AUSTIN (Covering Katy News) – Katy High School 2000 graduate James Scott has co-authored a book on artificial intelligence that he hopes will make the subject easy to understand and eliminate fears that many people have about the constantly developing technology.
In their book, Scott and co-author Nick Polson utilize stories rather than mathematical equations to educate people on the history of AI, which they say goes back hundreds of years.
“AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together” was released Tuesday, May 15, 2018, on Amazon and in bookstores all over the world.
Scott is an associate professor of statistics at the University of Texas at Austin. He has a joint appointment at the McCombs School of Business and the Department of Statistics and Data Science in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin. He is the son of Anne and George Scott of Katy.
Polson is a professor of econometrics and statistics at the Chicago Booth School of Business. He does research on machine intelligence and deep learning.
“Nick Polson and I first thought of this book as a way to answer all the great questions our students had about artificial intelligence: How does a self-driving car work? How does Alexa understand what I’m saying? That sort of thing,” Scott said.
The two professors discovered there were no books available that truly explained AI for a person who was not a mathematician.
“We noticed that there was a lot of writing about AI that was very technical, a lot that was borderline science, and a lot was pop-sociology,” Scott said. “If you wanted a non-technical version of how this stuff actually works or sometimes doesn’t work, you were stuck,” Scott said.
Scott and Polson believe that if you understand the mechanics and history of AI people will become less fearful. Their theory runs contrary to people like Elon Musk, who is reportedly on a billion-dollar crusade to tame AI.
“Ignorance can breed fear and credulity,” Scott said. “Not enough people are giving credit to the long trajectory of this technology.”
Scott notes that it’s helping the medical community diagnose cancer and power plant operators predict supply and demand so that there is always enough electricity available when it’s needed.
“I’m not saying to dismiss that fear — there are things that we should have conversations about — but it’s useful to distinguish between two very different types of AI. The kind we have now is narrow AI,” Scott said. The kind of AI you think about from fiction is a broad or strong AI, and it’s easy to conflate the two. We are nowhere near the broad and dangerous AI.”
Although, Scott feels there must be ways to mitigate the problem of wealth and power being in the hands of those who control AI.
“Bias in the way machines are programmed is another area worthy of discussion,” Scott said.
“It’s also important to look at how we can look at health databases for good outcomes.”
Steven D. Levitt who co-authored the popular book Freakonomics considers “AIQ” to be the definitive book on the subject of artificial intelligence.
“There comes a time in the life of a subject when someone steps up and writes the book about it,” Levitt wrote.
There are complex issues in AI technology, and forming an educated understanding starts with a baseline level of understanding which Paulson and Scott hope their book will provide.