Dear Commons Community,
Artificial intelligence is making inroads in various areas of human endeavor. Major tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple have hired many of the most talented individuals in A.I. development. To expand A.I. to others who might not have nor be able to afford to hire an A.I. staff, Google announced yesterday that it will be selling relatively easy to use A.I. development services. As reported in the New York Times:
“Google has been using artificial intelligence to build other artificially intelligent systems for the last several months. Now the company plans to sell this kind of “automated machine learning” technology to other businesses across the globe. On Wednesday, Google introduced a cloud-computing service that it bills as a way to build a so-called computer vision system that suits your particular needs — even if you have little or no experience with the concepts that drive it.
If you are a radiologist, for example, you can use CT scans to automatically train a computer algorithm that identifies signs of lung cancer. If you run a real estate website, you can build an algorithm that distinguishes between living rooms and kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms.
At least that is the pitch. “You don’t need a Ph.D. in machine learning,” said Diane Greene, who oversees Google’s cloud computing group. “But you can still build a highly accurate machine learning model.”
Like many of the world’s largest internet companies in recent years, Google has begun relying on machine learning — computer algorithms that can learn tasks on their own by analyzing large amounts of data. These include systems that learn to recognize commands spoken into smartphones or translate one language into another. They also include algorithms that learn to build other machine learning systems.
Google uses the technique while building systems that can recognize faces, products, landmarks and other objects in photos. In some cases, these algorithms are more accurate than something that is designed solely by engineers.
The new service is part of a widespread effort to expand the power of modern A.I. to businesses that are largely unfamiliar with this rapidly evolving technology. Like Google, a New York start-up called Clarifai offers an online service that helps customers train computer vision algorithms.
At the same time, several other start-ups, like Boston’s DataRobot and Silicon Valley’s H2O.ai, offer services designed to help businesses analyze the way products, customers, markets and employees behaved in the past and predict how they will perform in the future.
“They aim to automate data science in general,” said Randy Olson, a data scientist at Life Epigenetics, a company in Portland, Ore.
Tech giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have hired a large portion of the people who specialize in the machine learning techniques that are rapidly accelerating the progress of A.I. — a community of only 10,000 researchers worldwide, according to one estimate. That means most businesses don’t have the talent needed to explore the latest machine learning.”
This is an interesting step forward for A.I development. While the Google service focuses only on image recognition, it portends a future when A.I. development will be much easier than it is now and will be available to companies, organizations, and people using it for a variety of purposes. Even colleges and schools might consider using A.I. for instruction, advisement, counseling and other educational services.