Teaching Your Computer to See

Google is doing it again, not satisfied with self driving cars now they’re trying to teach your iPhone to see. I found this article on Forbes.com, called “Teaching the iPhone to Drive.” Basically what the article is saying is that camera technology is getting to where it can see better than the human eye however, a computer cannot process the data without human interaction, it still needs us to tell it what it is seeing. According to the Author of this article however that could soon change, and we’re already seeing steps in that direction.

The author calls it the “visual singularity” the point where computers can see better than we can, and according to him it’s fast approaching. To an extent its already here in specialized formats, one thing he mentions is the LIDAR system in Google’s autonomous cars. However, that system is extremely expensive and too large to be practical except for what they are using it for. Also, there are license plate and facial recognition systems, but those are specialized, they are good at what they do but nothing else. What’s holding the technology back is that being able to see and processing what you see is a ton of information and right now computers can’t handle it. This is where the guys at Google come into it. 

Basically they figured out that it was the internet with its mass of online texts and digital sounds that taught computers how to read and understand sounds (Siri), so they networked a bunch of processors(16,000), and set them loose on YouTube. The machines ran for over a week and “looked” at millions of images. The results? The network taught itself to recognize cats. Why cats? Have you ever seen how man cat videos there are on YouTube? Now taken out of perspective it doesn’t sound all that impressive, but it’s a huge improvement over anything else that has come along. So, to make a long article less long, how does this affect us? One thing the article mentions is Medicine. According to the author coupled with advanced diagnostic programs that are already being developed, doctors may be out of the job. What other ways do you guys think this could be used? Should it be used, computers have been known to have errors? How will it affect us if/when computers are literally able to do everything we can, and do it better?

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7 responses to “Teaching Your Computer to See

  1. Computers may have better vision and, once programmed to follow all the driving laws, they may be better at actually following the laws. However, I seriously doubt that computers are ever going to achieve our ability to make judgments. When driving, we make constant judgments about what other drivers are doing and what we need to do in response to avoid accidents. Because other drivers are unpredictable, I’m not sure a computer could learn to understand their often-horrible choices as we can.

    This also applies to medicine. Also, physicians are already far too distant from their patients, and more computer use in medicine will only further this distance. It is far more beneficial to a lot of patients to have a human physician that will listen and take their problems into account.

  2. This article seemed a little all over the place in terms of topics but I will do my best to respond to everything! Computers may soon have the ability to see better than the human eye will ever be able to and I wouldn’t completely doubt that they would be able to make decisions and process information as well as we can. If anything computers would process things more rationally and with more precision than we can because they wouldn’t have any emotional bias that would come into play or affect their overall thought process. In a world where cars were completely computer controlled then this could be a positive reality. However, if we mix computers on the road with human drivers there would be problems like mharrach1 mentioned. Overall if we allow computers to preform every function that we already go about doing then what becomes of us? Would there be a point to living anymore?

    • I think there would definitely be a point in living. Simply put, we can replace all the tasks we don’t like doing (or do badly and kill ourselves doing them) and focus on things that actually matter. Although this may be really naive, but I think the spare time will be well spent. I imagine people studying art, science, and improving our political system. I doubt reality will be that idyllic, but I dream all the same

  3. I liked your last question most, so I guess I will reply to that. It is easy to imagine computers doing our daily tasks better than we do: computerized systems for driving, farming, building, etc. already exist. However, how could you create a computer with imagination? I feel that the one area that computers can never match humans is in ingenuity and imagination. Computers are excellent at completing tasks, but I feel that this is one area in which they will never overtake us.

  4. I think this article shares an interesting corollary with “The Final Blow to Internet Privacy?” Specifically, the license plate reader (LPR) technology invokes many privacy-related concerns.

    In late September, the ACLU sued the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security after their FOIA requests were ignored.

    The ACLU requested information to determine if federal agencies operate their own LPR technology. Their concerns also extended to data: how long is it stored, with whom is it shared, and how secure is it?

    I am mainly concerned with the philosophical and legal implications of this technology. Are we as a society prepared to allow the government to effectively do anything (even disregard laws) under the guise of keeping us safe?

    The last decade has shown a massive concentration of government power with regards to surveillance, detention, and intelligence gathering. Warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, TSA body scanners and virtual molestation of children and the elderly, waterboarding and government sanctioned torture, traffic cameras and LPR readers that timestamp and log GPS location, et al.

    I believe we have adopted an unhealthy and dangerous understanding of the role of government. I for one am not prepared to allow the government virtually limitless power under the guise of protection and safety.

    • Google probably has some unscrupulous plans for this technology as well. If their cars ever hit the market, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they started tracking license plates on the road like they track IP addresses online. They already use their GPS service to track users, but they don’t yet have any way of figuring out the locations of people who want nothing to do with Google. With enough of their cars on the road, they could easily build a database with a record of all the locations a certain plate has been spotted. Whether they use facial recognition technology or just find a way to pull the info from state databases, it probably wouldn’t be too hard for them or one of their advertising affiliates to link plate numbers to names and personal information. Letting the spying potential of LPRs go to waste would be quite an aberration from their history of trying to know everything about everyone.

  5. So I actually watched this show on the Discovery channel (maybe the Science channel) about Google’s new car that drove itself and my dad and I were absolutely amazed. But we kept commenting that we would never feel comfortable with an “auto-pilot” type feature on a car. It’s not that I don’t think the technology in the car is apt to follow the laws and go the speed limit and stop at red lights, but what is a pre-programmed car going to do when other drivers pull out in front of it, or slam on his or her brakes in front of it. I don’t think any computer can truly replicate human reaction time.

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