Facebook’s head of AI: open innovation accelerates scientific progress

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Yann LeCun delivers Holst Memorial Lecture, says open innovation is route to faster scientific progress
Yann LeCun, head of Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research Group (FAIR), and considered one of the doyens of AI, delivered this year’s Holst Lecture, as the recipient of the 2018 Holst Medal. The annual award is hosted by Philips, Signify and TU/e, and is in honour of the significant contribution to research made by Dr Gilles Holst, director of Philips’ NatLab from 1914 to 1946.

Erika van der Merwe and Jean-Paul Linnartz covered the event for Radio 4 Brainport
On InnovationOrigins.com, Erika wrote about this event, the following, but you can listen to our podcast on

https://www.patreon.com/posts/23034773

LeCun, who in 2013 was asked by Mark Zuckerberg to drive Facebook’s AI research programme, is a strong proponent of open innovation and multi-disciplinary research, much in the spirit of the approach taken by Dr Holst. He is known for his work in machine learning, computer vision, mobile robotics, and computational neuroscience., and developed handwriting recognition technology used by many banks worldwide, and for his image compression technology, DjVu, used extensively to access scanned documents online. His convolutional neural network model is used in image recognition by companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Baidu.

Having flown in overnight from his New York base, and dressed in the casual elegance more reminiscent of his Silicon-valley employer than of his engineering and academic profession, LeCun addressed students, academics and industry-based researchers in the TU/e Auditorium in Eindhoven. Along with an overview of the history of AI, he outlined some of the research questions that FAIR is addressing today, as well as some of the features that AI simply cannot provide yet, given the current state of science. What we are still missing are machines with common sense, intelligent personal assistants, smart chatbots and household robots.

The reason why this is not yet possible, he says, is that machines do not yet have the ability to reason, nor can they react by planning suitable action. “For that, machines need a model of the world”.

The FAIR team, which has around 200 members worldwide, publishes all of its work, in the form of papers and source code, in the public domain. LeCun says this is in the interest of speeding up scientific innovation in AI. “The reason why we do this, is that we get people to use our tools, and we get people to improve on our method, so that it becomes much easier for us to move faster, essentially. We need to make progress faster”.

Wijnand IJsselstijn, a professor at the TU/e and chair of the 2018 Holst Memorial Committee, described the selection process to Radio4Bainport: “The award is a great honour bestowed upon scientists who do relevant work in the areas of technology, that are relevant to Philips, Signify and TU/e. We make a shortlist of scientists based on the relevance of the research generated and on the impact on people, in the environment that is relevant to the topic. This year the topic was AI and data science”.

IJsselstijn says some of the distinguishing aspects of LeCun’s work include his multi-disciplinarity. “This to me is a big appeal of his work. Also there is great practical significance to his work: Much of what he does is immediately applied to machine learning and image recognition, and to compression algorithms. He has an amazing track record in this area. All of that together makes him a very good candidate for the Holst Medal.”

LeCun, who maintains strong ties with academia through his professorship at New York University, has several ambitions for scientific developments in AI, including discovering whether self-supervised learning – which he believes will be the future of AI – can lead to common sense. As he put it, “a robot has less common sense than a house cat”.

One of his ambitions for the scientific future of AI is to develop a theory that could explain the underlying mechanisms of intelligence, whether human or machine intelligence. Describing this as equivalent to developing the theory of thermodynamics after the steam engine was built, he says that, “in the history of science and technology, it is very much the case that the artefact was created before the science was created to explain how it works. In fact, the science was motivated by the fact that the artefact already existed. Now, what is the equivalence of thermodynamics for intelligence? That is the question that I am after”.

Music with Strangers, live on air

Music with Strangers live landscape

Live from POPEI, we broadcast the event Music with Strangers. The internationals performed during a 5 hour event. Many different styles of music with one common denominator: performed by people whom you would just perceive as a stranger when you meet him or her on the street, thus …. music performed by anyone :-). Indeed, meeting new people, performing with new friends is a great experience.

