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Obama Administration Concerned United States Falling Behind on AI Research

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The White House released its “National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan” [PDF] this month. One of the chief concerns in the report is the fact that of the two countries doing the most research on artificial intelligence, more specifically on deep learning, the US has fallen into second place. The below graphs were published on page 13 of the report (page 21 if you’re looking at the PDF) and are supposed to be cause for concern. According to the graphs, China has outpaced the US in the publication of papers regarding “deep learning,” and, more to the point, has also had more such papers cited by other researchers.

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People have been quick to point out that these metrics are not necessarily meaningful. A paper can be cited for multiple reasons, including to point out its inaccuracies. The mere fact that Chinese researchers have been cited more, and that China has overall published more papers (with a three-fold population), does not necessarily mean the US is falling behind in terms of deep learning research. After all, one of China’s biggest companies, Baidu, was recently pushing to hire artificial intelligence researchers for its Silicon Valley lab. Its competition for talent is the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, all of whom already have viable deep-learning projects deployed in the form of Google Now, Siri, and Cortana.

Artificial Intelligence

Still, the Obama administration is correct to show concern toward any potential loss of advantage over other countries in AI research. The technology can potentially revolutionize modern life in bigger ways than the Internet or even electricity has. If the US is on the leading edge of artificial intelligence offerings, then it will have more influence in dictating the terms of use of the technology – in all things, from labor to warfare. Having to instead take cues from Beijing would ultimately equate to a new reality, given the technology’s gravity in terms of disruption.

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9-us-china-graph-1

The report speaks to areas of AI research that have been less pursued or are most likely to be neglected by industry, making them most important for Federal investment dollars. It notes that most progress in AI has involved specific applications, and says on page 19:

Using these systems on a wider range of problems requires a significant re-engineering effort. In contrast, the long-term goal of general AI is to create systems that exhibit the flexibility and versatility of human intelligence in a broad range of cognitive domains, including learning, language, perception, reasoning, creativity, and planning.

Broad learning capabilities would provide general AI systems the ability to transfer knowledge from one domain to another and to interactively learn from experience and from humans. General AI has been an ambition of researchers since the advent of AI, but current systems are still far from achieving this goal.

The report also suggests that it would be valuable to invest in research on “human-like AI” so systems can “explain themselves in ways that people can understand.”

9-us-china-graph-2

The future definitely involves a lot more artificial intelligence. Some believe that most or all manual labor will be conducted by robots one day, and that people at all levels of society will benefit with the emergence of a universal basic income. Others still fear the changes that will come due to “the rise of the machines.” Whatever the future brings, the Obama administration wants to see the US leading the way rather than China or any of the other countries currently investing in its ongoing development.

Images from Shutterstock. Charts courtesy of the White House report.

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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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Artificial Intelligence

YEXT: An Invisible Force In Artificial Intelligence

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YEXT, Inc. (NYSE: YEXT) is one of those behind the scenes companies involved in Intelligence Search that plays an important role in Artificial Intelligence. What does that mean? Remember the Amazon commercial? “Eco, order a 12” Pizza with pepperoni from Stromboli’s and have it delivered”.

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Today the vast majority of online searches go through third-party sources such as data aggregators, governmental agencies and consumers. The net result of this third party sourcing has been to produce “best guess” data that can often miss or misstate the target data field.

YEXT developed a better way to source critical digital knowledge.  For example business clients use YEXT to update public facts about their brands. They are building their based on the rapid and ever changing nature of data.  So far the YEXT Knowledge Network offers over 100 services to more than 110 corporate clients and has over $150 million in annual revenue.  So could YEXT play a key role in AI,  the next big thing?

How YEXT Works

Most of us are familiar with big time search engines like Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Cortana, Apple Maps, Siri and Yelp.  These pioneering companies are the major drivers in information search today.  However, we also know, their accuracy is not exactly ideal.  

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This is where YEXT steps in.  Their knowledge engine platform lets business manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 services including the kingpins of search noted above.

Intelligent Search is the structured information that a business wants to make publicly accessible. In food service it could be the address, phone number or menu details of a restaurant; in healthcare, the health insurances accepted by a physician or the precise drop-off point of the emergency room at a hospital campus; or in finance, the ATM locations, retail bank holiday hours or insurance agent biographies.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Potential $10 Billion Market

Improving search results in general is nice but not very sexy.  It doesn’t make you want to beg for more information.  However, when you consider the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our evermore data intense world, the importance of Intelligent Search and the opportunities for YEXT becomes a compelling story.  

