Open Air Focuses on Machine Learning

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Machine learning isn’t a new concept, but it’s often one we think of in science fiction. The reality is that it’s actually not fiction at all. As we progress in computer science, algorithms that allow computers to learn from it’s users get more and more common.


Ironically, the Open Air event held at the Metreon in San Francisco earlier yesterday ended on a rather daunting note. Sam Altman, president at Y Combinator ( a company that funds start ups), was asked about his views on machines becoming a danger to society. His response was thought provoking.

(paraphrased) “There are something like over a quadrillion bytes in a super computer brain. Machine intelligence isn’t far off, it’s already happening and we need to fund safety and pursue regulations that’ll protect us from things getting out of hand. “

What makes this statement odd is that the entire focus of the event was on utilizing Machine Learning to curate product. Etsy discussed using users’ searches to suggest better options for future purchases. Netflix discussed the development of it’s algorithms that recommend what you should watch and dictate what shows up on your screen. Instagram discussed how it’s formula looks at what you enjoy viewing and attempts to make its explorer tab reflect that and Airbnb adds it’s new Price Tips feature which collects data about your location, events etc and recommends a price to offer your space for. All of these features require the program to learn from it’s user. What this reminded me of was how recently we saw Google release new features for it’s assistant, Google Now that frequently collects data from it’s users then provides useful information throughout the day.

These aren’t the only ways Machine Learning is being utilized. It surrounds us day to day and its evolving quickly and remarkably well. Perhaps we should take into consideration what Altman stated and focus on regulation. Machine Learning is a very delicate area and has so many mathematical aspects to it, like the vector projection, and should therefore be handled only with the utmost care.