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Archive for the ‘design’ tag

Apr 11, 2017

Limits to the Nonparametric Intuition: Superintelligence and Ecology

Posted by in categories: environmental, existential risks, machine learning

In a previous essay, I suggested how we might do better with the unintended consequences of superintelligence if, instead of attempting to pre-formulate satisfactory goals or providing a capacity to learn some set of goals, we gave it the intuition that knowing all goals is not a practical possibility. Instead, we can act with a modest confidence having worked to discover goals, developing an understanding of our discovery processes that allows asserting an equilibrium between the risk of doing something wrong and the cost of work to uncover more stakeholders and their goals. This approach promotes moderation given the potential of undiscovered goals potentially contradicting any particular action. In short, we’d like a superintelligence that applies the non-parametric intuition, the intuition that we can’t know all the factors but can partially discover them with well-motivated trade-offs.

However, I’ve come to the perspective that the non-parametric intuition, while correct, on its own can be cripplingly misguided. Unfortunately, going through a discovery-rich design process doesn’t promise an appropriate outcome. It is possible for all of the apparently relevant sources not to reflect significant consequences.

How could one possibly do better than accepting this limitation, that relevant information is sometimes not present in all apparently relevant information sources? The answer is that, while in some cases it is impossible, there is always the background knowledge that all flourishing is grounded in material conditions, and that “staying grounded” in these conditions is one way to know that important design information is missing and seek it out. The Onion article “Man’s Garbage To Have Much More Significant Effect On Planet Than He Will” is one example of a common failure at living in a grounded way.

In other words, “staying grounded” means recognizing that just because we do not know all of the goals informing our actions does not mean that we do not know any of them. There are some goals that are given to us by the nature of how we are embedded in the world and cannot be responsibly ignored. Our continual flourishing as sentient creatures means coming to know and care for those systems that sustain us and creatures like us. A functioning participation in these systems at a basic level means we should aim to see that our inputs are securely supplied, our wastes properly processed, and the supporting conditions of our environment maintained.

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Apr 6, 2017

The Nonparametric Intuition: Superintelligence and Design Methodology

Posted by in categories: engineering, machine learning

I will admit that I have been distracted from both popular discussion and the academic work on the risks of emergent superintelligence. However, in the spirit of an essay, let me offer some uninformed thoughts on a question involving such superintelligence based on my experience thinking about a different area. Hopefully, despite my ignorance, this experience will offer something new or at least explain one approach in a new way.

The question about superintelligence I wish to address is the “paperclip universe” problem. Suppose that an industrial program, aimed with the goal of maximizing the number of paperclips, is otherwise equipped with a general intelligence program as to tackle with this objective in the most creative ways, as well as internet connectivity and text information processing facilities so that it can discover other mechanisms. There is then the possibility that the program does not take its current resources as appropriate constraints, but becomes interested in manipulating people and directing devices to cause paperclips to be manufactured without consequence for any other objective, leading in the worse case to widespread destruction but a large number of surviving paperclips.

This would clearly be a disaster. The common response is to take as a consequence that when we specify goals to programs, we should be much more careful about specifying what those goals are. However, we might find it difficult to formulate a set of goals that don’t admit some kind of loophole or paradox that, if pursued with mechanical single-mindedness, are either similarly narrowly destructive or self-defeating.

Suppose that, instead of trying to formulate a set of foolproof goals, we should find a way to admit to the program that the set of goals we’ve described is not comprehensive. We should aim for the capacity to add new goals with a procedural understanding that the list may never be complete. If done well, we would have a system that would couple this initial set of goals to the set of resources, operations, consequences, and stakeholders initially provided to it, with an understanding that those goals are only appropriate to the initial list and finding new potential means requires developing a richer understanding of potential ends.

Continue reading “The Nonparametric Intuition: Superintelligence and Design Methodology” »

Nov 19, 2016

Venture Capital Firm Navigates Uncharted Course to Success — By Michael J. de la Merced | The New York Times

Posted by in categories: business, finance

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““They ‘got’ the business, and they took the time to go deep,” Mr. Vogt said.”

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Oct 26, 2016

Google Jamboard Is a Huge 4K Screen You Can Scribble On — By Tim Moynihan | WIRED

Posted by in categories: business, hardware, innovation

Google is off to a solid start with the “we make hardware now” thing.”

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Oct 26, 2016

The Beauty and Total Illegibility of Extreme Metal Logos — By Liz Stinson | WIRED

Posted by in categories: fun, media & arts

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Christophe Szpajdel, a Belgian designer who has crafted more than 7,000 logos for bands since the 1980s, explains that, just like any other form of design, a good metal logo relies on basic principles like symmetry, visual harmony, letter height, and precision.”

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Jun 27, 2016

How Ove Arup Brought Engineers Out Of The Shadows — By Meg Miller | Fast Company

Posted by in categories: architecture, engineering

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“The legendary engineer’s building philosophy has never been more relevant. This summer, he’s getting his first major museum retrospective.”

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Apr 29, 2016

Knot your typical tech accessories: Native Union’s new cable range — By Sam Clark | Wallpaper

Posted by in category: electronics

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“These cables, whilst stylish, still put a large emphasis on practicality – having been crafted from durable, braided nylon designed to withstand wear and tear. The range also goes further, the company professes, by solving everyday problems such as ‘forgetting your cable, running out of battery on-the-go, or straining to use your device while charging’.”

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Nov 17, 2015

The beauty of bikes — redesigning two wheels — By Rowan Moore | The Guardian

Posted by in categories: environmental, media & arts, transportation

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“For bicycles are messengers. Picasso recognised that they carry meaning when he made a saddle and handlebars into a bull’s head, and Duchamp (in his case, non-meaning) when he put a bicycle wheel in an art gallery.”

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Nov 9, 2015

Inside Apple’s perfectionism machine — By Lance Ulanoff | Mashable

Posted by in categories: business, computing

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“For those struggling to understand what Apple is up to, it might be best to imagine the Apple logo as a giant, rose gold-colored apple sculpture that’s being polished beyond perfection, to some sort of ideal, a level of quality that is so undeniable that no competitor dares forget it.”

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Oct 23, 2015

Landmark Is Working On A Virtual Reality World’s Fair — By Stephanie Topacio Long | Digital Trends

Posted by in categories: business, education, human trajectories, media & arts, virtual reality

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“Technology is finally catching up with Landmark Entertainment Group’s big ideas. The global entertainment design firm announced Thursday that it is collaborating with Pavilion of Me to create a virtual reality experience called the Virtual World’s Fair that will launch in 2017.”

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