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Big Revolution - Rules that evolve as fast as technology

Welcome to the last full-fat Big Revolution of the week. Next Monday and Tuesday, I'll be at the CogX
June 8 · Issue #103 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to the last full-fat Big Revolution of the week. Next Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be at the CogX A.I. conference in London. Send a reply to this email if you’re also going to be there and would like to meet up.

Big things you need to know today
- Google has revealed seven ethical principles for how it will develop A.I. My thoughts on this are below.
- Facebook can’t catch a break. Its latest controversy is that it accidentally displayed 14 million users’ posts as public, rather than ‘friends only,’ for several days last month.
- Organic matter has been found in an ancient lake bed on Mars. The Guardian: “Researchers cannot tell how the organic material formed and so leave open the crucial question: are the compounds remnants of past organisms; the product of chemical reactions with rocks; or were they brought to Mars in comets or other falling debris that slammed into the surface?”
- Challenger bank Monzo has partnered with IFTTT to let users do useful, clever, or just plain fun, things with their bank accounts. “Want your Amazon Echo to play Money, Money, Money every time you get paid? Or for your debit card to automatically record every purchase you make on a budgeting spreadsheet?” Wired has the story.
- The Daily Mail’s next editor is to be Geordie Grieg. He’s the current editor of sister title, the Mail on Sunday. Grieg is expected to tone down the shrill, hateful bile that has come to characterise current editor Paul Dacre’s time in charge.
- Unsurprising, and ‘very 2018,’ story of the day:MIT fed an AI data from Reddit, and now it only thinks about murder.” “Norman is a disturbing demonstration of the consequences of algorithmic bias,” The Verge reports.
The big thought
A.I. isn't always easy to illustrate, so here's the Spielberg movie poster.
A.I. isn't always easy to illustrate, so here's the Spielberg movie poster.
Rules for A.I. will need to evolve as fast as the technology
In yesterday’s Big Revolution, I wrote about how tech companies should put a set of values ahead of everything else early on because playing catchup later can be a messy business.
While Google has had to go through some internal and external debate about its A.I. contract with the US military, it’s recovered the situation well with a new set of principles that will guide its future work with artificial intelligence.
According to the principles, A.I. should: be socially beneficial; avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias; be built and tested for safety; be accountable to people; incorporate privacy design principles; uphold high standards of scientific excellence, and be made available for uses that accord with these principles.
This is a good base to start from, but it would be easy for these principles to be twisted or interpreted differently by future Googlers with different priorities. So, it’s encouraging that the company also detailed ways its A.I. won’t be used.
Banned uses are: technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm; weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people; technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms, and technologies whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.
It’s encouraging to see a list like this set out in clear detail, and in a potentially dangerous field like A.I., it’s reassuring, too.
One word of warning though: it’s impossible to predict how the world – and Google – might change in the future to make these guidelines moot. In a world of rapidly evolving technology, rules like these need to evolve too. But a ‘value compass’ that helps shape those rules shouldn’t need to change anywhere near as often.
Disclaimer: I’m currently working as an external assessor with Google’s DNI Fund, but don’t take my opinion above as anything like an official comment on anything the company is doing.
One big read
While You Were Gawking at Snapchat Posts, One Artist Was Listening to Them While You Were Gawking at Snapchat Posts, One Artist Was Listening to Them
How a collaboration between Snap engineers and an artist turned Snapchat Stories posts into sonic art.
One big tweet
The news is basically a game of Mad Libs these days.
Alex Kantrowitz
The thing about 2018 is you can imagine the weirdest possible scenario, and then it comes true
4:19 PM - 7 Jun 2018
That’s all for today...
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