We didn’t broadly announce it beforehand because it was a test with many technical and organisational uncertainties. But it was a successful test, and we will continue to cover more live events..

A Professor’s View on Patents and Standards

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In an interview for Radio4Brainport.org, newly appointed full professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Rudi Bekkers, reveals that he found evidence that Chinese authorities systematically favour Chinese patent applications over foreign applicants. Such discrimination makes it more difficult for European companies to get intellectual property rights granted in China, arguably leading to unfair competition. It appears not just an incidental case of the decline a few European patent applications, but now there is scientific evidence of a systematic discrimination.    

 

Podcast : https://www.patreon.com/posts/21486928

 

Professor Rudi Bekkers gave his inaugural lecture at TU/e on 14 September 2018, giving insight from his years of research and policy advisory work on standardisation and patents in technology.

In this podcast, Erika van der Merwe asks Prof Bekkers about the practical implications of standardisation in technology for European business, and about the stance taken by China.

Standardisation in technology and the nurturing of the patent system, Bekkers explains, is essential for creating a context in which innovators can specialise and flourish, and where technological advancement is possible.

“Standardisation is helpful in many ways. Companies – for instance in the fields of communication, mobility, smart grids or the internet of things – understand that if they build standalone technologies, that do not allow for interoperability, it is a dead end. So, you don’t have to impose standards; everyone wants to be at the table.”

Policymakers have a key role in ensuring that standards are fairly developed, through an open process, which is transparent, Bekkers says.

Public interest in standardisation

“Always thinking from the perspective of the general public interest, policymakers are there to make sure that the pro-competitive forces are greater than the anti-competitive forces when companies get together in the process of standardisation. Further, not all stakeholders who have an interest in the process are necessarily sitting at the table. Some stakeholders have all the resources, or can be influential in the process, while others are absent, or perhaps have less effective influence. Policymakers are there to keep an eye on that.”

Bekkers gave the example in his inaugural address of a typical laptop today, which uses about 250,000 patents. Negotiating patent rights with all stakeholders can become a nightmare for innovators and manufacturers, and also here a regulatory framework is essential. He sees it as an accomplishment of the Brainport region, and Philips by implication, to have initiated the concept of patent pools, and to have convinced national authorities that it this is in the interest of the end consumer and is not an example anti-competitive behaviour.

The unprecedented degree of lobbying that took place in recent years, in the run-up to the issuing of a communication by the European Commission (EC) on technological standardisation, shows just how high the stakes are for technology owners in shaping the conversation around standardisation. Despite divergent perspectives and views within the EC, including on aspects of competition and on growth of industry, it nevertheless succeeded in issuing of a formal communication by the end of last year.

“The communication answers quite a few questions, though not all questions. But it definitely brings us a step forward, for example in achieving transparency, particularly for small start-ups. We hope to see how this transparency will be improved in coming years.”

A global approach to standardisation

That there is progress in formulating coherent views on standards in technology is significant given that the approach has become global. “It is almost always a global process now. The times where important technologies were different between regions lie behind us.”

Interestingly, Bekkers sees that even China, which in the past drove an inwardly focused policy of so-called indigenous innovation, has shifted gears. “China tried incredibly hard for many years to create their own standards. It was a total failure. The outcome is that those companies that resisted these Chinese-only standards are the biggest players in the world today, and China has turned around and has now focused itself on the outside world.”

Nevertheless, he observes some remaining Chinese resistance to levelling the playing fields in global technological developments. In a recent academic study, he finds clear evidence of discrimination in the Chinese patent office between domestic and foreign patent applicants. “This is worrisome, given that it is a fundamental principle of patent law that there is no distinction between local and foreign applicants.”

As this finding may have a major consequence for the international relations with China, a draft scientific paper is currently subject to a heavy review process. Yet Bekkers appears confident about the rigorous and solid approach behind the investigations of his team.

