Tuesday, August 04, 2015

A development that could 'do' Public Relations automatically

Deep Mind is the 13th single by the Japanese band Buono and it is also the name of a Google subsidiary based in London using techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general‑purpose learning algorithms.

Two years ago, IBM demonstrated a computer chip that was inspired by the function, low power, and compact volume of the brain. These chips provide the building blocks for computers that can emulate and extend the brain’s ability to respond to biological sensors and analyse vast amounts of data from many sources at once.

However, these chips require a very different kind of programming model from the one used in computers today – which is still derived from FORTRAN, a programming language developed in the 1950s for ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer - the software is on its way.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman gave a rare insight into the work he and his team are doing within Google during a machine learning conference in London in 2015. He leads research at the company.

Google DeepMind is an artificial intelligence division within Google that created after Google bought Oxford University spinout, DeepMind, in January 2014.

The division, which employs around 140 researchers at its lab in a new building at Kings Cross, London, is on a mission to solve general intelligence and make machines capable of learning things for themselves.

Suleyman explains:

'These are systems that learn automatically. They’re not pre-programmed, they’re not handcrafted features. We try to provide a large-a-set of raw information to our algorithms as possible so that the systems themselves can learn the very best representations to use those for action or classification or predictions.'

'The systems we design are inherently general. This means that the very same system should be able to operate across a wide range of tasks.'

 'AI has largely been about pre-programming tools for specific tasks: in these kinds of systems, the intelligence of the system lies mostly in the smart human who programmed all of the intelligence into the smart system and subsequently these are of course rigid and brittle and don’t really handle novelty very well or adapt to new settings and our fundamentally very limited as a result.'

'We characterise AGI as systems and tools that are flexible and adaptive and that learn.'

‘We use the reinforcement learning architecture that is largely a design approach to characterise the way we develop our systems. This begins with an agent which has a goal or policy that governs the way it interacts with some environment. This environment could be a small physics domain, it could be a trading environment, it could be a real world robotics environment or it could be an Atari environment.The agent says it wants to take actions in this environment and it gets feedback from the environment in the form of observations and it uses these observations to update its policy of behaviour or its model of the world.’

What he is explaining is common among humans. We are programmed to learn, and we focus our learning based on a reward system at our mother’s breast.

In PR, we did not really notice the application of Deep Mind. We are impressed with the capability of Google to find images from search instructions described in English in ‘Google Images’. It is just one example of the application of Deep Mind automation.

Automation is already at work in helping practitioners. What is not well established is the nature and benefit of these developments in day to day PR work.

Such developments have not been introduced especially for PR practice. It is right we know about such developments and use it, and it is important that the PR industry can recognise the real thing and the scams.

Also, there is a good case for the industry to seek out developments that will enhance practice (and increase productivity and competitive edge).

Furthermore, the PR industry also need to be driving and rewarding useful development to aid practitioners.

These considerations are important for the PR sector and if it were to take them further could be a significant exemplar for the UK government's initiative, the: ‘Digital Transformation Plan’, 2015. It is an initiative that will set out the actions the government will take to support the adoption of digital technologies across the UK economy including, one hopes, Public Relations.