Looking at AI

January 02, 2019


We’re entering a brand new year so I believe it’s time to tackle a subject I’ve been avoiding: Artificial Intelligence. Why have I been skirting around AI for so long? Full disclosure: No matter how much I read about it – I still don’t really grasp it.

However, like all Aquarians, I believe in looking to the future so here is what I’ve learned so far – starting with a quote from 95-year-old Henry Kissinger that appeared in the Financial Times where he urged the creation of a presidential commission on AI. “If we do not start this effort soon, before long we shall discover that we started too late,” he concluded.

In June 2018, he wrote a terrifying piece on AI for The Atlantic Monthly where he compared humanity today to the Incas before the arrival of smallpox and the Spanish. Reading Kissinger’s comments was a turning point for me. I began to take a greater interest in this subject.


Here’s a quote: “AI systems, through their very operations, are in constant flux as they acquire and instantly analyze new data, THEN SEEK TO IMPROVE THEMSELVES on the basis of that analysis. Through this process, artificial intelligence develops an ability previously thought to be reserved for human beings.”


An event was set up to show that a computer program could challenge international champions playing the game “GO” – which is much more complex than chess. FOR THE PLAYERS: Each deployed 180 or 181 pieces, placed alternately on an empty board. FOR THE COMPUTER: This ability cannot be preprogrammed. The machine learned to master “GO” by training itself through practice. Given the basic rules, the computer played innumerable games against itself, learning from its mistakes and refining its algorithms accordingly. In the months following this event, it exceeded the skills of its human mentors and an AI program called AlphaGo decisively defeated the world’s greatest “GO” players. CLICK HERE to read how Google’s AlphaGo Beat A Go World Champion.

GO is an ancient board game. One player has black pieces -- the other has white. The game starts on an empty board where the players take turns, placing one stone at each turn on a vacant point. Some professional games exceed 16 hours and are played in sessions over two days

I found this technology that’s “capable of inventing and solving complex, abstract problems by processes that seem to replicate those of the human mind” very upsetting. So I quit writing and started drinking a giant 16 oz. mug of coffee while digging into a box of all-chocolate cupcakes labeled “School Safe.” Then, because of their size, I wolfed down four of these mini monsters. It should have said, “Not Safe for Grown-up Piggies.”


In 2018 the hot new artist was: min G max D Ex [log D (x))] + Ez [log (1 – D (G (z)))]. This is the creator of a print on canvas that is named the “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy,” It was auctioned at Christie’s on 10/25/18.

I saw Portrait of Edmond de Belamy at Christies on 10/23/18. It is 27 1/2” square. It was auctioned on 10/25 and sold for $432,500 – over 40 times Christies’ initial estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. The artist is: min G max D Ex [log D (x))] + Ez [log (1 – D (G (z)))] (seen on the bottom right and not done on the computer). I overheard one viewer say, “I like the ‘artist’s signature’ more than the portrait.”   

The computer was fed a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries. Then the generator portion of the algorithm started creating works. (Don’t ask.) It kept churning them out until it fooled the ‘discriminator’ portion of the algorithm – which was created to distinguish between man-made and machine-made works of art. (Again, don’t ask.)

BEFORE: Has the art world gone mad? This painting was auctioned off for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s in London. Photos: Courtesy of the New York Post, Sunday, October 7, 2018

AND AFTER: Just after the bidding closed, an alarm sounded and the piece fell through a shredder the artist had secretly built into the picture frame. This enabled him to remotely activate the nasty “art killer.” This was a first for Sotheby’s.

The guilty party is named “Banksy” and he’s keeping his identity secret. Why? Apparently, he has a high-profile career as an artist. But not to worry, a British newspaper reported that the value of the work could more than double thanks to this jaw-dropping stunt.


This example really makes one pay attention to AI. The July 2018 “Lunch with the FT” interview with Vivienne Ming titled, “The Professional Class is about to be Blind-sided by AI” cited an example by Ming who bills herself as a “Human Potential Maximizer.”

Make sure you’re sitting down when you read this. A recent competition took place at Columbia University between human lawyers, and their artificial counterparts, in which both read a series of nondisclosure agreements with loopholes in them. “The AI found 95% of them, and the humans found 88%,” Ming says. “But the humans took 90 minutes to read them. The AI took 22 seconds.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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