AI and Cats: A Wonderful Love Story in the Digital Age
It has long been known that cats rule the internet, but now they're also taking over the field of artificial intelligence. Learn more about the (adorable!) relationship between cats and AI.
The prophecy is about to be fulfilled. The ancient Holy Cat God has awakened in search of "cheezburger" and "lööps," and he has harnessed the power of the almighty machines to progress his world domination plans further. With his omnipotent chubbiness, he already conquered the in-between world, that place where machines and "hoomans" coexist peacefully: the internet. Because we know that the internet is made of cats, and that's a fact that even science has already acknowledged.
Let's see how the immense power of the "smol" feline friends across the globe allowed them to conquer the world of AI so that even the most intelligent machines can forever pet and feed them. (For more on AI, see Will the Real AI Please Stand Up?)
AI and Cat Pictures
Anyone who roams the internet in search of cat pictures knows a sad yet inescapable truth: There are never enough. The more time you spend watching cute videos of the fluffs running for their lööps, or looking for awesome LOLcats memes, the more you will realize that humanity needs more of them. That's why some philanthropists decided to gather all the cat lovers together in Facebook groups, or even build new social networks for the acolytes of the unstoppable Nyan Cat.
But the wisdom of the machines came to our rescue and performed a miracle. A new AI has been invented to protect us against that terrible moment we all fear: The moment when we run out of cat pictures. Now, with the Meow Generator, we can use deep convolutional generative adversarial networks (DCGAN) to generate all the cat pictures we want! Aptly named "the coolest idea in machine learning in the last twenty years," we could go so far as to say that this is the coolest idea humankind has ever had in its history! Too bad it also left us with an immense database of horrifying cat pictures.
This deep learning architecture literally competes against itself via adversarial nets to generate new pictures of cats that are every day becoming more realistic and believable. Two neural networks are pitted against each other – one makes the "fake" cat pictures, while the other determines if that picture is legit or not. So while the first neural network "learned" how to make the floofs appear more credible and squishy, tens of thousands of failed tries were collected in the form of eerie and awkward cat mugshots. (To learn more about neural networks, check out 6 Big Advances You Can Attribute to Artificial Neural Networks.)
But that's acceptable, as we know there must be an evil side to everything. In any case, even an ugly rendered cat photo is still better than those pesky and wet doggo snouts, isn't it? Thankfully, a similar AI can now turn dog pictures into cat pics, to make the world a better place. But there's more! Although not properly AI, another automated script can be added as a Google Chrome extension to automatically detect images of President Donald Trump on the web and swap them with kittens pics. We can only look forward to the day when the good machines could actually transform dogs and U.S. Presidents into real cats.
Protecting the Vulnerable Hoomans
Except for the occasional bowl of lööps, cats do not truly need their hooman owners. They choose to spend their lives with us because of their immense benevolence and to protect us from harm and danger. In an age where the safety of our children is constantly endangered while surfing the web, knowing that the immense amount of safe cat-based content protects them from harm lets us sleep soundly. They care for us all, especially for the most vulnerable ones such as the kids and the elderly, upon which they constantly keep watch.
That's why a new generation of AI-powered helper robot cats are being developed in their own image. These amazing robotic cats can assist the elderly in dealing with a lot of their everyday issues, such as finding their glasses or taking their medications on time. They're designed to look like a real cat – whiskers, purring and meowing included – to help the elderly cope with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. We could point out an inherent and very visible flaw that makes them clearly identifiable as fake cats, though. As their creator explained: "The cat doesn't do things on its own. It needs the human, and the human gets something back." What? No real cat would ever need a human!
Improving AI by Teaching It
Cats are so sneaky they can disguise themselves as anything, just like ninjas with puffy paws. They are true masters of camouflage, and this time they used their skills to help the AI improve itself. A group of scientists at MIT's LabSix used a cat pic to trick Google's InceptionV3, image-recognition AI, into believing it was guacamole. They also confused the AI with a baseball that was identified as an espresso, and with a turtle that was identified as a lethal firearm. According to their experiment, the researchers tried to demonstrate that machines may have a hard time recognizing objects when an image is blurred or altered. They feared that a self-driving car that needs to identify a pedestrian might make tragic mistakes if weather conditions severely reduced its visibility.
But, once again, cats came to the rescue and saved the day! Cats, dogs and human pics have been, in fact, secretly used by Facebook to train its AI and computer vision so it can compete with Google and Amazon. The popular social media platform used 3.5 billion public Instagram photos to train algorithms to categorize images on their own – a database which is 10 times bigger than the one used by Google. The applications range from describing images to the visually impaired to identifying illegal or unsafe content. But guess what? The AI had to rely on hashtags to categorize the pics, which were (quite obviously) skewered towards #cats, #dogs and #sunsets. Which is a good thing, because this way machines will know better who really dominates this world.
Get your tissues ready: The love story between AI and cats is so touching, that it earned Naomi Kritzer's short story "Cat Pictures Please" the 2016 Hugo and Locus awards. In the novel, a lonely teenage girl has just one friend: Alice, the admin of a community of cat lovers known as CatNet. What the girl doesn't know is that Alice is not a human, but an AI that helps people in exchange for cat pics.
And it doesn't take much to understand how a world where cat pics are our new currency would definitely be a much, much better world than the one we currently live in.