UC Berkeley nuked 20,000 Creative Commons lectures, but they're not going away

A ruling about a DC university held that posting course videos to the open web without subtitling them violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (while keeping them private to students did not) (I know: weird), and this prompted UC Berkeley to announce the impending removal of 20,000 open courseware videos from Youtube. Read the rest

A confusatorium for self-driving cars

James "New Aesthetics" Bridle (previously) wants to confuse your autonomous vehicle, so he's designed this Autonomous Trap 001, a sequencing scheme with lots of room for growth. Read the rest

Deflationary Intelligence: in 2017, everything is "AI"

Ian Bogost (previously) describes the "deflationary" use of "artificial intelligence" to describe the most trivial computer science innovations and software-enabled products, from Facebook's suicide detection "AI" (a trivial word-search program that alerts humans) to the chatbots that are billed as steps away from passing a Turing test, but which are little more than glorified phone trees, and on whom 40% of humans give up after a single conversational volley. Read the rest

Google's troll-fighting AI can be defeated by typos

Jigsaw is a "wildly ambitious" Google spin-off research unit that recently released Perspective, a machine-learning system designed to identify argumentative, belittling and meanspirited online conversation. Within days of its release, independent researchers have published a paper demonstrating a way of tricking Perspective into trusting ugly messages, just by introducing human-readable misspellings into their prose. Read the rest

UK Parliament to hold inquiry into algorithmic transparency

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee put out a public call for suggestions on subjects it should investigate and one of the three winning pitches came from Stephanie Mathisen, campaigns and policy officer at Sense about Science, who suggested an inquiry into transparency in algorithmic decision-making. Read the rest

Rhymes from a high-schooler's machine learning system trained on Kanye lyrics

Robbie Barrat is president and founder of their high school computer science club; they created Rapper-Neural-Network, a free software project that uses machine learning trained on a corpus of 6,000 Kanye West lines to autogenerate new rap songs. Read the rest

Retired California State Senator is using AI to transcribe local government hearings for search and alerts

Sam Blakeslee, a retired Republican California state senator, worked with Cal Poly students to create Digital Democracy, a service that aggregates videos of the interminable, innumerable -- and vital -- local government hearings and meetings and then use machine-learning systems to generate automated transcripts so that activists, journalists and citizens could search and analyze them. Read the rest

Skynet: Trump campaigned like a crappy AI, and now he's governing like one, too

Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neil nailed Trump's tactics when she compared him to a busted machine-learning algorithm, throwing a ton of random ideas out, listening for his base to cheer the ones that excited their worst instincts, and then doubling down on them. Read the rest

Beyond the Trolley Problem: Three realistic, near-future ethical dilemmas about self-driving cars

MIT Professor Emeritus of Robotic Rodney Brooks has published a thought-provoking essay on the most concrete, most likely ethical questions that will be raised by self-driving cars; Brooks is uninterested in contrived questions like the "Trolley Problem" (as am I, but for different reasons); he's more attuned to the immediate problems that could be created by selfish self-drivers who use their cars to get an edge over the people who drive themselves, and pedestrians. Read the rest

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest

AI Alarmism: why smart people believe dumb things about our future AI overlords

Maciej Cegłowski (previously) gave this talk, "Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People," at Web Camp Zagreb last October, spending 45 minutes delving into the origin of the idea that computers are going to become apocalyptic, self-programming, superintelligent basilisks that end all live on Earth (and variations on this theme) and then explaining why this fundamentally evidence-free, fuzzy idea has colonized so many otherwise brilliant people -- including people like Stephen Hawking -- and why it's an irrational and potentially harmful belief system. Read the rest

This Bach chorale composed by machine learning is pretty good

Gaetan Hadjeres and Francois Pachet at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Paris created DeepBach, then entered Bach's 352 chorales. The resulting composition is certainly in the style. So why does this work better than some other attempts? Read the rest

Free audiobook of Car Wars, my self-driving car/crypto back-door apocalypse story

Last month, Melbourne's Deakin University published Car Wars, a short story I wrote to inspire thinking and discussion about the engineering ethics questions in self-driving car design, moving beyond the trite and largely irrelevant trolley problem. Read the rest

Snowden on fake news, Twitter features, and the rule of law

Edward Snowden's Periscope interview with Jack Dorsey -- hosted by the Pardon Snowden campaign ranged over a lot of territory, including the special problems of metadata surveillance (metadata can be "more intrusive" than content "because it can be understood at scale"); asymmetry in privacy (where "an increasing imbalance of power" arises between citizens, with no privacy, and officials with all the privacy: "We can't even see their tax-returns"); the problems of relying on the rule of law in a "global context" where surveillance crosses borders and jurisdictions; and fake news, which Snowden thinks can't be solved by asking Google to be a "referee" but rather when "We talk and we share and we point out what is true." Read the rest

Why the FBI would be nuts to try to use chatbots to flush out terrorists online

Social scientist/cybersecurity expert Susan Landau (previously) and Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neil take to Lawfare to explain why it would be a dangerous mistake for the FBI to use machine learning-based chatbots to flush out potential terrorists online. Read the rest

A checklist for figuring out whether your algorithm is a "weapon of math destruction"

The Data & Society institute (dedicated to critical, interdisciplinary perspectives on big data) held an online seminar devoted to Cathy O'Neil's groundbreaking book Weapons of Math Destruction, which showed how badly designed algorithmic decision-making systems can create, magnify and entrench the social problems they're supposed to solve, perpetuating inequality, destabilizing the economy, and making a small number of people very, very rich. Read the rest

The latest generation of chatbot toys listen to your kids 24/7 and send their speech to a military contractor

Last year's Hello Barbie chatbot toy sent all your kid's speech to cloud servers operated by Mattel and its tech partner, but only when your kid held down Barbie's listen button -- new chatbot toys like My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Intelligent Robot are in constant listening mode -- as is your "OK Google" enabled phone, your Alexa-enabled home mic, and your Siri-enabled Ios device -- and everything that is uttered in mic range is transmitted to Nuance, a company that makes text-to-speech tech (you probably know them through their Dragon-branded tools), and contracts to the US military. Read the rest

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