Cathy O’Neil’s now infamous book, Weapons of Math Destruction, talks about the pernicious feedback loop that can result from contentious “predictive policing” AI. She warns that the models at the heart of this technology can sometimes reflect damaging historical biases learned from police records that are used as training data.
For example, it is perfectly possible for a neighborhood to have a higher number of recorded arrests due to past aggressive or racist policing policies, rather than a particularly high instance of crime. But the unthinking algorithm doesn’t recognize this untold story and will blindly forge ahead, predicting the future will mirror the past and recommending the deployment more police to these “hotspot” areas.
Naturally, the police then make more arrests on these sites, and the net result is that the algorithm receives data that makes its association to grow even stronger.
It may not seem like it, but there is quite an arms race going on when it comes to interactive AI and virtual assistants. Every tech company wants their offering to be more intuitive…more human. Yet although they’re improving, voice activated tech like Alexa and Siri are still pretty clunky, and often underwhelming in their interactions.
This obviously isn’t great if developers want to see them entering the workplace in such a way as to supercharge sales. Continue reading
Predictive, data-driven software is becoming ubiquitous, and as such our reliance upon it is steadily intensifying. The locus of knowledge is becoming external to us again for the first time since the onset of humanism in the 18th century, and we increasingly prefer the forecasts of artificially intelligent systems to our own experience or intuition.
Of all the arenas in which these predictions fascinate and compel our decision-making, perhaps the most prevalent are those that see algorithms foretell the behaviors of our fellow human beings. What they prefer, what they react to, where they go, who they’ll flirt with, whether they’re likely pay back a loan, or even commit a crime.
Quite simply, we are coming to believe that machines know us better than we can know ourselves. Continue reading
The rise and rise of tech, and the popularity of shows like Altered Carbon, is placing the idea of augmented humanity front-and-center. So-called “body hacking” is already popular enough to have its own annual convention, and well-respected AI pioneers like Siri inventor Tom Gruber have been evangelizing about technology that can, and will, be used to help humans achieve superhuman levels of cognitive function. Giving a TED Talk last year, Gruber asked: Continue reading
Fraudsters typically line their pockets by forging our signatures, cloning our credit cards, and stealing our personal identities. Yet, we’d like to think that folks who know us personally – our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances – would catch these counterfeiters out if they brazenly claimed to be us in public. After all, seeing is believing isn’t it? If you don’t look like me, you’re not me. If you do look like me, the chances are that you are me. Right?
Well…maybe. And this could soon become the subject of some confusion.
Well, imagine if stealing your identity could include stealing your image. And if scammers could then use that image to put words in your mouth and – in some cases – fake your very actions. This isn’t just some outlandish thought experiment, but a foreseeable hazard if we fail to prepare for a surge in the production of “deepfakes”. Continue reading
It’s difficult to read, or even talk about technology at the moment without that word “ethics” creeping in. How will AI products affect users down-the-line? Can algorithmic decisions factor in the good of society? How might we reduce the number of fatal road collisions? What tools can we employ to prevent or solve all crime?
Now, let’s just make it clear from the off: these are all entirely honorable motives, and their proponents should be lauded. But sometimes even the drive toward an admiral aim – the prevention bad consequences – can ignore critical tensions that have been vexing thinkers for years.
Even if we agree that the consequences of an act are of real import, there are still other human values that can – and should – compete with them when we’re assimilating the best course of action. Continue reading
Remember VHS? Or downloading music onto your iPod? If you do, the chances are it doesn’t seem too long ago – and that’s because it wasn’t. At least not in the scheme of things.
Think about it.
Our ancestors were stuck with pen and ink for a good long while before those clacky, qwerty typewriters came along. Similarly, it took millennia for us to eventually switch our stirrups for steering wheels (and, alas, lose those well-honed riding skills!). In more recent history, video did indeed kill the radio star, and smartphones killed-off just about every other mode of communication…
But technological evolution does not end here. As we speak, AI innovators are dreaming up new ways to automate the daily processes we currently take for granted. So, as we forge ahead into a new(ish) world of bots and blockchain, which fundamental parts of our lives will soon seem as charming as carrying a handkerchief…?
(And what kinds of opportunities might emerge?) Continue reading
Jenny Morris – a disabled feminist and scholar – has argued that the term “disability” shouldn’t refer directly to a person’s impairment. Rather, it should be used to identify someone who is disadvantaged by the disabling external factors of a world designed by and for those without disabilities.
Her examples: “My impairment is the fact I can’t walk; my disability is the fact that the bus company only purchases inaccessible buses” or “My impairment is the fact that I can’t speak; my disability is the fact that you won’t take the time and trouble to learn how to communicate with me.”
According to Morris, any denial of opportunity is not simply a result of bodily limitations. It is also down to the attitudinal, social, and environmental barriers facing disabled people. Continue reading
It might not be a question you’re asking yourself right now, but according to a California-based developer of artificially intelligent sex robots, they will be soon be as popular as porn.
This is, at least, the hope of Matt McMullen. He’s the founder of RealDoll, a “love doll” company featured in the documentary, “The Sex Robots Are Coming”. The film seeks to convince its audience that combining undeniably lifelike dolls like Matt’s with interactive, artificially intelligent features will lead to an explosion in the market for robotic lovers.
But is this okay? Many say that it absolutely isn’t. Continue reading
The beginnings of the internet seem so long ago to those of us who lived through them. Hours spent trawling through pre-Google search results, which often ranged from the useless to the bizarre. Blindly researching gifts and listening to music, sans intelligently selected recommendations. Checking social media accounts of our own volition, rather than through prompting from “notifications”.
Then the world began to change.
Under the banner of convenience, clever algorithms started to adapt both to our interests and – critically – the interests of commercial entities. We saw (or rather didn’t see) the covert introduction of the digital “nudges” that now regularly play upon our cognitive blind spots, and work to “guide” our decision-making. Continue reading