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Archive for the ‘ethics’ category

Jun 9, 2018

MIT fed an AI data from Reddit, and now it thinks of nothing but murder

Posted by in categories: drones, ethics, information science, military, physics, robotics/AI

The point of the experiment was to show how easy it is to bias any artificial intelligence if you train it on biased data. The team wisely didn’t speculate about whether exposure to graphic content changes the way a human thinks. They’ve done other experiments in the same vein, too, using AI to write horror stories, create terrifying images, judge moral decisions, and even induce empathy. This kind of research is important. We should be asking the same questions of artificial intelligence as we do of any other technology because it is far too easy for unintended consequences to hurt the people the system wasn’t designed to see. Naturally, this is the basis of sci-fi: imagining possible futures and showing what could lead us there. Issac Asimov gave wrote the “Three Laws of Robotics” because he wanted to imagine what might happen if they were contravened.

Even though artificial intelligence isn’t a new field, we’re a long, long way from producing something that, as Gideon Lewis-Kraus wrote in The New York Times Magazine, can “demonstrate a facility with the implicit, the interpretive.” But it still hasn’t undergone the kind of reckoning that causes a discipline to grow up. Physics, you recall, gave us the atom bomb, and every person who becomes a physicist knows they might be called on to help create something that could fundamentally alter the world. Computer scientists are beginning to realize this, too. At Google this year, 5,000 employees protested and a host of employees resigned from the company because of its involvement with Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative that uses machine learning to improve the accuracy of drone strikes.

Norman is just a thought experiment, but the questions it raises about machine learning algorithms making judgments and decisions based on biased data are urgent and necessary. Those systems, for example, are already used in credit underwriting, deciding whether or not loans are worth guaranteeing. What if an algorithm decides you shouldn’t buy a house or a car? To whom do you appeal? What if you’re not white and a piece of software predicts you’ll commit a crime because of that? There are many, many open questions. Norman’s role is to help us figure out their answers.

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Jun 6, 2018

Crispr Fans Fight for Egalitarian Access to Gene Editing

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, ethics, governance, health

A journalist, a soup exec, and an imam walk into a room. There’s no joke here. It’s just another day at CrisprCon.

On Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of scientists, industry folk, and public health officials from all over the world filled the amphitheater at the Boston World Trade Center to reckon with the power of biology’s favorite new DNA-tinkering tool: Crispr. The topics were thorny—from the ethics of self-experimenting biohackers to the feasibility of pan-global governance structures. And more than once you could feel the air rush right out of the room. But that was kind of the point. CrisprCon is designed to make people uncomfortable.

“I’m going to talk about the monkey in the room,” said Antonio Cosme, an urban farmer and community organizer in Detroit who appeared on a panel at the second annual conference devoted to Crispr’s big ethical questions to talk about equitable access to gene editing technologies. He referred to the results of an audience poll that had appeared moments before in a word cloud behind him, with one bigger than all the others: “eugenics.”

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Jun 2, 2018

Google Plans Not to Renew Its Contract for Project Maven, a Controversial Pentagon Drone AI Imaging Program

Posted by in categories: business, drones, ethics, military, robotics/AI

Google ends Pentagon contract to develop AI for recognising people in drone videos after 4,000 employees signed an open letter saying that Google’s involvement is against the company’s “moral and ethical responsibility”.


Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires.

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud’s business.

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May 17, 2018

Selfish Ledger: Google’s mass sociology experiment

Posted by in categories: big data, complex systems, DNA, ethics, evolution, genetics, information science, internet, surveillance

Check out the internal Google film, “The Selfish Ledger”. This probably wasn’t meant to slip onto a public web server, and so I have embedded a backup copy below. Ping me if it disappears. I will locate a permanent URL.

This 8½ minute video is a lot deeper—and possibly more insipid—than it appears. Nick Foster may be the Anti-Christ, or perhaps the most brilliant sociologist of modern times. It depends on your vantage point, and your belief in the potential of user controls and cat-in-bag containment.

He talks of a species propelling itself toward “desirable goals” by cataloging, data mining, and analyzing the past behavior of peers and ancestors—and then using that data to improve the experience of each user’s future and perhaps even their future generations. But, is he referring to shared goals across cultures, sexes and incomes? Who controls the algorithms and the goal filters?! Is Google the judge, arbiter and God?

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May 14, 2018

Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting to Integrate

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, neuroscience

Stem cell technology has advanced so much that scientists can grow miniature versions of human brains — called organoids, or mini-brains if you want to be cute about it — in the lab, but medical ethicists are concerned about recent developments in this field involving the growth of these tiny brains in other animals. Those concerns are bound to become more serious after the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience starting November 11 in Washington, D.C., where two teams of scientists plan to present previously unpublished research on the unexpected interaction between human mini-brains and their rat and mouse hosts.