The AI trend is already underway as YEXT is increasingly using the structured data on their platform to expand or add new integrations with vertically specialized applications, voice-based search and AI engines.

Just Right For Big Data Applications

YEXT customers use their platform to manage their digital knowledge covering over 17 million attributes and nearly one million locations. These customers include leading businesses in a diverse set of industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail, financial services, manufacturing and technology.

Major customers include: AutoZone, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy, Citibank, Denny’s, Farmers Insurance Group, H&R Block, HCA, Infiniti, Marriott, Michael’s, McDonald’s, Rite Aid, Steward Health Care and others. The list is growing.

Management believes the market for digital knowledge management is large and mostly untapped with over 100 million potential business locations and points of interest in the world equaling over $10 billion.  

Shooting For Acquisitions and Broad AI Penetration

Founded in 2006 by serial entrepreneurs Howard Lerman (CEO) and Brian Distelburger, President these two are typical software guys whose vision appears much more broad based the their current focus with YEXT.  Here is where the prospectus from their April 2017 IPO offers some mystery and excitement to the story.

Unlike most rapid growth tech companies YEXT had no urgent need to go public.  They generated almost $60 million in gross profit in 2016 before heavy marketing costs resulted in a loss of $26.5 million.  Even so, they still ended the year with $20 million in cash. That’s a fair distance from being destitute.

The company’s real need for the IPO was to establish a liquid public market for the stock. They raised about $123.5 million, all of which will go into the bank.  The company is debt free and there are no insiders selling stock.  Very interesting.

Strong  Financial Results

For the latest reported nine months ended October 31, 2017 revenues grew 38% reaching $122 million.  The good news is the gross profits reached a record 75% or $90 million.  All of this was spent on sales and marketing to expand the business.  When all the beans were counted, YEXT lost $50 million producing a $30 million negative cash flow.  The balance sheet remains liquid with $120+ million in cash and securities.

FYI: In spite of some top notch bankers underwriting its IPO and analysts from those same five firms covering the company, the stock has done almost nothing for investors.  This $1.1 billion market cap was recently hanging out around $12 about the same as the IPO price.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 24 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Artificial Intelligence

The End of Human Money Managers

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Quantitative Easing by central banks around the world has led to dramatic changes in the money management industry over the past six years. Not only have we seen increasing regional differences, but stock picking has also become more difficult as the money injected into the markets by central banks has lifted pretty much everything, regardless of valuation and the future potential of the asset.

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Investors have become impatient and highly demanding as a result of years of low interest rates. Old mutual funds are being swapped out for new, better ones at a record pace as investors hunt for higher ROI. Passive income has become a trend, and ETF’s and automated investment strategies are getting more and more popular as a result.

How do money managers attract capital?

There are three main factors that determine how much capital a money manager is able to attract from investors:

  1. Track record
  2. Strategy
  3. Technology

Changes in any of these factors can have a big impact on investors’ willingness to let the fund manager keep the money they have already invested with him, or receive new money.

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Technology has been a very important driver over the past few years. Data-driven, or quantitative funds are gaining an ever-increasing market share in the money management space. This is happening because more and more people are realizing the obvious benefits that this type of money management has to offer.

Investors increasingly prefer the robustness, speed, and predictability that automated money management can provide. When it comes to robustness, we are referring to both the physical and psychological aspect of it.

Humans vs. robots

Humans are pretty much the opposite of “robust,” in the true sense of the word. Our emotional state on any given day can make us react to things in different ways than we otherwise would have done, potentially leading to critical mistakes for a trader.

As humans, we may miss trading opportunities in the market because we came in late, took a day off, or simply didn’t pay attention at any given moment.

Robots are obviously not affected by fatigue and lack of focus. For example, a robot can monitor the stock or cryptocurrency market and trade just like a human trader would do, with the only difference being that the former (arguably) does it better and never needs to rest.

Thanks to the high computing power available today, robots can collect, verify, analyze, and react to opportunities long before a human will even understand that such opportunities exist.

Data-driven approach to fund management is taking over

A recent ranking by Institutional Investor Magazine revealed that out of the world’s 100 biggest hedge funds, five of the top six spots were held by data-driven funds.

