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Elon Musk’s nightmare is way overblown: AI isn’t the demon, people are

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The real world’s closest thing to Tony Stark told the National Governors Association that artificial intelligence (AI) is “summoning the demon.” The Hill reported Elon Musk’s remarks:

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like — yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out,” said Musk.

This kind of fear-mongering summons up images of Skynet, or The Matrix, where self-aware machines decide (on their own) to put the muzzle on humans and take away our bite. But the real issue is much more mundane, and it’s related to people, not machines.

A fascinating interview with computer scientist and author Jaron Lanier unpacks the issue in painstaking detail. Lanier’s main point is that American law recognizes corporations as “persons,” capable of executing agency (legal, even moral) that’s typically reserved for individual human beings.

He calls AI “fake” in the sense that, the scary language is constructed as “a layer of religious thinking” of technology removing actual human agency and replacing it with algorithms.

I’ll quote a little bit from it.

Since our economy has shifted to what I call a surveillance economy, but let’s say an economy where algorithms guide people a lot, we have this very odd situation where you have these algorithms that rely on big data in order to figure out who you should date, who you should sleep with, what music you should listen to, what books you should read, and on and on and on. And people often accept that because there’s no empirical alternative to compare it to, there’s no baseline. It’s bad personal science. It’s bad self-understanding.

In other words: big data is based on watching people make choices, and using that data to suggest future choices. It allows Amazon, for instance, to be efficient in they steer consumers to buy items they have in immediate stock by completing your search bar request, then they stock the items bought most. It allows Netflix to be efficient by running with an incredibly small sample of available content (compared to, say, iTunes), but using suggestions to steer watching habits.

The one thing I want to say about this is I’m not blaming Netflix for doing anything bad, because the whole point of Netflix is to deliver theatrical illusions to you, so this is just another layer of theatrical illusion—more power to them. That’s them being a good presenter. What’s a theater without a barker on the street? That’s what it is, and that’s fine. But it does contribute, at a macro level, to this overall atmosphere of accepting the algorithms as doing a lot more than they do. In the case of Netflix, the recommendation engine is serving to distract you from the fact that there’s not much choice anyway.

When you translate these algorithms into more serious real world decisions, they do tend to skew themselves into bias, and maybe that is the problem Musk is worried so much about.

An algorithm that predicts baseball outcomes (there is a whole field on this called Sabermetrics) might suggest the game would be better with a pitch clock, because fans complain that games are too long and getting longer. Sabermetrics is, ironically, responsible in part for the games being longer. But the algorithm doesn’t always account for fans inner preferences: Baseball is an institution that resists change. That’s part of the charm and attraction of the game.

When the pitch clock is implemented, this will surrender some of our human agency to a computer. Like calling balls and strikes, or fair and foul balls, or tennis balls in or out, or touchdowns in the end zone or out of bounds. Measurement and agency can be human things with AI helpers, or they can be AI things with human participants.

Moving even deeper into the “real world” is something Elon Musk knows much about: Self-driving cars. If automobile algorithms can effectively drive (as Google’s can) as well as, or better than, humans, what will happen when an algorithm avoids an accident with a human driver, causing the human driver to hit another driver with injuries or death as the outcome? Is the algorithm responsible for making moral choices of avoiding a baby carriage to hit a bike?

These are human questions, and they do tend to slow down the pace of adoption.

When AI diagnoses illnesses or prioritizes care, certainly hospitals and doctors can feel better about using time and resources more efficiently, but then the biases of those doctors’ choices can be amplified into “bad algorithms” that are not legitimate in the sense of working toward meaningful truth. As Lanier wrote:

In other words, the only way for such a system to be legitimate would be for it to have an observatory that could observe in peace, not being sullied by its own recommendations. Otherwise, it simply turns into a system that measures which manipulations work, as opposed to which ones don’t work, which is very different from a virginal and empirically careful system that’s trying to tell what recommendations would work had it not intervened. That’s a pretty clear thing. What’s not clear is where the boundary is.

Where reality gets closer to Musk’s nightmare is a scenario (a thought experiment) Lanier describes. Let’s say someone comes up with a way to 3-D print a little assassination drone that can buzz around and kill somebody: a cheap, easy to make assassin.

