AI Talk: Brains, planes, basic income and algorithms

April 19, 2019 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

This week’s AI Talk…

Algorithmic Accountability Act

I saw this (where else?) in a newsletter aptly dubbed “The Algorithm” from MIT Tech Review. It focuses on newly introduced legislation in the Senate with the following succinct summary: “To direct the Federal Trade Commission to require entities that use, store, or share personal information to conduct automated decision system impact assessments and data protection impact assessments.” The law basically mandates that any “automated decision system”—euphemism for AI solutions—needs to properly assess impact on consumers. Bias in AI decision making cannot be condoned (as has been frequently shown to exist in AI that screens job applicants, for instance, and other tasks) and privacy cannot be breached without consent, as has been repeatedly the case with Facebook. This is simply the first step towards regulating the impact of AI. And, indeed a needed step!

Brain Zap

Apparently, if you zap your brain with electrostimulation, your memory can improve. That’s the astounding conclusion of this study reported in Nature Neuroscience. Using a baseline of volunteers, ages 20 and 70, the researchers were able to show that brain activity with 70-year-olds matched the 20-year-olds after electrostimulation. Fascinating research! I hope by the time I reach 70 (just half-a-dozen years away) this technique will be commonplace. I am ready to be zapped now! I could use a memory boost.

Basic Income Trial

I saw this article in Futurism. In several blogs, I have mentioned how some thinkers have argued for a safety net called “Universal Basic Income,” to counter the massive disruptions to the workforce anticipated with AI and technology. Looks like one California city is experimenting with this idea! Stockton, California will pay 130 residents $500 for 18 months. They are the first guinea pigs for this program and they will be followed as data is collected on how they spend the money. It will be years before the results will be available, but it is an interesting experiment.



What exactly is Stratolaunch? The largest airplane in the world, that’s what! This monster plane, with a wing span larger than a football field, will provide a way to easily and repeatedly launch satellites from low earth orbit. Check out this cool video of its maiden flight last week.

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V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is Vice President of Research for M*Modal, with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.