Sunday, April 19, 2015

Deep learning AI - current dangers

This article about deep learning AI scientist Geoffrey Hinton mentions expert opinions that doomsday scenarios of intelligent AI being destroying humanity scenario are more than 40 years away at the least, but focus on such doomsday scenarios are distracting attention away from other current dangers like the following.

"The National Security Agency in the U.S. has a huge amount of data at its fingertips. It would be shocking if it wasn’t using neural networks to make sense of it. The U.S. Department of Defence continues to fund AI research: how much autonomy can we as a society comfortably transfer to intelligent drones or robots? Appropriate boundaries for lethal autonomous weapons systems are an ongoing international debate. And if you’re already uncomfortable with ads that pick up keywords from your Facebook posts and email correspondence, you might not look forward to those systems getting smarter.

Then there’s the job question. Traditional computing replaced many menial tasks; neural nets are adept at navigating deep reservoirs of knowledge. Startups such as San Francisco-based Enlitic believe that deep learning algorithms can do a better, faster job of reading medical scans than the best-trained human beings."

  1. In June 2013, in this article, I expressed concern about the how most citizens are not aware about the technology capabilities available to their governments and how the secrecy about governmental technology capability development efforts reduces the control of citizens over ways and means governments can use to repress them if the governments decide to act despotically. Despots have an incentive to increase this secrecy to build technology to help them retain power.
  2. Degree of autonomous systems will increase and interactions between these autonomous systems will increase and humans might lose control/knowledge-of-control. I reflect on such scenarios in this article. I face one such scenario every morning when I walk through my living room littered with toys by my twin daughters earlier night. I never know which action by me will trigger unpredictable series of interconnected actions/reactions (of sound, lights, motion) between toys and have to be careful to avoid waking them up. Rogue software can complicate these scenarios as illustrated in this article.
  3. In this article, I talk about how it is important to regulate correctly to give citizens control over their data using correct technology, (something that is being done through data broker regulations and consumer privacy regulations being considered by USA) so that the scenario of leveraging ever advanced technology to process this data using deep learning AI will become illegal. Of course if this is not done or not done correctly, freedoms of citizens will be at risk. Their thoughts, words and actions will become vulnerable to influence from those mining their data and planting advertisements and/or other content.
  4. In this article, I talk about how the quickly emerging scenario of large scale job destruction due to technology is dangerous because our social sciences (including economics) are not able to predict the kind of society and state we will soon have as this happens. I worry that this might be intentional.
As deep learning AI technology in its various forms and scale accelerates, we will become more and more of a knowledge based society. Generating, leveraging and protecting intellectual property (algorithms and data) is already quite important and over time will become the most important differentiator between success and failure. Intellectual property has already become the organizing principle of humanity. Due to its nature, humanity will need to organise its affairs differently than at present to survive and thrive. This article talks about issues and challenges in protecting intellectual property and the implications for vulnerability of humanity. This article talks about whether ALL intellectual property should be allowed to be private irrespective of its nature.

When I wrote all these articles, I expected the issues they talk about to become important soon. So I am not surprised to find that they are becoming important. My only concern is that we are not ready to handle these issues. We need to do much more and soon.


Pratap Tambay

19 April 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Importance of the EU-Google case


As described in this article, "The European Union's competition commissioner filed a "statement of objections" on Wednesday that brings Google a step closer to facing legal sanctions under European law. The European Commission's specific allegation is a relatively narrow one — that the search giant has broken the law by giving Google Shopping a more favourable position in search results than other comparison shopping services — but the underlying policy issue is much broader. Following the logic of the EU complaint would require a massive transformation of Google's search product. The key point is that Google doesn't just give prime real estate to Google Shopping results. It unapologetically does it for products like Google Images, Google Maps, and Google News — all of which regularly show up in special boxes near the top of Google search results."

I recently wrote this article describing how the inter-network between humans and firms/institutions is becoming more and more centralised and few humans, firms and institutions are having increasingly disproportionate and unfair influence over the daily lives of the rest of humanity. Technology increases the ability of few to "serve" (and in effect control) the many. This is the real issue in the EU-Google case. As I pleaded in my article, humanity urgently needs to change democracy and markets to prevent small portions of humanity from dominating the rest using technology.

In a way, this goes into the fundamentals of our civilization as it stands today. Higher weightage in global wealth distribution has moved from physical property to intellectual property over the years. The limitations applicable to this intellectual property are different. In this article, I ask where should one draw the line between individual property, community property and humanity's property? Should'nt intellectual property which gives significant market power be managed differently from mundane intellectual property? How does one decide what rules should apply to which type of intellectual property?

John Stuart Mill has warned all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not "to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions." There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. Similarly Irish Patriot Daniel O'Connel has said that no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty.

Democracy and markets are modes of association between humans and the above guidance applies to both in the context of gratefulness to Google for the benefits it's intellectual property has already generated and can generate for humanity. While Googles intellectual property's benefit to humanity is significant, surrendering significant market power to it cannot be justified. It is a threat to liberty and fair market competition. Any person, firm, institution which subverts the optimality of "aggregate social choice" happening through markets is just as dangerous as a great man entrusted with power to subvert the institutions of democracy.

The phenomena of SIB (systemically important Banks), SII (Systemically important insurers), the phenomenon of "too big to fail" corporates and its collateral phenomenon of "differential rewards to the guilty" are also caused by the increasing centralisation of the internetwork of humans and firms. Adam Smith's  "invisible hand" allocating resources to its uses generates reasonable outcomes for humanity here and now at small scale, but does not necessarily generate good outcomes far, later and large scale. Increasing centralisation of the network makes few visible hands uncontrolled by democratic forces dangerous for the survival and prosperity of humanity.

I predict that we should see more and more of such cases arising, since humanity is riding the technology tiger and the tiger is running fast into a deep, dark and dense jungle.


Pratap Tambay

17 April 2015