I’m going to give you two scenarios. In one scenario, there’s suddenly a bunch of these, and some disaffected teenagers, or terrorists, or whoever start making a bunch of them, and they go out and start killing people randomly. There’s so many of them that it’s hard to find all of them to shut it down, and there keep on being more and more of them. That’s one scenario; it’s a pretty ugly scenario.

There’s another one where there’s so-called artificial intelligence, some kind of big data scheme, that’s doing exactly the same thing, that is self-directed and taking over 3-D printers, and sending these things off to kill people. The question is, does it make any difference which it is?

Musk, like many technologists with little policy experience, conflates the fact that someone could make this kind of killer tech with the policy issues of making cheap killer drones. Lanier spends a few thousand words delving into the topic (which I won’t do, for the reader’s sake–I’m already way long here).

The key is using smart policy to prevent the end result without throwing away the benefits of AI. It’s the same as baseball, or self-driving cars, or counterfeiting currency. Scanners and color copiers have long had the resolution to produce fairly good counterfeit currency. But legitimate manufacturers have complied with laws that kill attempts to actually do it. Try copying a $20 bill on your scanner.

There’s no reason that certain rules can’t be applied to 3-D printers, or other devices that “make” things in the real world. Or to medical software, or–as a hot-button issue–using AI to recommend sentences and parole for convicted criminals.

Lawmakers and politicians need to be aware of these real issues, and the limitations of AI in replacing human agency. These are the actual problems we face, versus the dystopian Everybody Dies™ apocalyptic warnings by people like Musk.

If Google and Netflix are corporate persons, which in turn own AI algorithms based on human choices, imbued with the power to suggest future choices, that does not foreshadow the end of the world. But it does raise some serious issues. Most of these will take care of themselves (people have a tendency to change faster than algorithms can predict, leading to disappointment with the algorithms).

It’s the legal, human, and social issues raised by AI we need to focus on. In the end, people, not machines, are the demons we summon.

Serial entrepreneur. Faith, family, federal republic. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Media

Trump failed with Putin due to anti-Trump Republicans and fake news

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Following Trump’s bizarre performance at the Helsinki Summit with his BFF Vladimir Putin, bi-partisan condemnation of his press conference was swift and severe after he expressed his willingness to accept Putin’s word that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 election, despite findings by US intelligence proving otherwise.

Not to worry, though. Following this backlash, and now that he’s home and a safe distance away from Putin, Trump’s false bravado was back on full display yesterday as he attempted to backtrack from his previous statements about Russian interference.

According to Trump, he didn’t reject US intelligence in favor of Russia; he simply misspoke. He’s always believed Russia interfered. He’s just a victim of the English language.

“The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative. So you can put that in and I think it probably clarifies things pretty good.

“I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.”

But Trump’s difficulty with contractions isn’t the only reason for this apparent misunderstanding. Not at all. The real culprit, as is always the case when the news is unfavorable, is the “Fake News” media.

Sadly, criticism of Trump’s Helsinki remarks has been noticeably missing in some so-called conservative circles in Washington and in the media. Not only that, they have joined the Trump echo chamber in defending him.

For example, according to Trump, Sen. Rand Paul agreed with his claim that the Mueller investigation was responsible for Trump’s troubling comments.

Additionally, in an interview with Trump Pravda (FOX News), Paul called out Republicans who criticized Trump, labelling them pro-war and/or anti-Trump for doing so.

“Republicans that are making the criticism are either the pro-war Republicans like McCain and Graham or the anti-Trump ones like Sasse … They are motivated by their persistent and consistent dislike of the president.”

In the House of Representatives, so-called conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus embraced Trump’s “Fake News” mantra, arguing that the media’s criticism of Trump’s statements had overshadowed his accomplishments concerning Russia. At least, that’s how Freedom Caucus member Rep Warren Davidson sees it:

“The reality is people are upset about what President Trump said, but they’re not giving him credit for what he’s done.”

Is it just me, or shouldn’t what you say jive with what you do? I think they call that walking the talk.

Meanwhile, sounding like he wrote Trump’s “Fake News” talking points, the conservative talk show host formerly known as Rush Limbaugh, also blames the media for Trump’s pro-Russia comments, saying that their “embarrassingly shallow and puerile, infantile questions” were responsible.

