zenpundit.com » tech

Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

Does technology change people?

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- another fine example of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild ]
.

This one comes from my anthropologist friend Peter van der Werff via our mutual friend Howard Rheingold:

**

Looking at the two images, do you see the juxtaposition as “meaning” that tech does change people, or that it doesn’t? Is it really a question, as its caption suggests — or a statement? And if it’s a question, is it an “open” question, ie a matter of philosophical curiosity — or a question that questions an asssumption, ie a form of statement-in-disguise?

Questions can’t be “true” or “false” as such — but they can sure be suggestive, eh?

Share

Turing Test…..Passed

Monday, June 9th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I am not an Ai aficionado but this would seem to be a pretty significant milestone:

Turing Test: Computer Program Convinces Judges it’s Human

Judges in England were fooled into thinking the computer program they were conversing with was a human on Saturday — making the it the first to pass the 65-year-old Turing Test.

“Eugene Goostman” is not a 13-year-old boy, but 33 percent of the people who partook in five minute keyboard conversations with the computer program at the Royal Society in London thought it was, according to The University of Reading, which organized the test.

The Turing Test is based on “the father of modern computer science” Alan Turing’s question, “Can Machines Think?”

If a computer is mistaken for a human by more than 30 percent of judges, it passes the test, but no computer has accomplished the feat — until now.

“Eugene” was created in Saint Petersburg, Russia, by software development engineer Vladimir Veselov and software engineer Eugene Demchenko, according to the University of Reading. The computer program was tested along with four others during Saturday night’s event, but was the only one to thoroughly imitate a person.

“Our whole team is very excited with this result,” Veselov said. “Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as ‘conversation logic.’”

Computers that are as smart — or smarter — than humans raise concerns of dire economic consequences and diabolical robotic plots fit for science fiction movies.

But Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading says a computer that can think and act like a person will be an asset to battling cyber-crime. “Online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true … when in fact it is not,” he said.

Warwick pointed out that this weekend’s test is also controversial because some claim it has been passed before, but the test did not pre-specify the topics of conversations and was independently verified. “We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing‘s test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” Warwick said. 

How fast will this evolve, I wonder?

Many readers are no doubt familiar with the “Turing Police” in Willam Gibson’s classic  Neuromancer.  While Ai will bring many tech advantages, at some point, at least for cybersecurity and CI purposes, there will need to be some kind of analog to reduce and punish the misuse or abuse of Ai with something short of a Butlerian Jihad.

  

UPDATE!:

Not so fast….

….Okay, almost everything about the story is bogus. Let’s dig in:

It’s not a “supercomputer,” it’s a chatbot. It’s a script made to mimic human conversation. There is no intelligence, artificial or not involved. It’s just a chatbot.
Plenty of other chatbots have similarly claimed to have “passed” the Turing test in the past (often with higher ratings). Here’s a story from three years ago about another bot, Cleverbot, “passing” the Turing Test by convincing 59% of judges it was human (much higher than the 33% Eugene Goostman) claims.

It “beat” the Turing test here by “gaming” the rules — by telling people the computer was a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine in order to mentally explain away odd responses.

The “rules” of the Turing test always seem to change. Hell, Turing’s original test was quite different anyway.

As Chris Dixon points out, you don’t get to run a single test with judges that you picked and declare you accomplished something. That’s just not how it’s done. If someone claimed to have created nuclear fusion or cured cancer, you’d wait for some peer review and repeat tests under other circumstances before buying it, right?

The whole concept of the Turing Test itself is kind of a joke. While it’s fun to think about, creating a chatbot that can fool humans is not really the same thing as creating artificial intelligence. Many in the AI world look on the Turing Test as a needless distraction.

Oh, and the biggest red flag of all. The event was organized by Kevin Warwick at Reading University. If you’ve spent any time at all in the tech world, you should automatically have red flags raised around that name. Warwick is somewhat infamous for his ridiculous claims to the press, which gullible reporters repeat without question. He’s been doing it for decades. All the way back in 2000, we were writing about all the ridiculous press he got for claiming to be the world’s first “cyborg” for implanting a chip in his arm. There was even a — since taken down — Kevin Warwick Watch website that mocked and categorized all of his media appearances in which gullible reporters simply repeated all of his nutty claims. Warwick had gone quiet for a while, but back in 2010, we wrote about how his lab was getting bogus press for claiming to have “the first human infected with a computer virus.” The Register has rightly referred to Warwick as both “Captain Cyborg” and a “media strumpet” and has long been chronicling his escapades in exaggerating bogus stories about the intersection of humans and computers for many, many years.

