Into the world of Artificial Intelligence aka A.I.

You may remember that at uni I’ve been doing a media technologies module. I love this module because although I’m a part of a generation that has grown-up constantly surrounded by technology, there is still so much I take for granted or don’t fully understand about it. I love science fiction films and novels, one of my favourite films is Her. So when the opportunity came to explore a media technology, I knew that I had to look at artificial intelligence (AI)).  I’ve created a four part series of blogs that explores AI, it’s present and future and the implications it could have on human life.

In Her, Scarlett Johansson plays the role of an operating system with artificial intelligence called Samantha. Samantha develops a romantic relationship with one of her owners. She, with a group of other intelligent OS’s, evolve to a level that is beyond human comprehension and subsequently leave to explore and continue developing their new existence. The Channel 4 show Humans plays with the same themes while adding another dimension by giving these sentient AI, physical bodies, that feel a whole range of human emotions. It deals with the philosophical and ethical issues that arise with such an awakening, such as how to punish these machines for crimes they commit; are they tried in court and handled like humans? Or should they just be shut down and discarded?

We often look at these media and think there are just a distant reality, one that we may not encounter in our lifetime but we are always getting closer and closer to this. More so in the last decade where we have made tremendous strides in AI technology and are already, maybe without even knowing it, using it. Although we haven’t quite reached the super cool level like in Humans (Imagine having a your own super intelligent AI companion when travelling in a new country).

During my research of AI, I’ve learnt that there are many different aspects that fall within this category. One term that came up regularly is Machine Learning, Forbes describes it here as “program(ing) a computer by training it with a massive ocean of sample data”. Things that fall under this category are Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant in new versions of Android, that gathers information from your messages and direct communication with and in turn reflects your style back. Both of these are great examples of how we are already implementing Machine Learning into modern life. They can also be described as specialised AI, which do things like driving cars and buying up concert tickets online. The AI we see in Humans comes under the bracket of General Purpose, this describes the way the AI learns from experiences instead of being programmed, because of this they become well rounded in terms of capabilities and function. Modelled closely to the way the human mind works, accessing memories and experiences to handle different situations and learn from each of these. Last year, Google’s DeepMind team created an AI that is currently the closest example of General Purpose AI. Here is a video from ColdFusion explaining in more detail.

 

 

Marshal McLuhan once said “All media are extensions of some human faculty-psychic or physical” and in some ways AI is the ultimate extension of the human self. The handy tetrad diagram below, explains the four ways in which he believed technology achieves this.

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AI can definitely enhance human life, as we have already seen with the tech that is already out. Think of system AIs like Google Assistant, Siri, or Cortana, which currently act as personal assistants, able to find restaurants for you, call a friend, remind you of upcoming appointments and more. Increasingly they are becoming a better companion, with technology that allows them to hold a semi-normal conversation. With time and work could they become an outlet for loneliness and perhaps a replacement for human companionship?

 

These aren’t the only ways that AI can be used, there is an incredibly huge scope of potential. But, unfortunately, AI isn’t advanced enough to help me compile everything into a manageable set of blog posts.

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Part 2: The future of AI technology

So many films and TV shows have theorised about the future of AI, in both I, Robot and Humans, they are the future manual labourers and assistants, doing the jobs that humans would rather not. In some ways this is a reflection of reality, many factory jobs have been given to robots that are faster and cheaper than human labour and with the increase in development what does this mean for the future of those in low to mid-range jobs? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, states there are several levels of needs that humans need to be a happy.

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Perhaps with a robot labour force it will be easier to fulfil these. Perhaps it will give people more time and in turn the space and time to work on the higher needs, needed to achieve fulfilment. But on the flip side it could threaten the very basic of needs by depriving people of the jobs needed to secure those base physiological needs.

Some have argued that a universal income is the way to combat this and many other socio-economic problems. In an interview with the BBC Stephen Hawking says that AI “would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate” suggesting that perhaps AI would exceed human control and management. Maybe the robot overlords of The Matrix and Terminator will become a reality for those in the future.

Sam Harris has similar reservations about AI, in his TED talk below, he warns of the dangers of not examining the threats posed by the growing development of AI. He further reinforces the point that although AI has many potential benefits for humanity, it could also lead to a wider gap between the rich and the poor. With many left jobless because of the robotic labourers.

