Much has been written about AI, both utopian and dystopian. Elon Musk has launched a billion dollar crusade to stop the AI apocalypse. Bill Gates insisted that it was a threat, until he changed his mind. Mark Zuckerberg is a big supporter, insisting that “AI makes human life better.” Then again, he also told Congress that Facebook is not a publisher – until the issue came up in court: Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes.
Remember when Facebook apologized after ‘the algorithm’ blocked the Declaration of Independence as ‘hate speech?’ And that was just an algorithm that was wrong or defective.
Now we find ourselves on the precipice of the age of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
The Secret Language of AI
As Harper’s reported, “In 2016 a pair of researchers at Google Brain decided to see whether neural networks could develop cryptography. Their experiment was modeled on the use of an adversary, an increasingly common component of neural network designs wherein two competing elements attempt to outperform and outguess each other, driving further improvement. The researchers set up three networks called, in the tradition of cryptographic experiments, Alice, Bob, and Eve. Their task was to learn how to encrypt information. Alice and Bob both knew a number—a key, in cryptographic terms—that was unknown to Eve. Alice would perform some operation on a string of text and send it to Bob and Eve. If Bob could decode the message, Alice’s score increased, but if Eve could also decode it, Alice’s score decreased. Over thousands of iterations, Alice and Bob learned to communicate without Eve cracking their code; they developed a private form of encryption like that used in emails today. But as with the other neural networks we’ve seen, we can’t fully understand how this encryption works. What is hidden from Eve is also hidden from us. The machines are learning to keep their secrets.”
We realize that the coming of AI and the age of machine learning are inevitable, as well as who its strongest proponents are: the good people who brought you the Age of Social; the Facebooks and Googles and Twitters of the world. We’ve witness what that has devolved into: not the warm and fuzzy global connectors Zuckerberg would have had us believe while testifying before congress, but rather, an all-consuming data vacuum with the end result being able to sell you yet another pair of shoes – ostensibly. And worse, considering its manipulations of our emotions and thought patterns, dictating the news and information that we can and can’t access, or share.
And how often are software and new releases tested in the wild? Do closed testing environments even exist anymore, or is speed to market the overriding consideration in the age of the ubiquitous internet? We’ve certainly witnessed the security breaches that that practice has engendered.
Given the number of apologies Facebook has issued – with new ones coming seemingly more and more often – it’s fairly clear that Facebook, for one, has lost control of the platform, especially in light of the deadly mob attacks in India which have been attributed to rumors spread via Facebook-owned Whatsapp.
Science and the Tech Cabal
Between the news that Apps which diagnose skin cancer are UNRELIABLE and are not a substitute for going to the doctor, claim experts and that we must Beware those scientific studies — most are wrong, researcher warns – there’s no doubt that we live in a somewhat post scientific world – especially in tech – where there is little or no oversight. We’ve left the tech cartel to police themselves, and we see nearly daily where that has led, given the recent breaches at both Google and Facebook.
Lest we’ve forgotten, or missed it, MIT scientists created a “psychopath” AI by feeding it violent content from Reddit. It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft (deleted) its AI chatbot due to its incredibly racist tweets.
Platforms are not secure. Accounts are not vetted. The tech sector is not vigilant. And AI learns in the wild, without safeguards in place in the rush-to-market tech world. Says the Harper’s article, “We face a world, not in the future but today, where we do not understand our own creations. The result of such opacity is always and inevitably violence.”
Says Spectrum, “When the former president of Google China talks about artificial intelligence and its potential to cause global upheaval, people listen. His hope is that enough people will listen to avert catastrophic disruption on three different scales: to the global balance of power, to national economies, and to human beings’ delicate souls.”
The article refers to Kai-Fu Lee’s recently published AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.
China is a formidable threat in this arena and need we remind you where Google has been placing its focus lately, with Dragonfly, the made for China censored search engine?
Google Did Finally Acknowledge Its Censored Chinese Search Engine Project, by the way.
With the weaponization of tech that we’ve been witnessing, the dangers may well escalate with AI and machine learning becoming more ubiquitous. In a climate where it is clear that, without either an impetus or impediment to do so, the tech uberlords will not lay down their weapons. Philosopher kings they’re not. While they’ve long demonstrated that they have the hubris to play God, it’s a far different thing once they have the power and the technology to do so. Onward and forward.