Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Bangkok, Thailand 25 AUG 2020. Men hand using digital tablet for search information on Google.  Wireless Smartphone technology with intelligence search engine.

Another AI Ethics Head at Google Gets Fired Over Diversity Issues

The AI ethics team and Google management may have very different ideas about what “ethics” means

On February 19, Google fired Margaret Mitchell, the AI ethics co-lead at Google Brain. Mitchell’s co-leading colleague, Timnit Gebru, had been fired in December, amid controversy. Both women were critical of Google’s diversity hiring record during the two years they worked together. The flashpoint in Mitchell’s case, for which she had been temporarily suspended earlier, hinged on claims of unauthorized use of files: In a statement, a Google spokesperson said Mitchell had shared “confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees” outside the company. After Mitchell’s suspension last month, Google said activity in her account had triggered a security system. A source familiar with Mitchell’s suspension said she had been using a script to search her email for material…

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The concept of biased views judged by appearances. Various miniature people standing behind the glasses.

How Bias Can Be Coded Into Unthinking Programs

MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini started the project as a trivial “bathroom mirror” message

Coded Bias, a new documentary by 7th Empire Media that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, looks at the ways algorithms and machine learning can perpetuate racism, sexism, and infringements on civil liberties. The film calls for accountability and transparency in artificial intelligence systems, which are algorithms that sift large amounts of data to make predictions, as well as regulations on how these systems can be used and who has access to the data. The documentary follows the path of MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini. Buolamwini took a class on science fiction and technology in which one of her assignments was to create a piece of technology that isn’t necessarily useful but is inspired by science fiction. Buolamwini…

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robot working with digital display

Can Robots Be Less Biased Than Their Creators?

We often think of robots as mindless but the minds of their creators are behind them

In some ways, it’s an odd question. Many of us would think of a robot as the opposite of bias. But the reality is that, because everything the robot is and does is a consequence of human actions, a robot could in fact be very biased. How will we know? Some AI developers are attempting to deal with this question: Last summer, hundreds of A.I. and robotics researchers signed statements committing themselves to changing the way their fields work. One statement, from the organization Black in Computing, sounded an alarm that “the technologies we help create to benefit society are also disrupting Black communities through the proliferation of racial profiling.” Another manifesto, “No Justice, No Robots,” commits its signers to…

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3D rendering of a futuristic robot dog.

Questions Dog the Future of Police Robots

Robots will have all the human judgment flaws but none of the capacity to change

Here’s a snippet from a recent New York Times article on the apparent first use of police robots in the United States in 2016, to kill Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson had been discharged from the U.S. Army under unclear circumstances and in July of that year he shot five officers dead. Like almost all police robots in use today, the Dallas device was a straightforward remote-control platform. But more sophisticated robots are being developed in labs around the world, and they will use artificial intelligence to do much more. A robot with algorithms for, say, facial recognition, or predicting people’s actions, or deciding on its own to fire “nonlethal” projectiles is a robot that many researchers find problematic. The reason:…

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Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

How Toxic Bias Infiltrates Computer Code

A look at the dark underbelly of modern algorithms

The newly released documentary Coded Bias from Shalini Kantayya takes the viewer on a tour of the way modern algorithms can undermine justice and society and are actively subverting justice at the present moment. Coded Bias highlights many under-discussed issues regarding data and its usage by governments and corporations. While its prescriptions for government usage of data are well considered, the issue of corporate use of data involves many additional issues that the film skirts entirely. As the film points out, we are presented these algorithms as if they were a form of intelligence. But they are actually just math—and this math can be used to, intentionally or unintentionally, encode biases. In fact, as Bradley Center fellows Robert J. Marks…

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student term paper showing 'a' grade

Can a Computer Write Your Paper for You Someday Soon?

GPT-3 recently came up with a paragraph that—a pop psychologist agreed—sounded just like him

This summer the OpenAI lab, backed by $1 billion in funding from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, released an updated version of GPT-3, a text generator that produces convincing sentences by analyzing, among other online sources, Wikipedia, countless blog posts, and thousands of digital books. According to a recent story by Cade Metz in the New York Times, one GPT-3 programmer decided to target pop psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. Could GPT-3 really come up with a paragraph that sounded just like him? Kaufman himself (pictured) was really impressed with this one, on the subject of becoming more creative: I think creative expression is a natural byproduct of growing up in a diverse world. The more diverse the world is, the more…

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Analysis of a sample of water from a river or sea, ocean. The scientist in the glove took water in a test tube.

