AI Isn’t HumanAmong the criticisms that followed the crash was that a human driver would have easily avoided the incident. “[The pedestrian] wasn’t jumping out of the bushes. She had been making clear progress across multiple lanes of traffic, which should have been in [Uber’s] system purview to pick up,” one expert told CNN. She’s right. An experienced human driver likely would have spotted her. But AI algorithms aren’t human. Deep learning algorithms found in self-driving cars use numerous examples to “learn” the rules of their domain. As they spend time on the road, they classify the information they gather and learn to handle different situations. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they use the same decision-making process as human drivers. That’s why they might perform better than humans in some situations and fail in those that seem trivial to humans. A perfect example is the image-classification algorithm, which learns to recognize images by analyzing millions of labeled photos. Over the years, image classification has become super-efficient and outperforms humans in many settings. This doesn’t mean the algorithms understand the context of images the same way that humans do, though. For instance, research by experts at Microsoft and Stanford University found that a deep learning algorithm trained with images of white cats believed with a high degree of conviction that a photo of a white dog represented a cat, a mistake a human child could easily avoid. And in an infamous case, Google’s image classification algorithm mistakenly classified people of dark skin color as gorillas. These are called “edge cases,” situations that AI algorithms haven’t been trained to handle, usually because of a lack of data. The Uber accident is still under investigation, but some AI experts suggest it could be another edge case. Deep learning has many challenges to overcome before it can be applied in critical situations. But its failures shouldn’t deter us. We must adjust our perceptions and expectations and embrace the reality that every great technology fails during its evolution. AI is no different.
By Ben Dickson | March 26, 2018