<a href=”https://embed.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_can_we_build_ai_without_losing_control_over_it”>https://embed.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_can_we_build_ai_without_losing_control_over_it</a&gt;

Hanson Robotics is a technology company based in Hong Kong, that as the name suggests builds robots. They first took to the global stage last year with this video interview with CNBC.

In the video we meet one of their creations called Sophia, she has ‘skin’, blinks, pulls funny faces and even has (or fakes) wants and desires “In the future I hope to do things such as go to school, study, make art, start a business. Even have my own home and family”. Sophia, is one of the closest examples of General Purpose AI’s that resembles the machines in science fiction media. Her quote, leads into the question of how will these autonomous machines be treated, will they be given rights? What if they commit crimes how will they be punished? Hanson Robotics takes an idealistic view of the future and imagines that we will become partners with the robots, and on their website they say that their robots will aide us to “solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world”

Although it is important to distinguish that Sophia isn’t fully there yet, as a general purpose AI. She currently exhibits more of the machine learning style, that involves her constantly learning from new interactions with humans but she never truly creates an independent thought or idea. She presents the question of, how will the future sentient AI be treated? Will they have rights? Will they be punished for crimes or will their creators take responsibility?

100 Books, One Year

Last year I tried to challenge myself to reading 100 books in the year. But stupidly I only decided this with 4 months of the year left and as you can tell it did not end well. I did reach 30 books!

I used to read up to 8 books a month when I was younger, I was quite obsessed. Books were a way to escape for a while and become involved in somebody else life. Or to learn something new about other cultures, people and science. I used to have a set of young scientist books, that had all different topics, from magnets and space to force and electricity.

I’m starting this year on a clean slate, and trying the challenge again. I’ll be sharing my progress and a review of each book throughout the year. I’ll also be sharing to read list, incase anybody would like to join me!

My first book of the year is by one of my favourite authors, Nicola Yoon. I really enjoyed Everything Everything, it just flowed really well from start to finish. Sometimes I have to get through the first couple chapters of a book to really get into it but I didn’t have that problem with Everything Everything. I’m hoping that her next book is similar.

 

Natasha: I’mcover.jpg a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Buy it here.

A Couple of Changes I’m Making

It’s that time of year when we all reflect on the past year and start making plans for the next. I’m no different, I’m always trying to improve myself and become happier but I always prefer making new changes on a fresh start. Whether that be on a monday, a new month or a new year.

I’ve come a long way with my physical and mental well-being but I still have work to do. I don’t like to think of things as a new year resolution just more life changes that I’m beginning in a new year. It just makes it feel like it’s more of a permanent change than temporary fix. I’m mostly focusing on improving my health both mentally and physically, and also trying to be more environmentally friendly.

  • Being more open with my feelings. 

I’m very guilty of telling my boyfriend one thing but actually meaning something else. So I’m trying to be more transparent with my feelings and wants. This will help us both in the long run, so I won’t be upset when he doesn’t do the thing I secretly want him to and he wont be perpetually confused.

  • Do Yoga 5 times a week
  • Go to the gym at least 3 times a week

This has been the best year for me so far in terms of gym attendance but I have still been pretty erratic. So I’m going to try to be more consistent with it. Yoga, for the mental and physical well-being. Mostly because I want to get back to being semi flexible.

  • Learn Spanish

I’ve been trying to learn a language for a while now but this year has really shown me that a second or third language can be a very handy thing in the job market. Since I’ll be graduating in a few months, I’m going to need all the help I can get to stand out in an extremely competitive market. Also Spanish seems super cool, and would come in handy for travelling in many spanish speaking countries.

  • Create a more stylish wardrobe

I’m at the point where I really want to create a brand and look for myself. This includes always looking on point and stylish. In the past I’ve just been a bit too shy to wear the clothes I want to wear but I want to really build a stylish wardrobe. With pieces that will last me a while and work well together, so I can wear pretty much anything in my wardrobe and still look amazing.

  • SAVE!

