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OpenAI's iGPT algorithm in action. Credit: OpenAI

An AI algorithm is capable of automatically generating realistic-looking images from bits of pixels.

Why it matters: The achievement is the latest evidence that AI is increasingly able to learn from and copy the real world in ways that may eventually allow algorithms to create fictional images that are indistinguishable from reality.

What's new: In a paper presented at this week's International Conference on Machine Learning, researchers from OpenAI showed they could train the organization's GPT-2 algorithm on images.

  • GPT-2 is best known as a text-generating algorithm, capable of absorbing the structure of language by training on billions of words off the internet and then "writing" passable text from a simple prompt.
  • After training on images, the OpenAI algorithm — now called iGPT — could be fed a visual prompt in the form of half an image and then fill in the rest of it.

How it works: Unlike algorithms that use supervised learning, which requires laborious amounts of labeled data, iGPT and GPT-2 use unsupervised learning on unlabeled data. That means much less human effort.

  • As Karen Hao points out in MIT Tech Review, the fact that both iGPT and GPT-2 use the same algorithm for different purposes is early evidence of more generalizable machine intelligence — which is, after all, OpenAI's aim.

What to watch: A few weeks ago OpenAI released GPT-3, as well as a new API for the tool, which is essentially "a robot that can write anything," as the journalist Alex Hern puts it.

The bottom line: A world where you can ask a robot to write, or create an image of, anything may be just around the corner, which is both exciting and terrifying.

Go deeper: Rooting out AI bias

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 21, 2020 - Technology

Why we confide in robots

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New forms of "empathetic computing" are helping human users feel more comfortable in opening up to a program.

Why it matters: Our mental health has taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while social distancing means it's harder to meet in person with therapists. That has opened a space for emotionally attuned machines to help us.

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

White House touts "progress" after Manchin, Schumer meet with Biden

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) huddled with President Biden on Sunday morning in Delaware for a "productive discussion" about a deal on Biden's soft infrastructure reconciliation bill, per a White House readout of the meeting.

The latest: "They continued to make progress, will have their staffs work on follow-ups from the meeting, and agreed to stay in close touch with each other and the wide range of members who have worked hard on these negotiations," per the White House.

8 mins ago - Axios on HBO

Rand Paul claims vindication in battle with Anthony Fauci

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Mike Allen in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that President Biden should fire Anthony Fauci "just for lack of judgment, if nothing else."

The big picture: Paul claims vindication in his dispute with Fauci, played out at heated Senate hearings, over the level of risk of U.S.-funded research in Wuhan, where COVID began.

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