 so the technology could really hear every little difference. Participants would then fill out survey questionnaires regarding their diagnosis and any symptoms they may be experiencing. 

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People were also asked to record forced coughs, like the one you let out when your doctor tells you to cough so they can listen to your lungs. Researchers have so far gathered over 70,000 individual recordings of forced coughs. Of those recordings 2,660 were from patients with Covid-19, with or without symptoms. After they compiled the recordings they used 4,256 of the samples to train their AI models and 1,064 of the samples to test the model to see whether or not it could detect the difference in a regular cough and a Covid-19 cough. 

They then found that the AI model could tell the differences based on four determining factors: muscular degradation, vocal cord strength, respiratory function and lung performance. So far, the model has been able to correctly identify 98.5% of people with Covid-19 and correctly rule out Covid-19 in 94.2% of people who were healthy and participated in the study. 

In order for this technology to be approved and distributed throughout the nation as a valid form of testing, further research needs to be done. This would mean expanding the sample size of volunteers to include coughs from people of all ages and ethnicities. If the software does prove effective, this technology will likely take the form of a downloadable app on smart devices that would make testing very useful for the remainder of this pandemic. 

The team of researchers are seeking regulatory approval for the app which may come as early as next month, but for now researchers are continuing to perfect the technology so it can be used to its fullest potential and really help curve the spread of Covid-19.

Artificial Intelligence

Australian Government To Invest $19 Million In Artificial Intelligence Healthcare Research

The Australian government announced this week that it will be investing $19 million into artificial intelligence-based health care research projects that are designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat a range of health conditions. This investment comes as an obvious reaction to the current Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 500,000 individuals worldwide, however, the technology would also be widely beneficial for a slew of diseases/illnesses.

The money will be distributed over the course of three years and will be given to five different projects that are listed in the official investment plan for the government.

One of the projects involves the Center for Eye Research in Australia, which will be receiving $5 million of the investment. The center has recently developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that could detect certain eye and cardiovascular diseases and the money will help bring that technology into a more feasible reality for the common individual getting an eye exam.

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The University of New South Wales will also be receiving $5 million of that investment for a new project that is focused on using AI technology to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions many University students face such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This is a major development for University mental health resources in general in Australia.

Another $7 million from the investment will be put towards two projects that are being developed by the University of Sydney. One of the projects involves translating AI networks online to support clinical work and research in neuro-diseases, such as brain cancer. To simplify it, AI translation allows the technology to scan entire research sources in a matter of seconds to pull specific pieces of information in regard to a specific neuro-disease – in this case – or patient’s case to hopefully find something that’s useful, and otherwise wouldn’t have been thought of in terms of patient treatment.

“AI will be used to understand which interventions, or components of therapies provide the vital, active ingredients, and why they are more effective for some patients and not others,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The second project coming from the University of Sydney also benefits student mental health. This project is focused on using machine learning to improve young adult’s mental health. The aim is to shorten certain trial periods of mental health treatments for young people so they spend less time figuring out ways to treat and manage their specific issues, and instead can just be given the proper treatment right away.

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The remaining $2 million from the investment will be shared between St Vincent’s Institute of Medical research and Victoria, Australia. St Vincent’s is currently developing AI technology that will potentially change the way individuals screen for breast cancer. The Victorian government invested an additional $1.5 million into the budget as a means of establishing Victoria as one of the “leading destinations for AI technology within the Asia Pacific region,” according to the Minister of Medical Research and Digital Economy Jaala Pulford.

“It is essential to ensure our hospitals are using modern and effective technology to complete important tests and procedures and review in a timely manner because it improves patient outcomes,” health minister Roger Cook said.

The Victorian government is also specifically working with other companies to create a private fund of $8 million to be distributed among 32 AI upgrades within the current AI technology being used by the government.

This investment will hopefully allow Australian government officials, healthcare professionals, and mental health workers to make quicker decisions in terms of critical procedures and patient treatments, without losing any effectiveness of course.