In the new papers, according to STAT, scientists will report that the organoids survived for extended periods of time — two months in one case — and even connected to lab animals’ circulatory and nervous systems, transferring blood and nerve signals between the host animal and the implanted human cells. This is an unprecedented advancement for mini-brain research.

“We are entering totally new ground here,” Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, told STAT. “The science is advancing so rapidly, the ethics can’t keep up.”

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May 12, 2018

La conquista de la muerte

Posted by in categories: ethics, life extension, lifeboat, transhumanism

This week RT en Español aired a half hour show on life extension and #transhumanism on TV to millions of its #Spanish viewers. My #ImmortalityBus and work was covered. Various Lifeboat Foundation members in this video: Give it a watch:


La longevidad, la inmortalidad… Temas que nunca han dejado a nadie indiferente. Ahora algunos científicos aseguran que la inmortalidad es técnicamente alcanzable en un futuro cercano. Pero al mismo tiempo surgen preguntas de carácter moral e incluso filosófico: ¿qué significa alcanzar la inmortalidad para cada uno de nosotros? Además, en una sociedad consumista y de empresas transnacionales como la nuestra, suena poco convincente que la inmortalidad pueda llegar a ser accesible para todos.

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May 6, 2018

Yale experiment to reanimate dead brains promises ‘living hell’ for humans

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, neuroscience

A scientific experiment to reanimate dead brains could lead to humans enduring a ‘fate worse than death,’ an ethics lecturer has warned.

Last month Yale University announced it had successfully resurrected the brains of more than 100 slaughtered pigs and found that the cells were still healthy.

The reanimated brains were kept alive for up to 36 hours and scientists said the process, which should also work in primates, offered a new way to study intact organs in the lab.

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Apr 27, 2018

Deniers and Critics of AI Will Only Be Left Behind

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, genetics, geopolitics, health, policy, robotics/AI, transhumanism

This month I’m participating in Cato Institute’s Cato Unbound discussion. Cato is one of the world’s leading think tanks. Here’s my new and second essay for the project:


Professor David D. Friedman sweeps aside my belief that religion may well dictate the development of AI and other radical transhumanist tech in the future. However, at the core of a broad swath of American society lies a fearful luddite tradition. Americans—including the U.S. Congress, where every member is religious—often base their life philosophies and work ethics on their faiths. Furthermore, a recent Pew study showed 7 in 10 Americans were worried about technology in people’s bodies and brains, even if it offered health benefits.

It rarely matters what point in American history innovation has come out. Anesthesia, vaccines, stem cells, and other breakthroughs have historically all battled to survive under pressure from conservatives and Christians. I believe that if formal religion had not impeded our natural secular progress as a nation over the last 250 years, we would have been much further along in terms of human evolution. Instead of discussing and arguing about our coming transhumanist future, we’d be living in it.

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Apr 14, 2018

Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognize Robots as Legal Persons

Posted by in categories: ethics, law, robotics/AI

Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook.

This all started last year when the European Parliament proposed the creation of a specific legal status for robots:

so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently.

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Apr 13, 2018

Does Facebook Use AI To Predict Your Future Actions For Advertisers?

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI, transportation

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted in March, Facebook has been attempting to make a moral stand for your privacy, distancing itself from the unscrupulous practices of the U.K. political consultancy. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” wrote Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, just a few weeks before founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hit Capitol Hill to make similar reassurances, telling lawmakers, “Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good.” But in reality, a confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept shows that the two companies are far more similar than the social network would like you to believe.

The recent document, described as “confidential,” outlines a new advertising service that expands how the social network sells corporations’ access to its users and their lives: Instead of merely offering advertisers the ability to target people based on demographics and consumer preferences, Facebook instead offers the ability to target them based on how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think. These capabilities are the fruits of a self-improving, artificial intelligence-powered prediction engine, first unveiled by Facebook in 2016 and dubbed “FBLearner Flow.”

One slide in the document touts Facebook’s ability to “predict future behavior,” allowing companies to target people on the basis of decisions they haven’t even made yet. This would, potentially, give third parties the opportunity to alter a consumer’s anticipated course. Here, Facebook explains how it can comb through its entire user base of over 2 billion individuals and produce millions of people who are “at risk” of jumping ship from one brand to a competitor. These individuals could then be targeted aggressively with advertising that could pre-empt and change their decision entirely — something Facebook calls “improved marketing efficiency.” This isn’t Facebook showing you Chevy ads because you’ve been reading about Ford all week — old hat in the online marketing world — rather Facebook using facts of your life to predict that in the near future, you’re going to get sick of your car. Facebook’s name for this service: “loyalty prediction.”

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