Robot says: Whatever

Margaret Boden’s penetrating reflections on AI.

“That no one really mattered to Marcher does indeed mark him out from his fellow humans – but not from artificial intelligence (AI) systems, for which nothing matters. Yes, they can prioritise: one goal can be marked as more important or more urgent than another… in AI systems, a new goal is accepted or generated because, ultimately, some human being arranged for that to happen. The new goal doesn’t have to ‘fit’ with those already in the system. In Homo sapiens, by contrast, new goals are accepted because they are somehow linked, perhaps very indirectly, to one or more pre-existing needs.”

See also one of my ‘must reads’: Boden’s AI It’s nature and future.

95 Theses about Technology

John Naughton's "triggers for conversations about our networked world".

"We’re in the early stages of a radical transformation of our information environment. It’s happening on a scale that has only been matched once before in history — when Johannes Gutenberg invented printing (or at any rate re-invented it in Europe). The print revolution transformed Western society and shaped the world in which — at least until recently — most of us grew up. The digital revolution is going to be just as far-reaching. So it’s worth trying to trigger some serious discussions about what’s happening and what may lie ahead."

Theses Number 1: Digital technology is significantly different from other technologies.


Should we be afraid of AI?

A welcome short essay by Luciano Floridi in the excellent Aeon digital magazine. As Daniel Dennett summarised in a recent tweet: "Bullseye. Floridi KOs the Singularity." 

"True AI is not logically impossible, but it is utterly implausible. We have no idea how we might begin to engineer it, not least because we have very little understanding of how our own brains and intelligence work. This means we should not lose sleep over the possible appearance of some ultra-intelligence..." [i.e. the 'singularity' when AI becomes more 'intelligent' than and independent of humans and is capable of enslaving humankind]


The Coming Software Apocalypse

James Somers article in The Atlantic makes the crucial point that "software failures are failures of understanding and of imagination" i.e. human failures rather than software failures.

“When we had electromechanical systems, we used to be able to test them exhaustively... We used to be able to think through all the things it could do, all the states it could get into... The problem is that we are attempting to build systems that are beyond our ability to intellectually manage.” Nancy Leveson.


I Feel You - Alyssa K. Loh on Virtual Reality and Empathy

Whilst Loh's Artforum article appears to underestimate the narrative potential of VR, it is acutely accurate in its dissection of Chris Milk's reduction of VR to "the ultimate empathy machine":

"VR isn't going to go away. And we need to figure out what to do with it. But first we must dispense with a series of fundamental and telling misprisions. An empathy machine? No. Unless by 'empathy' you mean a glandular twinge. By that definition, VR is an empathy extractor. But if that is what we mean by empathy, we are all in very serious trouble..."