Tag Archives: Human being
'Moralities of Intelligent Machines' is a project that investigates people's attitudes towards moral choices made by artificial intelligence. In the latest study completed under the project, study participants read short narratives where either a robot, a somewhat humanoid robot known as iRobot, a robot with a strong humanoid appearance called iClooney or a human being encounters a moral problem along the lines of the trolley dilemma, making a specific decision. The participants were also shown images of these agents, after which they assessed the morality of their decisions. The study was funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation and the Academy of Finland. Continue reading
This Chinese Lab Is Aiming for Big AI Breakthroughs
Will Knight | Wired
“China produces as many artificial intelligence researchers as the US, but it lags in key fields like machine learning. The government hopes to make up ground. …It set AI researchers the goal of making ‘fundamental breakthroughs by 2025’ and called for the country to be ‘the world’s primary innovation center by 2030.’ BAAI opened a year later, in Zhongguancun, a neighborhood of Beijing designed to replicate US innovation hubs such as Boston and Silicon Valley.”
What Elon Musk’s $100 Million Carbon Capture Prize Could Mean
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“[Elon Musk] announced on Twitter that he plans to give away $100 million of [his $180 billion net worth] as a prize for the ‘best carbon capture technology.’ …Another $100 million could certainly help whatever venture, or ventures, clinch Musk’s prize. But it’s a tiny fraction of his wealth and will also only go so far. …Money aside, however, one thing Musk has a particular knack for is generating attention. And this is a space in need of it.”
Synthetic Cornea Helped a Legally Blind Man Regain His Sight
Steve Dent | Engadget
“While the implant doesn’t contain any electronics, it could help more people than any robotic eye. ‘After years of hard work, seeing a colleague implant the CorNeat KPro with ease and witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving, there were a lot of tears in the room,’ said CorNeat Vision co-founder Dr. Gilad Litvin.”
MIT Develops Method for Lab-Grown Plants That May Eventually Lead to Alternatives to Forestry and Farming
Darrell Etherington | TechCrunch
“If the work of these researchers can eventually be used to create a way to produce lab-grown wood for use in construction and fabrication in a way that’s scalable and efficient, then there’s tremendous potential in terms of reducing the impact on forestry globally. Eventually, the team even theorizes you could coax the growth of plant-based materials into specific target shapes, so you could also do some of the manufacturing in the lab, by growing a wood table directly for instance.”
FAA Approves First Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights
Andy Pasztor and Katy Stech Ferek | The Wall Street Journal
“US aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers. …The company’s Scout drones operate under predetermined flight programs and use acoustic technology to detect and avoid drones, birds, and other obstacles.”
China’s Surging Private Space Industry Is Out to Challenge the US
Neel V. Patel | MIT Technology Review
“[The Ceres-1] was a commercial rocket—only the second from a Chinese company ever to go into space. And the launch happened less than three years after the company was founded. The achievement is a milestone for China’s fledgling—but rapidly growing—private space industry, an increasingly critical part of the country’s quest to dethrone the US as the world’s preeminent space power.”
Janet Yellen Will Consider Limiting Use of Cryptocurrency
Timothy B. Lee | Ars Technica
“Cryptocurrencies could come under renewed regulatory scrutiny over the next four years if Janet Yellen, Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Treasury Department, gets her way. During Yellen’s Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked Yellen about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorists and other criminals. ‘Cryptocurrencies are a particular concern,’ Yellen responded. ‘I think many are used—at least in a transactions sense—mainly for illicit financing.’i”
Secret Ingredient Found to Power Supernovas
Thomas Lewton | Quanta
“…Only in the last few years, with the growth of supercomputers, have theorists had enough computing power to model massive stars with the complexity needed to achieve explosions. …These new simulations are giving researchers a better understanding of exactly how supernovas have shaped the universe we see today.”
Image Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash Continue reading
It may be theoretically impossible for humans to control a superintelligent AI, a new study finds. Worse still, the research also quashes any hope for detecting such an unstoppable AI when it’s on the verge of being created.
Slightly less grim is the timetable. By at least one estimate, many decades lie ahead before any such existential computational reckoning could be in the cards for humanity.
Alongside news of AI besting humans at games such as chess, Go and Jeopardy have come fears that superintelligent machines smarter than the best human minds might one day run amok. “The question about whether superintelligence could be controlled if created is quite old,” says study lead author Manuel Alfonseca, a computer scientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid. “It goes back at least to Asimov’s First Law of Robotics, in the 1940s.”
