It's a challenge to learn a new language, especially once we're past 18 years old. But Duolingo, self-proclaimed as "the world's best way to learn a language" and seconded by reviewers at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is set to change that with an assist from artificial intelligence (AI). Duolingo launched in 2011, and through a powerful mix of personalized learning, immediate feedback and gamification/rewards, it has become one of the most downloaded educational apps today. Let's take a look at how artificial intelligence helps the company deliver personalized language lessons to its 300 million users. Founded in Pittsburgh by Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Luis von Ahn, who is renowned for creating CAPTCHA, Duolingo's mission is to "make education free and accessible to everyone in the world."
We live in uncertain times. A global pandemic has disrupted our lives. Our broken economies are rapidly restructuring. Climate change looms, disinformation abounds, and war, as ever, hangs over the lives of millions. And at the heart of every global crisis are the chronically underserved, marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted, who are often the first to befall the tragedies of social, economic, environmental, and technological change.3
Kevin Gray: AI has become part of our daily lives, hasn't it! Dr. Anna Farzindar: I was working on my laptop when my college daughter said "Mom please don't do anything wrong with AI!" Then two days later during our family dinner, my younger freshman high school daughter told a story about a video on social media showing a small home care robot that tricked the owner and lied. She asked me "Mom, aren't you afraid of robots?" These short conversations made me think about how the new generation is a big consumer of technology but, at the same time, they are concerned and worried about the future AI. KG: Getting back to basics, what is AI? AF: From talking to your virtual assistance on smartphone (like SIRI), watching a recommended movie on Netflix, searching on Google, following the suggested Instagram posts, using the sophisticated methods of an auto trading stock market, applying the decision making systems for your loan approval, or (soon) sitting in a self-driving car, AI algorithms are so embedded in our daily life that is hard to imagine living a single day without them!
My opinions are my own. An introduction to the harm that ML systems cause and to the power imbalance that exists between ML system developers and ML system participants …and 10 concrete ways for machine learning practitioners to help build fairer ML systems. Image description: Photo of Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, D.C. -- 2 signs say "Black Lives Matter" and "White Silence is Violence." Machine learning systems are increasingly used as tools of oppression. All too often, they're used in high-stakes processes without participants' consent and with no reasonable opportunity for participants to contest the system's decisions -- like when risk assessment systems are used by child welfare services to identify at-risk children; when a machine learning (or "ML") model decides who sees which online ads for employment, housing, or credit opportunities; or when facial recognition systems are used to surveil neighborhoods where Black and Brown people live. In reality though, machine learning systems reflect the beliefs and biases of those who design and develop them.
A new software platform, created by two University of Toronto alumni, aims to make virtual classrooms more functional by providing real-time feedback and specific insights into how student understanding of mathematics is changing. Last March, Nived Kollanthara, an alumnus of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, was living in New York City, where he volunteered part-time at a shelter, helping kids with their math homework. When the pandemic hit, he realized right away the impact it would have. "The kids I work with need extra, individual attention to help them succeed in the classroom," Kollanthara says. "I was worried about how they would be getting that in a remote environment."
When Haley, a sophomore at Indiana University, took a test for an accounting class in September, she--like many college students during this pandemic--was sitting not in a classroom but in her bedroom. And instead of a teacher watching for signs of cheating, there was something new: an AI, studying Haley's every move through her laptop's webcam. The university was conducting remote exams using Respondus, a type of "online proctoring" software. The software locks down a student's desktop so they can't switch tabs to Google an answer, and then it uses visual AI to examine--among other things--their head movements to judge whether they're looking somewhere other than at the screen. Haley's head was setting off alarms.
Beyond the initial shock of mass unemployment, a growing hunger crisis, and widespread disruption of our routines, COVID-19 has begun to transform the business and employment landscape at a deeper level. It essentially hit the fast-forward button on pre-existing trends toward automation, robotization, and artificial intelligence (AI) as companies race to replace now-risky human contact with digital capabilities and services which endanger jobs in warehousing, manufacturing, and retail. Other large-employment industries like travel and tourism that could absorb these losses will likely struggle to survive for years to come. Our recovery hinges on getting tens of millions of unemployed workers reskilled and back into jobs -- and educating our children to be future-ready. We learned from the last crisis that education is key to a robust economic recovery.
While AI is poised to disrupt our work and lives, these technologies can be harnessed through wise regulation. So rather than replacing individuals, much AI should assist them in completing tasks that are more fulfilling, or by augmenting work that is often classified as professional. "Artificial intelligence (AI) has a proper substitutive role – it can ensure that difficult, dirty and dangerous work is done more and more by machines and less and less by human beings," says Professor Frank Pasquale from Brooklyn Law School."But Should people be taking more courses like computer science or technical fields that will help them understand AI better? "Yes, but I don't think they should replace existing courses.
As a parent with four young children – aged 10, 7, 5 and 3 – based in London, we've had our share of lockdown high points - and rock-bottom low ones. We didn't manage to turn our backyard into a Mr. McGregor-worthy veggie patch, or bake banana bread weekly. Like a lot of families fortunate enough to be working remotely throughout the lockdowns, my husband and I often struggled to manage the most basic homeschooling assignments for the kids. However, we did discover a learning tool we can't get enough of: Outschool. In fact, we're so enamored of this ed-tech platform, our kids are still taking classes online - even though London schools are back in session in person, full-time.