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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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Conservatism

Three reasons the Drudge Report is awful

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Three reasons the Drudge Report is awful

There was a time when I got much of my news from the Drudge Report. It seemed to be conservative, and while it also liked to mix in conspiracy theories, Hollywood news, and an unhealthy dominance of Tom Brady fan stories, it generally got the stories right.

Today, the news aggregator is nothing like it once was. Today, it’s doing three things that should make America-loving patriots absolutely furious.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not conservative

I remember during the heights of the hoopla regarding the Georgia and Alabama abortion laws, the Drudge Report seemed more annoyed than anything else. The stories about the laws were generally left-leaning – partially neutral in their reporting but with a noticeable bias against the laws. They didn’t post any of the unhinged responses from leftist outlets like Vox or ThinkProgress, but there was no commentary in favor of the laws, either.

Scan the headlines today. There are some that are right-leaning, but there are plenty of missed opportunities to spread a conservative message. The site seems to be against illegal immigration, though not nearly is much as there once. As the border crisis ramps up, coverage of it seems to be ramping down.

They love mainstream media sources

Which news outlets oppose America the most? Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN are among the worst offenders. Which sites does Drudge link to the most? See previous list.

Sure, they link to Washington Examiner, Townhall, and Breitbart, but those links are scattered among TMZ garbage and Axios progressive news. The funny part is many of the outlets that get the most traffic from Drudge are sites that have attacked him. WaPo ran a very unflattering report on Matt Drudge himself. He blasted them for it. Today, you can still find plenty of links to them littered across his site.

The site is quietly becoming anti-Trump

I never thought I’d see the day when Drudge Report would turn against the President. The site was one of his biggest supporters during the primaries, even attacking other GOP candidates in favor of Trump. But things have changed. It’s hard to find a pro-Trump link on the site at any given moment, but you’ll find plenty of links attacking him.

They use anti-Trump news sources in links about the President, as if trying to shift sentiment away from him and in favor of a Democratic candidate. Pete Buttigieg has been the recipient of the most positive press on Drudge among Democrats. It’s puzzling.

There are alternatives for conservatives who are tired of Drudge Report’s shifting perspectives. This is no longer a conservative news source. Perhaps it never really was. Today, it’s as anti-Trump as they come.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Foreign Affairs

Ben Shapiro attacks media’s unhinged reaction to Iran and Trump

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Ben Shapiro attacks medias unhinged reaction to Iran and Trump

An article we posted earlier caught my attention. I’ll admit, it’s Fathers’ Day and I haven’t been watching the news very closely, but I didn’t realize that even after the revelation that Iran almost certainly attacked oil tankers last week and last month, the media is still pushing the Trump war-mongering narrative.

It’s false.

In doing further research, I came across this Daily Wire video by Ben Shapiro. He was highlighting the lies by the press two days ago, and as they continue to double down on their lies, Americans are being put at risk. Keep in mind that as our EIC pointed out, this false narrative about the President plays right into Iran’s hands. They want the world and the American people to believe President Trump is the aggressor.

What most people fail to understand is the media is willing to hurt you if it hurts Trump in the process. They’ll push the false narrative and help Iran with no concern for America’s interests.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Foreign Affairs

Why is leftist media echoing false ‘Trump wants war’ narrative?

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Why is leftist media echoing false Trump wants war narrative

Donald Trump was against the 2nd Gulf War when 80% of the country and nearly all of our elected officials pushed for it. In recent weeks, President Trump has echoed his long-standing sentiment that he does not want another war in the Middle East even as Iran provokes the world to respond to their obvious attacks on the freedom of shipping in the extremely important Strait of Hormuz. Yet even after being caught red-handed, they still claim it’s President Trump who is pushing for war.

And leftist media is echoing this sentiment.

It’s amazing that the media can play the smoking gun video, see the evidence that Iran was not only behind these attacks but the attacks from last month, and still try to fame the narrative around provocations by the White House. It only makes sense if you realize just how biased the media really is.

Left-leaning Politico offered the latest in a long string of reports that it’s the President, not the terrorists in Iran, who is to blame for rising tensions.

The U.S. reaction to the episode has sparked concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration are firmly on the path toward war with Iran.

The only people concerned about the administration’s “path toward war with Iran” are those who are either not paying close attention of who get their news from leftist media. Most conservative outlets are reporting the truth, that Iran is provoking us and thus far the administration has shown a very high level of restraint in responding. The only reason we haven’t directly punished Iran for their attacks is because they have thus far avoided attacking direct American interests. That may very well be the next step in their escalation plan if they cannot be made to understand the consequences before taking such an action.

Here’s the problem. They read American news outlets. They watch the internal strife and react accordingly. If they are led to believe by the false narrative about the President that their strikes are shifting American sentiment in their direction, they will be emboldened. By echoing Iran’s own talking points, leftist media in America is giving them more reason to carry out further attacks.

Calling the fake news media the “enemy of the people” was dangerous because it opens up doors to suppression of the 1st Amendment. I was against this message when the President first made it. Now, I’m seeing he was right all along. Their response to Iran’s attacks is even more dangerous to Americans and our interests than anything the President has Tweeted because the echoing of Iranian talking points by mainstream media draws us closer to war. I never thought I’d say this, but fake news is more than just an election or education problem. Today, the irresponsible way in which the media would rather echo the lies of the Iranian regime than the truth of their own President shows just how unhinged they’ve become.

Today, they proved me wrong. They really are the enemy of the people who will do anything to make the President look bad, even if it means costing American lives by driving Iran towards war. Unfortunately, the only recourse is to promote the truth. We cannot weaken the 1st Amendment despite the lies being promoted by the press. Not to be too self-serving, but the best way for patriots to counter fake news is to help news outlets like NOQ Report become more prominent through your generous donations.

The media has always been the pawns of Democrats, but now they’re extending their activism to become pawns of the Iranians. If it hurts Trump, they’ll publish it, even if it hurts Americans in the process.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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