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7 Revealing Ways AIs Fail


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Another type of logical error.

Artificial intelligence systems can break down in ways that remain a mystery to researchers.

Credit: Chris Philpot

Artificial intelligence could perform more quickly, accurately, reliably, and impartially than humans on a wide range of problems, from detecting cancer to deciding who receives an interview for a job. But AIs have also suffered numerous, sometimes deadly, failures. And the increasing ubiquity of AI means that failures can affect not just individuals but millions of people.

Increasingly, the AI community is cataloging these failures with an eye toward monitoring the risks they may pose. "There tends to be very little information for users to understand how these systems work and what it means to them," says Charlie Pownall, founder of the AI, Algorithmic and Automation Incident & Controversy Repository. "I think this directly impacts trust and confidence in these systems. There are lots of possible reasons why organizations are reluctant to get into the nitty-gritty of what exactly happened in an AI incident or controversy, not the least being potential legal exposure, but if looked at through the lens of trustworthiness, it's in their best interest to do so."

Part of the problem is that the neural network technology that drives many AI systems can break down in ways that remain a mystery to researchers. "It's unpredictable which problems artificial intelligence will be good at, because we don't understand intelligence itself very well," says computer scientist Dan Hendrycks at the University of California, Berkeley.

Here are seven examples of AI failures and what current weaknesses they reveal about artificial intelligence. Scientists discuss possible ways to deal with some of these problems; others currently defy explanation or may, philosophically speaking, lack any conclusive solution altogether.

From IEEE Spectrum
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