So, take heart, America. Trump didn’t mean what he said when he said it. He was simply playing 3-D chess with the Russian President, and anyone who thinks otherwise only does so because they are pro-war, anti-Trump, and they believe fake news.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and FacebookSubscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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Foreign Affairs

Being American doesn’t mean ignoring facts. Ron Paul right about Trump-Putin meeting.

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In the era of torn Russian relations, Ron Paul takes a step back and views more information than almost any pundit on air or on twitter. It’s bipartisan to hate Russian, and that causes many Americans to hold inconsistent views on foreign policy issues related to Russia.

The media’s coverage on all things related to Russia was bad before it’s terrible coverage of Trump. We need a balanced factual approach to foreign relations with Russia. Not everything is Russia’s fault. America needs a new approach to Russia, and Trump can bring that.

John Kerry spent so much time picking losing battles with Russia and the United States needs to move on from these geopolitical skirmishes. Part of this means throwing the Obama administration under the bus. Between John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, US interests in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe faced setbacks. Only then can we have a better relationship with Russia.

I appreciate Ron Paul’s perspective because, in an era of hot takes and the political popularity of Russia hating, he maintains a just perspective that embraces facts.

US Russia Factsheet

US and Russia

  • These two countries have the largest nuclear arsenal
  • US military currently miles ahead of Russia
  • Relations have ever been good
  • Both (sort of) friends with the Kurds
  • Russia largely used as scapegoat, punching bags in American politics
  • Trump administration upped military spending
  • US through NATO still practices a containment policy with regards to Russia
  • Both countries have issues with Islamic terrorism
  • Working together on North Korea issue

Russia

  • Is not a free country
  • Does not pretend to be a free country (like Europe)
  • Its people largely view the break up of the Soviet Union as a tragedy (regardless of feelings about communism)
  • Actually likes Putin, a lot (strangely)
  • Has had Putin at the helm for decades

Iran

  • Putin came out in affirmation of the Iran Deal
  • Trump remained opposed
  • This point of contention was largely ignored by the media
  • Russia and Iran are allies
  • Iran taking control of Iraq through Shia paramilitaries
  • Backs Houthi rebels in Yemen

Iraq

  • Invaded by the US in 2003
  • War lost when the Obama Administration refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement
  • Iraqi military fell apart to ISIS when they invaded from Syria
  • Iranian backed militias filled the vacuum
  • Status of Kurds unclear

Syria

Ukraine

Turkey

  • Turkey is a member of NATO
  • Turkey opposes Israel
  • Turkey provoked war with Russia by downing Russian jet
  • Turkey becoming increasingly Islamic under neo-Ottoman regime
  • Kemalism was killed in the attempted coup
  • Ergodan held a referendum to grant himself more power
  • Russia and Turkey have an arrangement in Syria to not fight each other
  • Turkey performing land grab in Syria
  • Turkey killing Kurds in Syria
  • Turkey backing its own Islamist in Syria

Israel

  • Trump administration the most Israel-friendly administration in US history
  • Russia opposes Israel on a geopolitical level (along with most US allies)
  • Russia backs enemies of Israel
  • US backs enemies of Israel (Saudis)
  • Israel believed to have nuclear capabilities

Libya

  • US and Russia back differing factions
  • US played large role in destabilizing region during the rebellion
  • Terrorist that America aided attack a US consulate and murdered four people, including Ambassador Stevens

2016 Election

  • US has long history of meddling in foreign elections
  • Russian meddling had no effect on the outcome of 2016 election
  • DNC never handed over server to investigators
  • Indictments are not convictions, not even close
  • Russia should be embarrassed if that was their attempt to interfere in a US election
  • Media overplaying story because they dislike Trump

US Agencies

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Culture and Religion

Video: What is a Classical Liberal?

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A short video making the point that the Left is no longer Liberal, having traded individualism for collectivism.

In one of their first animated video shorts, the Rubin Report discusses the vitally important topic of just who is a Classical Liberal.

OUR FIRST ANIMATED VIDEO! What is a Classical Liberal?

Liberalism has been confused with Leftism or progressivism, which is actually has nothing to do with classical Liberalism. Sadly the Left is no longer Liberal at all for it has traded individualism for collectivism.

The Rubin Report
Published on Jul 10, 2018

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