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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.

Managing Editor of NOQ Report. Serial entrepreneur. Faith, family, federal republic. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Guns and Crime

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Yehuda Remer, Author and Second Amendment Advocate

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Yesterday, I spoke with Second Amendment advocate and author, as well as my good friend, Yehuda Remer. We discussed his conservatism, how he developed a love of guns and how he turned that into a career, and how he got into writing.

Below is a transcript of our exchange:
JF: Let’s begin. Tell us about your background. Growing up in blue LA, how did you become conservative?

YR: So I grew up in an apolitical home where politics were not mentioned. As an Orthodox Jew, I always figured I was a Democrat because hell, aren’t all Jews? In 2007 while Obama was campaigning for his first term as President, I was driving to work one morning and listening to the local FM DJs. They were talking about some highly inappropriate things and as I sat there listening, I swear I felt the brain cells exploding one by one in my head. I truly felt myself getting stupider by the Second. I decided to turn on AM radio and over the next year, I found myself nodding in agreement with the many common sense things they had to say. Before long I realized not only was I not a Democrat, but I wasn’t even a Republican. I was a full on Conservative, almost Tea Party like. Following that epiphany, I started blowing up Ben Shapiro’s phone because we grew up together and he was my go-to guy. He explained all my questions not in preaching way but in a way that allowed me to make up my own mind based on what he said. I guess you can call me a Ben Shapiro “disciple.”

JF: That’s awesome. What made the Second Amendment and guns your passion?

YR: During my road into politics, I started learning about the Constitution. Because I grew up in an apolitical home, I didn’t care about the country and took it for granted. But after learning about the Constitution, the one that stuck out was the Second Amendment. It made sense to me. Up until that point, I thought the only people allowed to have guns were law enforcement, military, and bad guys. I never realized that a citizen of the United States could own and carry a firearm. My mind was blown. A buddy of mine called me and invited me to the gun range. Let’s just say, the rest is history.

JF: How did you learn everything you need to know?

YR: Most of it I was born with. I’m just a natural. The rest, well, that was with hard work. Like I mentioned before, I would ask Ben to explain tons of things to me. As for my firearms knowledge, the Internet is a wondrous place and so are many people in the Second Amendment world. Any questions I would ask or have, people didn’t hesitate in explaining things to me. Many times I would explain to people that I am a novice. I want to understand. When you approach someone looking to learn, you would be surprised how forthcoming people can be. I constantly am reading about different approaches in the world to get a more full circle understanding. Another thing, especially in the firearms industry, there is no such thing as a stupid question, unlike in other places.

JF: Why do you think the Second Amendment is important? Obviously, as a conservative, we know the answers to this, but would love to hear from your perspective.

YR: I mean, the Second Amendment is the one that protects them all. Without it, we would not be able to keep and protect the freedoms we all hold dear. We would end up like another England, and we all know how well that worked out for them 250 years ago.

JF: How did you turn this passion from a hobby to a career in writing and media?

YR: Well, Ben Shapiro gave me my first real break when I began writing for his old site, Truth Revolt. I started helping him with the back end but that turned to a full-time writing gig. From there, I transitioned into children’s books. I needed a way to educate my children on gun safety and was shocked to find out that there were no books geared towards kids about firearms safety. You have some organizations out there and they do a fine job. But I wanted something where I can climb into my kids’ beds with them and read them a book before they went to bed. After tons of research and finding nothing, I decided to write my first book, Safety On, as a tool to teach my kids about gun safety.

JF: How did you break out into public media, appearing on NRATV many times, getting media credentials to the SHOT show and being interviewed on major gun radio shows?

YR: Wow! Great question. A few months after my first book came out, I applied for a media badge as an author to the NRA Convention in Atlanta. I was shocked that I actually got it. But it paid off. I went there, not knowing anyone and planned on walking around in circles, just handing my book out. Two huge things happened. The first was I literally bumped in Cam Edwards of NRATV and the host of Cam & Co. As a huge fan, I found myself tongue-tied and feeling like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Luckily, I quickly snapped out of my daze and offered Cam a signed copy of my book. He took one look at it and told me to wait right there, he is putting me on TV. That was my first appearance on NRATV. Since then, Cam has had me on many more times and even helped me get on some other shows. He has been a blessing. But at one point while I was there, I went to the media room to take a break. Someone walked up to me and asked me if I was the guy who wrote the kids book on gun safety. To this day, Rob Morse of the Polite Society Podcast and I are still friends. Being on that show opened up so many doors for me into the Second Amendment radio world. It truly was a blessing.

As for SHOT Show, one of the connections I made was to the Firearms Chat Podcast and they invited me to be a co-host of their show at SHOT. So getting in was super easy.

JF: When you moved to Texas, did that help you bring this passion out more, considering that Texas is much more gun friendly?

