News — At The Edge — 9/15

Civilization is in the process of rebooted itself?—?robot prejudices, military AI & AI prediction errors, future war, digital dictators, political polarizations & 2008 redux?—?and this brave new world is fraught with both old and new dangers.

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Robots can develop prejudices just like humans —

“[Appears] ‘groups of autonomous machines could demonstrate prejudice by simply identifying, copying and learning this behavior from one another’…[and] was easy to grow in the simulator, a fact that should give us pause as we give robots more autonomy….

[Thus] prejudice is a powerful force of nature and through evolution, it can easily become incentivized in virtual populations, to the detriment of wider connectivity with others. Protection from prejudicial groups can inadvertently lead to individuals forming further prejudicial groups, resulting in a fractured population. Such widespread prejudice is hard to reverse….

[So] autonomous machines with the ability to identify with discrimination and copy others could in future be susceptible to prejudicial phenomena that we see in [humans]….

With a greater number of subpopulations, alliances of non-prejudicial groups can cooperate without being exploited. This also diminishes their status as a minority, reducing the susceptibility to prejudice taking hold. However, this also requires circumstances where agents have a higher disposition towards interacting outside of their group.” https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/06/robots-can-develop-prejudices-just-like-humans/

The Pentagon is going to spend $2 billion on AI because things are getting serious now —

“Fears about runaway AI notwithstanding, the Pentagon is now apparently taking that kind of an effort and planning to crank it up to 11… [by] spending $2 billion on AI, the focus of which…will include ‘creating systems with common sense, contextual awareness and better energy efficiency… help the government automate security clearances, accredit software systems and make AI systems that explain themselves’….

[Military] thinks it can accelerate two decades of progress into five years….

Other nations are…stepping up their investments into AI…[especially] China…[because] its politicians generally have a scientific bent….[U.S.] comparatively [spends] small amount when stacked up against adversaries like Russia…[but] shows how the U.S. military is getting more serious about relying on AI.” https://bgr.com/2018/09/07/darpa-artificial-intelligence-2-billion-investment/

The errors, insights and lessons of famous AI predictions?—?and what they mean for the future —

“[Study] demonstrated the problems with expert [AI] judgement, in theory and in practice. Timeline predictions were seen to be particularly unreliable….

Though there are some useful tools for assessing prediction quality…[to] be used, they provide only weak evidence….

[The] consistent message was all predictors were overcon?dent in their verdicts, and that model-based predictions were superior to those founded solely on expert intuition….

[Need] future predictors (and future predictor assessors)…[to] make their assumptions explicit, their models clear, their predictions testable, and their uncertainty greater.” http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/FAIC.pdf

Are We Ready for the Future of Warfare? —

“[War] has always been about exerting political will…[by] inflicting enough pain on the other to compel them to acquiesce?—?and technology has always played a key role….

[Now] exploiting space, cyberattacks, biology and other emerging technologies to significantly disrupt the systems underpinning our society?—?including telecommunications infrastructure, power grids, public health systems, transportation systems and financial institutions.…without ever firing a shot…[at] scale and speed [cheaply]….

Space has become essential infrastructure…. [Cybercrime] can wreak havoc on a grand scale in a matter of minutes….[Even] the flu could be weaponized, killing millions and hobbling the world’s economy. In addition, our ability to manipulate genes…has the potential to be weaponized. What if a nation could make its own population immune to a disease while the rest of the world is still defenseless?….

[A] weakness in any of these areas can leave our nation vulnerable…[so] security lies in keeping our science and technology a step ahead….

[Must] stop thinking about warfare as only lines on a map, firepower and territory. Our nation’s scientists and engineers are now, in many ways, on the front lines.” https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/are-we-ready-for-the-future-of-warfare/

‘Five Eyes’ governments call on tech giants to build encryption backdoors?—?or else —

“US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, known as…‘Five Eyes’ group of nations…[is] demanding that providers ‘create customized solutions, tailored to their individual system architectures that’… would allow each government access to encrypted call and message data on their citizens.

If the companies don’t voluntarily [comply]…[they’ll] push through new legislation that would compel their help….

[Since] Snowden disclosures in 2013, tech companies have doubled down on their efforts to shut out government’s lawful access… using end-to-end encryption….

Security researchers and other critics of encryption backdoors have long said there’s no…workable way to create a ‘secure backdoor’ that isn’t also susceptible to attack by hackers.” https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/03/five-eyes-governments-call-on-tech-giants-to-build-encryption-backdoors-or-else/

Hackable humans and digital dictators: Q&A with Yuval Noah Harari

“[There’s] three big challenges facing humankind…nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption, especially the rise of AI and bio-engineering…[that] will change the world….

[Could] prevent a nuclear war and climate change…[but] technological disruption is bound to happen…[and] replacing more and more humans…[to] create an extremely unequal society…[though] not inevitable….

[T]he combination of AI and biotechnology means…[we’re] entering an era of hacking humans…[as] corporations and governments amass enormous amounts of data about [us]…[including] what is happening inside your body and inside your brain…to predict [choices]…understand their feelings, to manipulate them and also to replace them….

