Tag Archives: Surveillance

After AlphaGo There Is No Stopping AI

Artificial Intelligence, in one form or another, is everywhere. We invite it into our homes and feed it on social media. Businesses that have the resources to automate, will. Every sector of the economy utilizes AI in some form.

It is nearly impossible to find an industry that is not looking to AI for improvements. AI is potentially playing a role in semiconductors, industrial applications, military and defense and everything in-between. Manufacturers hope AI will make developing products and innovation easier. Globalspace, September 6, 2019

Advances in AI

Meanwhile, AI keeps advancing in what it can do. An interesting way to observe AI’s recent trajectory is to recall the times when AI competed against human champions and won.

* IBM’s Deep Blue defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Chess kept Deep Blue in the realm of what computers are good at, using statistics and probabilities to determine strategy. (Popular Science, 12/26/12)

* IBM’s Watson defeated two Jeopardy! champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in 2011.

Jeopardy! … pushed Watson into an unfamiliar world of human language and unstructured data. (Popular Science, 12/26/12)

* DeepMind’s AlphaGo program defeated go world champion Lee Sedol in 2016.

When compared with Deep Blue or with Watson, AlphaGo’s underlying algorithms are potentially more general-purpose… (Wikipedia, AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol)

Ultimate Goal With Unknown Results

Real artificial intelligence is general-purpose. It is artificial general intelligence. AGI has the potential to perform any task that a human being can perform, not just a specialized task such as playing board games. It can teach itself by manipulating massive amounts of data. It can act based upon its own knowledge.

Here is a description of Google’s machine learning tool AutoML-Zero, published in Google AI Blog July 9, 2020:

In our case, a population is initialized with empty programs. It then evolves in repeating cycles to produce better and better learning algorithms. At each cycle, two (or more) random models compete and the most accurate model gets to be a parent. The parent clones itself to produce a child, which gets mutated. That is, the child’s code is modified in a random way, which could mean, for example, arbitrarily inserting, removing or modifying a line in the code. The mutated algorithm is then evaluated on image classification tasks.

When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Leigh Mallory responded, “Because it’s there.” Once a goal is envisioned, there is no stopping those who will pursue its attainment, regardless of unknown collateral results. The envisioned goal in AI technology is to spread AI everywhere in ever-advanced forms.

On December 2, 2014, BBC News made headlines with remarks by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins and response by Cleverbot creator Rollo Carpenter.

The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race … It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate… Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded. Hawkins

I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized.… We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it. Carpenter

Recommended Segment of PBS FRONTLINE

In the Age of AI aired on FRONTLINE’s Season 2019, Episode 5, November 5. The program serves as a good overview of what AI is, what it is used for today, what effect is has had in economies, what it has done to privacy and liberty, and where it looks like AI is going.

The program’s framework is the U.S. AlphaGo’s victory over China’s go player Ke Jie, which ignited China’s quest for AI supremacy.

Here are some good take-aways offered by In the Age of AI:

There are three important developments that changed the world – the steam engine, electricity and AI — “everything else is too small.”

In the U.S. automation amplified by AI has sadly caused a lot of white and blue collar workers to lose their jobs. However, developments in technology have always done that. Former elevator operators, telephone operators, and secretaries can attest to that.

AI’s most prominent role has been in personal data gathering. Both private and public sectors depend on some form of AI’s ability to collect massive amounts of data and use it to indicate individuals’ preferences, habits, routines, etc.

China’s advances in AI have been astounding. China sees benefit in having become a surveillance state where people’s routines are in a vast database that can be used to quickly process loans or quickly scoop disruptors for purposes of re-education. The regime’s Belt and Road Initiative invests in and builds infrastructure all over the world. Included in the developments, are China’s ubiquitous surveillance cameras.

AI is the ultimate tool of wealth creation. The push for advancing AI results in aid to capital and neglect of labor, causing inequality to grow. It used to be that wages rose with productivity, but with the advent of automation, especially that augmented by AI, productivity and wages decoupled. It won’t be long before there is real clamor for distribution of wealth created by capital.

