Major controversies over AI in 2021


While 2021 has been an exciting year for AI when it comes to innovations and new inventions, it has been immune to controversies and scandals. In this article, we take a look at some of the most important that have made headlines.

Humanoid Tesla

Among the series of announcements made during Tesla AI Day 2021, the one that caught the attention of many people was the humanoid robot. Featured in a unique way, a human dressed in a white bodysuit and a shiny mask was revealed by the news during the event. Called Optimus, this humanoid robot, measuring five feet eight inches and weighing 125 pounds, would be able to perform repetitive tasks; the first prototype should be released next year. This robot will take advantage of Tesla’s existing technology for automated machines and SLV software.

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The industry has been divided in its reaction to Optimus. While many praised Musk’s vision, others seemed skeptical about whether the company would be able to deliver on its promise within the announced time frame. Aside from apprehensions about the delivery time, the main point of contention is the availability of the technological capabilities required to develop a humanoid robot, which at best has been limited to the conceptual stage. The general trend in the robotics industry has been cause for concern in recent years. Many innovative companies have had to go out of business. Boston Dynamics was saved at the last minute by Hyundai by buying the former for $ 1.1 billion, an amount deemed small for an innovative company like Boston Dynamics.

In the past, too, Musk has broken many of his promises, bringing doubts to Optimus as well. That said, if the big plan takes off, Tesla will achieve a major breakthrough.

AI patent

As a first step, the Societies and Intellectual Property Commission of South Africa granted a patent to an invention through an AI system. The AI ​​system is called Device for Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS) which invented a food container based on fractal geometry. DABUS was invented by Missouri physicist Stephen Thaler. The identified patent application stated that “the invention was autonomously generated by artificial intelligence”.

In July, the Federal Court of Australia ruled that the AI ​​machine – that is, a mathematical equation that analyzed and processed data – can be an inventor under Australian patent laws.

That said, the patent application for the DABUS invention was rejected by the United States and the United Kingdom. The granting of a patent to an invention by an AI system has been at the center of a major controversy. While supporters call it a progression, some of the stakeholders seemed concerned. The European Patent Office has stated that the inventor of a patent application must have legal capacity. Likewise, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) stated that the “application data sheet” with the patent application did not identify the inventor by legal name.

In July, Microsoft and OpenAI released the technical preview of the AI-based coding assistant GitHub Copilot. Built using Codex, this wizard draws on the context of the code being written by a human coder and suggests successive lines of functions and programs. People have called it a game-changer even as there is a whisper of how upcoming software will kill the jobs of human programmers (the inventors of Copilot addressed these concerns).

However, a few programmers have raised concerns about its copyright issues. Since the tool is formed in publicly accessible code repositories, many of which are licensed and copyrighted, what happens when such snippets are reproduced? Since the tool is trained on free and open source code, can parent organizations – Microsoft, OpenAI, and GitHub – monetize it?

Another controversy struck GitHub Copilot when a study revealed that the code generated by the tool could include bugs or design flaws that an attacker can exploit.

See also
Tesla AI Day

Uber facial recognition

A few months ago, the UK-based App Drivers and Courier’s Union (ADCU) and Workers Info Exchange (WIE) asked Microsoft to halt the sale of the Face Detection API to Uber. The unions said that in at least seven different cases, the failure of facial recognition resulted in the suspension of drivers and, in a few cases, the revocation of the license by Transport for London.

However, the company spokesperson maintained that such verification is necessary to avoid potential fraud. The spokesperson also claimed responsibility for the decision to remove the drivers involved in the human examination.

Google’s AI Ethics Team

After the controversial dismissal of Timnit Gebru from Google for an unpublished research paper on the ethical issues of recent advances in AI and major language models, Google reportedly found the work reprehensible and Gebru was asked to withdraw the document or remove his name. from the list of co-authors. At the start of 2021, Gebru’s former colleague at Google, Margaret Mitchell, allegedly gathered evidence against Gebru’s unfair dismissal. According to Google, Mitchell was fired for violating security policy.

Later, Samy Bengio, a well-known researcher in Google’s Brain group, announced that he was leaving the company. While Bengio has said he is leaving the company to pursue “exciting opportunities,” his resignation had a few in connection with the Gebru and Mitchell layoff incidents. Shortly after Gebru was fired, Bengio wrote a post on Facebook saying, “I’m by your side, Timnit.

AI labeling errors on Facebook

Facebook’s AI sparked a storm when it mislabeled a video featuring black men as a primitive video. A video uploaded by the Daily Mail documented a meeting between a white man and a group of black men who were celebrating a birthday. AI displayed a prompt message after finishing watching the video if it wishes to continue watching “primitive videos”. Shortly after the incident was reported, Facebook turned off the topic recommendation feature and apologized for the incident.


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