The Three Laws of Robotics, first introduced in Isaac Asimov's 1942 short story “Runaround,” are as follows:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
In 2014, philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, not only explored ways in which a superintelligent AI could destroy us but also investigated potential control strategies for such a machine—and the reasons they might not work.
Bostrom outlined two possible types of solutions of this “control problem.” One is to control what the AI can do, such as keeping it from connecting to the Internet, and the other is to control what it wants to do, such as teaching it rules and values so it would act in the best interests of humanity. The problem with the former is that Bostrom thought a supersmart machine could probably break free from any bonds we could make. With the latter, he essentially feared that humans might not be smart enough to train a superintelligent AI.
Now Alfonseca and his colleagues suggest it may be impossible to control a superintelligent AI, due to fundamental limits inherent to computing itself. They detailed their findings this month in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research.
The researchers suggested that any algorithm that sought to ensure a superintelligent AI cannot harm people had to first simulate the machine’s behavior to predict the potential consequences of its actions. This containment algorithm then would need to halt the supersmart machine if it might indeed do harm.
However, the scientists said it was impossible for any containment algorithm to simulate the AI’s behavior and predict with absolute certainty whether its actions might lead to harm. The algorithm could fail to correctly simulate the AI’s behavior or accurately predict the consequences of the AI’s actions and not recognize such failures.
“Asimov’s first law of robotics has been proved to be incomputable,” Alfonseca says, “and therefore unfeasible.”
We may not even know if we have created a superintelligent machine, the researchers say. This is a consequence of Rice’s theorem, which essentially states that one cannot in general figure anything out about what a computer program might output just by looking at the program, Alfonseca explains.
On the other hand, there’s no need to spruce up the guest room for our future robot overlords quite yet. Three important caveats to the research still leave plenty of uncertainty to the group’s predictions.
First, Alfonseca estimates AI’s moment of truth remains, he says, “At least two centuries in the future.”
Second, he says researchers do not know if so-called artificial general intelligence, also known as strong AI, is theoretically even feasible. “That is, a machine as intelligent as we are in an ample variety of fields,” Alfonseca explains.
Last, Alfonseca says, “We have not proved that superintelligences can never be controlled—only that they can’t always be controlled.”
Although it may not be possible to control a superintelligent artificial general intelligence, it should be possible to control a superintelligent narrow AI—one specialized for certain functions instead of being capable of a broad range of tasks like humans. “We already have superintelligences of this type,” Alfonseca says. “For instance, we have machines that can compute mathematics much faster than we can. This is [narrow] superintelligence, isn’t it?” Continue reading
Getting a car to drive itself is undoubtedly the most ambitious commercial application of artificial intelligence (AI). The research project was kicked into life by the 2004 DARPA Urban Challenge and then taken up as a business proposition, first by Alphabet, and later by the big automakers.
The industry-wide effort vacuumed up many of the world’s best roboticists and set rival companies on a multibillion-dollar acquisitions spree. It also launched a cycle of hype that paraded ever more ambitious deadlines—the most famous of which, made by Alphabet’s Sergei Brin in 2012, was that full self-driving technology would be ready by 2017. Those deadlines have all been missed.
Much of the exhilaration was inspired by the seeming miracles that a new kind of AI—deep learning—was achieving in playing games, recognizing faces, and transliterating voices. Deep learning excels at tasks involving pattern recognition—a particular challenge for older, rule-based AI techniques. However, it now seems that deep learning will not soon master the other intellectual challenges of driving, such as anticipating what human beings might do.
Among the roboticists who have been involved from the start are Gill Pratt, the chief executive officer of Toyota Research Institute (TRI) , formerly a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and Wolfram Burgard, vice president of automated driving technology for TRI and president of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. The duo spoke with IEEE Spectrum’s Philip Ross at TRI’s offices in Palo Alto, Calif.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
IEEE Spectrum: How does AI handle the various parts of the self-driving problem?
Gill Pratt: There are three different systems that you need in a self-driving car: It starts with perception, then goes to prediction, and then goes to planning.
The one that by far is the most problematic is prediction. It’s not prediction of other automated cars, because if all cars were automated, this problem would be much more simple. How do you predict what a human being is going to do? That’s difficult for deep learning to learn right now.
Spectrum: Can you offset the weakness in prediction with stupendous perception?
