Facebook’s Assault on Democracy Foretells AI Future

2 minute read
| Editorial

Everyone assumes that the full technological panoply of AI will be judiciously monitored, regulated and contained for the public good. Right. Just like Facebook handled outsider misinformation.

Business Insider has posted an interesting opinion piece about how money trumps all in the high technology affairs of Facebook and Twitter. The result opened the door for new kinds of attacks.

This is good read. Quoting:

Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, are scrambling to contain a problem that happened on their turf, thanks to a system they created and which has been immensely profitable for them.

It gives me great pause to think about this state of affairs came about with Mark Zuckerberg now describing how the owner of the barn that let the horses go free, for profit, is going to secure the barn.

This crisis has been like no other. Traditional financial affairs have been monitored and regulated by the government. From time to time, the regulations are watered down or cleverly bypassed, but equilibrium, in the hands of steady, experienced people, has always been restored. But AI is fundamentally different.

Enter AI

Early work with AI has been promising, and there are weekly breakthroughs. Because Siri is so much a part of our lives, I try to keep Particle Debris readers up-to-date on what happening and what we can expect. In response to the 27 August column, one of our distinguished readers wrote:

Other than attention-grabbing pronouncements of Ray Kurzweil and his brethren, no one has really proved the inevitability of the Singularity, capital S –the day when machine intelligence supplants human intelligence, rendering the latter redundant, sub-optimal, and dispensable.

I’d like to respond. Using a rocket analogy to AI, we are where Robert H. Goddard was in the 1930s with primitive, multi-stage rocket experiments. Science fiction writers in the 1940s quickly fantasized about travel to the moon. And yet, at the time, no one had proven that we could send astronauts to the moon and bring them back safely.

It took 30 years of continuous, often perilous, technical development to create the Apollo system. But we got there. And in hindsight, it happened faster than anyone in the 1940s could have imagined.

I think we tend to get distracted and remain overly optimistic that all will turn out well. But we’re in a very advanced era now in which things can go wrong in a much more massive way and at an alarming rate, not previously experienced. The way Facebook failed to discipline itself for the sake of the overriding social good combined with the inability of government to recognize and deal with the way Facebook has been exploited leads one to believe that the same difficulties will arise with AI.

Perhaps the good news is that, as an emerging high-tech, global society, we’ve been given an early glimpse of how technological developments need to be properly cultivated, managed and chaperoned. The stakes are too high to let the same kind of negligence and greed prevail with AI.

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wab95
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wab95

I came back to check on the comments, but they appear to be missing – in fact from every article I’ve tracked. Is this a new feature, a problem with my browser(s), or is the site experiencing problems with showing comments?

Thanks

wab95
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wab95

aardman: You are eminently quotable. John: Your analogy about rocket technology, and its nonlinear pace of development, leading such luminaries as one Arthur C Clarke (you may have heard of him) to opine in 1946 in an essay titled ‘The Challenge of the Spaceship’ that manned space flight was a distant, if not improbable eventuality, is instructive. Point taken. Progress, specifically technological, has never been linear, but episodic with explosive growth periods following specific infection points in breakthroughs not only in understanding but translation into transformational products. Why, therefore, would we not expect similar growth patterns to characterise the development… Read more »

aardman
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aardman

Mr. M., I am flattered that you have chosen to quote me. And I’m not being ironic or sarcastic. There is a glaring qualitative difference though between the Singularity project and the quest to put a man on the moon. The latter was mostly, if not totally, an engineering problem, not a scientific problem. The physics of the moon shot was pretty much fully fleshed out by the time Robert Goddard launched his first rocket. In fact, general relativity wasn’t even needed, good old Newtonian mechanics worked well enough. There were no theoretical obstacles, the engineers just needed to build… Read more »

geoduck
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geoduck

If we set out to design a “singularity” then you are absolutely correct. I’m more concerned, however, about an accidental singularity. We make single scope AIs for traffic control, and food distribution, and financial transactions, and stock market management, and on and on. Then people start saying, “You know it would make sense for the food production and transport AI to be able to talk to the traffic AI.” “You know, the financial transaction AI should be able to talk to the stock market AIs.” “You know the power grid AI should be able to talk to the stock market… Read more »

awh
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awh

Traditional financial affairs have been monitored and regulated by the government. From time to time, the regulations are watered down or cleverly bypassed, but equilibrium, in the hands of steady, experienced people, has always been restored. This would be a start – respect and treat our data as a valuable private asset, and subject it to similar legal protections to those afforded to real estate, savings, shares etc. Where that leaves us wrt AIs, I don’t know. As with GMOs, nukes etc, the precautionary principle should apply and I would hope those working in the field are aware of possible… Read more »

geoduck
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geoduck

Well said. I think we tend to get distracted and remain overly optimistic that all will turn out well. But we’re in a very advanced era now in which things can go wrong in a much more massive way and at an alarming rate, not previously experienced. It’s already happened more than once. I remember at least a couple of stock market swings called Flash Crash’s caused by programmed trading bots. They had very simple AIs that reacted without thinking, and wiped out billions of dollars in value. AIs are in control of lots of things and we will see… Read more »