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Christie’s sells AI portrait

Perhaps the most interesting story this week was the sale at auction of an AI composed portrait painting for a huge £337,000. As reported by the Beeb, The Paris-based collective Obvious created the painting using an algorithm and a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th Centuries.

This makes the artwork not just a portrait of the subject, but also of the myriad styles of 600 years of portrait painting. Debate has been raging about whether AI generated creative arts (from paintings to music to literature) can truly be considered artistic creations and whether people would accept them as such. As with so much nascent use of machine learning algorithms though, the human inputs here are undeniable, and AI becomes simply another mode of creation.

Whether you’d want to hang it on your wall is a matter of taste, however. Oscar Wilde might have had reservations. “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known,” he once said. Roland Barthes, who famously celebrated the “death of the author”, might enjoy it more. The reality is, of course, some very human artists just made a lot of money out of this!

Facebook uses machine learning to remove indecent child images

Facebook managed to mitigate the fall-out from its rather paltry, pre-GDPR-level fine from the ICO with an announcement that it has removed 8.7 million posts identified as related to the exploitation of children. In a coup for “new big blue”, the algorithm was able to identify and remove 99 percent of them before they were flagged by users as harmful content. As Catherine Shu reports for TechCrunch, the tech isn’t perfect yet, and parents have complained about the removal of innocuous pictures of their kids. This is probably collateral damage we can all live with given the context, and Facebook has done a good job communicating why it needs to accept false positives.

Facebook knows it has to get machine learning right here and quickly, amid lawsuits from former moderators due to what they are subjected to, and increasing calls for platforms to be held to the same standards as publishers when it comes to material onsite.

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

APPG on AI contributes to report

A new report from Big Innovation Centre, including input from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence, suggested that the UK can solidify 3rd place in a global arms race and dominate AI innovation within healthcare and fintech. Lord Clement-Jones CBE, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI and Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, said: “As shown in the report of the UK AI landscape, we have now reached the inflection point which can be reasonably described as the Cambrian Explosion of AI in the UK.

Chancellor to unlock pension cash for start-ups

Early reports suggest the Chancellor will use next week’s budget to reduce restrictions on pension funds that prevent them from investing in start-ups. Detractors will raise concerns about risky investments becoming part of already strained pension funds, but some may say that higher paying investments are needed to ensure we can support increasing longevity. The actuarial profession is presumably rubbing its hands with glee.

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