You and AI

Whether you embrace or fear artificial intelligence, AI is here to stay. In the short run you will benefit from augmented diagnostic techniques or harmed by loss of a job. In the long run your place in the universe – to your advantage or not — might be determined by a machine.

(Featured picture: Ke Jie playing AlphaGo, NPR, Google A.I. Clinches Series Against Humanity’s Last, Best Hope To Win At Go, May 25, 2017)

Loss of Liberty and Who is to Blame

Here is an article worth reading:

The State of the Union: These Are Dangerous Times, and the Government Is To Blame, by John W. Whitehead, published on the Rutherford Institute website on February 4, 2019.

The article is worth reading, especially if you still believe all is well with our nation. Sure, the economy looks good at present, we can still vote for candidates and laws of our choice, we still move relatively freely within our nation and in and out of our nation. However, there are areas of concern. The article in question lists a few of these concerns, such as,

* The tendency to consider all citizens suspect – guilty until proven innocent.

* Invasive strip searches, forceful drawing of blood, intimate probes.

* Militarization of our city police.

* A constitutional right to bear arms that applies to government officials only.

* Spying by government and commerce into private lives of citizens.

* Courts more interested in advancing government’s agenda than seeking justice.

The concerns are serious and the events listed above real. However, is the government to blame, as the title of the article indicates? The subtitle of the website on which the article appears is “It’s our job to make the government play by the rules of the constitution.”

That indeed is the job not only of The Rutherford Institute but of every voter and resident of this nation. If we the people choose to vote for candidates and laws that place security above liberty, we are to blame. If we obediently submit to walking without our shoes on airport floors, we are to blame. If we aid the surveillance state by choosing all manner of “smart” gadgets, we are to blame.

The list of sins we commit against ourselves by far outweigh those committed by government against us.  Government robs our liberties by our own consent.

Democracy - CopyAlexis de Tocqueville signaled how a nation descends into soft despotism in his book Democracy in America.  At the end of the devolution are a childlike populace and a “tutelary” government.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild …

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805-1859, Democracy in America

Smart Cities: Your Life in a Fish Bowl

Amazon-Dash-Image-Tide 2Smart Cities are a national, state and county goal, for whatever reason anyone can come up with. Here is the reason offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation,

In December 2015, we launched our Smart City Challenge, asking mid-sized cities across America to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.

Sensors Are at the Heart of Smart Cities

* Builders are developing ways to use smart concrete to make bridges, highways, and buildings laced with carbon fibers able to respond to stress and monitor activity.

This new invention allows construction of smart concrete structures, able to detect even minute changes in the amount of stress inside. This new composite material is able to self-monitor for signs of cracks or stress.

In addition, smart concrete is expected to be used for building facility management, i.e. to weigh each room of a building to monitor the room occupancy in real time, thereby saving money and energy by allowing the lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation of the room to be controlled according to the occupancy level.

* Manufacturers are making smart appliances.

…select Whirlpool® smart appliances now support the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, allowing families to control their appliances from anywhere in the house with simple voice commands. So whether in the other room helping with homework or cooking dinner with messy hands, families can care for their loved ones better, faster and smarter.

Technology Companies Are Leading the Way

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft are the natural candidates in the building of smart cities. They already thrive on collecting and evaluating data. Microsoft is building the city of Belmont in the state  of Arizona.

Belmont (as the town will be called) will feature 80,000 residential units, public schools, and commercial buildings. Everything in the 25,000-acre property will be built around a flexible infrastructure model, which is why many are calling the proposed town a smart city. In many ways, Belmont will be a location where the latest technologies and innovative designs can be tested on a actual community, creating a real-life blueprint for how cities of the future could be run.

The Internet of Things

Thus, in a smart city we reach the pinnacle of The Internet of Things, where all is connected, watched and evaluated.

The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.

