Flops, brought to you by A.I.

"To err" is to be robotic — apparently.

  • About 3.1 million individuals could lose their job to self-driving cars.
  • A.I. is not a monolith. It makes a lot of mistakes.
  • To better understand how to navigate our economic future, we should pay attention to these mistakes.

Artificial intelligence can drive a car, buy and sell stocks, and perform healthcare tasks, amongst numerous other tasks as the technology grows and changes each day. Despite how impressive some of these developments are, concern has consistently been expressed over humans losing jobs to robots powered by A.I.

At the end of 2016, for instance, the White House predicted that 3.1 million individuals who drive for work could see their jobs replaced by autonomous vehicles. However, A.I. isn't going to take every job in the world — not just yet, at least. In order to better understand that fact and the nature of what constitutes artificial intelligence, it's worth taking a look not just its successes, but its failures, curiosities, and hiccups as well.

A list has been making its way around Twitter's scientific community featuring, as one individual put it, "instances of A.I. doing what creators specify, not what they mean." It is a delight. Here are some of our favorites:

1. A robotic arm trained to move a block to a certain point on the table opted to move the table to the block instead.

2. A.I. was charged with evolving a creature built for speed — and so grew a really tall creature who generated high velocities by. . . falling over.

3. In one A.I.-overseen simulation, where creatures required energy and giving birth cost no energy, one species evolved themselves into a lifestyle that consisted of them sitting around, mating, and then eating their children.

4. A four-legged creature trained to carry a ball on its back decided to, instead, drop the ball between its legs and wiggle across a floor.

5. A pancake-making robot decided that the best way to make a pancake would be to throw it as high in the air as possible to keep it as far away as possible from the ground.

6. A creature learns to bait an opponent into following it off a cliff, which gives the creature enough points to get an extra life — which is a strategy the creature then pursues in an infinite loop.

Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
  • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

This smart tech gives plants feelings

Designers from Luxembourg created a smart planter that can make anyone have a green thumb.

Images credit: mu-design
Technology & Innovation
  • A design team came up with a smart planter that can indicate 15 emotions.
  • The emotions are derived from the sensors placed in the planter.
  • The device is not in production yet but you can order it through a crowdfunding campaign.
Keep reading Show less

10 new things we’ve learned about death

If you don't want to know anything about your death, consider this your spoiler warning.

Culture & Religion
  • For centuries cultures have personified death to give this terrifying mystery a familiar face.
  • Modern science has demystified death by divulging its biological processes, yet many questions remain.
  • Studying death is not meant to be a morbid reminder of a cruel fate, but a way to improve the lives of the living.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Often times, interactions that we think are "zero-sum" can actually be beneficial for both parties.
  • Ask, What outcome will be good for both parties? How can we achieve that goal?
  • Afraid the win-win situation might not continue? Build trust by creating a situation that increases the probability you and your counterpart will meet again.