Universities to shape thinking about the role of technology

Bekkers sees an important role for academic institutions such as the TU/e in shaping future thinking around the role of technology.

“The market is expecting people with excellent technical knowledge, but also people who can reflect on what they do, and who can function across disciplines.” He was instrumental in redesigning and broadening the curriculum at the university, with a view to equipping students for the realities of a career in technology.

“Making a product that is technologically superior is not a guarantee that that product will be a success. So many factors will affect product success; patents and standards are two important phenomena there.”

Equipping students with the tools to think about technology in a way that has a positive impact, is an underpinning theme in the development of a long-term vision by the TU/e.

“We face a number of grand societal challenges in Europe and elsewhere in the world – in sustainability, in mobility, in demographics and in health – and there is a big belief that engineers can contribute to solutions to these challenges. In the end, what we should be contributing to at the university, is to have a positive impact.”

 

 

Solar Team in action at Zolder

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Eindhoven’s very own Stella Vie won the 2017 World Solar Challange Cruiser Class Division in Australia. This year a completely new team of students will take up the challenge in the international battle of sun-powered cars. Will they live up to the high expectations? With the new rules, it is not only about speed, .. it is also about comfort and usability as a family car. The team is brainstorming and exploring innovative ideas on how best to address these aspects, to win again in 2018. But the competition will be tougher.

 


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You can see Stella Vie and the brand new Eindhoven Solar Team in action at the world’s only 24-hour endurance race for solar-powered vehicles. Stella Vie will be racing at the former Formula 1 track at Zolder in Belgium.

But it is not only about racing. Solar Team Eindhoven showed the world that it is possible to create an energy efficient family car. Our next step is to make solar cars sexy and user friendly, and that will be important to win the Solar Challenge 2018.

 

Radio 4 Brainport reporter Erika van der Merwe visited the team at the TU/e campus and heard why Sella Vie is a strong contender for more racing successes.
Listen to the interview with Marije Sesink and Martijn Ruijzendaal on http://Radio4Brainport.org, 747 kHz AM in Eindhoven or via the podcast at https://www.patreon.com/posts/24-hours-of-at-21486915

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We are looking for volunteers

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Radio 4 Brainport, the Expat Station, is looking for volunteers. Would you enjoy making radio interviews about living as an expat in Eindhoven? Would you like to read a local news bulletin once a week? We have wide variety of topics and radio items, and we like to get some more help from internationals or locals.

We are an independent radio station run entirely by volunteers, for and from the international community in the high-tech region in and around Eindhoven. You can listen 24/7 via http://radio4brainport.org
or in the southern area around Eindhoven on 747 kHz AM. If you are interested, we invite you to contact us via info@radio4brainport.org.

Tech Headlines Every Workday

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Radio 4 Brainport gives you an update on the international Tech Scene. A few times, in the morning update, such taht you can easily find you favorite listening time during the morning drive to work.

The Daily Tech Headlines are produced in California, with all the hot news from Silicon Valley, Google, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Uber, Tesla, the famous universities, etc

Radio 4 Brainport signs contract with United Nations Radio

Radio 4 Brainport signs contract with United Nations Radio

Radio 4 Brainport, the English language radio station for the international community in the Eindhoven TopTech region keeps you up to date, not only with the latest from Brainport, but also with the international current affairs.

Radio 4 Brainport now has signed a contract with United Nations Radio. This means that you can listen to a news bulletin from the United Nations studios in New York several times per day, in particular at 7:50 AM in the morning and at 17:20 in the late afternoon (5:20 PM).

United Nations Radio has a long standing history in bringing a global perspective on human stories. United Nations Radio is the international broadcasting service of the United Nations and is distributed by partner radio stations, now since July 2018, including Radio 4 Brainport.

On weekdays, you can already also hear news in English on Radio4Brainport.org by Feature Story News every hour, a few times per day the Daily Tech Headlines, on weekends you can listen to Dutch News Podcasts and Radio 4 Brainport has its own updates, interviews and reports.

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