This is probably one of the more important of my changes, as I’m usually the worst at saving for anything. I’m more of a spend for the now kind of girl but I’m starting to see the importance of having a savings fund for emergencies and also for bigger trips. I opened up a savings account in September, that I can’t take money from until April and it has probably been one of my best ideas. I’ve actually managed to have some money put aside for a long period!

A Reflection of Map Of Fun

As you may remember, ‘Map Of Fun’ is a little project I’ve been working on at University. Its a Google maps add-on created by me and my teammates. It wasn’t our first idea – we held a long brainstorming session, and came up with a (long) shortlist of ideas, and then narrowed them, merging ideas and themes.

Some of the ideas we had included an app to control your smart-appliances remotely and, an app that consolidated your social media accounts into one feed, highlighting the posts you would find most interesting at the top of your feed. We settled on ‘Map Of Fun’, as we thought it was an immersive, add-on that allows for a lot of functionality.

Luckily, I  managed to bag a great team! All highly motivated people who have good work ethics. This made the whole process a lot smoother as everyone could contribute and work effectively as a team. However, that didn’t aid us when organising group meeting times. All of us had different timetables, work schedules and social calendars. But we managed to find slots in and around this that we could all make, utilising our Facebook page to communicate.

Dividing the workload originally appeared to be quite simple, we split the assignment into four key areas; researching app production, finance, design and, market research. Probably our largest problem arose from the overlap of topics, meaning a few of us wasted time doing extremely similar tasks. For example,  research into apps and competition in the market was also covered in the audience research. I think the next time we will have to define the roles of each task better and think through any overlaps more thoroughly. 

During our audience research we held a focus group, and showed the participants apps that were similar in function to our own and got them to compare and contrast – identifying the pros and cons of each. Unfortunately, the majority of participants were aged between 20 and 22 which was narrow considering our wider target audience of 18-25.

Once we began researching how we would go about making an add-on that would integrate with Maps, the costs and specialist skills needed quickly rose to a level that was beyond our understanding ( Programmers can earn up to 54k a year!) . It was a little discouraging but we knew it was essential if we wanted to meet our vision for a high quality app that could stand out and take off in an already overpopulated market. We needed to avoid the quick, cheap and ugly finish that a lot of great ideas are spoilt by.

We used sites such as Savvy Apps, Mashable and Blue Cloud, which are specialist app development platforms and often included interviews and personal advice from professionals in the industry.  They offered us an insight to the world of app design and development teaching us about timescales, the team of people involved and all the other aspects we had to take into consideration.

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When working on the design we had to think about certain affordances made when making mobile apps. We chose to have the slide-out menu on the left-hand side as this is the industry standard and matches the direction we read in English. If we were to expand to other countries we would amend this for languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Urdu, that are read right-to-left.

We have a solid base for a great app and if we had more time we could have worked on the feedback given to us in the focus group; improving the design, using fonts and colours that are easier to read, and, incorporating more topics such as sport. We also intended to design a more detailed plan for working with local business and fostering the community with reward schemes or achievements to ensure there would always be a wide range of content and also exploring some other themes in detail such as the ethics behind the type of content we would and and wouldn’t allow.

We would also diversify and ensure that there are spaces where people of all ages and interests can meet, talk and learn from one another for example, family days or gallery exhibits.

 

Map Of Fun

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This year I have taken an interesting module called Media Technologies. It’s all about exploring different technologies within media, like Raspberry Pis (the $30 computer) and the internet. And as part of this module we were asked to design and develop a new piece of media technology.

In my group of four we were instantly drawn towards discovery based technologies. We wanted to help answer a question which almost all of us asked on a daily basis. ‘What’s going on?’ .We also knew that we had to do it in a way that was  easy to use, informative and was based around a great layout.

After a round of brainstorming we decided to create ‘Map Of Fun’, a simple add-on for Google Maps, that utilises the location-based power of the Google Maps application and evolves it into an ideas app. The app would contain a social aspect allowing the user to see live events and interesting things to do around them.

The app allows a community of users to add events they are attending (or hosting!) to the map. The events can either be public (visible to everyone in the area) or private (only shown to friends / connections). Local businesses such as restaurants, bars and clubs are able add their events for free, just the same as users. But, they will be charged a fee to promote their events on the map, which would allow them to stand out.  This would be a key revenue stream for the app and would ensure there is always content available for users.