Watch for the Downside

Since Biblical times knowing where you live is understanding who you are.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest (Revelation 2.13)

Now imagine not only knowing where you live, but also where you are at all times via your phone, your appliances, your city. Imagine not only knowing where you are, but also what are you doing or buying. Or do you for a moment think that the information gathered about you is not inventoried, catalogued, evaluated, and used?

Not everyone is happy with smart cities. Critics are concerned about the rise of the tech oligarchy.

The tech oligarchs who already dominate our culture and commerce, manipulate our moods, and shape the behaviors of our children while accumulating capital at a rate unprecedented in at least a century want to fashion our urban future in a way that dramatically extends the reach of the surveillance state already evident in airports and on our phones.

The drive to redesign our cities, however, is not really the end of the agenda of those who Aldous Huxley described as the top of the “scientific caste system.” The oligarchy has also worked to make our homes, our personal space, “connected” to their monitoring and money machines.

Your Life, Your Choice

Do you want maximum convenience because you are so pressed for time? Do you want to keep up with your peers and have the latest tech gadget on the market? Is your desire to help stop climate change high enough for you to actively support housing-dense villages filled with sensors that constantly monitor your use of energy?

If so, then you need to accept your life in a virtual fish bowl, where your actions can be relayed to a cloud server and analyzed for purposes beyond your control. You need to accept the possibility that the information gathered from you might be about you in particular, not just about what everyone does in the aggregate. And you need to accept the risk that in a future you do not at present foresee, someone possessing considerable power may not like what they see in the data gathered from you.

Just Vote No If Big Data Does not Appeal to You

Technology, the Internet, smart phones have increased our productivity, enriched our lives and given us power as individuals to express our thoughts and share our discoveries.  Therefore, it behooves us to ensure that the positive blessings of technology remain friendly towards us.

However, it appears that Big Data might be developing in ways akin to Big Pharma.  Regulation has been suggested for both biggies, but can one really regulate away people’s natural profit motives or the market’s unforgiving forces?  Probably not, or at least not without ushering in tyranny.  If the free and open market demands smart cities, great! However, if they are foisted on an unsuspecting public by interested parties, that’s not so great.

If you are not a supporter of Big Data, you might consider choosing leaders who do not use your tax dollars to subsidize developers of smart cities.  Find out if your city or county leaders are falling all over one another rushing to give technology companies tax breaks, while your small business has none.  Be aware of who wants to change things in your neighborhood, and just vote no on tax proposals sure to be on your ballot to support such changes.

How is a Police State Created?

Silicon Valley SurveillanceCalifornia is ground zero for an incipient Police State, so say recent news stories in several publications, including California Political News and Views and Reason.com. View the short video on Reason.com. Understand how a Police State grows in increments.

Today, those increments are most prevalent in technology hubs like Silicon Valley. Technology has afforded us unparalleled conveniences. It also has created unmatched surveillance. DHS, NSA, CIA, FBI, TSA and other three-letter agencies claim to keep us safe through technology. Such technology relies on massive data gathering – your purchases online, your birthday wishes to your grandkids on Facebook, your wedding pictures on Instagram, your rant about lousy government schools on Reddit, and your biometrics captured by cameras pretty much anywhere.

The articles mentioned above focus on Palantir Technologies, a data crunching company that happens to believe that helping government make sense of data gathered from citizens guards civil liberties.

As an aside, Palantir is also the magic seeing stone from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy legendarium. Fantasy is what we get from those who assure us that data gathering from ordinary citizens serves to keep us safe, or that helping government parse data into categories of the snooped protects civil liberties.

Track record is best evidence. What has technology done with cookies – simply ensure you can successfully navigate from page to page on a website? No, cookies cling to your navigation, recording every website you visit, ready to serve as witness when you suddenly become persona non grata.  How about the Berlin Wall, the physical example offered in the Reason video. The Wall did not just pop up, but developed as papers were required of everyone crossing the border, checkpoints became formalized, folks became accustomed to being tracked. Then came the Wall.