Radical Reads

Radical Reads

By Radical Editorial


Curated deep tech and AI content that humans at Radical are reading and thinking about. Sign up here to have Radical Reads delivered directly to your inbox every week.

AI News This Week

  • Re-Imagining the Economy with Eric Schmidt  (Radical Talks)

    In this month’s Radical Talks, former Google CEO and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt sits down with Radical’s Co-founder and Managing Partner, Jordan Jacobs, to discuss the macro impacts of the pandemic, how companies can navigate these challenging times and how technology and society might look vastly different coming out the other side of this crisis.

  • AI Robotics: AI Startup Covariant.ai Building ‘Universal AI for Robots’   (Synced)

    “There are no textbook answers to a lot of things that we are trying to build. You need to embrace the fact that you need to solve unsolved problems. Then you need to assemble a team that could do that cutting edge research and advance over the state-of-the-art.”

    Radical Commentary: Radical Ventures was selected by Covariant AI’s founders to invest in its recent funding round alongside Index Ventures. Covariant is building a universal AI to give existing and new robots the ability to see, reason and act on the world around them — enabling robots to learn new skills rather than require explicit programming.

    The initial use-case is in warehouses and fulfillment centres, where robots need to deal with greater levels of variability, such as handling unlimited stock-keeping unit types. In an existing warehouse deployment, a robot equipped with Covariant AI software can pick and sort more than 10,000 different items, with better than 99 percent accuracy, while continuously learning and improving. The use-case is also applicable for many repetitive and less predictable tasks in the food, healthcare, retail, parcel and manufacturing industries. Like other smartly designed AI systems, one of the key advantages of the Covariant platform is that its AI learns from every one of its deployments. As the number of deployments increases, the resulting ‘network effect’ means the centralized ‘Covariant Brain’ AI gets better everywhere.

  • AI and COVID-19: Artificial Intelligence and the Fight Against COVID-19  (NESTA)

    “Our analysis highlights the velocity with which research communities — including AI researchers — are mobilizing to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. We find many opportunities to apply powerful AI algorithms to prevent, diagnose and treat the virus.

    …we find that the five most active countries in the deployment of AI to tackle COVID-19 are the US and China, which together account for more than 40 percent of research in this area. They are followed by the UK, India, Canada and Germany — all countries that rank highly in most AI research maps (Klinger et al., 2018)…

    Researchers, policymakers and practitioners need to develop strategies to validate contributions from new entrants into the COVID-19 field, while ensuring that new voices and ideas can still be heard.”

    Radical Commentary: In an examination of 1.8 Million academic papers and pre-prints related to COVID-19, researchers identified 82,434 papers focused specifically on AI. Upon further analysis, the researchers identified “silos between AI researchers and those in medical and biological science disciplines in tackling the pandemic…It will be difficult for them to develop truly effective technologies to tackle these challenges without tapping on the knowledge of other disciplines.

    This conclusion resonates with our experience in building sophisticated software products that are powered by machine learning. We have found that it is often crucial to have multidisciplinary and cross-functional teams across data science, engineering, and product. One of the factors we examine closely in all of our investments is whether a team has deep industry expertise in addition to the exceptional technical ability we expect to see.

    Radical’s investment in a stealth healthcare company reflects this interdisciplinary approach, as its founders are building a team that leverages their backgrounds as world-class medical and AI experts to solve some of the most challenging problems in healthcare delivery. We will have more to share about this investment soon.

  • Role of AI in Talent Recruitment: Will recruitment ‘gamification’ drive diversity or replicate biases?  (Financial Times)

    “A survey by the Institute for Student Employers in the UK showed that just 30 percent of companies used face-to-face interviews in the first stage of graduate recruitment last year. Psychometric tests were used by 59 percent and gamified assessments by 10 percent. In a report last month, the institute concluded that “there is a strong indication that online recruitment may become the new normal”…

    …Cathy O’Neil, a computer scientist and author of Weapons of Math Destruction, a book critical of AI, says: ‘We have a long history of discrimination in hiring. We cannot allow recruitment platforms to simply propagate the past with naive AI, which is what would happen by default. Instead, we must demand evidence that what they are doing is fair, and how they define fair.’ ”

    Radical Commentary: As the COVID pandemic has restricted the ability to conduct in-person interviews, we are seeing an increased share of candidate screening done by AI. This approach may help improve diversity in the workforce by decreasing reliance on typical hiring heuristics which are vulnerable to unconscious bias. However, it is well documented that an AI is only as effective as the dataset that it is trained on.

    Going forward, business leaders will need to take on increased responsibility when it comes to the efficacy of screening factors in their algorithms and ensure that AI systems are not trained to just hire “more of the same”. We expect this to be a critical point of differentiation between AI providers as customers demand fairness in hiring solutions.

  • Tech Trends: Future of the Tech Economy  (UBS)

    “The ramifications of people’s increasing reliance on (and comfort with) digital business models are reverberating throughout the world — from retail and real estate to agriculture and e-commerce. These trends tend to be structural in nature, are just getting started, and have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, during which people have turned to the internet for many of their daily needs. And, as with every technological revolution, there will be winners and losers along the way.”

    Radical Commentary: This is a wide-ranging report by UBS on the impact that technology is having on society in general, and in specific sectors including education, healthcare, and agriculture. As technology adoption accelerates in response to COVID-19, the authors also examine the timelines for quantum computing, neural interfaces, solid-state batteries, and fuel cells.

    Editor’s Note: We will continue to use this platform to share without commentary articles focused on data and the use of it to illustrate and illuminate racial injustice. Because you cannot fix problems you cannot see or understand.

  • The Stark Racial Inequity of Personal Finances in America  (New York Times)

    “Dollars are like air — crucial to vitality. And when it comes to wealth, black Americans have less at nearly every juncture of life, from birth to death.

    Perversely, having less can cost more. Black students borrow more to go to college, don’t finish as often and more frequently default on their student loans. They earn less, and generally have lower credit scores — so they pay higher interest rates. It’s harder for them to save for retirement, and they leave less to the next generation when they die.

    An imbalance of societal power cannot be separated from cradle-to-grave economic inequality. This is what that looks like.”

Radical Reads is edited by Leah Morris (Senior Director, Velocity Program, Radical Ventures).