Information Today Is Like Water in the Ocean. How Do We Test It?

Often, we must sort through many layers of bias in information to get at the facts that matter
Examining specific types of bias in our thinking will help us evaluate the information on key issues that inundates us today. Read More ›
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Ethics Integrity Fairness Ideals Behavior Values Concept

AI: Design Ethics vs. End User Ethics — the Difference Is Important

The major ethical challenge in AI design is unintended consequences. It’s up to end users to debate which consequences SHOULD be intended. Read More ›
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Digital globe with mosaic of images

Why Some Nation States Are Banning TikTok

The United States is not alone in questioning the social medium’s allegiance to the Chinese government

Why is TikTok so controversial? It’s the first Chinese technology company that has reached a billion users outside of China. Its main demographic is Generation Z—teens and twenty-somethings. If you take a look at TikTok videos, most are goofy and irreverent. They’re frenetic shorts of everything from fashion tips to pranks and, of course, (bad) dancing. TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What could go wrong? Here’s what. Working with China, as Disney and the NBA can attest, comes with certain strings attached, including acquiescing to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules for acceptable speech. Because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company (although partly owned by investors from the U.S. and Japan), the Chinese Communist…

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Robot typing on keyboard

Bingecast: George Montañez on Intelligence and the Turing Test

What do computer scientists say about the ability of machines to think? Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, tackled the question in 1950 and proposed the Turing test as an answer. Is the Turing test important today? Can a deeper undertanding of intelligence be culled for the Turing test? Robert J. Marks discusses the Turing test, artificial intelligence,…

Chatbot / Social Bot mit Quellcode im Hintergrund
Chatbot / Social Bot mit Quellcode im Hintergrund

Can Machines Think?

What do computer scientists say about the ability of machines to think? Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, tackled the question in 1950 and proposed the Turing test as an answer. Is the Turing test important today? Robert J. Marks discusses the Turing test with Dr. George Montañez. Show Notes 00:55 | Introducing Dr. George Montañez, Iris and…

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A Closer Look at Google’s Search Engine Bias

If Google’s CEO honestly believes that there is no political bias, that is, in itself, a big part of the problem
If Sundar Pichai thinks that there is no bias in Google's algorithms, he is arguing against the nature of writing algorithms itself—not a good position for a computer guy to be in. Read More ›
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Stones balanced on table with a pen

Can Computer Algorithms Be Free of Bias?

Bias is inevitable but it should be recognized and admitted

Gregory Coppola’s revelations about Google’s politically biased search engine shone a spotlight on how algorithms are written.

Read More ›
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AI: Think About Ethics Before Trouble Arises

A machine learning specialist reflects on Micah 6:8 as a guide to developing ethics for the rapidly growing profession
To love mercy sometimes means to give up efficiency. It could mean losing a few points of model accuracy by refusing to take into account features that invade privacy or are proxies for race, leading to discriminatory model behavior. But that’s OK. The merciful are willing to give up some of their rights and advantages so they can help others.   Read More ›
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Did AI teach itself to “not like” women?

No, the program did not teach itself anything. But the situation taught the company something important about what we can safely automate.

Back in 2014, it was a “holy grail” machine learning program, developed in Scotland, that would sift through online resumes, using a one-to-five star rating system and cull the top five of 100, saving time and money. Within a year, a problem surfaced: It was “not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way.”

Read More ›
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GIGO alert: AI can be racist and sexist, researchers complain

Can the bias problem be addressed? Yes, but usually after someone gets upset about a specific instance.

From James Zou and Londa Ziebinger at Nature: When Google Translate converts news articles written in Spanish into English, phrases referring to women often become ‘he said’ or ‘he wrote’. Software designed to warn people using Nikon cameras when the person they are photographing seems to be blinking tends to interpret Asians as always blinking. Word embedding, a popular algorithm used to process and analyse large amounts of natural-language data, characterizes European American names as pleasant and African American ones as unpleasant. Now where, we wonder, would a mathematical formula have learned that? Maybe it was listening to the wrong instructions back when it was just a tiny bit? Seriously, machine learning, we are told, depends on  absorbing datasets of…