Photo: Toyota Research Institute for Burgard
Wolfram Burgard: Yes, that is what car companies basically do. A camera provides semantics, lidar provides distance, radar provides velocities. But all this comes with problems, because sometimes you look at the world from different positions—that’s called parallax. Sometimes you don’t know which range estimate that pixel belongs to. That might make the decision complicated as to whether that is a person painted onto the side of a truck or whether this is an actual person.
With deep learning there is this promise that if you throw enough data at these networks, it’s going to work—finally. But it turns out that the amount of data that you need for self-driving cars is far larger than we expected.
Spectrum: When do deep learning’s limitations become apparent?
Pratt: The way to think about deep learning is that it’s really high-performance pattern matching. You have input and output as training pairs; you say this image should lead to that result; and you just do that again and again, for hundreds of thousands, millions of times.
Here’s the logical fallacy that I think most people have fallen prey to with deep learning. A lot of what we do with our brains can be thought of as pattern matching: “Oh, I see this stop sign, so I should stop.” But it doesn’t mean all of intelligence can be done through pattern matching.
“I asked myself, if all of those cars had automated drive, how good would they have to be to tolerate the number of crashes that would still occur?”
—Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute
For instance, when I’m driving and I see a mother holding the hand of a child on a corner and trying to cross the street, I am pretty sure she’s not going to cross at a red light and jaywalk. I know from my experience being a human being that mothers and children don’t act that way. On the other hand, say there are two teenagers—with blue hair, skateboards, and a disaffected look. Are they going to jaywalk? I look at that, you look at that, and instantly the probability in your mind that they’ll jaywalk is much higher than for the mother holding the hand of the child. It’s not that you’ve seen 100,000 cases of young kids—it’s that you understand what it is to be either a teenager or a mother holding a child’s hand.
You can try to fake that kind of intelligence. If you specifically train a neural network on data like that, you could pattern-match that. But you’d have to know to do it.
Spectrum: So you’re saying that when you substitute pattern recognition for reasoning, the marginal return on the investment falls off pretty fast?
Pratt: That’s absolutely right. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to make an AI that thinks yet, so we don’t know what to do. We keep trying to use the deep-learning hammer to hammer more nails—we say, well, let’s just pour more data in, and more data.
Spectrum: Couldn’t you train the deep-learning system to recognize teenagers and to assign the category a high propensity for jaywalking?
Burgard: People have been doing that. But it turns out that these heuristics you come up with are extremely hard to tweak. Also, sometimes the heuristics are contradictory, which makes it extremely hard to design these expert systems based on rules. This is where the strength of the deep-learning methods lies, because somehow they encode a way to see a pattern where, for example, here’s a feature and over there is another feature; it’s about the sheer number of parameters you have available.
Our separation of the components of a self-driving AI eases the development and even the learning of the AI systems. Some companies even think about using deep learning to do the job fully, from end to end, not having any structure at all—basically, directly mapping perceptions to actions.
Pratt: There are companies that have tried it; Nvidia certainly tried it. In general, it’s been found not to work very well. So people divide the problem into blocks, where we understand what each block does, and we try to make each block work well. Some of the blocks end up more like the expert system we talked about, where we actually code things, and other blocks end up more like machine learning.
Spectrum: So, what’s next—what new technique is in the offing?
Pratt: If I knew the answer, we’d do it. [Laughter]
Spectrum: You said that if all cars on the road were automated, the problem would be easy. Why not “geofence” the heck out of the self-driving problem, and have areas where only self-driving cars are allowed?
Pratt: That means putting in constraints on the operational design domain. This includes the geography—where the car should be automated; it includes the weather, it includes the level of traffic, it includes speed. If the car is going slow enough to avoid colliding without risking a rear-end collision, that makes the problem much easier. Street trolleys operate with traffic still in some parts of the world, and that seems to work out just fine. People learn that this vehicle may stop at unexpected times. My suspicion is, that is where we’ll see Level 4 autonomy in cities. It’s going to be in the lower speeds.
“We are now in the age of deep learning, and we don’t know what will come after.”
—Wolfram Burgard, Toyota Research Institute
That’s a sweet spot in the operational design domain, without a doubt. There’s another one at high speed on a highway, because access to highways is so limited. But unfortunately there is still the occasional debris that suddenly crosses the road, and the weather gets bad. The classic example is when somebody irresponsibly ties a mattress to the top of a car and it falls off; what are you going to do? And the answer is that terrible things happen—even for humans.
Spectrum: Learning by doing worked for the first cars, the first planes, the first steam boilers, and even the first nuclear reactors. We ran risks then; why not now?
