Saturday, June 30, 2012

Google AI loves cats

Last week the media was full of stories about a new Google X Lab project that has created an AI which seems to love cats. I couldn't avoid the story because friends kept emailing me links to it - this story in the Financial Times is fairly typical
    Google built a huge neural network using 16,000 computer processors to see what it would learn when exposed to 10 million clips randomly selected from YouTube videos. There are basically two types of machine learning; supervised when you say "here's an example of X," "here's an example of Y" and "here's another example of X," and unsupervised learning where there is no instructor. Google's system was unsupervised, it just looked at all the YouTube clips and tried to find interesting patterns. It did - cats! Google's system can now look at a YouTube clip and tell you, with some certainty, if there is a cat in it or not.
   Before we leap to conclusions that AIs like cats or want pets first consider an old experiment conducted with neural nets for the Pentagon. They wanted to find Russian tanks in spy photos; so using supervised learning they showed a neural net hundreds of photos, some of which had tanks in and some which did not. After training the neural net could, again with some confidence, identify tanks in photos it had never previously seen. Success they thought. Later they discovered that most of the photos they had of tanks were taken on cloudy days, whereas most of the photos of countryside without tanks were sunny days. The computer had learnt to see if it was cloudy or sunny - the tanks were a coincidence. Google's network may recognize cats but not as we do.
   Actually the cats were a by-product, Google system can recognise 20,000 different things in the YouTube clips.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Friday, June 29, 2012

PINK MILK - a drama for #Turing

A drama infused with dance, PINK MILK is inspired by the true story of Alan Turing - the man basically responsible for ending WWII in Britain but later criminally charged for being gay who chose chemical castration over prison and whose death is shrouded in mystery.  Movement, nosebleeds, electronic and a talking daisy.  PINK MILK, inspired by the father of Computer Science, explodes themes of creation, destruction and eternal love.
   You can help make this happen by donating via KickStarter.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

#Turing and the #Olympic torch


How apt, a photo of the Olympic torch be passed on at the Turing statue in Manchester on Turing's birthday. Not just because it was the centenary of Turing's birth but also because he was a very keen long distance runner - he even tried out for the 1948 British Olympic marathon team. He was carrying an injury at the time and didn't make the cut.
However, as you can see in the photo above, from Turing's race number he was anticipating Twitter.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

IT meltdown at UK bank

We're all used to the occasional story about a bank crediting the wrong amount into someone's account and of them making similar small mistakes that are caused by human error - a bank teller keying in the wrong account details or the incorrect amount. However, for the last week in the UK  the NatWest bank has been virtually crippled by a systemic software failure.
    There's a very good article explaining what went wrong in the Guardian. Basically problems began last Tuesday night when NatWest "updated a key piece of software – CA-7, which controls the batch processing systems that deal with retail banking transactions – ahead of the regular nightly run". Somebody managed to corrupt the schedule in which the batch jobs are run so that they were run in an incorrect order. This doesn't sound like a big problem, but imagine you are expecting $500 to arrive in your account, which you will then use to pay your rent. Then imagine your rent is paid before the money arrives in your account causing you to become overdrawn because the processing schedule was incorrect. Now multiply this problem by millions and millions of transactions. The NatWest is apparently still trying to unravel the mess and play catch-up, whilst assuring customers that their money is safe.
   One theory stated in the Guardian piece is that the outsourcing the Batch Processing IT jobs to India has contributed to the problem because "unless you keep an army of people who know exactly how the system works, there may be problems maintaining it".




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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#Turing centenary RadioLive interview

The interview I gave with Graeme Hill for RadioLive on Turing's centenary is now available as an MP3 from DivShare. You can stream it from the player below or download the MP3 audio as a podcast. You can stream a Flash version from RadioLive's website.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Monday, June 25, 2012

#Turing and the Apple logo

This story never seems to die. Over Turing's centenary weekend the story that the Apple logo (the apple with a bite out) may be a reference to Turing and the poisoned apple it's alleged he committed suicide with cropped up all over the world. Articles like this one for CNN are typical - they all claim that Steve Jobs enjoyed the myth and never debunked it despite the fact that the logos designer, Rob Janoff, categorically stated that he'd never heard of Alan Turing when he designed the logo.
    Regular readers of this blog will know that I reported back in 2011 that Stephen Fry said on his BBC TV show QI that he'd asked Jobs about the Apple logo and Turing. Jobs replied "It isn't true, but God we wish it were!"  It seems though that this is one creation myth that isn't going to go away. We all just want the Apple logo to refer to Turing. It's appropriateness is even more extraordinary when you look at the old rainbow colored Apple logo, which could imply a reference to Turing's homosexuality. In fact the rainbow colors were used by Apple to simply point out that the Apple II supported color graphics. However, I don't think we're going to let the truth stand in the way of a good story anytime soon.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Radio interview about #Turing and the Universal Machine

I've just done a radio interview for RadioLive about Turing's life and his legacy. You can listen online here. You can also win a copy of my book, The Universal Machine if you fill out a form on RadioLive's Graeme Hill's website (the form is below Graeme's photo).
In the radio studio




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Happy birthday Alan #Turing (photo)

This has to be the best photo I've seen so far on Turing's centenary. Some people have dressed up Turing's statue in Sackville Park, Manchester. Who ever you are - well done!




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Saturday, June 23, 2012

#Turing Google Doodle

It's Turing's centenary already in New Zealand and as I expected the Google Doodle is a working Turing machine. Go to Google New Zealand to see it or wait until it's June 23 in your part of the world. Here's how to solve the puzzle that is the Turing Google Doodle
   Whilst I'm here we should thank Google for their efforts in saving some of Turing's papers for the British nation, supporting Bletchley Park and sponsoring the Science Museum's Turing exhibition - well done Google.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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