A Great Use for AI

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  • The technology behind robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers owes much to the work of MIT professor (and founder of the company Robust.AI) Rodney Brooks.

    Brooks' blog offers a very well informed and refreshingly sceptical take on the current state of AI, ML and robotics.

    https://rodneybrooks.com/

    To take some sample quotes:

    Unfortunately, I often get attacked by people outside the field, saying in effect, we were promised super intelligent robots and all you have given us is robot vacuum cleaners. Sorry, it is a work in progress. At least I gave you something practical…

    Robotics, including self driving cars, is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) collides with the un-sanitized natural world. Up until now the natural world has been winning, and will probably continue to do so most of the time for quite some time.

  • Steve, I've gotta admit, I didn't see the poopocalypse coming.

    Rod

  • Doctor Who 2 wrote:

    Steve, I've gotta admit, I didn't see the poopocalypse coming.

    Rod, the poopocalypse is already here for me.  We have a 14.5 year old Golden Retriever called Lupe who is now experiencing occasional loss of bowel control.  And we do have a robotic vacuum.  Fortunately the two have not yet tangled.

    My take on the whole AI thing is that it is a danger, exactly because it is 'artificial'.  Software, by it's very nature, is subject to bias, either intentional or accidental.  The prime example is currently in the news every day concerning the likes of facebook and others.  And another big offender is the whole world of advertising and the claims made there.

    We are incessantly bombarded with outlandish claims and biased data.  There is even one that constantly states something to the effect that "It's a proven fact and we all know..." regarding some medication.

    Pardon me for being the eternal skeptic, but I know we all even lie to ourselves.  I've been working on cleaning historic data regarding my investment/retirement savings, and have run across a three year period for which I cannot find hard data, only a time-frame and a total transferred to another account.   So for graphic and continuity purposes, what do I do?  I average the monthly investment/growth and record it.

    Maybe AI actually means something is 'already inferred'.

     

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was they day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • Good points, Rick. What surprised me is that, although upon hindsight it's obvious that a Roomba will encounter dog poop (my wife suggested dog vomit too) or cat poop, I'd never thought of it. Something that's so obvious, upon reflection, that you wonder how it is you didn't see it before.

    This reminds me of a situation I encountered at my last job. I used to work at the local university. We wrote an app to automate collection of data performed by counselors from interviews with clients. At the end of every section was a textbox to collect comments that the counselor wanted recorded. We got a help ticket call from one of the counselors saying, "You program is wiping out my data!" We went to her office to investigate. Eventually we discovered that what she was doing while typing her notes into the textbox for comments at the end of the section. Sometimes she'd get distracted and place a book on top her keyboard's spacebar, while that textbox had focus. So, while she's busy handling whatever distracted her, that book was entering thousands of characters into the comment, thus pushing everything she'd written out of sight. Our solution was to place a label just above the comment, into which we'd write the number of characters entered into the comment. When she called again saying that the application was wiping out her data, we went to her office and showed her that, with the book on the spacebar, it had entered 10,000+ characters and was still increasing.

    She never called us again about that issue.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Rod at work wrote:

    We got a help ticket call from one of the counselors saying, "You program is wiping out my data!" We went to her office to investigate. Eventually we discovered that what she was doing while typing her notes into the textbox for comments at the end of the section. Sometimes she'd get distracted and place a book on top her keyboard's spacebar, while that textbox had focus. So, while she's busy handling whatever distracted her, that book was entering thousands of characters into the comment, thus pushing everything she'd written out of sight.

    Well, in the context of the current discussion, it was an 'Oh, sh!t'  moment.  I've done that myself at times.  Thanks for the chuckle.

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was they day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • "What surprised me is that, although upon hindsight it's obvious that a Roomba will encounter dog poop (my wife suggested dog vomit too) or cat poop, I'd never thought of it. Something that's so obvious, upon reflection, that you wonder how it is you didn't see it before."

    This is exactly why software had bugs!

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was they day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • although upon hindsight it's obvious that a Roomba will encounter dog poop (my wife suggested dog vomit too) or cat poop, I'd never thought of it.

    This may be an example of what Rodney Brooks says: "Robotics, including self driving cars, is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) collides with the un-sanitized natural world."

    Can a AI recognise crap when it sees it? That would be an interesting PhD topic for someone.

  • About now Steve is wishing he had never started this.

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was they day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • Ha, I've already had a few private messages about robots having issues with various fluids when they just roam around the floor.

    Lots of AI is hyped, but this is the type of place where it can dramatically improve something here. This is a problem domain where the computer models can also improve, which is what we want. Not to look back at all the problems and things that haven't worked well, but look to improve things. AI/ML will do this much better than any programmer with current development techniques could.

     

  • Once I had a less serious Roomba issue when I had put a plate of wet cat food down and then gone shopping and when I came home the food was spread everywhere on every surface and it had done a really good job of spreading it around.

    It was still messy and did not smell nice but it was nowhere near as bad.

  • Ugh, I would not have wanted to find that.

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