back to article Is this a hotdog? What it takes for an AI to answer that might surprise you

Artificial intelligence isn't going away. Even if the hype abates its presence will have succeeded in raising awareness of a smorgasbord of interlinking concepts, technologies and ideas – neural networks and machine learning, cognitive intelligence, recommendation engines, big data, statistics and analysis – that together let …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    Missing "not"?

    "...First things first: all AI jobs are equal, and the skills you need as an AI practitioner will vary depending on role..."

    Shouldn't that read First things first: not all AI jobs are equal, and the skills you need as an AI practitioner will vary depending on role.


    1. DannyB

      Re: Missing "not"?

      Yes it should - good find. Let me know if you've found any good AI proof-reading algos.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    So where is the AI?

    You tell a database which are pictures of hotdogs and which are not hotdogs. You need a lot of pictures.

    Maybe you better also show (store / process) clip art too. Children's drawings. Where do you stop?

    Then at run time you have some image matching / analysis. Unless you are Humpty Dumpty this isn't AI. Marketing and the Tech industry can call it AI, but it's not.

    How does a child recognise a hotdog and a not hotdog, maybe after seeing only one? Also somehow we must have a conceptual 3D model as we don't need (usually) any particular viewing angle.

    The described project is interesting and I think an example of what so-called AI can achieve today. Machine Learning = Human curated database.

    See Computing Tasks

    Do read the mouse hover caption

    The so called AI task might not be achievable, or it may be fragile. Cyclists and Kangaroos.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: So where is the AI?

      Being AI you wouldnt build the hotdog recognition you would teach hotdog recognition. AI would decide itself how to store the information or even how to decide.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: So where is the AI?

        I don't decide how (or whether) my brain stores information. Why should an AI be different?

    2. vir

      Re: So where is the AI?

      Don't forget the contextual analysis: e.g. probability of hotdog-like object actually being a hotdog with a barbecue in the background vs probability of a hotdog-like object actually being a hotdog with a tornado in the background. Maybe this is a hardware problem? A special sensor that only detects hotdogs?

    3. TheVogon

      Re: So where is the AI?

      I bet it would still have issues.


  3. tony2heads

    As Rene Magritte might say

    Ceci n'est pas un hotdog

    It is just a 2-D representation of the obnoxious foodstuff

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: As Rene Magritte might say

      No one said that recognising a hot dog is for the purpose of selecting it - rejection is a very good motivation!

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Being in tech means you are naturally fascinated by the new. "

    And being in tech long enough reminds you that the old is new again.

  5. Aladdin Sane

    I came here for the Silicon Valley reference

    I was not disappointed.

    1. Ben1892

      Re: I came here for the Silicon Valley reference

      I was a very well set-up gag - had me in stitches :) Bring on season 5 !

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can simply hire an American to do this. They work for oxys

  7. Ralph the Wonder Llama

    This isn't AI...'s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This isn't AI...

      The critical test is, can it tell the difference between hot dogs and legs?

      1. tony2heads

        Re: This isn't AI...

        Some dogs have that problem.

  8. MatsSvensson

    Knock knock, is your efrigerator running?

  9. Wardatrigger

    First it can tell what's a hotdog, then it can ask someone who owns it, then it smashes someone's face in with a pool ball in a sock.

  10. Valeyard

    "so all it does it hot dogs?"

    "and NOT hot dog"

  11. chuckufarley Silver badge

    So where is the hotdog?

    The item in stock photograph tied to this article has ketchup on it. Therefore it cannot be a hotdog because ketchup is never applied to a hotdog.

    Just ask anyone in Chicago, Il. Better yet (if you are brave beyond the point of foolishness AND can afford bullet proof armor) go to a Chicago hotdog stand and try to order a hotdog with ketchup. You will be educated in no uncertain terms regarding the condiment etiquette of hotdogs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So where is the hotdog?

      You can get HP Sauce in Chicago ... ?!?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: So where is the hotdog?

      It has ketchup and mustard. In a zig-zag pattern. Which might prompt an "AI" to classify it as a box girder bridge.

    3. Uffish

      Re: condiment etiquette

      My choice is enough ketchup, american mustard and hotdog relish to mask the hotdog flavourings (it takes a lot) and wolf it down as quickly as possible, followed by cold chocolate milk. Not a good diet but it gets the job done. I'm sorry if that gets me banned from Chicago.

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: So where is the hotdog?

      Fortunately for us all, Chicago, Il, does not hold any kind of exclusive rights to define what is or isn't a hot dog.

      I'll just leave this here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So where is the hotdog?

        Fortunately for Chicagoans, we're open-minded and support all styles here. But given the choice, I do usually get Chicago style, flame-grilled if possible.

        Nothing beats a good chili-cheese dog, though.

    5. joejack

      Re: So where is the hotdog?

      @chuckufarley, I've lived here since 1999, and have never felt unsafe. The murder RATE in Chicago comes in 8th place behind St Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis. I guess "per-capita" is too many syllables for POTUS Cheeto McTweeto to grasp. There's definitely work to do, but to say you need bulletproof armor is silliness.

  12. Alan Bourke

    it isn't going away?

    It hasn't bloody arrived yet.