Upon selecting the event users are presented with details such as, the price of entry, dates and the distance to the event. Users will be able to filter the shown events to show only the categories relevant to their current mood:  Restaurants, Cafés, Bars and Pubs, Nightclubs, Entertainment Centres, Parks, and Retail.

We were keen on following the lead of Marshall McLuhan who is  an English professor that came up with a ‘Tetrad of Media Effects’ allowing us to analyse media and the way we use it. Here’s an interesting little video that explains his theory, with some neat visuals!

We explored the ways our app could enhance human senses, retrieve past traditions of culture, make current mediums obsolete and how users might even reverse our creation for their own intentions and uses. Our hope is that users take the preferred reading of our app – using it to interact with their local communities, socialise with friends and also to meet new people.

Our app was created to be extension and enhancement of more traditional methods of socialising. Creating unique and interesting opportunities to do so, allowing a reclamation of public spaces for young people. Helping them to meet, socialise and perhaps learn from one another. We hope they will be able to use it to discover new places in their home town and easily see what’s popular when in a new town.

We intend to increase the range of activities accessible to most people by allowing events which would normally reach a relatively small audience to be seen by hundreds or thousands of people. Although it is early days we believe it is a great app. It is primarily for young people (as smartphone ownership is highest in the demographic of 18-29 year olds) as well people who move to new towns and travellers who want to make the most of short stays in unfamiliar places.

Eventually we want it to be a one-stop-shop for all of your events, whether they’re Facebook events, Tumblr meet-ups, local shows or music gigs. We will continue to develop the app aiming to have it function in tandem with other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Instead of holding on to flyers, or scouring Facebook for local events you will be able to find all this information on Maps, ready and waiting to take you straight to your event.

This app will initially be available on the Apple app store but will expand onto Android in later developments.

A Short Weekend In Copenhagen

This year me and my boyfriend mark our 4 year anniversary, and to celebrate we decided to do what we love most, travelling!

We’ve been collating a list of places we want to go and with the impending doom of Brexit and potentially needing a visa to travel to the rest of europe we decided to stick to somewhere in Europe. Copenhagen is somewhere that I’ve seen a lot of on social media from the likes of Shope Delano and Suitcase magazine.

For those of you that may not know, Copenhagen is the capital of the European country, Denmark. Denmark is home of famous fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen . As well as this Copenhagen is home to  the little mermaid statue, which makes me super excited to soak up the fairytale magic around.

“Copenhagen is the coolest kid on the Nordic block. Edgier than Stockholm and worldlier than Oslo, the Danish capital gives Scandinavia the X factor.”

-Lonely Planet

We’ll be going next week Saturday to Monday; beginning the anniversary celebrations Friday night watching The Book of Mormon (super excited for this also!). Here is our 3 day plan for Copenhagen:

We decided that it would be cost-effective for us to invest in a Copenhagen card which allows free entry into a variety of attractions,unlimited transport and discounts at a number of restaurants and nightlife.  You can either buy a 24, 48, 72 and 120 hour tickets, we are thinking of getting the 48 hour one which costs about £63. It also includes the transport to the airport.

DAY 1 – Saturday

Our flights get in Saturday afternoon around and decided to jump right in by spending the

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Tivoli Gardens

rest of our day/night at the Tivoli Gardens; the second oldest theme park in world, it’s located right in the centre, which is pretty different from English theme parks which are usually quite out the way. Entry is free with a Copenhagen card but without costs £14 to enter and £26 for an unlimited ride ticket (this doesn’t include entry) and for a mere £2.40 you get entry to the Aquarium too. The park is open quite late usually and closes at midnight on Saturdays, so we have plenty of time to wander around.

DAY 2 – Sunday

Sunday is our only complete full day and we want to really make the most of it. We will try to push through the pain of getting up early and hopefully, actually  get up and out by 9.  Catch breakfast/brunch in either Papirøen a street food market located on some wear called Paper Island (what a poetic, pretty name) which hosts over 40 food stalls, trucks and bars. Alternatively Koedbyen, is another street food market t boasts over 70 different stalls, located in Vesterbro which The Guardian has called it “the hippest area in town“.

