Some of the claims made for AI and Neuroscience are completely unsubstantiated
FEBRUARY 27th – ISSUE #9
NEWS FOR SMART DATA-DRIVEN AUGMENTED CREATIVE PEOPLE
Hi Folks – Welcome to your bi-weekly dose of luxury reading for smart, data-driven, augmented, creative people.
As Always, Change the World! Brendan Harkin
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NOT-SO SMART EVERYTHING
“Stupidity is a structure of thought as such. There are imbecile thoughts […] that are made up entirely of truths” Deleuze (Nietzsche and Philosophy).
This issue I want to a quick run around some of the connections being made between Intelligence, AI, Cognitive Science, and the Brain. Some of the claims made for AI and Neuroscience are completely unsubstantiated – we need to submit every neatly-packaged black-box foregone conclusion to rigorous and continuous scrutiny. Everything from discriminatory algorithms to absurd claims of “mind-reading”.
You know, that multimillion dollar contraption that can read your true thoughts, create videos of your mind, and can hack your thoughts and beliefs through electrical signals – it’s bug-riddled and completely unproven. Meanwhile, advocates have been trying for years to have the ‘blobology’ admitted into court as legal evidence.
It’s also useful to remember that ‘brain science’ treatments once used the good old scientific technique called the ‘transorbital lobotomy’, which involved inserting an ice pick into a patient’s skull through the bone known as the orbit at the back of the eye socket. Patients were generally subdued with electroshock therapy beforehand. Then the ice pick was driven through the back of the eye with a hammer (NB: not for the faint-hearted). There, it would be moved back and forth in the same motion as an eggbeater, severing connections between the thalamus (which controls the motor systems of the brain, extending to basic functions like movement and consciousness) and frontal lobes (which regulate higher intellect)”. It was used on women exhibiting “unpredictable behaviour” and infamously carried out on John F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy when it was feared she might have pre-marital sex, get pregnant, and embarrass the family.
The two largest brain mapping projects in the world are the EU’s Human Brain Project (HBP) and the US’s Brain Research through Advanced Innovative Neurotechnologies (i.e., BRAIN, surprisingly). If you want to know why there is such anger and dis-satisfaction with the European Commission (BREXIT) read this great account of the purposelessness and arrogance of the EU’s Euro 1 billion Human Brain Project – a bureaucratic success but a scientific failure. That a brain is not a giant supercomputer, and that as a biological system inseparably integrated into a living organism it operates utterly differently from our digital computers is seen inside the HBP cult as a deranged heresy of incompetent looneys who rightfully shall never get any proper funding.
It seems appropriate to close this Not-So-Smart Everything section with a link to a great online course: Calling Bullshit from Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West and University of Washington (Syllabus here).
“The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer” Edward Murrow.
Hacking Data: 2) Cayla is a bright-eyed blond doll that chatters about horses and hobbies. She plays games and accurately answers questions about the world at large. She could also be eavesdropping on your child. The app asks children to complete the following statements, according to the complaint: “My name is … My mum’s name is … My dad’s name is … My favourite TV program is … My favourite meal is … I go to school at … My favourite princess is … My favourite toy is …The place I live in is called” …. Hackers could theoretically listen in on conversations and even talk to children through the doll, privacy advocates warned.
Hacking Data: 3) As smart home devices become more popular, they will become bigger targets for hackers. So it behoves us to get ahead of the curve by securing our home appliances, using these tips from security experts who have closely studied smart home accessories, including whether the companies themselves are a threat to user privacy.
Hacking Data: 6) Companies like Elcomsoftmake “forensic software” that can suck down all your photos, contacts — even passwords for your email and social media accounts — in a matter of minutes. Their customers include the police forces of various countries, militaries, and private security forces. They can use these tools to permanently archive everything there is to know about you. All they need is your unlocked phone.
Data Selfie is a Chrome extension that attempts to log similar data about you so that you can see what Facebook sees and how it profiles you as a product. The data stays local on your computer, and you can export it or delete it. You also get a dashboard view of the data with what you liked, viewed, and inferences based on a combination of machine learning algorithms. Stalkscan also shows just how powerful Facebook’s search tool is if you know how to use it.
AUGMENTED, VIRTUAL, IMMERSIVE, EXPERIENCE DESIGN
“We’re not story-tellers, we’re story-tolders. Freedom of thought is the freedom to disbelieve the story-tellers“.
Most virtual-reality experiences that attempt to combine the narrative forward momentum of the film with the immersive exploration of VR end up highlighting the worst of both medium – Hollywood has no idea what to do with VR. And as I’ve said before, VR can only ever show consequences, but never causes.