News — At The Edge — 5/26 – Hacker Noon

Two sets of articles as unwanted harbingers

  • Behind the future — AI, facial recognition & digital profile — when we should be ahead.
  • Ahead of the future — techno-nationalism and injustice — at our peril.


Behind the future

AI and Compute 

“[From] 2012, the amount of compute used in the largest AI training runs has…a 3.5 month-doubling time….Three factors drive the advance of AI:

  • algorithmic innovation
  • data (which can be either supervised data or interactive environments)
  • the amount of compute available for training….

Algorithmic innovation and data are difficult to track…[but] more compute seems to lead predictably to better performance, and is often complementary to algorithmic advances…primarily propelled by researchers repeatedly finding ways to use more chips in parallel….

On the parallelism side, many of the recent algorithmic innovations…[could] be combined multiplicatively…[but] cost will eventually limit the parallelism side…and physics will limit the chip efficiency….

[T]he largest training runs today employ hardware that cost in the single digit millions of dollars to purchase…[so] if sufficient economic incentive…could see even more massively parallel training runs, and…continuation of this trend for several [years]….

[But] rapid increases in capabilities means it is critical to start addressing both safety and malicious use of AI today…and we must get out ahead of these trends.”

Few Rules Govern Police Use of Facial-Recognition Technology

“[Police] use facial-recognition technology Amazon says can ‘identify persons of interest against a collection of millions of faces in real-time…a powerful surveillance system readily available to violate rights and target communities’….

What laws or regulations govern police use of the facial-recognition technology? The answer: more or less none….Cities and local departments can set their own policies and guidelines, but [many]…haven’t done so… a perfect example of technology outpacing the law….

[Company] MorphoTrust provides facial-recognition technology to the FBI, and…police departments… that looks for violent offenders in footage from gas stations…raising concerns about the security of placing mugshots into Amazon’s cloud storage….

Surveillance technology like wiretaps are covered by the Fourth Amendment…but most police interest in facial recognition is in applying it to imagery gathered lawfully in public, or to mugshots. State laws don’t generally have much to say about police use of facial recognition, either….

[ACLU] says the best hope for regulating facial recognition for now is pressuring companies…police departments, and local communities to set their own limits on use of the technology. ‘[A] lot needs to happen here now that this dangerous surveillance is being rolled out…[like] a requirement that officers obtain a person’s permission before taking a photo to check their identity, and that officers receive training on appropriate use of the technology before getting access to it’….

FBI disclosed in 2017 that its chosen facial-recognition system only had an 85 percent chance of identifying a person within its 50 best guesses from a larger database…[so] police departments should disclose accuracy figures for…facial recognition systems, including how they perform on different ethnic groups.”

The birth of the Universal Digital Profile 

“[T]he right to personal data portability…[states] users of a service can request their personal data…be transferred to another provider…and have all of your personal data (profile, pictures, messages, posts, likes…) sent to the new provider.

It’s the same idea as being able to keep your phone number when you change carrier…[so] your online identity will soon be transferable across multiple providers….

[T]o avoid having to convert data into each provider’s format is to eventually agree on standardized formats for personal data and APIs…just like our email…[to] be reused without effort elsewhere….

[N]o more personal data lock-in…[or] legal terms and condition shenanigans….[Users] decide who gets access to what and for what….. As this Universal Digital Profile (UDP)…becoming mainstream, an entire new economy will emerge….

Let’s just hope that it won’t be limited to Europeans.”

Ahead of the future

How tech may trip the Thucydides Trap 

“Xi’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative to conquer the latest technologies, from robotics and artificial intelligence to electric cars and semiconductors, is rooted in…national humiliation that resulted from the failure to catch up technologically with the colonial powers that came to dominate [it]…in the late 19th century…[but] represents an existential challenge to American technological dominance…[in] military might and geopolitical sway….

Beijing has rolled out large, low-interest loans…for the purchase of foreign tech companies, and research subsidies…built the world’s fastest supercomputer…with all domestic components…its own manned spaceflight program…[and] entirely indigenous weaponry systems…[so] technology bans imposed by the West are [counterproductive]….

‘[N]o matter how many trade barriers come down, unless the United States achieves a similar balance of public investment and private wealth creation, we can’t compete’….

[T]he ‘Thucydides Trap‘ of established and rising powers inevitably clashing to the point of military conflict…is most likely to trip…[with] unyielding techno-nationalism…[so] there is no higher priority in geopolitics today than finding a cooperative agreement.”

Trump wants tough justice — with one exception

“[Trump] relentlessly attacked Mr. Sessions and the department for failing to protect him from Robert Mueller…[yet] consistently approved of harsh punishment and disliked due process.

In 1989, after five black and Hispanic teenagers were accused of raping a white woman…(wrongly, it turned out), Mr Trump took out full-page [ads]…in four New York papers that screamed…[they] should be [executed]…[That’ method of prosecuting terrorists…‘a joke’…[and] America is beset by violent crime…[yet] much rarer than [1990s]….

[Jeff Session’s] policies are likely to send more people to jail…[but] budget aims to cut prison staff…[with] private jails….

Trump’s core beliefs is…the wrong sort of people are voting…[but] Department of Justice…has not filed a single voting-rights case…[has] sent letters to 44 states inquiring about the accuracy of their voter rolls…[implying] a green light for states that want to make it harder for people to vote….

Morale in the department has crashed…[as] staff were instructed ‘to scrub words like ‘reform’’ from their writing….

[Trump] seems to thinks…DoJ is the company’s legal department…[that’s] failing to protect him from Mr. Mueller…[and] has ‘the absolute right to do what I want to do with [it]….The DoJ’s independence, and the rule of law…are pesky inconveniences….

[Sessions] puts up with periodic…public humiliation…to roll back criminal-justice reforms, reinstate mandatory-minimum sentences and stiffen punishments for marijuana dealing…[and] ‘seems to have decided that this is a bargain worth making’. But, as with his boss’s efforts to undermine law enforcement, it is also a bargain for which America will pay.”

Inside Vladimir Putin’s ‘mafia state’ 

“[Labels] Putin’s Russia: kleptocracy, post-modern authoritarianism and…‘mafia state…[or] Vory’ — meaning ‘The Thieves’…[at] intersection of crime and politics….

[1980s] Gorbachev’s perestroika’unleashed new market forces that the vory [exploited]’….

Putin system, the ‘biggest gang in town…[and] gangsters were partially nationalized; the state adopted some of their mores….[So] today’s vory are not the crude, tattooed mob…[rather] smooth entrepreneurs, equally at ease with Russian government ministers and Western financiers….

[This] questions whether Western institutions can resist the ‘common temptation to turn a blind eye to money that is slightly grubby’….when nobody is looking

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston

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