Smart Software: Definitely More Exciting than a COBOL Accounting System

January 26, 2021

I found “A Closer Look at the AI Incident Database of Machine Learning Failures” for the jejune write up contains pointers to some useful resources: Resource which remind one that software mostly functions in ways which confound users.

The article contains an interesting statement from a smart software expert. Here’s the passage I found interesting. The “McGregor” is Sean McGregor, lead technical consultant for the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, an individual exposed to the exceptional performance of IBM’s really smart software:

McGregor points out that the behavior of traditional software is usually well understood, but modern machine learning systems cannot be completely described or exhaustively tested. Machine learning derives its behavior from its training data, and therefore, its behavior has the capacity to change in unintended ways as the underlying data changes over time. “These factors, combined with deep learning systems capability to enter into the unstructured world we inhabit means malfunctions are more likely, more complicated, and more dangerous,” McGregor says.

No wonder Google seems to be rethinking its approach to in house, full time, Googlers who want to bring “ethics” to an engineering problem. Maybe ethics and smart software go beyond the non digital world of dudes like Immanuel Kant. I would hypothesize that Kant probably could land a job in Google’s Berlin office.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2021


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