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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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Immigration

As predicted, Trump offers DACA amnesty in exchange for border wall

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As predicted Trump offers DACA amnesty in exchange for border wall

Throughout Trump’s first two years in office, I’ve been one of only a handful of conservative voices shouting from the rooftops that the New York liberal’s promise to fix America’s out-of-control illegal immigration problem was nothing but a lie.

As a candidate, Trump promised to build a “big beautiful powerful wall” on our southern border at Mexico’s expense, and he promised to overturn Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order that allowed illegals to stay in America indefinitely. Unfortunately, the “wall” has become an “artistically designed” barrier of some sort funded by the U.S. taxpayer, and DACA is not only still in effect, it’s on its way to becoming permanent.

While the reality of Trump’s broken promises dealing with illegal immigration have been crystal clear to those not drinking the orange Kool-Aid, his inevitable betrayal on the issue has been brought sharply into focus since last summer.

In May 2018, as Trump and the GOP were looking for ways to save their jobs ahead of the midterms, the House Freedom Caucus joined hands with Democrats to push for a “fix” to DACA.

In June 2018, Paul Ryan proposed a plan that would allow DREAMers to legally stay in the country and be put on the pathway to citizenship in exchange for $23 billion for building a border wall.

Following their September 2018 budget betraying funding everything from Planned Parenthood to DACA and sanctuary cities, rumors began spreading around Washington that Trump was ready to cut an immigration deal with Democrats in light of the reality that the Democrats were about to retake the House in the midterms.

The Democrats did retake the House, and in the days since their victory, Trump and the GOP have been laying the foundation for their inevitable immigration betrayal. With the help of Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, trading DACA amnesty for a border wall is now the official position of the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Senate.

So, it came as no surprise when Trump proposed a deal over the weekend to end to his manufactured government shutdown by offering Democrats a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for $5 billion for border security funding — an idea originally conceived by Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Three years? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but that’s just enough time to kick the can down the road until after his 2020 election … assuming there is one. And just in case there are any doubts about the motivation behind this three-year timeframe, consider this: Mitch McConnell, who has refused to let the Senate vote on the shutdown, has endorsed Trump’s offer and will hold vote on it this week.

Mickey is also up for re-election in 2020.

For now, Democrats are rejecting Trump’s offer, but it’s only a matter of time before they get what they want. After all, Trump and the GOP want the same thing.

Originally posted on StridentConservative.com.

 


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.

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Foreign Affairs

Is Israel on the brink of war?

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Is Israel on the brink of war

Israel and Iran continue to trade threats and missile attacks over Syria as the latest round targeted Iranian Quds forces near Damascus. The IDF, which has confirmed attacks recently, went so far as to announce the attacks on Twitter.

This attack was in response to a missile launched from Syria by Iranian Quds Forces into the Golan Heights. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome, which was captured on camera by skiers on Mt. Hermon.

The overnight attacks on Syria resulted in many missiles and guided bombs being shot down, but enough made it through to damage Quds training grounds, weapons depots, and kill at least 11 people. There are no reports of how many of Iran’s elite forces were killed, though British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said only two of the dead were Syrians.

Israel, in rare move, announces attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, delivers warning

https://www.foxnews.com/world/israel-attacks-iran-forces-in-syria-military-confirmsIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed that Israel had struck hundreds of targets in Syria linked to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, including a weapons facility two weeks ago.

Iran and Hezbollah are allied with the Syrian government in the civil war.

Iran has begun its loudest saber-rattling in some time as they send clear threats of war and the destruction of Israel through state television.

“The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth,” IRIAF Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh said following the strike.

Iran says ready for war with Israel that will ‘lead to its destruction’

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Iran-We-are-ready-for-a-war-that-will-lead-to-the-destruction-of-Israel-578108The commander of the Iranian Air Force warned on Monday that Iran was prepared for a decisive war with Israel, “which will bring an end to the IDF’s attacks on Syria.” “Our armed forces are prepared for a war that will bring the crushing destruction of Israel,” he said, according to media reports.

“We are ready for the day when we will see the end of Israel.”

My Take

Americans are often unaware of the importance of Syria to Iran. For years, it’s been assumed the only reason Iran hasn’t attacked Israel, especially when they were at the height of their power during the latter years of President Obama’s administration, is they have no clear path to reach Israel. Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are between Iran and the tiny Jewish state, making it nearly impossible for them to have any real reach into the heart of Israel.

This is why they are so intent on having an embedded military presence in Syria. It’s why Israel is doing everything in its power to prevent them from getting a serious foothold there.

Iran’s military is strong and somewhat sophisticated, but it’s still no match for Israel. However, Iran could take advantage of Israel’s small size if they can get enough missiles and launchers into Syria. Doing so would allow them to use Syrians as cover, a strategy currently in use by anti-Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

As long as Iran continues to pursue entrenchment in Syria, war is on the near horizon. Israeli strikes may be a catalyst for war, but they’re necessary if they have any hopes of preventing Iran from taking over their Syrian neighbors wholesale.


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Entertainment and Sports

What really separates Tom Brady from every other player on the field

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What really separates Tom Brady from every other player on the field

Every season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gains more people who believe he’s the greatest of all time. It has been a long road for him because he didn’t have the pedigree that other potential GOATs had. He wasn’t the #1 pick in the NFL draft like John Elway or Terry Bradshaw. He was drafted in the 6th round. He didn’t come in with lots of fanfare. His first starting job came as a result of Drew Bledsoe’s injury. He doesn’t have a flashy style like Brett Favre, a complex system like Peyton Manning, or a cannon for an arm like Aaron Rodgers.

He just wins.

The key to his winning ways may have nothing to do with his strong skills, good supporting cast, or excellent game plans. It may just come down to hard work and good ol’ fashioned competitiveness. His mental toughness has been likened to Larry Bird’s or Evander Holyfield’s, two greats in their sports who made up for physical deficiencies by constantly improving mentally even when they weren’t at the top physically.

“Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness.”

Football is more than just a physical sport. As Tom Brady has demonstrated, mental toughness may be even more important than 40-yard-dash times or arm strength.


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