Photo by — @dearseymour

AI Summer 2020

Learning about artificial intelligence in the summer

What opportunities are there to learn about artificial intelligence (AI) the summer of 2020? In a way summer could be used for relaxation or work, yet it could additionally be used to learn more.

With making this title it was originally not my intent to comment about discussions of AI winter and AI summer.

In the history of artificial intelligence, an AI winter is a period of reduced funding and interest in artificial intelligence research.

When doing so it is not my intention to say that we have entered a new rejuvenation of AI research. Rather it is a reflection of how the summer could be spent learning.

I would argue there are several approaches to working within the field of AI, as it has become widely integrated into society through various means. I can think of a few.

  • Developing AI algorithms.

Then again summer could be spent having a holiday with a loved one or family. It is not for me to say what is right for you, however I think a holiday for the mind can be to learn something new. You can use your free time, if you are so lucky to have it partly for this purpose.

If not that is fine, maybe ask yourself for what purpose you are interested in AI? Are you interested in AI? To warp this perspective slightly one could ask: are you too interested in AI?

Perhaps growing an interest for sustainability or a specific issue within the sustainable development goals is equally as important.

Becoming engaged within an issue to engage with may provide more purpose to your work, and in the end AI may not be the most important.

Seeing an issue and immediately thinking AI may even be unhealthy, not only for yourself, but for those the give solution is applied with.

Where is the nearest AI lab in your area? Is there one? Is there a small company working to solve important issues? Is there a large company working to solve important issues? Is solutionism the correct approach?

Solutionism is the belief that every problem has a solution based in technology.

Obsessing with AI it is possible I might forget that problems are important, not only the technology.

An academic was critical of my possible dual interest in the qualitative and quantitative approach, arguing that he had seen few people combine these successfully. Then I retorted, that he might have seen them combined badly, and maybe that would have been important.

There are many aspects of life we criticise for performing less than expected. It is reminiscent of watching the Olympics as a child, seeing the runners sprinting in circles. They are running to win. It seems we loose sight of participation and we focus on the pedestal. With intentions not to be number one, is that an adverse condition for a given field?

Running for the most users, efficiency, revenue or so on. The code runs for a teleological intention integrated into the wishes by the maker, you or a programmer that in turn answers to a technical lead, owner or runway.

It is called responsibility. Perhaps the ability to respond to a certain extent. If you are running, on a runway, you are rewarded for your ability to refrain from diversion. Hitting the targets does not leave much time for questioning the targets. Performance measures, risk assessments and so on.

I went far down a different path for reflecting on this summer of 2020, partly speaking to the point of purpose.

It is to easy to think now about the end of summer thinking about what I think I would have been able to achieve. Forgetting to be present. Being able to respond to the present. Feeling the wind when you sit on a warm rock watching the blue skies. The hard surface underneath your hands as music resounds from far away. Responsibility. Being able to respond. Being proactive, yet open for change. Open to being wrong and realising that it is the process of learning. Regardless, what you want for your summer it is not just about your mind and your emotions, it is arguably important that you will be able to focus on nothing. Listening.

AI means nothing. It is the wind. What makes you recognise the way the wind flows and enjoy this flow with purpose? Sitting there with fingers moving across a keyboard may not be without reason. It is the imagination of data flows and intelligent behaviour that is inscribed into summer. Does this wind power a windmill? AI can mean a great variety of things, although to many people it is nothing.

How do you describe a collection of pages to those who have not written these? Writing code is the act of communication as much as it is implementation. A programmer may not in all cases be able to decide how their code is interpreted. Inferences of inferences. When a song is heard it does not resonate with all equally, or have the same meaning across a population of listeners. Collecting these actions to make inferences a song can be woven. It is not meaningless, but not meaningful to all listeners.

How can you make this summer meaningful?

If you decide to learn more about artificial intelligence this summer I wanted to ask you this question.

I do not have your answer, however I would like to hear it. Even if you have no intention to learn about AI, I am sure it would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 390. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days.

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.