Critical Thinking about AI


Since I have spent almost my entire career on artificial intelligence (AI) and was even once criticized for talking about it twenty years ago because it was “so far out of favor,” I am amused about how excited people have become of this concept in recent years.  For the record, the reason I accepted my wife Susan’s name for Apogee Interactive was not because I liked the reference to the furthest out there in an orbit, but rather because the initials were AI.  Our bill analysis uses AI … better than anyone else in the world for that matter, and that same AI powers our personalized video messaging.  So, we do know quite a bit about AI.

But, let me give you a critical thinking nugget that always seems to be glossed over when you read claims about AI.  It is called the “training set” which is the data set you use to train the AI to know something.  All AI uses this concept to set the conditions for a data element to be true or false.  When enough data elements align as true or false, you can set the consequential action or output to occur.  You are always dealing with false positives or false negatives, but good AI can alert the user of the confidence you have in the prediction.

Today’s news media claimed we can now “read your mind” with modern pattern recognition AI.  Obviously that caught my attention.  The article was intended to do that.  Here is one of them, read what Science Alert has to say.

As you read it, remember my admonition and you will stop at some point and declare this nonsense because it simply shows you can differentiate what a person has seen by their brain waves.

Never once did it try to replicate what another person saw or thought using this training set.  This article is basically nonsense since it only clearly points out the false positives and false negatives within a person.

AI is only useful when we can move beyond the training set.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do think experiments like this are noteworthy. I just wish the editorial process was more reflective of the realities.

Otherwise, we deal with stupid money chasing stupid dreams.  This one is truly way off compared to others.

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