Lying Robots

Gizmodo contributor George Dvorsky interviewed the authors of Robot Ethics 2.0: From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence and they discuss why we might want to consider programming robots to lie to us:

Gizmodo: How can we program a robot to be an effective deceiver?

Bridewell: There are several capacities necessary for recognizing or engaging in deceptive activities, and we focus on three. The first of these is a representational theory of mind, which involves the ability to represent and reason about the beliefs and goals of yourself and others. For example, when buying a car, you might notice that it has high mileage and could be nearly worn out. The salesperson might say, “Sure, this car has high mileage, but that means it’s going to last a long time!” To detect the lie, you need to represent not only your own belief, but also the salesperson’s corresponding (true) belief that high mileage is a bad sign.

Of course, it may be the case that the salesperson really believes what she says. In that case, you would represent her as having a false belief. Since we lack direct access to other people’s beliefs and goals, the distinction between a lie and a false belief can be subtle. However, if we know someone’s motives, we can infer the relatively likelihood that they are lying or expressing a false belief. So, the second capacity a robot would need is to represent “ulterior motives.” The third capacity addresses the question, “Ulterior to what?” These motives need to be contrasted with “standing norms,” which are basic injunctions that guide our behavior and include maxims like “be truthful” or “be polite.” In this context, ulterior motives are goals that can override standing norms and open the door to deceptive speech.

Maybe robots should start reading fiction too.

“the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings”

Your Brain on Fiction:

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

I love reading but over years I haven’t been doing a great job at keeping my brain muscles in shape with books, so last year I started making concerted efforts to change that.

So far this year I’ve read 20 books and I use Goodreads to review and keep track of them all.

Cuphead

Hat tip to my brother for giving me the heads up on a new game called Cuphead:

Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e. traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings.

This game looks absolutely gorgeous.

makes people uncomfortable

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Removed From School in Mississippi:

Eighth graders in Biloxi, Miss., will no longer be required to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racial inequality and the civil rights movement that has been taught in countless classrooms and influenced generations of readers.

Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the Biloxi School Board, told The Sun Herald there had been complaints about the book.

“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” he said. “It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the eighth-grade course.”

The book is supposed to make people feel uncomfortable.

Pretty Hate Machine

Mike Monteiro’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end (via kottke):

Twitter would have you believe that it’s a beacon of free speech. Biz Stone would have you believe that inaction is principle. I would ask you to consider the voices that have been silenced. The voices that have disappeared from Twitter because of the hatred and the abuse. Those voices aren’t free. Those voices have been caged. Twitter has become an engine for further marginalizing the marginalized. A pretty hate machine.

Biz Stone would also believe that Twitter is being objective in its principled stance. To which I’d ask how objective it is that it constantly moves the goal posts of permissibility for its cash cow of hate. Trump’s tweets are the methane that powers the pretty hate machine. But they’re also the fuel for the bomb Twitter doesn’t yet, even now, realize it is sitting on. There’s a hell of a difference between giving Robert Pattinson dating advice and threatening a nuclear power with war.

Monteiro is right. Twitter has become “a cesspool of hate”. People I follow who historically only tweeted about art, culture, or design now react to Trump on a daily basis. Multiply that by the 240 accounts I follow and that becomes a shitload of negativity. Not a great way to start your day.

Suspending Trump’s Twitter account is not a First Amendment violation. Twitter is a company with clearly stated policies you must abide to use their service. If you do not abide by those policies then you don’t get to use the service.

“My head makes the pictures.”

The New Bedtime Story Is a Podcast:

“What I love about this space is that it feels much more similar to reading to a child than it does sticking them in front of a screen,” said Emily Shapiro, Panoply’s director of children’s programming (and a co-founder of the New York International Children’s Film Festival). “With visual media, you can get these brain-dead kids who are just plugged in and being fed all of their entertainment.” But with podcasts, “they’re creating the world.”

We all descended from people who huddled around fires and told stories.

It should be no surprise people love (good) podcasts.

