In a great new piece in Wired, Jason Tanz announces the end of coding. That might be a bit tendentious but it shows that machine learning that comes with neural networks has the effect of computers programming themselves, with us humans reduced to providing some training data sets:
If in the old view programmers were like gods, authoring the laws that govern computer systems, now they’re like parents or dog trainers.
A neural network takes lots of input data and create its own internal wirings, matching input data to the desired output. It is self-learning, so to say. The neurons of a neural network effectively learn by adjusting their own relative weights (expressed by a number value) as well as by adjusting the weight of the relationships between different neurons (also expressed by number values). As all of the generated stuff is just lots and lots of numbers, we might not be able to say for sure how neural networks work and how they will react on specific input data:
The code that runs the universe may defy human analysis. Right now Google, for example, is facing an antitrust investigation in Europe that accuses the company of exerting undue influence over its search results. Such a charge will be difficult to prove when even the company’s own engineers can’t say exactly how its search algorithms work in the first place.
While this is surely true, it is perhaps too early to be pessimistic.