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
Sep 9, 2020 - Technology

Better ways to use — and measure — AI in medicine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A group of newly published studies outlines how artificial intelligence can be used to improve care in hospitals and enhance clinical trials.

Why it matters: Patients stand to benefit hugely from the use of AI in medicine, but only if there is solid evidence the interventions work — and it can be done without introducing errors or compromising privacy.

Trump signs bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding into early December, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Driving the news: The Senate on Tuesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10. The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election, though funding did expire briefly before the bill was signed.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 35 mins ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1700 firefighters are battling 26 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 39 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

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