Rise of the AI Chasm

Charles Arthur of The Guardian reports on a new Bank of America Merril Lynch report, Creative Disruption, regarding how AI technologies will eventually increase the employment divides across our planet by separating the god-like A.I. owners from the underemployed rest of us. Of course, one laughable answer is that we will live in the age of abundance and, therefore, we will all greatly enjoy not working. Right. In fact, the publication itself by BofA is less exciting than Arthur’s focus on A.I. makes it out to be. Bank of America continues to flog the Singularity message that exponential increases in computer mean that, soon, computers will reason faster than humans (never mind just how well they reason compared to us). And the original report also touts both longevity of life induced by modern technological medical advances, and the revolutionary disruptions proferred by the Internet of Things architectures for connectived devices.  All this might come to pass; and I agree that, largely, inequality will be only exacerbated by these trends. But the scientific trends themselves can so easily be overblown that it is difficult to separate unlikely techno-optimism from seriously likely threats. Both are found a-plenty in the report.

Of Drones and Privacy

Two must-read articles are in the present, November 2015 issue of The Atlantic.  In To Catch a Drone, Amanda Ripley describes how drones are entering restricted space, even to the point of delivering contraband to prisoners in the US federal system; interfering with firefighting operations; scaring the wits out of airline pilots– the list goes on. Ripley goes on to describe new technologies for geofencing that may one day electronically barrier drones from flight in restricted spaces or restricted times (such as over PNC Park during a major league game).  Drones are boundary objects, and they are now testing the boundaries of how we allow mobile surveillance, and also how we citizens interact with one-another under murky conceptions of freedom, ownership and rights. Well done, Ripley.

Now flip forward twenty pages to Walter Kirn’s article: If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy. I have spoken breathless about New Mediocracy- about how corporations will monetize every aspect of our behavior. Kirn takes the notion of behavioral analytics and monetization to both scary and humor-filled edges, noticing all the ways in which every device he wears can accumulate, barter and fuse every aspect of his life together to create the Perfectly Detailed Customer.  Kirn’s piece is balanced beautifully between a celebration of what’s really occurring around us as privacy falls and an uneasy peep show into one person’s paranoid mind. The result is magic, and I recommend it too.

Killer Robots Sneak Through

Harriet Grant at The Guardian just published a Tech piece describing how United Nations action regarding banning robots from making lethal decisions about humans is stuck in a morass of debate.  This slowdown is useful because intelligent warfighting robots are a boundary issue– and the boundary is moving every week as new capabilities are fielded.  Many countries find the bureaucratic process useful, therefore, because it gives them time to move the goal lines so that existing research projects have immediate payoffs.  Sadly, the long-term results of this deliberate process is that we become ever more unlikely to be able to avoid some of the negative side effects of autonomous lethal systems in wars all around us.

Welcome to VonnegutLand

This is right out of Piano Player’s future possible world: Upshot in the New York TImes writes about a restaurant of the future where you can order and eat your food without ever having to interact with a human: Restaurant of the Futures? Service With an Impersonal Touch. So, remember, order a driverless carshare car next year, have it take you to a waiter-less restaurant, and enjoy as fully an antisocial dinner as possible. It’ll all be cheaper, and you will be supporting the minimal possible number of employees. Great.

STEM Education review

An excellent article by John Cassidy in the New Yorker, College Calculus, reviews Peter Cappelli’s new book: Will College Pay Off? The article, and Cappelli’s excellent book, both talk about STEM, discussing just what STEM means to whom, and how technological underemployment and STEM leave questions unanswered as to whether STEM skilling for our children will indeed help them with a future career, or not. I recommend the article, and will read and review the book.