YR: Of course it did. Within six weeks of moving to Texas, I had my license to carry. Life became instantly safer and better.

JF: Your work on this is an inspiration and the Second Amendment and gun rights are something we all need to hold dear. Thanks for being a voice for that.

Where can everyone find your work and appearances, and if they want to follow you?

YR: So all four of my books are available on Amazon. If you want to find out more about me and my appearances I have made, you can visit my website, www.yehudaremer.com.


Yehuda Remer is the author of Safety On: An introduction to the world of firearms for kids, Safety On: The Coloring Book, 10 Little Liberals: A Tale of Hope, and The ABCs of Guns. He lives in Texas with his wife and kids and can be found shooting, writing, and trolling.

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Guns and Crime

Gun control: Washington doublespeak used to void the Second Amendment

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When it comes to measuring the political dishonesty of our elected officials in Washington, I often recall the old joke “How do you know if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.”

While some of the untruths told by these lying liars aren’t obvious until after they get caught—such as the GOP promise to repeal Obamacare root and branch—others are obvious before the fact if we keep our ears tuned-in to the use of Washington doublespeak.

Once the proprietary property of the liberal-left, Washington doublespeak has found its way into the lexicon of the so-called conservative-right as well.

  • Immigration reform? Doublespeak for amnesty and citizenship for millions of illegal aliens.
  • Budget reform? Doublespeak for abandoning fiscal responsibility in order to build bigger government.
  • Tax cuts? Doublespeak for tax increases to pay for bigger government.
  • NSA data collection? Doublespeak for unconstitutional, warrantless electronic spying on Americans.

In the aftermath of the 17 murders at a Florida High School, we are once again hearing the words “gun control,” which is doublespeak for creating ways to void the Second Amendment.

As he did as a candidate following the Orlando Night Club shooting in 2016, Trump is backing an effort to “improve” gun laws as a way to keep firearms out of the hands of “mentally disturbed” individuals—an idea strongly supported by many Republicans. Besides the fact that “erratic behavior” pretty much describes Donald Trump and the GOP, who gets to decide who fits the definition of mentally disturbed?

Is it people like Joy Behar, who believes Christians who hear God’s voice suffer from a mental illness? Or would it be psychiatrists who believe that conservatism is a sign of mental instability?

Not content with anything coming out of Washington, the Brady Center is using the Florida tragedy to renew its push for Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These laws empower those who are close to an individual “in crisis” to ask a judge to seize that individual’s guns. Once again, who decides what “in crisis” looks like?

As an individual who holds a Biblical worldview, I know that violence will never end unless the heart of man is healed. However, passing arbitrary gun control laws won’t bring an end to gun violence either. In fact, it’s likely to increase the violence. But that won’t stop politicians in Washington from using doublespeak to pass gun control laws anyway.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 

David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is nationally syndicated with Salem Radio Network and can be heard on stations across America.

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

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News

Trump’s top pastor, Mark Burns, running for Congress

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Trey Gowdy is retiring after his term creating a rather large vacancy for Republicans in Congress. Looking to fill the void is Pastor Mark Burns.

Pastor Mark Burns has been lauded as Trump’s top pastor and was rather influential in the 2016 election. His influence landed him or was made clear in the 2016 Republican National Convention where he gave a passionate “All Lives Matter” speech. Mark Burns is the founder and CEO of NOW Television Network. After serving six years in the South Carolina Army National Guard, Pastor Burns along with his wife Tomarra Burns founded the multicultural, non-denominational contemporary church The Harvest Praise & Worship Center of Easley.

Though somewhat new to the political scene, Mark Burns is not without scandal. During the Trump campaign, he was busted for and admitted to padding up his resume with false accomplishments. These remain credibility concerns moving into the race for the South Carolina 4th district. Burns made his announcement via Twitter, highlighting his unifying personality.

 

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My Take

Considering this race, “Burns”. That being said, he could have a Roy Moore sized scandal level his campaign. But without such, it seems as though this race is over before it began. I remain optimistic about Mark Burns joining the ranks of Congress. Previously, Burns announced he was praying about challenging Lindsey Graham, a notorious warmongering RINO. But it appears either prayer or opportunism has landed him in a different race. Due to his political amateurism, not many of his positions are clear. Oddly enough, he has suggested Federal takeover of public school security. Though his heart seems in the right place, his position shows a lack of localism which small government believes in. It’s safe to speculate that Mark Burns isn’t all that fiscal conservative which isn’t unfamiliar.

On social issues, however, Pastor Mark Burns could be a strong tool for conservatives, so long as he can graduate from being a Trump surrogate. Burns has a more unifying persona than a lot of Republicans adding the possibility of broadening the base. On the issues of race and abortion, Pastor Mark Burns is a powerful voice. Though a strong personality does not make one the best candidate, Burn has tremendous potential to make a difference in DC.

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