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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Google exec John Giannandrea said a four-year-old child can do lots of things a computer can't. Photo courtesy of: Maven

Google executive John Giannandrea opined a couple years back that artificial intelligence had reached the level of a four-year-old child. But Giannandrea said on Tuesday, "I think I was over optimistic," noting that a four year-old child can do lots of things a computer can't.

Key points: Even young children can learn from just one or two strong examples while computers need lots of data for machine learning. Computers are also bad at transferring knowledge to adjacent tasks: if a kid is good at Pong, they will probably be good at Breakout — not so for computers.

Concerns about an AI apocalypse are overblown
  • A lot of people are "unreasonably" worried we are about to be taken over by general purpose AI, he said.
  • "I just see no evidence we are on the cusp of this," he said, arguing that sound bytes on the subject (he's talking about you, Elon Musk) have been "unwarranted and borderline" irresponsible.
2 key areas of machine learning where concern is warranted
  • Codification of bias: Google, he said, has released some tools to help analyze data and look for bias, but he said more attention to this topic is needed.
  • A lack of transparency around what the system is using to make decisions. "If somebody tries you sell you a black box and doesn't explain how it works I'd be very concerned."
Google product roadmap
  • Pervasive computing: There is a shift away from putting all of the smarts on the phone, he said. Google Home is a good example, with more to come over next couple years, Giannandrea added. (It was reported Tuesday that Google plans to introduce a smaller version of Google Home at an Oct. 4 event in San Francisco.)
  • Computer vision: Computers are getting very good at seeing and recognizing objects, he said, noting that it is a bit like speech recognition where it was predicted for years, but is finally a viable reality.

Go deeper

Changing the inflation conversation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inflation looks like it’ll run hot for longer than plenty of smart people thought it would. The conversation over just how much more Americans will have to pay for their stuff has taken on a new intensity, as supply problems show few signs of fading.

Why it matters: The rate of price growth has remained consistently strong in recent months — a time that some thought would bring cooling prices after an initial reopening spike. What goes on with prices will influence the decisions made by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Federal Reserve.

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday, via Axios night owl Hans Nichols:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.

Trump, your 2024 GOP nominee

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Former President Trump is telling most anyone who'll listen he will run again in 2024 — and poll after poll shows the vast majority of Republicans would gladly cheer him on and vote for him. 

Why it matters: Trump is the heart, soul and undisputed leader of the Republican Party and will easily win the nomination if he wants it, the polls make unmistakably clear.

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