This Week: May 2, 2018

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Thinking About the Future of AI:

Good thoughts here from Bruce E. Pease about trying to predict the future course of AI (or anything else, for that matter):

I spent a career in intelligence learning the business of forecasting and warning, and I teach those things today. I learned that warning is easier than forecasting—usually you warn of vulnerabilities and possibilities, but you forecast likelihoods. Likelihoods are much harder to determine. On forecasting, I learned the hard way to be very humble. I learned that the word “probably” is overused…and the words “almost certainly” are rarely deserved when we are talking about anything over the horizon.

When it comes to thinking about the future of AI, here are two directions I think we want to avoid:

Granting Legal Personhood to Robots is a Stupid Idea

I suppose it’s natural that we would have this debate about whether robots should be granted special legal personhood, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stupid. If we ever get to the point where synthetic intelligence begins exhibiting signs of volition and experience, well then let’s talk about this stuff. But right now, it’s just fuzzy, futuristic thinking that will only serve to diminish corporate responsibility for products and services.

“By adopting legal personhood, we are going to erase the responsibility of manufacturers,” said Nathalie Navejans, a French law professor at the Université d’Artois, who was the driving force behind the letter.

Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, who also signed on, added that by seeking legal personhood for robots, manufacturers were merely trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for the actions of their machines.

The Future of the Surveillance State:

What happens with the terrifying marriage of surveillance, gamification, Big Data meets an unchecked desire for social stability and political control? China’s widely reported Social Credit System (社会信用体系) is a reminder of where we don’t want the world to go.

Automating Construction Work:

Finally, something a bit more entertaining, but possibly with serious longer-term consequences for employment in the construction sector. If you’re having trouble thinking about the automation of construction, try thinking less about robots scurrying around with trowels and hammers, and more about buildings as products:

This is a UK company called Ten Fold Technology.

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