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June Monthly News Digest: Data Science & Analytics

June 25, 2023

Welcome to Burtch Works’ Monthly News Digest, your go-to source for a comprehensive overview of the month’s most significant stories in the world of data science and analytics. This month, we delve into the emerging security threats of generative AI, the risks of model collapse, the potential for using AI to decipher animal communication, the launch of an AI-powered hub for work applications, and the introduction of the EU AI Act for regulating artificial intelligence in Europe.

How Generative AI is Creating New Classes of Security Threats

The AI revolution has brought significant advancements but also new risks and challenges. Attackers are using AI to enhance phishing and fraud, and the leak of language models like Meta's has increased the potential for sophisticated attacks. Users' reliance on AI/ML-based services and the lack of transparency poses security concerns, while the misuse of AI raises ethical issues and erodes social trust. Asymmetry in the attacker-defender dynamic gives adversaries an advantage, and new types of attacks on AI systems are emerging. The costs of large-scale models may create monopolies and externalities that negatively impact citizens. To address these challenges, innovation and action are needed to ensure responsible and ethical use of AI, while also investing in security strategies and technologies.

While the AI revolution brings risks, it also presents opportunities for innovative security approaches. Threat hunting and behavioral analytics can be improved through AI, but these advancements require time and investment. The call for a pause in AI innovation is deemed impractical, as attackers won't abide by such requests. It is crucial to act promptly to develop strategies and react to the large-scale security issues arising from AI's widespread adoption. By doing so, security professionals can navigate the paradigm shift and mitigate the dystopian possibilities of AI misuse, ensuring its responsible and ethical use.

Read the full article here.

AI Models Feeding on AI Data May Face Death Spiral

AI models feeding on AI data may face "model collapse," a degenerative learning process where the models forget improbable events and distort their perception of reality. This recursive nature of AI training poses a threat comparable to catastrophic forgetting and data poisoning. The automated insertion of even a small amount of false information can lead to widespread contamination in large language models trained on web crawls. As models collapse, they start misinterpreting data, reinforcing their own distorted beliefs. The degradation of synthetic data quality compounds over iterations, diminishing the understanding of complex systems. Distinguishing AI-generated content from human-generated content and preserving original data is crucial. Efforts are needed to address these challenges posed by large language models, which can be likened to useful tools that also pollute the environment.

The researchers emphasize the importance of differentiating AI-generated content and human-generated content, as well as preserving original data for future training purposes. They highlight the risks associated with model collapse and the potential for widespread contamination caused by even a small amount of false information. Addressing these challenges requires mitigating the degradation of synthetic data quality and ensuring a comprehensive understanding of complex systems. Striking a balance between the benefits and risks of large language models is essential to navigate their impact on society and the environment.

Read the full article here.

Will Artificial Intelligence Help Us Talk to Animals?

Scientists are harnessing the power of machine learning to analyze vast data sets and decipher various forms of animal communication. The Earth Species Project (ESP), a nonprofit organization, is at the forefront of this endeavor. Their goal is to develop a tool that can accurately recognize and interpret animal signals in different situations based on behavioral cues. By decoding animal communication, researchers can gain valuable insights into social structures, mating behaviors, and potential dangers within animal communities. This knowledge has profound implications for conservation efforts, as it enables a deeper understanding of wildlife dynamics and can guide targeted conservation strategies.

However, the ethical implications of this research are not overlooked. The concern of potential misuse by poachers, who could exploit a better understanding of animal communication for harmful purposes, is a constant consideration for ESP. They emphasize the need to mitigate such negative consequences and ensure responsible use of the developed tool. Despite these concerns, the benefits of decoding animal communication are significant. Moreover, a better understanding of animal communication can foster empathy and a stronger connection between humans and the natural world, promoting more sustainable and respectful interactions with wildlife.

Read the full article here.

Generative AI as the Platform for the Future of Work

theGist, a generative AI startup, has announced the launch of an AI-powered hub for work applications that aims to address information overload and enhance the productivity of knowledge workers. The platform creates personalized knowledge graphs connecting projects, people, and topics, delivering actionable insights and streamlined workflows. TheGist previously launched a successful product for Slack and is now expanding to cover the entire digital workspace of employees.

The company's mission is to simplify work and eliminate distractions by leveraging AI to focus on what is truly important. Information overload has become a significant challenge in the modern workplace, leading to stress, decreased performance, and job dissatisfaction. Enterprises are now major contributors to information growth, and the need for technological solutions to manage and leverage data is increasing. The race to apply generative AI to office applications involves established players like Google and Microsoft, as well as startups like theGist, which emphasizes personalization as a key differentiating factor.

Read the full article here.

Europe Moves Forward with AI Regulation

European lawmakers have voted in favor of the EU AI Act, a landmark regulation that will soon have the force of law in the European Union. The act aims to restrict the use of AI in products, ensure its implementation is safe, legal, ethical, and transparent, require prior approval for certain AI use cases, and mandate monitoring of AI products. Different AI uses would be ranked by risk, with safety standards required for higher-risk AI systems. The law would also require impact assessments and audits for high-risk AI systems and forbid AI with unacceptable risks.

Non-compliance could result in fines. The vote reflects the belief that AI needs regulation, but not all researchers agree. Yann LeCun, head of AI research at meta (Facebook's parent company), opposes premature regulation, stating that AI amplifies human intelligence and leads to productivity and happiness. The EU AI Act could become a global standard, but critics argue it lacks flexibility and doesn't consider the rapid development of AI. Meanwhile, the US is taking steps to guide organizations in the ethical use of AI through the AI Risk Management Framework published by NIST.

Read the full article here.