Thought AIs could never replace human imagination? Think again

robots imagination

(Craig Sybert, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Julien Weissenberg, Founder, Artificial Intelligence Scientist, VisualSense


Back in the 1980s, Hans Moravec, an AI scientist, discovered a paradox: What is easy for humans, such as visual or auditory understanding, is hard for machines.

Things have changed since then. Today’s AIs are much better at understanding what they see. It is not that AI has caught up with all of our human visual capabilities, but rather that the technology is developing in different ways.

When we think AI, we think of pure automation. This is not true anymore. Did you think, for example, that AI could never replace portrait photographers? Think again; it doesn’t even need a model. Today we have AIs that can ‘imagine’ – that is, according to the Merriam-Webster definition, form an image of “something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality”.

The video above shows the results from an AI that has learned to generate photos of people who don’t exist. At a qualitative level, only a few artists are capable of inventing faces with photographic precision.

The secret behind AI imagination

The mechanism that gifts AI with imaginative powers has a name: Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN). GANs were partly inspired by neuroscience research. In essence, GANs consist of two entities which compete against – and learn from – each other: one learns to generate fakes, while another one learns to detect fakes. As the fake detector becomes more effective, so does the fake generator. Neuroscientists have discovered that we use a related mechanism, the actor-critic model, which is believed to be located pretty much in the middle of our brains.

If imagination is no longer a privilege of the human mind, how can we leverage AIs’ imagination? Here is a taste of what’s happening in labs right now.

Turning night into day: let there be GANs

Imagination has a direct application: guessing the representation of a subject in a different way, or in other words, translating an image from one representation to another. For instance, this AI imagines what the sketch of a photograph would look like, or what the colour version of a black and white photograph would look like.

An application of image translation is to help us see the world in a more readable way, or beyond what is visible.

Image: Computer Vision Lab, Department of Information Technology & Electrical Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

This AI, meanwhile, simulates day from a night picture. This is valuable, as creating self-driving cars that work and can locate themselves precisely in all conditions – day, night, fog, rain, snow and so on – requires a lot of data that covers all scenarios. Collecting large amounts of data in all conditions is practically very difficult, as certain conditions (such as snow) occur very rarely in some areas. Instead of collecting more data, scientists have come up with this night-to-day workaround. This could also lead to better night vision for the military, airplane pilots and human drivers.

 X-ray specs: BodyNet can guess your bodyshape from a photo

Image: Varol et al.

When something is not directly visible, GANs are used to make educated guesses. Take the case of the BodyNet AI (see above), which estimates the body shape of a person given a picture of them fully-clothed. The digital mannequin is useful for designing tailored clothing without either taking measurements by hand or the help of sophisticated body scanners.

And what if we could see through walls? This AI can literally help you track how people move behind walls. Similar to how bats see in the dark, a signal is emitted and what comes back is interpreted. Bats emit ultrasound that are reflected off the surface of nearby objects. Here, it is signals in the WiFi range that are emitted. As WiFi can go through walls but is partly reflected by our human bodies, this signal is interpreted by a deep learning architecture (see video below).

Discovery machines

The ability to make educated guesses is not limited to image generation or translations. Imagination is, in a broader sense, a tool for discovery, and has applications in diverse domains such as cybersecurity or drug design.

Modern cybersecurity tools feature AIs that can detect threats by looking at their characteristics. Researchers have designed a GAN which learns to generate pieces of malignant code that can bypass these cybersecurity detectors. That may sound scary, but the good news is we could also use it to perfect detectors of malignant code – or, if you think about it, sometimes deception can be a good thing, such as when we engineer drugs to fight diseases.

What does it mean for us?

The 4th Industrial Revolution is not just about automation, but about human-machine collaboration and symbiosis. GANs are a turning point in the development of AI, and will help us supercharge our mental capabilities.

They are also a tool with which we can study the mechanisms of imagination and help us to better understand the role of imagination in domains such as translation or discovery. Even though imagination does not equal creativity, it is one of the tools we use to invent new things. What are the missing pieces, yet to be discovered, that will enable us to build machines that can outsmart us in the creative realm as well?

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Rare Disease Day: a new EU platform to support better diagnosis and treatment

UN chief welcomes ‘first concrete step’ in normalizing Eritrea-Ethiopia relationship

Brexit: UK to suffer from EU’s uncompromising stance

Drug laws must be amended to ‘combat racial discrimination’, UN experts say

Your chocolate can help save the planet. Here’s how

Baby foods high in sugar, inappropriately marketed in Europe, reveal two UN studies

11 lessons the history of business can teach us about its future

The Banking Union divides deeply the European Union

Brexit update: Will Theresa May’s last-minute desperate efforts procrastinate Brexit?

GradList Launched At TheNextWeb 2014

Medical students: The need for emigration

More answers from Facebook ahead of Parliament hearing today

JADE President opens JADE Spring Meeting 2014

Want more climate action? Let’s show how good a planet-friendly life can be

The key takeaways of G7 Summit in Canada

New rules for short-stay visas: EP and Council reach a deal

Now doctors can manipulate genetics to modify babies, is it ethical?

More billions needed to help Eurozone recover; ECB sidesteps German objections about QE

Eurozone: Black economy loves the South

Brands can be a force for good and for growth. Here’s how

Six children among 53 confirmed fatalities after Libya detention centre airstrikes: Security Council condemns attack

3 reasons why business leaders can’t afford to ignore diversity

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe needs decisive progress for stronger cybersecurity”, EU Commissioner Gabriel highlights from Brussels

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: Cameron corroborates that Britain should remain in the EU

European Parliament the most trusted EU institution

Close to 7,000 evacuated from Syrian towns after enduring nearly 3-year siege

Young people worldwide can ‘determine the future of migration,’ says UN senior official

OECD joins with Japan to fight financial crime by establishing new academy

Russia can no longer be considered a ‘strategic partner’, say MEPs

COP24: Paris agreement remained alive but fragile while the EU attempts to slow down CO2 emissions for new cars

Entrepreneurial leadership: what does it take to become a leader?

The challenges of mental health: an inconvenient reality

Illegal fishing: EU lifts Taiwan’s yellow card following reforms

MEPs propose more transparent legislative drafting and use of allowances

IMF: Sorry Greece it was a mistake of 11% of your GDP

The Sting’s Values

How bad is the Eurozone economy? The ECB thinks too bad

Why women aren’t allowed to work

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

Venezuela: Parliament recognises Guaidó, urges EU to follow suit

How civil society can adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The financial war touches Frankfurt and Berlin

What have the banks done to the markets making them unable to bear cheap oil?

Climate change hits the poor hardest. Mozambique’s cyclones prove it

SPB TV @ MWC14: The TV of the Future

Pollution could be harming every part of your body. Here’s how

ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

Mediterranean migrant drownings should spur greater action by European countries, urge UN agencies

Three ways China can make the New Silk Road sustainable

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile World Congress shows off planes, trams and automobiles

Who really cares for the environment?

Budget MEPs approve €34m in EU aid to Greece, Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria

World cannot be transformed without ‘ingenuity of the countries of the South’: UN Chief

Knowledge management and entrepreneurship: short term vs. long term perspective

Germany resists Macron’s plan for closer and more cohesive Eurozone; Paris and Berlin at odds

3 charts that show how global carbon emissions hit a record high in 2018

How India’s globalized cities will change its future

The world’s most expensive places to own a home

Appalling overall unemployment in Eurozone at 20.6%

Donor countries need to reform development finance to meet 2030 pledge

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s