Following on from my recent blogs about machine learning, here’s a bit of good news.
Well, probably good news.
Scientists and researchers at Google and Toyota are trying to do something about bias in machine learning by devising a test to detect it.
The problem of course is that algorithms are deliberately designed to develop themselves and they become complex and opaque to anyone trying to understand them. This test will spot bias by looking at the data going in and the decisions coming out, rather than trying to figure out how the black box of the algorithm is actually working.
This has to be applauded so long as the people analysing and testing the decisions aren’t biased themselves; there’s an obvious danger that the very people unconsciously introducing bias into the algorithm also introduce the same bias into the test – a futuristic version of Groupthink.
In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, Alan Winfield, professor of robot ethics at the University of the West of England, said: “Imagine there’s a court case for one of these decisions. A court would have to hear from an expert witness explaining why the program made the decision it did.”
Alan, who was one of the scientists I collaborated with on Science and Science Fiction: Versions of the Future, acknowledges in the article that “an absolute requirement for transparency is likely to prompt ‘howls of protest’ from the deep learning community. ‘It’s too bad,’ he said.”
I’m not a machine learning expert so a lot of the paper that sets out this test is beyond my understanding, but I couldn’t see how the bias that already exists in our society wouldn’t be incorporated into the test.
Take a look for yourself at the Equality of Opportunity in Supervised Learning.
photo credit: ING Group The Next Rembrandt via photopin (license)
Have we unleashed an orgy of trivia? Will robots manipulate our souls? Where’s the experimental writing?
These were some of the questions asked during a superb evening of writers (fiction, non-fiction and marketeer) talking about the future of their craft and answering a broad range of questions from a lively audience.
We touched on the democratisation of publishing, the future of the eBook and whether the big publishers are dying. Finishing up with the speculation that the future is one of artificial intelligence scripting our lives via mass produced personalised messages.
You can read more about it in an article by SilverWood Books.
I want to say a huge thank you to the organisers of the Fitzrovia Festival (“the people live here festival”) for inviting me to host the evening. Thanks also to Etienne Gilfillan for the ‘band’ photo above (left to right: Hannah Kowszun, Helena Halme, Stephen Oram and Allen Ashley) and to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for providing the venue (and wine and nibbles).
Sadly, the camera ran out of space so we didn’t capture it all. However, you can watch most of it here…
Recently, I spent a couple of hours with MA students at London’s City University as part of their module, Developing Creative Content.
I was asked to speak about being an indie author and particularly about marketing.
Now, I’m no marketing expert by any stretch of the imagination. Proof of that is the drawing at the top of this post by my global marketing friend explaining the concepts of the marketing funnel to me over a pint. But, as a result of his patience, a few pints and the penny dropping, I now get it.
It’s about letting people know you’re there, letting them try stuff for free and making a connection with those that like it. And, that’s what I’m doing.
Of course, there’s a shed load of marketing and sales advice out there so I focussed the talk on my own experiences, explaining what I’ve done and why.
As ever, when doing these sorts of things, I learned a lot from preparing the talk and a whole load more from the questions on the day. I was especially pleased with the invaluable insights the students gave me on the look and feel of my free offer.
So, firstly a big thanks to Brenda Stones from City University and secondly if you have students that want to hear from and question a real-life indie author, please drop me a line.