The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

For most of human history advancements in philosophy unfolded at roughly the same pace as advancements in technology. With the dawn of the Industrial Age the pace of technological advancement accelerated dramatically. We have also shifted the focus of human ingenuity from philosophy to science. The great minds of today are not thinking about reality, existence, values, reason, or equality. They are working on artificial intelligence and splicing the human genome.

Left behind are the weighty moral questions raised by scientific progress. The best philosophical thinking about artificial intelligence was codified 75 years ago by a science fiction author. Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics assumed robots and artificial intelligence were the same thing. How quaint.

Carlos Bueno explores Justifiable AI at ribbonfarm:

Can an artificial intelligence break the law? Suppose one did. Would you take it to court? Would you make it testify, to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

We need more smart people thinking about philosophy.

Drivel from Windbags

Jeff Zucker, President of CNN spoke at the FT Future of News conference in New York City. He blasted Fox News: “It is really state-run TV. It is a pure propaganda machine, and I think does an incredible disservice to this country.”

Hannity retorts on Twitter: “Jeff, there is a reason crowds chant CNN Sucks.”

CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are exactly the same. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to research and validate enough newsworthy facts to fill a 24×7 TV broadcast. The smart people whose deeply reasoned opinions I value don’t work in TV. These so called news channels maybe have an hour of worthwhile content per day. Cutting the broadcast to an hour a day is not compatible with their economic sustainability.

We are stuck with drivel from windbags, whose only real talent is filling airtime.

I Deleted My Facebook Account

I haven’t used Facebook much at all over the last few years. My last post was 15 months ago and it’s been more than three years since I logged in more than once a month. I stopped using it because the value I received was not worth the huge time suck. Plus the ads were terrible (I shudder to think what the ads are like today). I also hated (and still hate) the we-will-show-you-what-we-want-you-to-see-when-we-want-you-to-see-it news feed algorithm. I remember when the news feed just a chronological list of updates from your friends, and I liked it.

This morning I did a little research on how to delete my account. It appeared to me that I had to delete Facebook and Messenger separately. So I installed the Messenger app on my phone (which I have never used before in my life), and logged in so I could delete my Messenger account, which apparently you can only do from the mobile app. I was immediately reminded why I think Facebook is creepy. Within seconds I had a handful of inbound messages.

I finally got both my Messenger account and my Facebook account deleted. I also deleted my Instagram account. I never signed up for WhatsApp. Facebook says it could be “up to 90 days” before my data is really gone. That assumes that you trust Facebook to really delete the data. I trust Facebook no more than Facebook trusted Cambridge Analytica.

Zuck’s explainer post from two days ago (no link because FB doesn’t deserve it) doesn’t contain an apology, but he does admit that there was “a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook”. In 2013 Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University, created a personality quiz app which gathered data on 300,000 Facebook users, as well as a yet undisclosed number of those users friends. Since that time, Facebook has indeed made some changes to the policies third party developers must comply with. But those changes were not made to protect my privacy, they were made to ensure that Facebook was the only entity that could financially benefit from my data.

There was a time when I thought Facebook was cool. For me that mirage evaporated in 2010 when Business Insider published an IM exchange Zuckerberg had with a friend, where he boasts of having personal information on 4,000 Harvard students, and being happy to share it. When his friend asks how he got all the information, Mark boasts that people “trust me” and then calls us “dumb fucks”.

Mark’s explainers about privacy have gotten much smoother since then, but the fact remains that Facebook exists today because it sells my private information to anyone and everyone who is willing to pay. To make it worse, they claim just the opposite. If they don’t sell my data, what are those who pay Facebook buying?

Facebook is creepy and untrustworthy. I feel really good about permanently severing my association with that company.

Apple is Not Getting In To Healthcare

Gallons of virtual ink have been spilled drooling over Apple’s recent announcement about an onsite wellness clinic. The robowriters at Fortune rave that Apple Joining Amazon, Warren Buffet in Health Care Business. The fools wonder if Apple could become your primary care provider.

