You like your robots invisible, buddy

Hillary's loss, space radiation, and the thirsty Pentagon...
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Hello, carbon-based lifeforms!

I like my AI like I like my air: invisible and useful

Howdy folks,

If you're my age (or your parents are just old souls), you've probably heard the old adage: children should be seen and not heard.

This is obviously an outdated and barbaric concept. Unless you apply it to AI.

Useful robots not withstanding, I'm here today to argue that the best AI, the kind that's going to propel us into the future, should be seen and not heard.

Or, rather, it should be neither seen nor heard.

AI's like electricity that way. I want to know it's there, I want to know it works, but I almost never want to have to think about it. 

Most of what's useful in the machine learning world is what I call "backbone technologies." That is, we all know that Microsoft Azure is a big important cloud-based AI system. It's arguably Microsoft's most important product that isn't named Windows. 

But Azure hasn't been anthropomorphized or characterized. It's just there, it does stuff, and that's cool.

And when it comes to robots, I think it's important now and in the future to ensure the general public views them solely as machines.

It's says something warm and kind about our species when we learn that people got upset when they saw the Boston Dynamics technicians appear to be shoving and kicking their robots.

Aww, aren't we great? We have the capacity to care about anything.

But what happens when robots permeate our society and our human penchant for emotion draws us to do incredibly stupid things on their behalf?

If you saw a toaster fall onto a subway track, you wouldn't risk your life to save it. 

But a certain percentage of the population is completely duped by startup hype, big tech lies, and media hyperbole. 

The first time someone dies trying to save a robot, the design paradigm calling for humanesque machines becomes a fatal one.

We don't need machines to become more human-like. We just need them to be useful. 

Tales from the arXiv archives

Adversary-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Pursuit–Evasion

We got a runner!

The art of pursuit and evasion is not something you can pick up overnight. There's game theory, tactics, the fog of war, and myriad other unfolding considerations in a real-time strategy environment.

And I'm just talking about playing StarCraft II.

I came across this research paper on the 'Xiv (that's what us cool folks call arXiv) and it was a fascinating read.

Basically, researcher Xun Huang came up with a way to train AI to evade capture using a mini-game built into a StarCraft II AI training environment.

You can read about it here on Neural, and here's the paper on arXiv.

What we're reading


Artificial Intelligence and the 'Gods Behind the Masks' (Wired)


These robotics and automation stocks could climb up to 68% in the next year (MarketWatch)


Primordial black holes may flood the universe. Could one hit Earth? (Space)

Sponsored by TNW

Neural is taking the stage at TNW Conference

Yes, Neural covers AI and quantum computing but we're so much more! We've got one eye on big tech, one on the startup scene, and a third robotic eye focused on politics and government policy.

And that's exactly why we're proud to introduce Neural at TNW Conference, featuring an amazing speaker list with people who work and create in a variety of domains.

From Unity's Danny Lange – a legend in the gaming industry – to Shopify's Ella Hilal, we're hosting some of the AI/ML community's most important thinkers. And, as a technology journalist, I can't wait to see and hear what Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO and publisher of MIT's Technology Review, has to say.

Come see them virtually or in person at our two-day tech festival on Sept 30 and Oct 1.

Something profound from the internet

When people tell me they believe big tech is on the verge of solving general AI:


Our favorite AI video of the week

Calling all autodidacts. Did you know you can watch MIT courses for free on YouTube? Click the screenshot below to check out a lecture on AI and ML from just last year. 


Well, bye

My four-year-old son calls everyone "friends." His stuffed animals are friends. The talking heads on my screen during meetings are "work friends." 

When we watch WWE, those are "wrestling friends." And when he happens to catch us watching UFC, those are "karate friends."

I adore this about him. It's so.... human!

I think it's a POV the world could use a lot more of. 

See ya next week!



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