Tag: Deirdre Westenbrink

Global warming: our biggest hoax or our greatest challenge?

For the past few months Covid-19 has been dominating the way we live. Every single aspect of our lives seems to be controlled by the virus; not only the news and the political agenda have been taken over by it, but the disease has even changed the way we meet and greet each other. Nonetheless, there was a time before the Coronavirus. Not so long ago, a lot of students skipped their schools on Fridays to demonstrate in order to bring awareness about global warming, following the example of the Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. In […]

02 juni • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 5 minuten

Chinook: world’s best checkers player

Checkers, the ancient game which was quite easy to learn, has been solved. Along with other classical games, such as Connect Four and Qubic, the game has been pronounced dead. It was killed by Jonathan Schaeffer, who made the computer checkers program ‘Chinook’. Besides that, he publicated, “Checkers is solved’, which is a mathematical proof showing that the game always results in a draw when neither player makes a mistake.   Checkers; how to play it More than 150 documented different variations of Checkers exist. Of those 150, only two versions have a large international […]

09 april • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 4 minuten

Should we be scared of algorithms?

The word ‘algorithm’ can be quite a scary word if one does not know what it actually means. But should we be scared of it? Nowadays, the word is much more frequently used than it was in the past. This is because artificial intelligence (AI) has had a huge rise in the last decade. Algorithms are the building blocks of everything you’re using to read this article. 

One definition of an algorithm is a set of steps to accomplish a task. Hence, you might have an algorithm for getting from home to school, for baking a cake or finding the perfect dress for your evening in the store. In computer science, an algorithm is a set of instructions that take an input, A, and provide an output, B, that changes the data involved in some way. So, all that algorithms are, is a set of basic mathematical instructions.

These algorithms are becoming an indispensable part of our lives. However, some view this as dangerous. For example, Elon Musk (@elonmusk) wrote on 12 Augustus 2017,


“If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

Besides this, there are many stories about AI having negative consequences:  police profiling that reinforces racial stereotypes 21st-century discrimination , acceptance algorithms that deny access despite rightful requesters, unfair rating system algorithms optimized for commercial gain and many other systems that reinforce inequality.

However, to declare that algorithms rule the world is a bit hyperbolic, even though the algorithms are being used more and more every day. This is due to the fact we use computers, laptops and our smartphones so much that they are playing an increasingly more important role in many aspects of our lives. To make all of these devices do anything, you have to write a computer program in which you tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. When you are commanding the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it is going to execute it. This is where the algorithms come in. The algorithm is the basic tool used to get the job done. Nevertheless, this is not how all computer algorithms are designed. In this instance, we have the version described above, with unsupervised learning. This involves data representing situations without independent variables. Because of this, there is no need to know the results of each scenario to use for training, and patterns are simply discerned from the data, where all the data is used for training. Besides that, some algorithms allow computers to learn on their own. This is called supervised learning, which involves having data, based on scenarios or historical events, with both dependent and independent variables. The model is trained using this data with both features (dependent variables) and expected results (independent variables). It is then trained by showing the model the scenario and its corresponding result.

Thus meaning, there are uses for machine learning, including data mining and pattern recognition. For example, these mathematical creations determine what you see in your Instagram feed, what movies Netflix recommends you and what ads you see in your Gmail.

But are these algorithms is some way good or evil? As mathematical equations, they are not. However, both people with good and bad intentions can use and have used algorithms. For this, AI models are trained using datasets. The person training the algorithms can select the events that are used to train the models, which is called Feature Engineering. This ‘Feature Engineering’ can be done for many reasons. For example, it can allow algorithms to be used with limited or incomplete data. Besides that, it can improve training by using less or only relevant data. This can improve the accuracy of a model or simplify the maintenance of the model. On the other side, Feature Engineering cannot only bring us good things. It can introduce a bias to the data, which will most likely happen unintentionally. This bias is introduced by the people who select the data, but the technology itself does not have any bias. 

 

To summarize this, one can say that algorithms and AI do not have either morals or ethics, which makes it neither good nor evil. However, since the algorithms are a tool used by people, it can be misused by people. To stop the misuse of AI technology, spreading awareness of how to use it ethically is needed. The reason for this is because it is the people who have biases, morals and ethics. So, should we be scared of AI? No, we should not, but we should be aware that there are people who can and most likely will misuse it.


This article is written by Deirdre Westenbrink

17 maart • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 4 minuten

The math behind the English language

Like many other languages, the English language is based on grammatical rules. It contains all parts to make a basic sentence, such as nouns, adverbs and verbs. All of this has not stayed the same over time. Scientists have known for decades now that every language evolves in striking similar ways to adapt to the needs of its users. Not only the words, but also the grammar change and mutate over time, where new versions slowly rise to take over the older ones. This development is not a bad thing, since if English had not […]

23 januari • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 4 minuten

The Butterfly Effect

In the movie ‘The Butterfly Effect’ a college student, Evan Treborn, finds a way to ‘travel back in time’. He does this by inhabiting his former self, that is, his adult mind inhabits his younger body. In this way, he can change the present by changing his past behaviours. Unfortunately, this has unintended consequences for him and his friends. It is not a coincidence that this movie is called ‘The Butterfly Effect’. The movie is named after the mathematical idea that is also called the Butterfly Effect, which is based on the phenomenon that the […]

26 november • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 6 minuten

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