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Trump fights with Google over Chinese military, AI scoops Turing Prize, Dota2 competition coming

Machine-learning updates in a digestible chunk

Roundup Here's a quick roundup of what's been going on in the world of machine intelligence.

Neural net creators awarded Turing Prize: Three top AI boffins have won this year’s Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing, for their pioneering research into neural networks.

Geoff Hinton, 71, an emeritus professor at the University of Toronto and an adviser for Google Brain, Yoshuia Bengio, 55, professor at the University of Montreal and co-founder of the Mila, an AI startup incubator in Quebec, and Yann LeCun, 58, chief AI scientist at Google scooped the award in San Francisco this week.

The Turing Award is presented by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a non-profit group headquartered in New York. Winners share a $1m (~ £767.000) cash prize funded by Google. The official ceremony is on June 15 in San Francisco.

Artificial neural networks were first invented around the 1960s with the Perceptron. It used a simple model that takes a weighted sum of all the inputs given to it and output a value of 1 if all the inputs reach a minimum threshold value, or 0 otherwise. The Perceptron mimics the way a neuron fires an electrical pulse to communicate with other neurons in the brain.

Fast forward to the 1980s and the trio had adapted neural networks to contain multiple layers of artificial neurons to perform very simple tasks. They weren’t all that useful until about 30 years later when data and hardware became more abundant. Now, neural networks are all the rage. They can crush humans at poker or Go, translate between languages, and even drive.

Hinton is known for his work on backpropagation, the technique used to train neural networks in deep learning. Bengio helped create generative adversarial networks, and LeCun is an expert in convolutional neural networks.

“Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said ACM President Cherri Pancake.

"Deep neural networks are responsible for some of the greatest advances in modern computer science, helping make substantial progress on long-standing problems in computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language understanding,” added Jeff Dean, head of Google AI.

Don’t work with the Chinese, Sundar Google! US President Donald Trump warned Google CEO Sundar Pichai to not collaborate with China, fearing that it could benefit the Middle Kingdom’s military.

Trump criticized Google earlier this month on Twitter. The Chocolate Factory earned Trump's ire for its reported work in China, and for apparently being Hilary Clinton fans.

Trump’s top military aide General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Silicon Valley partnering with China “will help an authoritarian government assert control over its own people, … and it will enable the Chinese military to take advantage of the technology that is developed in the United States.”

Google has come under fire for project Dragonfly, an attempt to build a search engine that abides by China’s strict censorship rules. It doesn’t seem like the Chocolate Factory really cares about picking sides, however, as long as it’s cashing in. Remember it also tried to help out the US army identify objects in drone footage with Project Maven before it was canned last year?

But it looks like Pichai managed to convince Trump of Google’s loyalty. After the meeting, Trump tweeted to say that the “meeting ended well” and Pichai stated he was “committed to the US military, not the Chinese military”.

Pichai is however the CEO of Google, not its president. However, given past outbursts, he's lucky not to share Tim Cook's fate as Trump didn't call him Sundar Google.

UK military wants swarms of drones: The British Ministry of Defence has pledged £2.5m (~$ 3.26m) to fund research into swarm technology.

The project dubbed “Many Drones Make Light Work” is the largest contract to date awarded by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), an organisation set up to support the UK military.

The money will go to a variety of industry and research groups, including Airbus and the University of Durham. It will be led by Blue Bear Systems Research, a company focused on autonomous systems and unmanned vehicles.

“The ability to deploy a swarm of low cost autonomous systems delivers a new paradigm for battlefield operations,” said Ian Williams-Wynn, managing director at Blue Bear Systems.

“During this project we will deploy next-generation autonomy, machine learning, and AI to reduce the number of operators required, the time it takes to train them, and the cognitive burden on any operator during active operations. This allows very complex swarm-based missions to be performed simultaneously against single or multiple targets in a time sensitive and highly effective manner.”

OpenAI Five is coming back to play: OpenAI announced that its Dota 2 smashing bot, OpenAI Five, will be going up against OG, a top professional e-sports team.

OG won The International, the annual major championship league for Dota 2, last year. OpenAI Five also played at the tournament, but didn’t do nearly as well and lost both of its matches against professional teams.

It’ll have another chance to prove itself, however, with a match against OG to be held in San Francisco on April 13th. If you want to watch in person, you can apply to attend the game here. But don’t worry if you can’t make it to California, it’ll be streaming on Twitch too. ®

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