What really happened is Apple switched the onsite clinic provider from Crossover Health to AC Wellness, which may or may not be partially or completely owned by Apple.

Apple has 123,000 employees, and they likely spend approximately $9,000 per year per employee on healthcare premiums. Anybody who spends north of a billion dollars a year on healthcare will scrutinize that expense pretty carefully.

Apple’s primary motivator for this change is most likely a way to reduce their cost of providing an onsite clinic. When you strip away the marketing blather, the financial benefits of an onsite clinic are more about reducing absenteeism for employees who would otherwise have to drive through California traffic to get to and from the doctor. It’s the same reason there is a cafeteria in Apple Park.

Onsite clinics are neither innovative nor new. A wide range of employers from many industries have had onsite clinics for more than 25 years. Apple is not getting into the healthcare business, they are just prudently managing their expenses.

It’s a Trap

Shares of Long Island Ice Tea Corp., an unprofitable beverage maker based in NY, were up 289 percent yesterday. The reason? They renamed themselves Long Blockchain Corp. What do they have to do with blockchain technology? Absolutely nothing.

Definitely a bubble.

It’s Always the Media’s Fault

In 2013, news reports accused the IRS of illegally delaying or denying tax exempt status for conservative non-profit groups. The IRS “lost” a bunch of emails from people at the heart of the controversy, stonewalled congressional investigators by failing to respond to congressional subpoenas, repeatedly destroyed documents that had been subpoenaed, and refused to testify in hearings.

In this 2014 interview with Bill O’Reilly, then President Obama asserted:

  1. The investigations thus far had uncovered what actually happened.
  2. “Bone-headed decisions” had been made at the IRS.
  3. There was not mass corruption at the IRS, in fact there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption.”
  4. This was only an issue because Fox News kept promoting the story.

Besides the congressional investigation, the FBI launched their own investigation and unsurprisingly found no evidence of wrongdoing. A subsequent Justice Department inquiry found no evidence of illegal activity or the partisan targeting of political groups and found that no IRS official attempted to obstruct justice.

36 Tea Party and other conservative groups brought their own lawsuit against the IRS. After four years, in a consent order filed this week in federal court:

The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determinations process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding of some Plaintiffs’ information that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.

….

The Court hereby declares that discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint in administering the United States tax code violates fundamental First Amendment rights. Disparate treatment of taxpayers based solely on the taxpayers’ names, any lawful positions the taxpayers espouse on any issues, or the taxpayers’ associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position, or viewpoint is unlawful.

The IRS did break the law, and a corrupt IRS inspector, FBI, and Justice Department covered it up.

But it’s the media’s fault.

The Birth of a New Nation

It’s neither quick nor easy to create a new nation. Today, a majority of the members of the Catalan Parliament declared independence from Spain, making today the day that will be celebrated for generations to come. This follows a referendum vote nearly a month ago which was also overwhelmingly in favor of secession.

The Rajoy government of Spain promptly deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet and disbanded the Catalan Parliament. Madrid will seek to assert direct financial, civic, and law enforcement authority over the region.

Thus far the fledgling republic is on its own, with no recognition of statehood by any other nation. Germany, France, the UK, and the United States have all sided with Spain. The road ahead for Catalonia is fraught with peril, and the outcome far from certain, but I admire the courage of any people who are willing to “take this step on our feet, with our heads held high. Not on our knees like subjects, but as free people without fear.”

Godspeed to the Catalans, for they will surely need it.

Misguided Priorities

Dear Bluetooth SIG,

Thanks for releasing your newest specification for mesh networking over Bluetooth. I’m sure you believe this will be a great. I have a better idea. Why don’t you figure out how to make your existing stuff not suck. In your presser you thrice describe Bluetooth as “simple, secure connectivity”. I assume you don’t have a car with Bluetooth connectivity, because it’s anything but simple. You must never have owned a Bluetooth speaker either, because they require an immense amount of fiddling every time I want to connect. I’d describe the current state of Bluetooth as mediocre.

Why don’t you make your existing stuff bulletproof before adding on something as notoriously complex as mesh networking?