Saturday, November 5, 2011

AI and the Evolution of Human Mores

Link to a blog post:

Content of Post:


AI and the Evolution of Human Mores

To Whom It May Concern at the Singularity Institute,

Perhaps half an hour ago, I came across one of your blog posts.  It was entitled: 


At some point during my reading, I thought of an idea pertaining to the programming of AI morality (let me admit here that I have virtually no programming experience, save for the work I did with Integrated Stat 9, an Econometrics program I used as an undergraduate at Tufts University.

The article referred to a number of potential pitfalls, one of which is as follows:

2)  Instilling the capacity for moral/ethical analysis requires not only the reconciliation of more than 7 billion contemporary unique viewpoints, but also the consideration as to whether the morality and ethical perspectives of today's population is necessarily the ideal model from which to base the moral/ethical analysis performed by tomorrow's AI.

I believe that, with respect to the former, neural networking and/or multivariate analysis will do the trick.

The latter issue presents a more difficult challenge, but I have an idea that may help to solve the dilemma:

The outcomes of moral/ethical analysis depend upon the programmed perspective from which the AI makes the analysis.  Obviously, relying solely upon the guidelines consistent with those of ancient Egypt would produce an output divergent from that which we'd see if we were to rely upon those elucidated by the Code of Hammurabi; these, in turn,  would diverge from those of ancient Sparta, which would diverge from those of ancient Athens.  Each of these would diverge from the outputs commiserate with English Common Law, which in turn would differ from those of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the United States, its amendments, and U.S. case law.  Each of these would necessarily diverge from contemporary moral/ethical analysis.

With the dynamic history of human thought, a question arises: how are we to reconcile these inconsistencies?

I surmise that we must instantiate a model a dynamic moral/ethical model that analyzes historical cases, provides us with current mores, and extrapolates those of the future.  Now, how might this be accomplished?

There are a multitude of means by which such a model might be created but, in the time I've had since reading your blog post, I've come up with the following system:

Since history provides us with myriad examples of situations requiring decisions based upon knowable circumstances, we have the ability to record the situations from which these decisions arose, as well as the outcomes of these situations.  This would provide us with a historical framework from which each decision spawned.  Using multivariate analysis, we can determine the most relevant variables contemporary to the decision, as well as the relative importance of each of these variables.  Once our model's r^2 is as high as it can be (that is, once our regression curve gives us as accurate outcomes at the points along the curve as we can achieve) given our desire to minimize its variance, we can then extrapolate the likely evolution of humanity's moral/ethical decision-making processes with an eye towards the future.  With this model, we could then simulate the contemporaneous "ideal" decisions given the circumstances from which they are derived.  To evaluate the quality of the multivariate function our analysis produces, we can then compare our simulations of "ideal" outcomes with the actual ones, evaluating both the subjective quality of these decisions and their ramifications with respect to the evolution of our model.  We might also choose a number chronological points at which hypothetical decisions are to be made and predict the expected outcomes of these situations.

Once the model is deemed satisfactory, we could then use it to actually make court decisions and/or case law based on our expectations for contemporary mores.  This would not only make the outcomes consistent with the history of human morality/ethics, but it would also ensure that court decisions that reflect the evolutionary forces that shape moral/ethical decisions, reduce public dissent with respect to those decisions enacted, and prevent potentially regressive legal precedent spawning from the limited number of perspectives now involved in the decision-making process (a la the Supreme Court of the United States).

Many might suggest that pure democracy would render such a model superfluous, and the claim would have some validity: after all, whenever a legal decision concerning the population at large is made, it will necessarily be a contemporary decision, reflecting contemporary values.  I would counter that leaving these decisions to we the people who, despite all claims that we are rational animals, are also prone to the influence of emotions, which replaces logicality with illogicality, rationality with irrationality, allowing for the undue influence of current but transient sentiment on our decision-making process (one can point to the temporary increase in American nationalism and the discontinuous spike in  support for unprecedented infringements of individuals' rights to privacy, new and radical surveillance measures, and unethical legislation.

I have very little idea as to the Singularity Institute's influence on policy initiatives, but as the technological singularity approaches, more credence will be given to Singularitarian foresight.  Thus, if this idea circulates among us and, eventually, the public at large, we might find ourselves capable of influencing, in a positive manner, the future of human civilization.


The Omega Point

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mirrors, lenses, and solar panels

  1. Heat loss. That's going to cause entropy in your system. There's always that little bit of wasted energy that's going to pull your system down if you don't keep providing energy. Perhaps it could work in theory, but I doubt it could in reality.
  2. PSKLMember

    Thanks. A follow up question, though: why can't the sun work as the power supply, making the intensifying lenses and mirrors all that remains to create such a reaction?
    I'm assuming that, in theory, it could. Of course, you would have to do all the work of designing such a system to make it feasible. It's probably a little more complicated than you think. You'd have to think of the costs of such a project. I would bet that the current lens intensification technology necessary to generate substantive power would cost more than traditional solar panels. Then again, who knows? Maybe nobody's given this idea any thought before. Better take a patent out quick:p

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden's Death

Osama Bin Laden's been killed, and America is rejoicing. For some, this constitutes some kind of "closure" for the losses we endured on 9/11. And I suppose that might be valid if it weren't so hypocritical. Closure for killings through killings? My thoughts on the murder of Bin Laden are much the same as my thoughts were when we found out that Saddam would be hung. Back then, I wrote:

So, Saddam's gonna play Hang 'em High. Sweet. I love archaic forms of public execution. We should have them more often.

