Something to look forward to in May: The Age of Ultron

I am not worthy:

One additional thought. Has anyone noticed that there are a bunch of movies coming up about artificial intelligence and all the bad things that can happen? Like this one:

And this one:

I wonder why that is?

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October, Tesla boss Elon Musk referred to artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon.”

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

British inventor Clive Sinclair has said he thinks artificial intelligence will doom mankind.

“Once you start to make machines that are rivaling and surpassing humans with intelligence, it’s going to be very difficult for us to survive,” he told the BBC. “It’s just an inevitability.”

After gushing about the immediate future of technology in his Reddit AMA, [Bill] Gates aligned himself with the AI alarm-sounders.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

It really can’t be that bad, right?

This week, authorities in Beijing announced an initiative to catch corrupt officials who have fled overseas. The plan, set to be put into action next month, will better coordinate Chinese investigations into offshore funds and “underground banks” used by officials to funnel money out of the country.

It’s just another anti-graft measure implemented under the watch of President Xi Jinping, who has made the fight against corruption a signature issue since coming to power toward the end of 2012. According to Bloomberg News, Xi’s campaigns “have snared more than 100,000 cadres,” or members of the Communist Party.

About 150 Chinese economic fugitives are suspected to be in the United States, the BBC reports.

But there’s one thing slightly troubling about the latest campaign to catch fugitive officials abroad: its name. Chinese officials have dubbed it “Sky Net.”

And we all know what happens when SkyNet becomes self aware:

 

 

The CIA torture report: rectal feeding

I guess when you’ve committed yourself to torturing people, this is one of the sick procedures you come up with:

Among the more jarring passages in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects are descriptions of agency employees subjecting uncooperative detainees to “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding.”

The report said that at least five detainees underwent the procedures without documented medical necessity and that others were threatened with them. While the CIA defended its approach, the techniques are all but absent from modern medicine. …

Another detainee who apparently underwent the procedure was Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen and former suburban Baltimore resident, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to five war crimes, including murder, attempted murder and spying. He was held by the CIA overseas for three years before being transferred to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay. The report said Khan was subjected to “involuntary rectal feeding and rectal rehydration,” which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that day, his “lunch tray,” consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins, was pureed and “rectally infused.” …

The same officer, the report said, wrote: “[r]egarding the rectal tube, if you place it and open up the IV tubing, the flow will self regulate, sloshing up the large intestines.” … The officer wrote: “[W]hat I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag — let gravity do the work.”

They’ve just given every psychopath with authority a new idea.

 

Casualties of war

We’ve launched a war against Islamic State, and it seems like we’re always at battle, but this chart is surprising (Click to enlarge, via Vox):

lesswargraph.0Fewer people are dying in war than ever before.

It’s amazing, but given all of the horrors we read about every day, current world conflicts are nowhere near as deadly as those of the past on a per capita basis. According to Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, writing in The Wall Street Journal:

Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers.

The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously.

The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%.

Pinker’s explanation for the transition to piece is worth reading, but contrary to what we perceive, the world is a lot more peaceful.

That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous people out there who think the way to achieve their goals is to kill everyone in sight. But institutionally and on a global scale, we’re not the blood thirsty savages we think we are.

Hopefully, we can do better.

A never ending war

This happened 13 years ago today:

poem-response-to-september-11-2001-phoenixtools11And we’re still fighting the same war (from the Washington Post):

President Obama began outlining a sweeping and long-term strategy Wednesday night for combatting the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, launching what could be the biggest counterterrorism campaign of his presidency. …

According to prepared remarks, Obama said the offensive against the militant group will not involve combat troops but a “steady, relentless effort” through airstrikes in both countries and support for military partners on the ground.

Al-Qaeda was made up of a bunch of psychopaths. And ISIL is made up of guys who al-Qaeda says are too extreme (from the New York Times).

While Al Qaeda remains committed to using terrorist tactics against the West and Arab governments, it has criticized ISIS for killing civilians and for waging war on other Muslims. This rivalry has disrupted the jihadist landscape across the Middle East and spurred new debates about how to fight jihad and what, exactly, an Islamic state is supposed to look like.

This is what happens when you let a bunch of religious nuts loose with high tech weaponry. I hope this Obama announcement has some effect, but sadly, all I think is going to happen is a lot of innocent people are going to die.

How Ferguson, Mo., police got out of control

The Ferguson police have been reigned in, for now. The governor sent in the Missouri highway patrol.

But the Ferguson police aren’t finished riling up the populace (via DailyKos):

6:53 AM PT: Via CNN: According to sources, they say they believe Michael Brown is in a video of a convenience store robbery and that a “description of the suspect was given.” Presumably of a young black guy.

7:03 AM PT: A Ferguson police report, after Michael Brown had been shot, calling him a “primary suspect” in the convenience story robbery.

7:07 AM PT: So for six days Ferguson police have claimed that Darren Wilson simply told Michael Brown to “get on the sidewalk.” Is that the usual procedure for dealing with robbery suspects? (Deep sarcasm.)

Just a few thoughts:

1) If the police are saying Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery, why did they wait more than a week after the shooting to say that. This is a diversion from the shooting. If he was stopped for a robbery, that is the first thing the police would have said.

2) Are more information dribbles out, the latest is that a guy was seen in a videotape shoplifting cigars. If that was Michael Brown, when did shoplifting tobacco become a capital offense.

The family cannot sue this police department enough. A major overhaul is needed. Especially after we see a police department (and I emphasize a police department) turn a community into a war zone.