31 January 2010

Artificial Intelligence Needs to Learn to Read

To complete my previous post on the danger of artificial intelligence, I'll now briefly explain why I believe AI systems needs the ability to read and understand the written word.

The problem of building an intelligent AI system that can cause so much harm is actually nothing new in the sense that parents face this problem all the time. Why do parents not fear their children growing up to abandon them or worse? The problem with building autonomous systems is that they are autonomous, so before we set them lose, we might want to think about how to ensure these systems will autonomously decide not to harm us.

30 January 2010

Book Review: "Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye"

Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye was a book I anticipated would be a good counterpoint to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (which I've also reviewed).  Unfortunately, it just didn't have a strongly written narrative to tie together the too many various ideas presented.

Also unfortunate was how most of the ideas LeGault presents seemed entirely concerned with the USA.  This is in itself fine, of course, but for readers outside the US, it does make for a less interesting read.

This book also read like an outright attack on Gladwell's "Blink," but written in such haste that LeGault's apparent contempt for "Blink" and its ideas hasn't subsided.  It made the book have a vindictive tone that wasn't effective in persuading or moving me, unlike Gladwell's writing.

29 January 2010

Artificial Intelligence: the Danger

With all the advances in AI, it leaves me without a doubt that at some point AI machines will have a sufficient level of intelligence to be dangerous to humans.  Because of this, it's important that we endow sufficiently intelligent and general AI systems with the ability to read about and understand human conceptions of morality.

In this post, I'll express why I'm convinced AI systems will one day become dangerous.  In a later post, I'll explain why I believe AI systems needs the ability to read and understand the written word.

Right away, some people will discount the threat that AI systems pose by noting that AI systems cannot attain any level of intelligence to be malicious.  In fact, it seems that if we keep such systems locked down and sandboxed, the AI system couldn't control what its designers don't want it to control anyway.  A quick thought experiment shows this is clearly not the case.

28 January 2010

Book Review: "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us"

Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us has some interesting ideas about how leaders come to be and how ideas spread, stressing that change comes about through groups of people organized like a tribe: an interconnected group of people with a leader and an idea.

The difference between a tribe and just a group is explained in the book in terms of how they're formed, in that the leader of a tribe finds similarly minded people to form into a movement for an idea.

This is packed with case studies to explain what Godin sees as effective means to create change in and out of a corporation.  It is, unfortunately, a little repetitious, almost like Godin was adapting a speech into a book form.  So I recommend listening to the unabridged audiobook if you can instead.

27 January 2010

Credibility of Science and the Freedom of Data

Adhering to the free and open source model (from the software world) would help, in the long run, to bring credibility back into the sciences in the eyes of the public.  For scientists, this suggestion should sound like a non-suggestion, like suggesting we continue breathing to continue living (ie, "but we're already doing that").  What seems surprising is that the credibility, and the free and open nature, of science is even in doubt.

I've already talked briefly about the tarnishing of sciences' credibility, but what of the free and open source nature of science?  There's actually two "parts" of science (ie, data and methodology) that we have to address in terms of freedom and open-source-ness.  In this post, I'll briefly address the issue of raw data, since a lot of the recent news has been about the data the climate scientists used in their models.  I'll address the issue of methodology in another post. 

Why is Open Source Difficult?

26 January 2010

Book Review: "Outliers: The Story of Success"

Outliers: The Story of Success is an excellent book giving insight as to why certain people succeed under certain social and other conditions, explaining the significance of cultural legacies and hard work to success, and illustrating how knowing this can assist educators in helping more people succeed.

It's probably best to read this book carefully to understand what it is Gladwell is asserting.  This is because it's all too easy, as some seem to have done, to understand Gladwell's arguments as asserting that people succeed only due to environmental factors.  At one point, he even seems to explain how hard working a person is as being a product of the person's cultural heritage!

25 January 2010

Tarnishing Science

The credibility of science, in the eyes of the public, has taken a beating lately.  This is, of course, "thanks" to some climate scientists, as unfortunately evidenced by some recent revelations:
It is slightly odd to see scientific conclusions being made, or being given greater credit and authority, by a panel formed in the United Nations, a political organization.  That scientists are human and are susceptible to ordinary persuasions like power, prestige, or money, isn't news.

24 January 2010

Book Review: "Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life"

The book Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life first started off as an article in Fast Company. It encourages us to see how we can help others change their behaviour, help them make changes to their own lives, for the better, through three critical keys: relate, repeat, and reframe. These keys addresses the need to build positive relationships, to recommend specific behaviours, and to support the mindset created in this process, which underlie the changed behaviours. Filled with analysis and theory of specific case studies. A great read, and a book I recommend to all educators.