Pratt: It has to do with the times. During the era where cars took off, all kinds of accidents happened, women died in childbirth, all sorts of diseases ran rampant; the expected characteristic of life was that bad things happened. Expectations have changed. Now the chance of dying in some freak accident is quite low because of all the learning that’s gone on, the OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] rules, UL code for electrical appliances, all the building standards, medicine.
Furthermore—and we think this is very important—we believe that empathy for a human being at the wheel is a significant factor in public acceptance when there is a crash. We don’t know this for sure—it’s a speculation on our part. I’ve driven, I’ve had close calls; that could have been me that made that mistake and had that wreck. I think people are more tolerant when somebody else makes mistakes, and there’s an awful crash. In the case of an automated car, we worry that that empathy won’t be there.
Toyota is using this
Platform 4 automated driving test vehicle, based on the Lexus LS, to develop Level-4 self-driving capabilities for its “Chauffeur” project.
Spectrum: Toyota is building a system called Guardian to back up the driver, and a more futuristic system called Chauffeur, to replace the driver. How can Chauffeur ever succeed? It has to be better than a human plus Guardian!
Pratt: In the discussions we’ve had with others in this field, we’ve talked about that a lot. What is the standard? Is it a person in a basic car? Or is it a person with a car that has active safety systems in it? And what will people think is good enough?
These systems will never be perfect—there will always be some accidents, and no matter how hard we try there will still be occasions where there will be some fatalities. At what threshold are people willing to say that’s okay?
Spectrum: You were among the first top researchers to warn against hyping self-driving technology. What did you see that so many other players did not?
Pratt: First, in my own case, during my time at DARPA I worked on robotics, not cars. So I was somewhat of an outsider. I was looking at it from a fresh perspective, and that helps a lot.
Second, [when I joined Toyota in 2015] I was joining a company that is very careful—even though we have made some giant leaps—with the Prius hybrid drive system as an example. Even so, in general, the philosophy at Toyota is kaizen—making the cars incrementally better every single day. That care meant that I was tasked with thinking very deeply about this thing before making prognostications.
And the final part: It was a new job for me. The first night after I signed the contract I felt this incredible responsibility. I couldn’t sleep that whole night, so I started to multiply out the numbers, all using a factor of 10. How many cars do we have on the road? Cars on average last 10 years, though ours last 20, but let’s call it 10. They travel on an order of 10,000 miles per year. Multiply all that out and you get 10 to the 10th miles per year for our fleet on Planet Earth, a really big number. I asked myself, if all of those cars had automated drive, how good would they have to be to tolerate the number of crashes that would still occur? And the answer was so incredibly good that I knew it would take a long time. That was five years ago.
Burgard: We are now in the age of deep learning, and we don’t know what will come after. We are still making progress with existing techniques, and they look very promising. But the gradient is not as steep as it was a few years ago.
Pratt: There isn’t anything that’s telling us that it can’t be done; I should be very clear on that. Just because we don’t know how to do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Continue reading
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man,” Data, an android crew member of the Enterprise, is to be dismantled for research purposes unless Captain Picard can argue that Data deserves the same rights as a human being. Naturally the question arises: What is the basis upon which something has rights? What gives an entity moral standing?
The philosopher Peter Singer argues that creatures that can feel pain or suffer have a claim to moral standing. He argues that nonhuman animals have moral standing, since they can feel pain and suffer. Limiting it to people would be a form of speciesism, something akin to racism and sexism.
Without endorsing Singer’s line of reasoning, we might wonder if it can be extended further to an android robot like Data. It would require that Data can either feel pain or suffer. And how you answer that depends on how you understand consciousness and intelligence.
As real artificial intelligence technology advances toward Hollywood’s imagined versions, the question of moral standing grows more important. If AIs have moral standing, philosophers like me reason, it could follow that they have a right to life. That means you cannot simply dismantle them, and might also mean that people shouldn’t interfere with their pursuing their goals.
Two Flavors of Intelligence and a Test
IBM’s Deep Blue chess machine was successfully trained to beat grandmaster Gary Kasparov. But it could not do anything else. This computer had what’s called domain-specific intelligence.
On the other hand, there’s the kind of intelligence that allows for the ability to do a variety of things well. It is called domain-general intelligence. It’s what lets people cook, ski, and raise children—tasks that are related, but also very different.
Artificial general intelligence, AGI, is the term for machines that have domain-general intelligence. Arguably no machine has yet demonstrated that kind of intelligence. This summer, a startup called OpenAI released a new version of its Generative Pre-Training language model. GPT-3 is a natural language processing system, trained to read and write so that it can be easily understood by people.
