On AI and Existential Risk

[Updated 2015-05-24] Discussions of the existential risk of artificial intelligence mostly center on the possible consequences of intelligence explosion. This is a hypothetical moment where a general purpose AI works out how to reprogram itself to make itself more intelligent. This leads to a feedback loop, and before long the AI is hundreds of times more intelligent than any human. This, it is imagined, leads to disaster for humanity. It’s becoming quite trendy to worry about this scenario, particularly amongst members of the rational community.

GamerGate’s origin story

As the list of people supporting #GamerGate gets shorter and shorter, some are still suggesting that it was a legitimate movement for ethics in journalism that only got corrupted by misogyny later on. I’m sure that there are people who genuinely believe this. Unfortunately, it’s not true. GamerGate started out as slut-shaming and revenge, so here’s the history with dates and links to the sources. On 2014-08-12, Eron Gjoni posted The Zoe Post on WordPress.

The rat

We were sitting in a neighborhood café when I saw her. Someone had lost interest in their lunch, and had dumped a plate half-full of food onto the top of the gray plastic tub where the used coffee cups go. She was sitting nearby, nibbling at a piece of pita bread she had grabbed from the plate, her whiskers glinting in the afternoon sunlight. I sipped my iced coffee and watched.

Python drama circus

So, the ongoing Python dongle joke kerfuffle. My main thought is that nobody cares what I think, but that hasn’t stopped anyone else, so here goes: Everybody involved in this story has behaved like an idiot. Let’s have a quick run-down: Dick jokes during a keynote presentation is bad behavior. In fact, unnecessary conversation during a keynote is bad behavior. You’re there to listen, keep it quiet. Plus, the language is called Python, we can come up with our own dick jokes.

“Of Parrots And People” by Mira Tweti

Full title: Of Parrots and People: The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating, and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species This is an important book. It’s not an easy book to read, by any means, but if you’ve ever considered getting any kind of parrot as a pet, you need to read this book. (Yes, the author’s real name is “Tweti”, and yes, it’s pronounced “tweety”.) There are estimated to be 50-60 million pet parrots in the USA.

Business ethics and telemarketing

InfoUSA is a list broker, a company that aggregates personal data and sells it to telemarketers and catalog sales companies. The New York Times reports: InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible.

Jason Fortuny for hopefully the last time

It’s not surprising to find that while Jason Fortuny can dish out people’s private information, he isn’t as happy when his public information is publicized. While he continues to bluster about not being scared of the people he lied to and embarrassed, I note that he has removed his address and phone number from his whois entry. When someone posted a summary of his criminal record on his journal, he deleted the posting.

Clinically shown to induce distrust

There’s a new service out there called PayPerPost. Basically, you get paid for posting ads in your online journal. So far, so ho-hum. One thing that makes this one a bit different is that the ads aren’t separated into their own section alongside your postings, like Google AdWords; rather, the postings themselves are the ads. Furthermore, buyers get to dictate the wording of the links. In addition, the question of disclosure is left entirely open.

Business ethics, Part 1

Thank you, Bush administration. I’ve just been required to spend the most mind-numbing couple of hours carefully reading page after page of ethical guidelines. Rules that should be blatantly obvious to anyone with any ethical sense whatsoever. It’s all about ensuring that I don’t do things like take Dick Cheney out to the Country Club in order to get juicy government contracts on a no-bid basis, or organize a price-fixing system to defraud California.

The Miracle of Birth, Part 2

One of the biggest problems in medical research is testing. When a disease only affects humans, animal testing is no use, and it’s often tough to get enough volunteers to test drugs which are possibly worthless, or even dangerous. The massive multinational GlaxoSmithKline faced this problem in 1995. They had a number of experimental AIDS drigs they needed to test, and they just couldn’t find enough volunteers. Happily, they were able to obtain assistance from the Catholic Church, who run an orphanage in New York called the Incarnation Children’s Center.