Chip to accelerate artificial intelligence

Chip to accelerate artificial intelligence

The field of AI is experiencing a remarkable spur of progress recently. The software is becoming much better at understanding images and speech and it is learning quickly how to play games. The company whose hardware has been the underpinning force to much of that progress has created a new chip to keep the forward momentum going. Nvidia announced a new chip called the Tesla P100, this chip is designed to put more power into a technique called “deep learning”. This technique is responsible for producing most of the recent major advances including Google's AlphaGo, which we know defeated the world's top Go player.

The Nvidia P100 is designed to help computer scientists passed more data to their artificial neural networks or to create larger collections of virtual neurons, as this is the core of deep learning, passing data through large collections of crudely simulated neurons until now, things can only get faster and better. Artificial neuron networks have been around since the mid-1990s but deep learning has only become relevant in the last four or five years. It was by accident that researchers discovered that chips designed to handle videogame graphics made the technique much more powerful. Without serious graphics processors deep learning would not be possible but until the P100 no chip was actually designed with deep learning in mind, this chip is designed for that.

Nvidia claims it spent more than $2 billion on R&D for this new chip, it has a total of 15 billion transistors which use three times as many as any other Nvidia chip which should enable it to learn up to 12 times faster than any artificial neural network that is being powered by an older chip. Nvidia granted early access to the new chip to deep learning researchers from Facebook, Microsoft and other companies involved in the research. The CEO of Nvidia said he expects the new chip to be in full production by the end of this year and that by the end of next year he would be expecting that cloud computing companies would be using it, he also expects IBM, Dell and HP to sell the chip inside servers starting mid-2017.

As well as the new chip Nvidia have made a special computer for deep learning researchers that includes eight P100 chips with relevant memory chips and flash hard drives. Some leading academic research groups, including University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, New York University and MIT are to be given models of the computer, it is being called a DGX-1 and it will be available for sale in mid-2017 for the small sum of $129,000. The whole idea of the chip and the computers is to make machine learning software more capable and faster. To achieve faster and more capable machine learning the machines need massive amounts of computational power, with that power harnessed they can now recognize objects and translate speech in real time, in other words artificial intelligence is finally getting smarter.

Medicine release mechanism

Medicine release mechanism

A research team from MIT say they have recently successfully concluded trials on a pill that sticks to your gastrointestinal tract and can act as a slow long-term drug release mechanism. This will be particularly encouraging for both people who don't like taking pills but still have to find a way of getting the right medical treatment and it solves the problem for doctors who cannot prescribe certain pills because they are rapidly broken down and digested in the body, which means taking many pills over a short period of time to get the required dosage at the right time.

The MIT pill sticks to the surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract using a mucoadesive polymer called carbopol to get the pill to work, this material naturally adhere's to mucosal surfaces like the lining of the stomach and intestines. Once the pill is been swallowed one side of the pill sticks to the wall of the gastrointestinal tract to keep it in place, at the same time the other side of the pill has been designed to solve the other problem with this type of pill, that once in place it gets hit by food or other things that are passing which then pull the tablet off the gastrointestinal wall resulting in the medication either not being delivered at all or delivered to the wrong place at the wrong time. This new design to the other side of the pill relies on a special omniphobic coating that repels all food and liquids. This coating is made of fluorinated and lubricated cellulitis acetate, the design inspiration for this side of the pill was inspired by the lotus leaf which is renowned for its water repelling qualities.

The pill has what they call a Janus, the two-faced mythical God, design which is why it is so groundbreaking. Many past trials have been conducted on pills that were supposed to be able to do this job, until now none of them worked. The worst effects from some of these previous attempts were blockages in the gastrointestinal tract or just pills that completely disappeared after being knocked off the gastrointestinal tract wall by passing foods and liquids. In today's modern medical world extended-release drug solutions are extremely valuable and becoming more and more common. Today however most of these drugs are administered using implants, some of which actually means surgery to get the drugs into place. The second most common method used is by patches that are due to the skin, like the antismoking patches that are very common today.

As far as all the tests have shown the MIT Janus pill is working, but still requires much more testing mainly to measure how long the tablets will stay attached in the gastrointestinal tract and to determine the rate of the extended drug release. Once all the tests have been completed and the pills become available on the market the scientists believe that the pills will be used to prescribe everything from antibiotics to malaria and tuberculosis drugs.

American tech giants face fight in Europe

American tech giants face fight in Europe

A recent European newspaper headline read, “Silicon Valley's battle over encryption is heading to Europe”. Some people say this all started with the FBI's demands that Apple help unlock an iPhone that was used by the terrorists killers in California, these demands that opened a heated debate about privacy. After recent attacks in Brussels and before that the Paris slaughter a few governments across the EU are increasingly pushing and contemplating legislating for greater access to people's digital footprints. French lawmakers were expected to debate proposals to toughen laws which would give intelligence services greater power to access everyone's personal data.

