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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Now it is Facebook's turn to be stupid about AI

 It is another week, and yet another big company has profoundly misunderstood AI. Today Facebook. IBM has been around a long time and was always actively hostile to AI so it is understandable that they would know nothing about AI. Facebook, founded by a guy who went to Harvard where AI was never taken seriously as a subject is another case of “let’s just make up stuff about AI and assume we are making sense.” Today’s announcement:

Facebook releases 1.6GB of children’s stories for training its AI

I guess what they are saying is that children learn about the world by reading children’s stories so their program will learn that way as well.

To see that this is simply stupid, let’s consider three well known children’s stories: Goldilocks, Rumplestilskin, and Little Red Riding Hood.

I just chose these at random. I remember them, and to be honest, never really understood what they were about. But surely Facebook’s AI will understand them better than I ever did. Many people have written about these stories and tried to explain them. Here are three answers I found on the web about the moral of Goldilocks:

What is the moral of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"?

  1. The moral of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is that individual actions can hurt others, especially when one person uses or destroys another person’s property. In addition, the popular fable stresses the importance of self control and respecting others. 
  2. In the original story, the moral was that you should respect the privacy and property of others. 
  3. Goldilocks is a cute, misguided child that makes mistake after mistake. However, you never quite know if she learned a lesson from them in the end. Instead the reader (hopefully) learns the lesson for her. 

How about Rumplestilskin? I found a site that listed ten lessons. Here are three:

Lesson 1 – Always have a fall guy; if you get away with a lie, you have around 24 hours to get to Mexico.

Lesson 2 – Prenuptial agreements; find a good lawyer, one who won’t overlook any previous deals made with Rumpelstiltskin.

Lesson 3 – Don’t judge a book by its cover; Just because a man enslaves and threatens you, doesn’t mean he isn’t good ‘marriage material’.

What about Little Red Riding Hood? Here are there I found:

1. In the story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the view behind  the fairytale is as a warning to young girls to be careful of their virginity.

2. In Little Red Riding Hood, your children can learn the importance of being careful whom to trust, as well as to think critically. Although the young girl featured in this tale was initially fooled by the wolf, she was eventually able to deduce that her “grandmother” was not at all who she appeared to be at first.

3. I guess it's probably 'don't talk to strangers', and also 'be careful about who you trust'. It could also be 'don't walk through creepy woods by yourself' though

What could Facebook be thinking here? We read stories to our children for many reasons. These are read because they have been around a long time, which is not a great reason. The reason to read frightening stories to children has never ben clear to me. The only value I saw in doing this sort of thing as a parent was to begin a discussion with the child about the story which might lead somewhere interesting. Now my particular children had been living in the real world at the time so they had some way to relate to the story because of their own fears, or because of experiences they might have had.

Facebook’s AI will be able to relate to these stories by matching words it has seen before. Oh good. It will not learn anything from the stories because it cannot learn anything from any story. Learning from stories means mapping your experiences (your own stories) to the new story and finding some commonalities and some differences. It also entails discussing those commonalties and differences with someone who is willing to have that conversation with you. In order to do that you have to be able to construct sentences on your own and be able to interpret your own experiences through conversations with your friends and family.

Facebook’s “AI” will not be doing this because it can’t. It has had no experiences. Apparently its experience is loading lots of text and counting patterns. Too bad there isn’t a children’s story about that.

Facebook hasn’t a clue about AI, but it will continue to spend money and accomplish nothing until AI is declared to have failed again,

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