Share

Pope on Cyber Power: Personal Theories of Power Series at The Bridge

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I read one of the first books out on cyberwarfare and conflict and afterwards decided that I still had no idea what the hell “cyberwar” was or how we could identify when it was happening. Fortunately, in tackling cyber power, Billy Pope’s erudite contribution ties cyber power to Hobbes, Thucydides, Westphalian states, Clausewitz and Basil Liddell-Hart. Those things I understand!

Cyber Power: A Personal Theory of Power 

….Why focus so much of an essay on cyber power theory to a lengthy discussion on traditional forms of power? Quite simply, cyber power is still just power at its core. Cyber power will not change the nature of war. Cyber power, at least in the foreseeable future, will not reorganize the international consortium of states, leaving the Westphalian system to flounder in a new electronic world order. Cyber power offers tremendous opportunities to enhance how people interact, cooperate, and even fight. It does not, however, make traditional forms of power obsolete.

Overzealous futurists exuberantly claim that cyber power is a game changer, saying things like, “Cyber war is real; it happens at the speed of light; it is global; it skips the battlefield; and, it has already begun.”[ix] The attuned strategist will peer through the chafe, realizing that cyber power offers new, innovative methods by which to project power. The same savvy practitioner will also appreciate that power and conflict are grounded in basic human requirements, psychology, and relationships. Neither Thucydides’ realist notions of fear, honor, and interests, nor Keohane’s collaborative concepts of cooperation and interconnectedness were developed with cyberspace in mind.[x] Cyberspace, and in turn any notion of cyber power, however, contains these concepts in troves.

What, then, is cyber power specifically? This author argues it takes two forms. First, cyber power extends and accentuates existing forms of military power. It helps shape the battlefield through intelligence collection and information operations. In some cases it facilitates military effects that were previously only achievable through kinetic means. Second, cyber power is a unique political instrument. Most military professionals are all too familiar with the elements of national power marched out during professional education courses: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. Cyber power connects to each of these components but also offers new options. Stronger than diplomacy and sanctions, yet not to the level of Clausewitzean war, cyber power expands the spectrum of power projection available to policy-makers. 

This sounds very reasonable.

Groundbreaking technology – say, for example, firearms or steam power – offers entirely new capabilities and/or enhances old ones on the battlefield. Sometimes the effect is a military revolution, with the technology altering power relationships in civil society and offering the early adopters a tremendous comparative advantage over any rivals ( marksmen drilled with guns vs. a peasant mob with sticks with pointy metal ends). Other times it has a less political/strategic and a more narrowly technical/tactical effect (machineguns over rifles). Cyber power will be made to serve, as Pope argued, political ends.

Share

Smart Mobs & Cuba

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Smart Mobs ]
.

**

According to an Associated Press piece early this morning titled US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest, the US Government has quietly been prepping Cubans for “smart mobs” and possible political change:

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

It’s not as though Howard hadn’t already identified the possibility — on page 158 of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, he told us about the January 20 2001 fall of the Joseph Estrada regime in the Phillipines as a result of texting and smart mobs:

Tens of thousands of Filipinos converged on Epifanio de los Santas Avenue, known as “Edsa,” within an hour of the first text message volleys:  ‘Go 2EDSA, Wear blck.’  Over four days, more than a million citizens showed up, mostly dressed in black.  Estrada fell.  The legend of “Generation Txt” was born.

Howard published those words in 2002: apparently USAID got the message.

Howard has moved on since then.  He’ll be teaching Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory from April 30 – June 5, 2014 online — and last I heard, there were still some seats available. Click the link to see the course outline — its now 2014, and Howard’s as far ahead of the curve as ever.

Share

Keep it in Your Pocket

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

 

Rarely do I blog about anything tech-related, but I wanted to say that Pocket is a fantastic app that is a godsend to bloggers stretched across multiple social media platforms, listservs, forums and websites. It’s remarkably simple to use and the ability to access your Pocket from almost any device ( older iPads with iOS under 6 won’t take it though) saves a great deal of time. From their site:

Pocket was founded in 2007 by Nate Weiner to help people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device — phone, tablet or computer. It can be viewed while waiting in line, on the couch, during commutes or travel — even offline.

The world’s leading save-for-later service currently has more than 10 million registered users and is integrated into more than 500 apps including Flipboard, Twitter and Zite. It is available for major devices and platforms including iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac, Kindle Fire, Kobo, Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera and Windows.

Here’s their promotional video:

Introducing Pocket from Pocket on Vimeo.

Share

Switch to our mobile site