This battle looks like it is going to pit Europe's fears about the serious potential for further attacks against the concerns of the tech giants, Apple, Google and Facebook about the weakening of their encryptions which could allow back doors to people's individual data which the tech giants state could be misused by law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies of unfriendly countries. The problem the American companies have is that the recent attacks have pushed many European citizens to actually favor giving greater powers to law enforcement over personal privacy. Of course they have opponents who say these new powers must not undermine Europe's tough data protection rules that have enshrined privacy on a par with rights like freedom of expression.

The balance between national security and privacy has put major EU countries on opposite sides of the debate, to the point where Germany and the Netherlands have actually caustically dismissed encryption wars being considered by France and Britain. One leading pundit has stated that “fundamental rights are just that, fundamental.” He went on to state that there should be exceptions for national security reasons but declined to state what these exceptions should look like. He also added that governments have to be pragmatic, a comment that had him seriously ridiculed by people who said that kind of pragmatism costs innocent lives.

But there is a new series of proposals across Europe that if approved by the EU would give national intelligence agencies renewed powers to compel the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook to hand over encryption information. In Britain, lawmakers are actually in the process of completing legislation that could legally force tech giants to not only bypass encryption protections but to hand them over in the name of national security. The law which has been branded, snoopers charter, by its opponents would compel companies to aid the country's law enforcement agencies by hacking people smart phones and computers along with other powers.

The French version of this very same law which will give their police and security agencies very similar powers has penalties of up to five years jail for tech company executives and fines of up to $390,000 if they refuse or if a delay handing over the information they are asked for, the biggest problem with this legislation is the part about the delay of handing over the information, and that part is down to spark a lot of legal challenges. At the moment the French law looks like it will fail to pass into law until the next election, France's current left-wing government do not seem to like the law even though they proposed it, and are now being accused by the right wing of putting up the legislation only to keep their opposition quiet but never had any intention to pass the law. Based on some results in from other elections the right wing will most likely have a much bigger say of what laws passed after the next elections which are due before the end of this year.

CEOs of the big tech companies have all recently discovered the value of privacy. On Tuesday, 30 April 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, announced his future plans to make Facebook a "privacy-focused social platform". This was followed by Google's Sundar Pichai demand that “privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world.” Meanwhile, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, has described the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as "net-positive", while Apple had already positioned itself as the champion of privacy.  Paragraph source:

Carmakers test technology

Carmakers test technology

GM (which own Chevrolet in photo), Toyota and VW are all testing systems that either nudge the driver or alert them when they are not paying attention to the road. The so-called driver monitoring systems are designed to determine if you are falling asleep or if you being distracted and cannot drive safely, the first of these new systems could be available as soon as next year. These artificial intelligence systems watch the driver and evaluate their fitness to be behind the wheel but just what the automated system is going to do if it determines you are unfit to be behind the wheel no one is quite prepared to say.

With the improvement in addition to more and more Internet connected entertainment automation technologies in cars the researchers are now putting their attention to doing something about what the researchers are saying, all the entertainment is distracting drivers. There are serious concerns amongst driver groups about maintaining their privacy with the systems in the vehicle but all of the technology providers say the same thing, data collected by a car is the property of the vehicle's owner, and they cannot legally release it without the written permission of the owner or having a court order issued. The biggest concern for driver groups is that there are almost no laws in place now that cover in car data collection.

One of the biggest concerns this technology is setting out to address is that the biggest cause of driver distraction is the use of cell phones and other mobile devices, research suggests drivers who type the text message whilst driving are six times more likely to be involved in an accident and those who answer a phone, look up contact or just browse the Internet are three times more likely to crash. A lot of people are now saying that these driver monitoring systems are being created to fix a problem that was created by automation technology in the first place.

Surprisingly, behind cell phones, the next biggest cause of distraction for drivers is cars with radar enhanced cruise control and lane keeping technology, both of which are sold as safety features but tend to make the driver less attentive, the driver thinks the car can do it all. A specialist lawyer who researches liability issues associated with autonomous vehicles, Bryant Walker Smith, law professor at the University of South Carolina said “we are replacing one set of risks and creating a whole new set of risks”.

There is another industry with parallel experience using automation and that is the aviation industry, the FAA just completed a report that noted pilots recently involved in either crashes or near misses lacked the skill necessary to take over a plane when it's autopilot failed. Today in the aviation industry 90% of the flying is done by computers, and the FAA believes that has led to a decline in skills of flight crew.

A major difficulty with any automation technology is its ability to understand what the person it is monitoring is actually doing, if the system thinks you are being inattentive but you are not how is that conflict going to be resolved. Today most car manufacturers agree the last thing they would expect a driver monitoring system to do is to actually take over control of the vehicle, generally they expect driver monitoring systems to warn the driver in various different ways when the system believes they should be warned that they are not doing what is expected.