AI will serve to empower a small number of people and create a digital dictatorship…[and] a total surveillance regime of the government, controlling the population….[Or] can use AI for the citizens to survey the government and make sure there’s no corruption….

[None] of the global problems…[have] national solutions….[T]he problem is there is no political will….

AI and bio-engineering…[are] far more complicated because nobody knows where it’s going…[or] what kind of possibilities are opening before us.” https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/hackable-humans-digital-dictators-qa-yuval-noah-harari-180824095306982.html

Political anonymity may help us see both sides of a divisive issue online —

“[Appears] exposure to the views of others, minus their political affiliation, could help us overcome our own biases…[and] break the ‘motivated reasoning’ that leads us to interpret data in a preconceived way….

[T]his this isn’t going to fix the problem of viral misinformation or the near-constant flame wars….

[Still] stripping the political context from communications may lead to those communications being taken more seriously….At worst it may force people to take a second and evaluate those ideas on their merits, and that’s hardly a bad thing.” https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/03/political-anonymity-may-help-us-see-both-sides-of-a-divisive-issue-online/

Veterans don’t get to decide what ‘respecting the flag’ means —

“[Military] service doesn’t entitle us to get offended by Kapaernick’s choices or anybody else’s….

Veterans, not as stoic or stiff-lipped today as we once were, have been some of the most agitated about Nike’s choice, resulting in plenty of righteous indignation….[But] one strand of criticism is particularly disturbing: the notion that kneeling during the anthem is a specific affront to veterans and service members….

[This] is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do….

Our cultural fabric is as rich as it is because the American myth has been interpreted, reinterpreted, criticized, praised and challenged by Americans of all backgrounds….

We are not an elite class of citizen elevated above our neighbors. When we start thinking of ourselves as a warrior caste, removed from the people we defend, we exacerbate the civilian-military divide. We indulge in an entitlement mentality that isn’t healthy….

We should be able to dislike something without seeing it as a personal affront. We should be able to oppose something without becoming frothy-mouthed….

[In] believing that we have a special claim to the flag conflicts with the fundamental values of the armed forces, which elevate service over self….This does not give us license to appropriate national symbols as our own exclusive banners.

Service is a privilege, not a way to purchase greater moral authority.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/veterans-dont-get-to-decide-what-respecting-the-flag-means/2018/09/06/76ba09a6-b20f-11e8-a20b-5f4f84429666_story.html?utm_term=.7ea997a557a0

Banks are safer, but too much of what has gone wrong since 2008 could happen again —

“September 11th led to wars, Lehman’s bankruptcy to an economic and political reckoning…[and both] are far from over….

[Lehman] bankruptcy unleashed chaos. Trade fell in every country….[Credit] fell, by perhaps $2trn in America alone. To limit their indebtedness, governments resorted to austerity…[then] quantitative easing (creating money to buy bonds….

[This] turbocharged today’s populist surge, raising questions about income inequality, job insecurity and globalization…[and] changed the financial system….

Systemic banking meltdowns…will occur again, if only because good times breed complacency…[and] no regulator is a perfect judge of risk. A better test is whether the likelihood and size of crises can be reduced. On that, the news is both good and bad….

  • First, the good. Banks must now fund themselves with more equity and less debt…[and] trading to make money and on short-term wholesale borrowing to finance their activities….Regulators have beefed up their oversight….
  • Yet many lessons have gone unlearned…[like] policymakers’ mistakes in the aftermath of the crisis…stand[ing] behind failing banks, but…ill-judged decisions to…abandon insolvent households. Perhaps 9m Americans lost their homes in the recession; unemployment rose by over 8m.

While households paid down debt, consumer spending was ravaged…[taking] ten years for the countervailing economic stimulus to restore America’s economy to health….

Fiscal and monetary policy could have done more, sooner….[That] this failing is not more widely acknowledged augurs badly for the…next time….

[Stagnation] fed populism…[and] made it harder to confront the real long-term problems…housing, offshore dollar finance and the euro….

  1. Rich-world governments have never properly reconciled a desire to boost home ownership with the need to avoid dangerous booms….In America taxpayers should get out of the rotten business of guaranteeing mortgage debt….
  2. The crisis spread across borders because European banks ran out of the dollars they needed to pay back their dollar-denominated borrowing. The Fed acted as lender of last resort to the world, offering foreigners $1trn of liquidity. Since then, offshore dollar debts have roughly doubled. In the next crisis, America’s political system is unlikely to let the Fed act as the backstop…[to] make offshore dollar finance safe…[because] relies on international co-operation of the type that is fast falling out of fashion….
  3. The rise of nationalism also hinders Europe from solving the euro’s structural problems…[showing] how a country’s banks and its government are intertwined: the state struggles to borrow enough to support the banks, which are dragged down by the falling value of government debt.

This ‘doom loop’ remains mostly intact….A chaotic collapse of the euro would make the crisis of 2008 look like a picnic….A decade after Lehman failed, finance has a worrying amount to fix.” https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/09/06/the-world-has-not-learned-the-lessons-of-the-financial-crisis

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston

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