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Which side of the A.I. debate are you on: Musk or Zuckerberg?

Two tech titans can't agree on the one thing that could come to define our times: A.I. What do they have to say on the matter?

Should A.I. be regulated? (Photo: SAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and SpaceX/Tesla's Elon Musk have a few things in common. They're both Bay Area billionaires, incredibly smart, and, statistically, will have made more money in the time it took you to read this sentence than you will make in a month. 

But while that may be true, they both disagree on one big thing: the future of artificial intelligence

Mark Zuckerberg


Mark Zuckerberg. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Mark Zuckerberg is a major proponent of AI and is certain that it will help to resolve the issues that Facebook now faces. The Facebook founder believes in the power of AI to solve the misbehavior and discrimination that has been prolific on the platform. While AI hasn’t evolved enough to help the company prevent censorship and propaganda, Zuckerberg mentioned it over and over in his hearing in front of Congress.

Zuckerberg believes that the future of the billion-plus user platform lies in virtual reality and advanced artificial intelligence. Facebook’s goal is to integrate the technology to learn what users want, and to prevent some of the negative behavior that has been so widespread.

 

Currently, Facebook uses AI in a more simple form than what Mark Zuckerberg envisions. AI helps to recognize you and your friends’ faces when tagging photos. Additionally, if you’re a business that advertises on the platform, AI and the Facebook algorithms decides where the ads will place on the viewer’s news feed. The current version of AI can also assess the possibility of a user committing suicide—but Facebook hasn’t said what they do with that information.

Zuckerberg believes in deeply-integrated artificial intelligence to help to fight terrorist propaganda. Facebook’s current AI helps to spot spammers, remove fake accounts, and reduce political and digital fraud. The Drudge Report has covered AI in-depth, as well as Facebook’s moves to increase their user surveillance.

The short of it is this: Mark Zuckerberg believes heavily in artificial intelligence, putting his faith and money behind the thought that the technology will save us from ourselves.

Elon Musk


Elon Musk. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Elon Musk is very, very wary of artificial intelligence. Having been quoted as “frightened” of what it is capable of doing, he has put his money where his thoughts are: preventing AI from taking over.

Musk believes that AI will go rogue, turn on humanity, and be the ultimate death of life as we know it. Musk has invested heavily in the space program (through his groundbreaking SpaceX organization) and has said that interplanetary colonization will save us from the threat that we have created for ourselves. He believes that we will need a place to go—Mars—when A.I. eventually takes over.

With A.I.’s ability to learn human speech patterns (think of Siri or Google’s Cortana), and adaptability to human wants and needs, as well as their living habits (think Alexa or the Google Home), Elon Musk is firm in his conviction that A.I. will only bring destruction. He sees A.I. as evil, and that the developments that A.I. has undergone will only hurt humanity, not progress it. What Musk does believe in, however, is the melding of biology and machines. He has been a noted proponent of merging the human body with technology, hardwiring your brain to interface directly with computers and digital devices. Your brain will have the computing power of the cloud to back it up.

In the end, it will come down to the American consumer; what do you believe in? Do you want the progression of artificial intelligence and the advancements of computer learning? Or do you believe in Elon Musk’s vision of human-computers, bypassing the need for artificial intelligence completely?

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Human brains remember certain words more easily than others

A study of the manner in which memory works turns up a surprising thing.

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  • Researchers have found that some basic words appear to be more memorable than others.
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Cognitive psychologist Weizhen Xie (Zane) of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) works with people who have intractable epilepsy, a form of the disorder that can't be controlled with medications. During research into the brain activity of patients, he and his colleagues discovered something odd about human memory: It appears that certain basic words are consistently more memorable than other basic words.

The research is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

An odd find

Image source: Tsekhmister/Shutterstock

Xie's team was re-analyzing memory tests of 30 epilepsy patients undertaken by Kareem Zaghloul of NINDS.

"Our goal is to find and eliminate the source of these harmful and debilitating seizures," Zaghloul said. "The monitoring period also provides a rare opportunity to record the neural activity that controls other parts of our lives. With the help of these patient volunteers we have been able to uncover some of the blueprints behind our memories."

Specifically, the participants were shown word pairs, such as "hand" and "apple." To better understand how the brain might remember such pairings, after a brief interval, participants were supplied one of the two words and asked to recall the other. Of the 300 words used in the tests, five of them proved to be five times more likely to be recalled: pig, tank, doll, pond, and door.

The scientists were perplexed that these words were so much more memorable than words like "cat," "street," "stair," "couch," and "cloud."

Intrigued, the researchers looked at a second data source from a word test taken by 2,623 healthy individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found essentially the same thing.

"We saw that some things — in this case, words — may be inherently easier for our brains to recall than others," Zaghloul said. That the Mechanical Turk results were so similar may "provide the strongest evidence to date that what we discovered about how the brain controls memory in this set of patients may also be true for people outside of the study."

Why understanding memory matters

person holding missing piece from human head puzzle

Image source: Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock

"Our memories play a fundamental role in who we are and how our brains work," Xie said. "However, one of the biggest challenges of studying memory is that people often remember the same things in different ways, making it difficult for researchers to compare people's performances on memory tests." He added that the search for some kind of unified theory of memory has been going on for over a century.

If a comprehensive understanding of the way memory works can be developed, the researchers say that "we can predict what people should remember in advance and understand how our brains do this, then we might be able to develop better ways to evaluate someone's overall brain health."

Party chat

Image source: joob_in/Shutterstock

Xie's interest in this was piqued during a conversation with Wilma Bainbridge of University of Chicago at a Christmas party a couple of years ago. Bainbridge was, at the time, wrapping up a study of 1,000 volunteers that suggested certain faces are universally more memorable than others.

Bainbridge recalls, "Our exciting finding is that there are some images of people or places that are inherently memorable for all people, even though we have each seen different things in our lives. And if image memorability is so powerful, this means we can know in advance what people are likely to remember or forget."

spinning 3D model of a brain

Temporal lobes

Image source: Anatomography/Wikimedia

At first, the scientists suspected that the memorable words and faces were simply recalled more frequently and were thus easier to recall. They envisioned them as being akin to "highly trafficked spots connected to smaller spots representing the less memorable words." They developed a modeling program based on word frequencies found in books, new articles, and Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the model was unable to predict or duplicate the results they saw in their clinical experiments.

Eventually, the researchers came to suspect that the memorability of certain words was linked to the frequency with which the brain used them as semantic links between other memories, making them often-visited hubs in individuals's memory networks, and therefore places the brain jumped to early and often when retrieving memories. This idea was supported by observed activity in participants' anterior temporal lobe, a language center.

In epilepsy patients, these words were so frequently recalled that subjects often shouted them out even when they were incorrect responses to word-pair inquiries.

Seek, find

Modern search engines no longer simply look for raw words when resolving an inquiry: They also look for semantic — contextual and meaning — connections so that the results they present may better anticipate what it is you're looking for. Xie suggests something similar may be happening in the brain: "You know when you type words into a search engine, and it shows you a list of highly relevant guesses? It feels like the search engine is reading your mind. Well, our results suggest that the brains of the subjects in this study did something similar when they tried to recall a paired word, and we think that this may happen when we remember many of our past experiences."

He also notes that it may one day be possible to leverage individuals' apparently wired-in knowledge of their language as a fixed point against which to assess the health of their memory and brain.

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