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: it isn't going away?

      Still waiting for actual intelligence, let alone artificial.

  13. Kingstonian

    RPS Hotdog for programmers?

  14. Stevie Silver badge


    Can it tell the difference between a hot dog, a bratwurst on a bun and a proper British sausage sandwich that has been opened up to apply the HP Sauce?

    If confronted with a matrix of pics of bread-mounted orange sausages and Scotties in front of blazing fires, could it solve the capcha?

    More importantly, who give an act of aerial copulation?

  15. DerekCurrie

    What 'AI'? We're still working with Advanced Expert Systems.

    Having pointed out that fact, I'll move on to a few comments.

    • Contemporary expert systems use object code that allows minimal coding by secondary developers. Thus "When you're writing the code, usually there's not that much code." This of course means that the object code is a Black Box, which of course is going to have plenty of human created, IE buggy code in it. That's not cynicism. That's a roaring-in-our-faces fact of the times. Therefore, there will be artificial insanity (ai) in the system. (The cure we're waiting for is throwing out all C languages, ad nauseam, and replacing them with languages that offer no possibility of buffer overruns. This of course requires improved code compilers as well).

    • The data being tossed around and interpreted via secondary developers via their apps is in what amounts to a Database. That database may be created on the fly. The interpretations may vary with each use. But we're still working with databases. With the hot dog, visual data points are acquired: Color, 3D sizes, textures, reflection, shape relationships, etc. From this relatively small database, the points collected are compared with source template data, a correspondence/correlation is calculated (statistical algorithms), a best analysis result is postulated and the output conclusion is handed to the user. "Not a hotdog." So what is it? The source template database isn't large enough to know. So grow the template database for further comparisons as required. Database bloat of course results in the usual, predictable problems of speed and compromised analysis. The expert system get's less coherent or useful. Focus, culling and improved first developer black boxes are required.

    • Actual 'AI' remains a goal, an ambition, a thing of science fiction, an abstract that we may not actually recognize as what we originally conceived or intended the 'AI' to be. We're exploring, pioneering, inventing, adjusting, adapting, injecting, evolving as we create what AI is to be. Even then, there will be market forces (beware!), money and human behavior at work to warp, abuse or personalize AI on any given day. That's real 'intelligence' imprinting upon the artificial 'intelligence', using it as a tool for whatever purpose is at hand. That of course will include mankind's worst purposes, including killing and controlling one another (further beware!).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What 'AI'? We're still working with Advanced Expert Systems.

      Does it boil down to this?

      Expert System = something you program with rules. You can get it to show the rules it used to arrive at a particular outcome.

      Neural Network = something you train with examples. You have no bloody clue how it works internally.

  16. Is AC used?

    The problem with AI is we don't understand enough to make it.

    I'm no expert, just a plain old user with an interest in computing & science, however the AI situation has always been intriguing.

    My three year old grandchild would say the pic was a hotdog, her younger sister would identify it as food. If I were to show them and name Sprocket Y, and then showed them the similar Sprocket Z, they would say it was Sprocket Y. The difference between Sprocket Y and Z is unimportant, the difference is acquired further knowledge. The important question is how did they understand there was a similarity in the first place? Show a child a metal boomerang and then a wooden one rotated, and they would say it was the same object, so colour and orientation (to a certain extent) alone is not the answer.

    Exposure to thousands of images seems like the wrong way to go as they might all be irrelevant in the first place, providing no useful data to work on. Somehow my two year old grandchild already worked out the picture was food and just needed a label.

    OK, you could argue that she had seen enough bread products, enough processed meat products, and ketchup to assume it was food. But together, for all of the billions of combinations of light, colour and orientation in her just two years?

    And that, in a nutshell, is a hard one to swallow AI speaking.

    1. Meph

      Re: The problem with AI is we don't understand enough to make it.

      "The important question is how did they understand there was a similarity in the first place?"

      Keep in mind that computers (and by extension, AI) are designed to work in a way that is modelled on human thought. This however, is not a direct analogue of human thought processes. The human brain is a highly evolved pattern recognition engine, with significant wetware components that will instinctively respond to certain stimulus, and can make huge leaps in both logic and intuition to link an image to an experience. A small child will often understand the concept and purpose of food long before they are able to articulate what any given type of food actually is. Realistically speaking, an AI will never understand food in this way, because it doesn't have the same requirements for it. About the best you can hope for is that the AI will work out how to flag items correctly as "food" (simply a category to the AI), regardless of whether or not the item is actually a hot dog.

  17. peterjames

    What's this obsession with artificial intelligence - as if it can be any better than the non-artificial one - which is denigrated in popular culture (and workplace) - do you not know the hierarchy is always right boy - what do you mean you KNOW MORE!?!?

    You can't teach a machine to figure out what is a hotdog - because in all but the most obvious cases humans couldn't do it either (imagine blurred photos - or the whole 'well is that wurst really a hot dog').

    Actually, before you start - can you define what constitutes a hotdog - or would you like the machine to feel your request - so it can give you the response aligned to your emotions (which can in any case keep you happy - no matter how dumb)?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article

    Although it just focuses on the most superficial level of problems, without even dipping into the deep epistemological and phenomenological issues.

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