The news that Saddam is going to be hung is I guess a relief to many. Many people, even--and perhaps especially--those who claim to be Christian, believe that taking a man's life away is a justifiable alternative to life imprisonment. Charming. I see Hammurabi's legacy lives on. I've never really understood why it's the Christians who think that it's okay to kill people who have committed crimes. I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus preached. In fact, didn't he say something about turning the other cheek? That may be a little extreme, but somewhere the whole "You shall not murder" thing seems to have been lost.

This is all neither here nor there. The international community wouldn't have to answer to Christian morality, even if Christians did a decent job of following the teachings of Christ. I don't know about international law, but I'm guesing that Christianity probably isn't the official international religion anyways. Disregarding my moral hangups on the topic, hanging Saddam Hussein is a bad idea. The fire and brimstone pundits say that Saddam's death will be a morale-booster for the people of Iraq, and I suppose that might be true to a certain extent. But it's a ridiculously shallow generalization of the situation. In 2003, the "coalition of the willing" (you forgot Poland) was supposed to arrive in Iraq and liberate the people, who would pick up guns and join in the fight. What the pundits neglected to mention was that a disturbing number of Iraqi citizens would pick up guns and start shooting at the liberation task force. So while some vengeful bastards will have a boost in morale, I'm expecting there to be an outcry against Saddam's execution as well. And making a martyr out of Saddam Hussein is only slightly worse than masturbating with sandpaper.

By the way, Saddam Hussein is an anagram for "Mad anus hissed." Coincidence? I think not.

So while many are rejoicing, I'm not. While I don't condone anything Bin Laden did in his quest for a pan-Islamic world, I don't condone killing the man, either. Not a very popular sentiment these days, I should think. But at least I have a clear conscience.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

3/3 Update

Things are starting to get interesting in my world.

I visited San Francisco last week, and think I'll be moving out there in the near-term for at least two months. The change in weather will be welcomed. The only problems are: I'm in the process of changing medications, I don't have a support network out there yet, and I've got neither psychiatry nor psychotherapy set up for when I get there.

In other news, I received a heartwarming rejection letter from a top-tier literary agency, describing my writing as being of a quality beyond my years and my style and pacing as "hypnotic." These are good things. Another good thing is that there are currently four or five agencies currently looking at my work, and I may not be too far off of having an agent to represent my work.

There will be further bulletins as events warrant.



Monday, February 28, 2011

2/28 Update

I'm still waiting to hear back from the agent at William Morris Endeavor (WME). In the meantime, I've received interest from three other agencies, two of which are currently reviewing my full manuscript. I should find out more about my situation within the next few days, and I'll be keeping you updated on events as they progress.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BIG Update

Lately, I've been working with Andy Behrman, author of Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, who's been trying to help me find an agent. Big news on that front today--the agent he's tried to connect me with has read and liked my book proposal. His assistant sent me an email asking for the rest of the manuscript, and I complied in approximately zero seconds.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2/15 Update

Well, it's official. I won't be working for TFA next year. I didn't make it past the first round of the admissions process. So I'm putting some of my leftover eggs in the USF graudate writing program basket.

Today, I went down to Boston for a therapy appointment at the MGH Bipolar clinic. We discussed my plan to go out to San Francisco with my brother and my mother to check out some of the schools he's applying to. They'll be going to SF, Portland, and Tacoma, but I'll be staying in SF for the duration, most likely hanging out with my good friend Michael A. Lewis. I'm looking forward to the trip.

In related news, I've started writing a novel[la] about a road trip, and would really like to take one myself. For now, the San Fran trip will have to suffice.

I also got in touch with Andy Behrman, and offered my services as an assistant.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Personal Updates

I've applied to work for a bunch of organizations in the last few weeks, including Teach For America. I've also applied to the University of San Francisco's MFA program in Writing.

In the meantime, I've applied to work as a substitute teacher for my old high school. My former AP Gov't teacher informed me that two social studies teachers are going on sabbatical next year, and he invited me to apply for one of the as of yet unfilled positions. I told him that I'll apply if I'm still expecting to be in the area, but that, really, I want to be on the other side of the country by the time the 2011-12 school year rolls around.

A portion of the first chapter of my semi-autobiographical story about bipolar disorder was featured on on Feb. 2, so I've managed to get a bit more traffic via that connection.

I've also started sending out my manuscript proposal to agents. First on my list was an agent at William Morris, but I haven't heard back from him yet so I'm starting to target others. Wish me luck!