Source: Mapping’s Intelligent Agents
Technologists once told us that social bots would change our lives forever. They were right — but not in the way they expected.
Less transparent social bots — primarily on Twitter and other social platforms — posed a risk to media and discourse. “Platforms, governments and citizens must step in and consider the purpose — and future — of bot technology before manipulative anonymity becomes a hallmark of the social bot,” the authors cautioned.
This warning wasn’t just a prediction; it was based in observation. Anonymous bots masquerading as citizen and political actors had been a creeping feature in foreign elections for years. The 2012 election of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico was supported by armies of automated social-media accounts, which flooded Twitter with supportive messages. “Peñabots” became a feature of online Mexican political discourse through at least 2015. But bots hadn’t yet run rampant on American tech companies’ home turf. Manipulation by A.I. was typically seen as “something that was happening somewhere else,” M.C. Elish, a researcher at Data & Society who contributed to the report, told me. “We only notice something when it’s arrived on our doorstep.”
Source: Not the Bots We Were Looking For New York Times
The idea that we exist for the sake of progress, and that progress requires unconstrained and exponential growth, is the whip that lashes us. Modern companies are the natural product of this paradigm in a free-market capitalist system. Norbert Wiener called corporations “machines of flesh and blood” and automation “machines of metal.” The new species of Silicon Valley mega companies—the machines of bits—are developed and run in great part by people who believe in a new religion, Singularity. This new religion is not a fundamental change in the paradigm, but rather the natural evolution of the worship of exponential growth applied to modern computation and science. The asymptote of the exponential growth of computational power is artificial intelligence.
The notion of Singularity—that AI will supercede humans with its exponential growth, and that everything we have done until now and are currently doing is insignificant—is a religion created by people who have the experience of using computation to solve problems heretofore considered impossibly complex for machines. They have found a perfect partner in digital computation—a knowable, controllable, system of thinking and creating that is rapidly increasing in its ability to harness and process complexity, bestowing wealth and power on those who have mastered it. In Silicon Valley, the combination of groupthink and the financial success of this cult of technology has created a positive feedback system that has very little capacity for regulating through negative feedback. While they would resist having their beliefs compared to a religion and would argue that their ideas are science- and evidence-based, those who embrace Singularity engage in quite a bit of arm waving and make leaps of faith based more on trajectories than ground-truths to achieve their ultimate vision.
Source: Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto
Despite the worries, AI is still in its infancy. Here’s what we really need to focus on.
Let’s begin by removing ‘black box’ algorithms from core public agencies
Core public agencies, such as those responsible for criminal justice, healthcare, welfare, and education (e.g “high stakes” domains) should no longer use ‘black box’ AI and algorithmic systems.
In his epic anti-A.I. work from the mid-1970s, “Computer Power and Human Reason,” Mr. Weizenbaum described the scene at computer labs. “Bright young men of disheveled appearance, often with sunken glowing eyes, can be seen sitting at computer consoles, their arms tensed and waiting to fire their fingers, already poised to strike, at the buttons and keys on which their attention seems to be as riveted as a gambler’s on the rolling dice,” he wrote. “They exist, at least when so engaged, only through and for the computers. These are computer bums, compulsive programmers.”
He was concerned about them as young students lacking perspective about life and was worried that these troubled souls could be our new leaders. Neither Mr. Weizenbaum nor Mr. McCarthy mentioned, though it was hard to miss, that this ascendant generation were nearly all white men with a strong preference for people just like themselves. In a word, they were incorrigible, accustomed to total control of what appeared on their screens. “No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful,” Mr. Weizenbaum wrote, “has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or a field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.”
Welcome to Silicon Valley, 2017.
Three rules for ensuring that A.I. systems don’t run roughshod over humans.
We need to be on guard against the prospect of governments scanning faces to determine sexuality, says author of Straight Jacket Matthew Todd
“If we don’t get women and people of color at the table — real technologists doing the real work — we will bias systems. Trying to reverse that a decade or two from now will be so much more difficult, if not close to impossible. This is the time to get women and diverse voices in so that we build it properly, right? And it can be great. It’s going to be ubiquitous. It’s going to be awesome. But we have to have people at the table.” — Fei-Fei Li