It drew immediate notice, not just because of its impressive ability to mimic stylistic flourishes and put together plausible content, but also because of how far it had come from a previous version. Despite this impressive performance, GPT-3 doesn’t actually know anything beyond how to string words together in various ways. AGI remains quite far off.
Named after pioneering AI researcher Alan Turing, the Turing test helps determine when an AI is intelligent. Can a person conversing with a hidden AI tell whether it’s an AI or a human being? If he can’t, then for all practical purposes, the AI is intelligent. But this test says nothing about whether the AI might be conscious.
Two Kinds of Consciousness
There are two parts to consciousness. First, there’s the what-it’s-like-for-me aspect of an experience, the sensory part of consciousness. Philosophers call this phenomenal consciousness. It’s about how you experience a phenomenon, like smelling a rose or feeling pain.
In contrast, there’s also access consciousness. That’s the ability to report, reason, behave, and act in a coordinated and responsive manner to stimuli based on goals. For example, when I pass the soccer ball to my friend making a play on the goal, I am responding to visual stimuli, acting from prior training, and pursuing a goal determined by the rules of the game. I make the pass automatically, without conscious deliberation, in the flow of the game.
Blindsight nicely illustrates the difference between the two types of consciousness. Someone with this neurological condition might report, for example, that they cannot see anything in the left side of their visual field. But if asked to pick up a pen from an array of objects in the left side of their visual field, they can reliably do so. They cannot see the pen, yet they can pick it up when prompted—an example of access consciousness without phenomenal consciousness.
Data is an android. How do these distinctions play out with respect to him?
The Data Dilemma
The android Data demonstrates that he is self-aware in that he can monitor whether or not, for example, he is optimally charged or there is internal damage to his robotic arm.
Data is also intelligent in the general sense. He does a lot of distinct things at a high level of mastery. He can fly the Enterprise, take orders from Captain Picard and reason with him about the best path to take.
He can also play poker with his shipmates, cook, discuss topical issues with close friends, fight with enemies on alien planets, and engage in various forms of physical labor. Data has access consciousness. He would clearly pass the Turing test.
However, Data most likely lacks phenomenal consciousness—he does not, for example, delight in the scent of roses or experience pain. He embodies a supersized version of blindsight. He’s self-aware and has access consciousness—can grab the pen—but across all his senses he lacks phenomenal consciousness.
Now, if Data doesn’t feel pain, at least one of the reasons Singer offers for giving a creature moral standing is not fulfilled. But Data might fulfill the other condition of being able to suffer, even without feeling pain. Suffering might not require phenomenal consciousness the way pain essentially does.
For example, what if suffering were also defined as the idea of being thwarted from pursuing a just cause without causing harm to others? Suppose Data’s goal is to save his crewmate, but he can’t reach her because of damage to one of his limbs. Data’s reduction in functioning that keeps him from saving his crewmate is a kind of nonphenomenal suffering. He would have preferred to save the crewmate, and would be better off if he did.
In the episode, the question ends up resting not on whether Data is self-aware—that is not in doubt. Nor is it in question whether he is intelligent—he easily demonstrates that he is in the general sense. What is unclear is whether he is phenomenally conscious. Data is not dismantled because, in the end, his human judges cannot agree on the significance of consciousness for moral standing.
Should an AI Get Moral Standing?
Data is kind; he acts to support the well-being of his crewmates and those he encounters on alien planets. He obeys orders from people and appears unlikely to harm them, and he seems to protect his own existence. For these reasons he appears peaceful and easier to accept into the realm of things that have moral standing.
But what about Skynet in the Terminator movies? Or the worries recently expressed by Elon Musk about AI being more dangerous than nukes, and by Stephen Hawking on AI ending humankind?
Human beings don’t lose their claim to moral standing just because they act against the interests of another person. In the same way, you can’t automatically say that just because an AI acts against the interests of humanity or another AI it doesn’t have moral standing. You might be justified in fighting back against an AI like Skynet, but that does not take away its moral standing. If moral standing is given in virtue of the capacity to nonphenomenally suffer, then Skynet and Data both get it even if only Data wants to help human beings.
There are no artificial general intelligence machines yet. But now is the time to consider what it would take to grant them moral standing. How humanity chooses to answer the question of moral standing for nonbiological creatures will have big implications for how we deal with future AIs—whether kind and helpful like Data, or set on destruction, like Skynet.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Image Credit: Ico Maker / Shutterstock.com Continue reading