Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Imagining your imagination

Given the news that are making such a splash recently - "dreaming A.I." and "machines with imagination" (, a few interesting questions are up for pondering...

An NN's (neural network's) "imagination" is a property of the data it has seen and the task it has been trained to do. So an NN trained to recognize buildings will hallucinate buildings in novel images it is given, an NN trained on YouTube videos will discover cats where no cats have ever been, etc.,.. So, an NN trained on my experience, one that sees what I see very day, (and provided it has the machinery to make similar generalizations) should be able to imagine what I would imagine, right?

Facebook and Google and other social services should be jumping on this right now to offer you an app to upload all your photo streams and produce for you "figments of your imagined imagination" or "what your photos reveal about what might be in your mind" (the high-tech NN version of personality quizzes, perhaps). Basically, you can expect the output to be a bizarre juxtaposition of faces and objects and shapes (like in the news article) but customized just for you! Wait for it, I'm sure it's just around the corner.

So if we strap on our GoPros or our Google Glasses and run out into the world hungrily collecting every moment, every sight, and every experience that we live through, can we then hope that our very own personal A.I.s will be able to learn from all this data to remember our dreams when we can't, guess a word off the tip of our tongue, make the same connections, parallels, and metaphors? and know what new thought our mind could have jumped to from the context of the previous conversation? As we envision that A.I. will one day augment us, do we take into account the fact that the augmentation will not be a simple division of labor: "I as the human being will leave the superior, heuristic, and creative tasks to myself, and leave my duller mechanical half to deal with all the storage and lookup and speed that I lack" -- this may be an outdated thought; perhaps "your" A.I. will be able to make bigger generalizations, leap further, find more distant connections, to innovate and create. The correct question should then be: what can YOU contribute to your A.I.?

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