The Ghosts in Their Machines

"Let me get philosophical for a minute. In a human world, life is made interesting by serendipity," Yellin told me. "The more complexity you add to a machine world, you're adding serendipity that you couldn't imagine. Perry Mason is going to happen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-product of the complexity. And sometimes we call it a bug and sometimes we call it a feature."

Todd Yellen, Vice President of Product Innovation at Netflix, quoted here.

""What stunned Quoc V. Le is that the software has learned to pick out features in things like paper shredders that people can't easily spot – you've seen one shredder, you've seen them all, practically. But not so for Google's monster.

Learning "how to engineer features to recognize that that's a shredder – that's very complicated," he explained. "I spent a lot of thoughts on it and couldn't do it."

Many of Quoc's pals had trouble identifying paper shredders when he showed them pictures of the machines, he said. The computer system has a greater success rate, and he isn't quite sure how he could write program to do this.

At this point in the presentation another Googler who was sitting next to our humble El Reg hack burst out laughing, gasping: "Wow.""

Jack Clark commenting on Google's deep learning systems for The Register.


Two articles, both dealing with the peculiarities of algorithms that their human creators can no longer understand.

Pair with All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.