Let's build a robot to kill the creator of "I am not a robot" CAPTCHA image grids

The distorted text was bad enough, but these grainy photos with slivers of this and that are getting ridiculous. I'm with the people who suspect it's some kind of free labor mechanical turk AI bot training. And what of esoteric definitional matters like this: Read the rest

What happens if you give an AI control over a corporation?

In this paper, law professor Lynn Lopucki ponders the question: What happens if you turn over control of a corporate entity to an AI?

Pretty terrible stuff. Odds are high you'd see them emerge first in criminal enterprises, as ways of setting up entities that engage in nefarious activities but cannot be meaningfully punished (in human terms, anyway), even if they're caught, he argues. Given their corporate personhood in the US, they'd enjoy the rights to own property, to enter into contracts, to legal counsel, to free speech, and to buy politicians -- so they could wreak a lot of havoc.

The prospect of AI running firms and exploiting legal loopholes has been explored in cyberpunk sci-fi, so it's mesmerizing to watch the world of real-world law start to grapple with this. It's coming on the tails of various thinkers pointing out that Silicon Valley's fears of killer AI are predicated on the idea that AIs would act in precisely the way today's corporations do: i.e. that they'd be remorselessly devoted to their self-interest, immortal and immoral, and regard humans as mere gut-flora -- to use Cory's useful metaphor -- towards pursuance of their continued existence. Or to put it another way, corporations already evince much of the terrifying behavior LoPucki predicts we'll see from algorithmic entities; it's not clear that any world government is willing to bring to justice any of the humans putatively in control of today's crimedoing firms, so even the moral immunity you'd see in AIs is basically already in place. Read the rest

Donut-shaped drone that isn't hurt by collisions

Cleo is a donut-shaped drone with a single propellor in the center, which steers by changing the airflow direction, so its blades are entirely contained – and can't be easily broken when the drone collides with something.

A IEEE notes:

It’s immediately obvious just how friendly this design is. It fits in a pocket without needing to be disassembled or folded, and there’s nothing externally fragile that you have to protect. It’s safe to hold, and so grabbable that you can snatch it right out of the air. Collisions with obstacles (including people) shouldn’t damage either the drone or whatever it runs into, and with all of the moving parts so well protected, it seems like it has to be much more durable than anything with exposed rotors.

As for me, though, when I saw it I had an instant acid flashback to ... the Avrocar.

Fans of Canadian aerospace arcana will be familiar with the Avrocar. It was the invention of Avro Canada, a Canadian aerospace firm that flourished in the 40s and 50s by producing aircraft for military and commercial use. In the late 50s they began working for the US military on a disk-shaped flying craft that would hover in the air by venting exhaust out the bottom and sides. But the engineers could never figure out how to make it stable enough to fly more than a few feet above the ground, so the project was cancelled in 1961, and Avro itself soon collapsed.

The Avrocar is a fave of UFO military-conspiracy theorists, as you might expect. 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

Why we're still talking about Terminator and the Matrix

My July 2015 Locus column, Skynet Ascendant, suggests that the enduring popularity of images of homicidal, humanity-hating AIs has more to do with our present-day politics than computer science. Read the rest