On first place was Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates with $122.3 billion under management. In 2016, Bridgewater grew the amount of money under management by 17%.

Renaissance Technologies, the company known for having hundreds of mathematicians, physicists, and coders on their payroll, came in fourth with $43 billion.

Two Sigma, which is also well-known for using technologies like AI and machine learning, came in fifth with $39 billion under management. Their increase from the year before was 28%.

According to Barclays, $500 billion are now invested in purely data-driven funds, while JP Morgan claims that data-driven trading strategies accounts for a whopping 90% of global trading volumes in stocks.

The core objective of any money manager is always to follow the money. That’s why we are seeing a race right now by the big players in the industry to use words like “technology-driven,” “artificial intelligence,” and so on. Whether or not that is true is not always a concern for them.

Money managers are destined to unemployment

Those who are really in trouble because of this huge change are the money managers themselves. Most of them will likely lose their jobs over the next few years. There is simply very little need for their very expensive services anymore, as robots are able to do the same thing in a much cheaper and more consistent way.

As legendary investors Jim Rogers predicted a few years ago, the stock brokers will become broke and the farmers are going to be driving Lamborghinis. Maybe there will finally be some truth to this.

Featured image from Pixabay.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Bitcoin Giant Bitmain Enters the High Stakes AI Race

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The Sophon, named for a fictional proton-sized supercomputer, could be the tool to train neural networks in data centers worldwide. It is the latest project being developed by Bitmain Technologies Ltd., the bitcoin mining giant that has carved out a dominant position in bitcoin mining.

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Such chips, called application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), could unleash a new wave of distributed computing, according to Michael Bedford Taylor, a University of Washington professor who studies bitcoin mining and chips.

Sophon is due to debut before the end of the year.

Bitmain Has The Know-How

Bitmain has the background to play a role in the expanding artificial intelligence industry. The company designs the silicon that goes in bitcoin mining equipment, assembles the machines and sells them worldwide, in addition to its own bitcoin mining operation and the ones that it manages for other mining pools.

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Bitmain’s founders are not averse to playing a spoiler role.

Jihan Wu, the co-founder of Bitmain, supports the New York Agreement that seeks to double the bitcoin block size under the SegWit2X proposal, a move that some in the bitcoin community view as an attempt to give the miners control over bitcoin.

Some also believe Wu was behind the recent bitcoin split known as bitcoin cash, which at least one of Bitmain’s miners supported, a contention that Wu has denied. Wu points out that he was among the supporters of Bitcoin Unlimited, an earlier bitcoin scaling proposal that did not get activated.

Why Wu Supports Forks

Wu nonetheless said splits should be allowed. He said a fork is inevitable since people in the bitcoin community do not agree on how to best scale bitcoin.

Wu met Micree Zhan, Bitcoin’s co-founder, when Zhan was running DivaIP in 2010, a company that made a device that allowed a user to stream a TV show on a computer screen.

In 2011, Wu needed a chip designer to build a mining operation and approached Zhan. Zhan first designed an ASIC to run SHA-256, the cryptographic calculation used in bitcoin, at maximum efficiency. It took him six months to finish the job. His first rig, Antminer S1, was ready in November 2013.

Bitmain felt the sting of the 2014 Mt. Gox meltdown. But by 2015, bitcoin’s price bottomed out and later recovered. In the meantime, Bitmain introduced its Antminer S5.

Bitmain now employs 600 people in Beijing.

Also read: Bitmain clarifies its ‘bitcoin cash’ fork position

Ready To Take On Google

Bitmain has since developed a deep learning chip with improved efficiency. Users will be able to build their own models on the ASICs, enabling neural networks to deliver results at a faster pace. Google’s DeepMind unit used this technique to train its AlphaGo artificial intelligence.

Bitmain plans to sell the chips to any company looking to train its own neural nets, including firms like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Bitmain could build its own data centers with thousands of deep learning rigs, renting out the computation power to clients the way it does with bitcoin mines.

Professor Taylor said companies like Bitmain that have excelled in bitcoin mining could take on the Googles and Nvidias since they have developed the skills to survive in an ultra-competitive and highly commoditized industry, and have the system level design expertise and the ability to reduce data center costs.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.8 stars on average, based on 4 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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