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Nyhavn 

From there will do the touristy thing and go on a boat tour around Copenhagen, to take in the pretty sites and learn more about the beautiful Nordic city. Tours with The Netto
Boats are included within the Copenhagen card and passes through Nyhavn, one of the most oldest and most pictured parts of Copenhagen.

 

 

 

After that we were thinking exploring the city centre, just seeing the different shops and stores and especially the 4 storey Tiger store! If you don’t know I loooove interior design and homeware and Tiger is like mini version of Ikea. It’ll be interesting to see what the store is like in its native land and to see how they fill four floors with product.

We will end the day with a trip to the tumblr_n3hgixnqQU1rwyzdxo1_400.gif, which is also centrally located. I’ve never been to a Planetarium but from the American romcoms’ I’ve seen they seem like glorious places where science and romance collide. These are probably way to big expectations but either way it’ll be an interesting experience.

DAY 3 – Monday

Monday is our final day but luckily we have quite a bit of time in Copenhagen as our flights leave early evening. And so will be a very chilled out day.Christiana.jpg

Starting out in the free town of Christiana, taking in the atmosphere, people and sampling some of the independent food vendors around. We’ll then take a quick trip to one of the plentiful Museums and galleries in Copenhagen. National museum of Denmark,
Danish Royal museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and GL STRAND are just some the places we are considering visiting.

Will let you know all about it once I’m back!

Lynn ‘xo

 

 

 

The Lobster Pot

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of going for a super cute meal at The Lobster Pot Nottingham. 

I’ve been wanting to go, for a good few months when I saw an Instagram post on my explore page. Instagram is a great place to find new restaurants and food trends. I looove seafood and this place, seemed perfect for me, so when my boyfriend moved back to Nottingham, the first thing I knew we had to do was visit.

Anyway, back to the main attraction. The Lobster Pot, had a sort of old school, vintage vibe and it was quite smaller than I had been expecting but that just added to the atmosphere. It made it feel personal and friendly, the type of thing you only get with independent family businesses.  Each table had a tealight in a glass holder, the menus had the family story printed on the front and there was a row of flourishing orchids by the window. The bar was adorned with sweet, dainty fairy lights that reflected in the window. It looked like a scene from a hopless romantic movie, like Bridget Jones Diary or  Notting Hill. 

We ordered the lobster platter with extra garlic butter, it includes one Lobster halved, six Oysters, Scallops, Langoustines, with a sprinkle of Mussels and shell on Prawns. This came in at £43.95 and at first glance it may seem pricey but when you take into consideration that we are getting quite a bit on the platter. We also got some fries and baked new potatoes incase we wanted more filling up, which was a smart idea.They had an extensive wine selection, that was pretty impressive but we had plans to go elsewhere for cocktails after.

The staff were friendly and helpful. They also added to the niceties of the place, it was the kind of place you could dress up or dress down and still feel comfortable and welcome. In fact, when we came, there was an elderly man dressed in a full suit with a silk scarf, pocket square AND  had champagne in an ice bucket! He was living the dream.

 

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Botanical Gardens

I have been wanting to visit the Botanical Gardens since I first came to Sheffield. There was always something that came up or no one to go with  and not to mention it was quite far from where I lived in first year and second year I had just put it on the back grinder.

Fortunately I finally got around to visiting last week and I was very impressed with what I saw. I hadn’t expected it to be as big as it was and even though it was toward the end of summer there were still plenty of beautiful flowers to see.

Firstly if you have never been to Sheffield, be prepared to walk up a hill at least twice a day. To get to the Botanical Gardens, me and my boyfriend foolishly decided to wing it and ended up going up a extremely tiring hill (it might as well have been a mountain with the way I was huffing and puffin after)

The gardens were so peaceful and they had a plethora of places you can just sit, relax or have a cute picnic if you wish. It wasn’t crowded the day I went, which made the experience more enjoyable, you didn’t have to feel rushed because you  the person behind you also eager to see the rare african orchid. It was just a nice, relaxing day and also 100% free! Which makes it all the more sweeter.

Heres a little a couple of snaps, from when I thought I was a professional botanical photographer.