What Do “Values” Even Mean to an Artificial Intelligence?

Over at Future Tense, Adam Elkus poses a very interesting question I’ve covered here before: Which brings us back to Russell’s optimistic assumptions that computer scientists can sidestep these social questions through superior algorithms and engineering efforts. Russell is an engineer, not a humanities scholar. When he talks about “tradeoffs” and “value functions,” he assumes […]

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The Evolution of Robot Panic

The strange campaign to halt robotics and computer research has undergone something of an evolution since its previous few years of crazed sky-is-falling advocacy about automation and imagery sensors failed to get any traction among the world’s decision-making bodies. While their first round of imagery was dominated by an inexplicable obsession with a singular science fiction […]

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When Can A Government Kill Its Own Citizen?

Over the weekend, news emerged that the British government deliberately targeted and killed one of its own citizens in Syria at the end of August. And that decision is raising the same concerns that once floated around the U.S. decision to target al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki several years ago. While US and UK law […]

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A World Of Infinite Paper Clips

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald raises a common apocalyptic thought experiment about artificial intelligence and machines that is worth considering: Of all the reasons robots might rise up and destroy humanity, making paper clips is not an obvious one. But the popular theory goes that an artificially intelligent machine programmed to produce as many paper […]

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The Intimacy of the War on Terror

In a great review of John Sifton’s book, George Packer has an interesting passage: One striking feature of violence in the age of terror is its anonymity. The hijackers couldn’t see the faces of the workers in the Twin Towers. American pilots over Kandahar didn’t know whether children were present in the compound they were […]

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Quote of the Day

This is not just because of the obvious charge of hypocrisy, although that is there too. Many of those who shout the most about casualties from U.S. drone strikes rarely condemn so loudly the many more deaths of civilians as a result of Pakistan army operations in FATA or Taliban violence. Nor are they particularly […]

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Quoted in Time

I’m quoted in Time about two new reports out by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about the U.S. drone program. While the reports provide devastating details and draw attention to the debate, stories of innocent people hurt in drone strikes “don’t add substantively to knowledge of the drone program nor do they alter the […]

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Could Drones be Good for Peace?

Over at Medium, I wonder if drones, when used outside of targeted killing programs, might actually be good for peace. The example I chose is the showdown between Japan and China in the Senkaku Islands. Though relatively expensive to develop and operate, drones allow for a much longer flight time over sensitive areas, and the […]

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Quote of the Day

77. If used in strict compliance with the principles of international humanitarian law, remotely piloted aircraft are capable of reducing the risk of civilian casualties in armed conflict by significantly improving the situational awareness of military commanders. — From the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben […]

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