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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.

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Media

DDoS and Twitter attack in same day. Someone’s not happy with us.

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DDoS and Twitter attack in same day Someones not happy with us

I should have known when the the Twitter account for the site was suddenly permanently banned that something was fishy. Unfortunately, Twitter is funny that way, so I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until the site itself went down.

When you operate a site that tells the truth, there’s bound to be someone offended. That’s the nature of the game, especially for a news site that focuses on conservative media, that holds a Judeo-Christian worldview, and that isn’t afraid to say things that may not be popular with, well, most people.

Our web provider was great. They recognized the attacks and took steps to stop them, but the attackers are clever. When they couldn’t brute-force hack into the admin, they went the DDoS route. I’m not going to get into the technical details because they’re over my head, but from what I can tell from the logs and in talking to our host, it wasn’t a casual attack. They’ve been trying to hack the back end for days and when that proved too challenging,they went straight for the shutdown attempt.

As for Twitter, I’m not even going to bother. The site and one of the authors (that I’ve seen so far) were banned. I switched the site to link to my personal Twitter account. Been meaning to spend more energy there anyway.

This is reason #17 why we’re so badly in need of donations from our readers. We have big plans for the site that include paid editors, writers, graphics, and a tech person (which we obviously need). I need to move the site to a stronger hosting tier, one that can withstand attacks like today. The one we’re using isn’t cheap, but it’s not top-of-the-line.

When you’re on the right side of the political aisle, there will be people who try to stop you. We will persevere, but we certainly can use the help.

To paraphrase a famous quote, if you’re not making enough people mad, then you’re doing it wrong. We will not crumble under the weight of heavy opposition. Fighting the left and their media puppets is a task that’s too important to let go.


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Culture and Religion

The complete fraud that is socialism

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The complete fraud that is socialism

Once again we are witness to the age-old scam of socialism with Leftists making promises to attain power that can never be fulfilled.

Long before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago exposed the systematic oppression, torture, incarceration and deliberate mass murder that are the hallmarks of socialistic slavery. James A. Michener documented the 1956 Hungarian uprising against communism in his book ‘The Bridge at Andau’. While both are great literary works, ‘The Bridge at Andau’ laid bare the complete fraud that is the collectivist ideologies in creating a ‘Heaven on Earth’ or ‘worker’s paradise’ that never comes to fruition.

The selling of socialistic slavery to a new generation tends to follow a certain type of ‘progress’. Promises are made for all kinds of largess ranging from Free Healthcare, Free Housing, Free College, Free food to even Free income. All paid for with other people’s money. Never mind that It’s impossible to fulfill all of these wondrous asseverations. Appearances must be made to at least begin the process, so the ever-present task of wealth redistribution begins at the point of a gun.

This is also why the Socialist-Left obsesses over gun confiscation and the suppression of free speech. It is imperative for the Leftists to disarm the people since they generally object to having their property stolen from them. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves, this is to document how this exploitation of the people has ‘progressed’ in other collectivist enclaves to better understand how this crime against the people is perpetrated.

Why do collectivist regimes always require secret police apparatus and the suppression of Liberty?

This question was detailed in The Bridge at Andau in the chapters on the ‘AVO man’. In which he discusses the secret police organisation of the Hungarian Communists, the AVO (Allamvedelmi Osztaly). He bluntly asked and answered the question:

Why must communism depend on such dregs of society?

No matter on what elevated plane communism begins its program of total dictatorship. it sooner or later runs into such economic and social problems that some strong-arm force is required to keep the civil population under control.

As is the case now as it was then, a nation’s Socialist-Left will promise just about anything to attain power over the people:

When communism is wooing the workers in Csepel, all kinds of exaggerated promises are made if they seem likely to awaken men’s aspirations and their cupidity. These promises are couched in such simple terms and such effective symbols that they become immediate goals of the revolution.

Review briefly what communist agitators had once promised the Hungarians who appear in this book: consumer goods such as they had never known before, increased wages. increased social benefits, shorter hours of work, improved education for everyone, a greater social freedom, and a government directly responsible to the working classes. Under communism such promises were never even remotely capable of attainment.

[Our Emphasis]
If all of that sounds eerily familiar, it’s because that’s part of a very old song and dance that has deceived many a generation into enslaving themselves under socialism. Consider this recent story from the Associated Press:

Democrats lurch left on top policies as 2020 primary begins

NEW YORK (AP) — Democratic presidential contender Julian Castro launched his campaign by pledging support for “Medicare for All,” free universal preschool, a large public investment in renewable energy and two years of free college for all Americans.
….

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is expected to launch his presidential campaign soon, has sponsored legislation to create a federal jobs guarantee program in several communities across America.

The pilot program… could ultimately transform the U.S. labor market by providing well-paid government employment with benefits for anyone who wants it.

[Our Emphasis]

As Margaret Thatcher so aptly surmised, eventually they will run out of other people’s money. In our case in the states, that is already the situation given the enormous debt and unfunded liabilities reaching into the stratosphere of trillions of dollars. Of course, this hasn’t deterred committed collectivists such as Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio who recently stated that ‘There’s plenty of money in the world… It’s just in the wrong hands!’ Never mind that it is morally wrong to steal the property of others or that once a society turns down the dead-end of socialism there will always be more people wanting more money from those who have it.

Wealth redistribution scams will always wreck the economy. A socialist regime that nationalizes the economy can never function better than one of economic Liberty. Soon enough everything breaks down, the people see through the lies and the government has to start breaking heads. Thus it is imperative that they have previously confiscated the people’s guns and made it illegal to defend themselves.

The Takeaway

Socialistic schemes always run contrary to basic human nature. Rewarding someone for not working will always result in less work. Conversely, punishing someone for working will also result in less work.

This basic logic of human nature seems to be lost on Leftists. But perhaps it is not. They have to know their schemes have never and will never work. And yet they still try to impose them on everyone else. Perhaps they know of the epic fraud they are continually perpetrating on society, but they don’t care. That will be the subject of our next installment.


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Foreign Affairs

As Venezuela implodes, Trump administration recognizes Juan Guaidó as President

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As Venezuela implodes Trump administration recognizes Juan Guaid as President

The destruction of Venezuela by socialism and corruption is practically complete, but hope is on the horizon. A new President has been recognized by the United States, making Nicolas Maduro’s presidency nearly finished.

Juan Guaidó has been serving as the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela since earlier this month and assumed the role of interim President earlier today. The United States joins Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Puerto Rico in recognizing his claim as legitimate.

People have filled the streets of Caracas in an amazing display of solidarity against Maduro, who held an “inauguration” on January 11 despite clear indicators the May 2018 elections were rigged. Now, the streets of Caracas are full.

President Trump confirmed the move following multiple news outlets quoting White House officials.

Ironically, Guaidó’s rallying cry happens to be “Sí, se puede!”, Spanish for “Yes we can.”

My Take

This is the only viable move given the circumstances. As I posted on Facebook:

It may not be possible for Guaidó to turn around the failing nation without a lot of outside assistance, but one thing is certain: Maduro had zero chance of making anything better for his starving people.


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