AI might be perfect for tedious detective work

Written by on December 1, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments
Ollyy / Shutterstock.com

Ollyy / Shutterstock.com

AI is crawling into almost every part of our lives. We are trying to harness it to ‘augment our lives and capabilities’ while running the risk that AI will supplant our capabilities and ruin our lives.

A new example of the power of AI has been announced. AI powered neural networks, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have identified criminals with an accuracy of 89.5 percent.

By looking at their faces.

Actually, 1,856 of them.

This is, of course, extremely clever. And scary.

It also, of course, raises a few questions.

Leaving aside the question of whether the technology is transferable to other regions and therefore facial formats, you have to wonder about the 10.5 percent of people who were identified inaccurately.

In age where proof is becoming more and more difficult to nail down, 90 percent accuracy is nowhere near acceptable.

Remember the hype around OCR?

When it first hit the radar, accuracy was around 90 percent. We all thought this is great and looked forward to a future without keyboards. Re-typing stuff would become as obsolete as hand writing. But 90 percent accuracy with anything means that there is still a significant margin of error. It means that one in 10 words are wrong. Or one in 10 criminals are not criminals.

And those first announcements about OCR were 20 years ago. Even now, accuracy is not 100 percent.

While the experiment in Shanghai might be extraordinary in many respects, and will complement a lot of work that is going on with profiling, it will be a while before the police line up does not require people to be present.

Without doubt we are entering the age where machine learning and AI are a critical part of progress.

Experiments like this one in Shanghai demonstrate not so much that we will be able to leave things to machines and saunter off to ‘be creative’ but machines might just, after all, be about augmenting our capabilities, not supplanting them.

Which is a good thing.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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