Boycott Bullshit

Twitter Users Split on Boycott Over Platform’s Move Against Rose McGowan:

Activists, celebrities and journalists joined a boycott of Twitter on Friday to protest the social media platform’s locking of the account of the actress Rose McGowan, a fierce critic of the film producer Harvey Weinstein over his alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.

The boycott began at midnight Thursday in New York and was to last all day. Many of those taking part signified their participation with the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter.

The idea for the protest came from Kelly Ellis, a software engineer, who wrote: “#WomenBoycottTwitter Friday, October 13th. In solidarity w @rosemcgowan and all the victims of hate and harassment Twitter fails to support.”

This is such bullshit.

The idea isn’t bullshit. The idea is great — boycott Twitter for locking Rose McGowan’s account for saying she was the victim of sexual harassment while at the same time allowing Jerkoff Trump to continue to spew hate and hostility on his account. Many have argued Trump has violated Twitter’s terms of service.

I digress.

What’s bullshit about this boycott is how half-assed it is. Boycott Twitter for a day? Really? One whole day? There’s way too many things happening second by second, all over the world, to get a meaningful amount of people to focus on one thing for more than a few hours.

An effective boycott should last longer than 24 measly hours. You also need to offer people an alternative platform of communication if you’re asking them to give up what they currently use. When you do that and Twitter notices their daily active user count plummeting, there’s a good chance they’ll start enforcing their terms of service.

That’s how you effect change.

If you’re saying to yourself that what I’m suggesting is extremely hard, you’re right. Effecting change is very hard. It’s not something you can do by typing a hashtag before a word on your fucking pocket computer.

Microsoft, enough with the Surface bullshit.

A top Microsoft exec says the idea it will kill its Surface gadget business is ‘so far from the truth’:

To the guy that heads up Microsoft’s Surface products, the idea that the company is going to kill off its line of computers and tablets is laughable.

“It’s so far from the truth,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of devices, said on Monday, calling the notion the “tabloid rumor of the week.”

Panay was responding to a discussion last week by a panel of PC industry executives about the future of Microsoft’s hardware business. The executives, which included representatives from Dell and Lenovo, predicted the company would kill its Surface line by 2019, according to The Register.

Kill it. Stop trying to be Apple. Stop your new-found love of hardware-software integration, and for shit’s sake, stop using Alcantara on your products.

You’ve already killed Windows Phone, just take Surface out back behind the barn and put it out of its misery.

Windows Phone is Dead

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore says Windows 10 Mobile features and hardware are no longer a focus:

Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore, has today clarified the company’s stance with Windows 10 Mobile and what it’s currently doing in the mobile space. In a series of tweets on Twitter, Belfiore states that as an individual end-user, he has switched to Android, and that Windows 10 Mobile is no longer a focus for Microsoft.

Belfiore confirms what we have been reporting in the past; that from here on out, Microsoft will continue to service Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security patches, mainly for the enterprise market who adopted Windows 10 Mobile for work. Microsoft is not planning to bring any new consumer-facing features to Windows 10 Mobile, nor is it planning to release any new hardware.

I’ve been saying Microsoft is a day late and a dollar short with Windows Phone since they came late to the party 7 years ago. Back in 2011 I explained how Microsoft was swimming in a red ocean.

By the the time they got rolling with Windows Phone the iPhone was already a smash hit and Android had entrenched itself as the new “Windows for smartphones”. This left Microsoft with very little to convince people to switch to their platform.

Google musters courage to ditch the 100-year-old headphone jack like Apple.

After mocking Apple, Google is also ditching headphone jack:

Google mocked the iPhone 7’s missing headphone jack in its marketing material for the original Pixel smartphone — but it won’t be doing the same for the Pixel 2.

Just like Apple, the company has decided to remove the aging port from its latest handsets. A new leak reveals that the lineup will rely solely on USB-C for wired connectivity.

A lot of people laughed at Apple’s opinion that it took “courage” to kill the headphone jack, but now that we see other phone makers following suit, it’s looking more and more like courage.

I’ve had wireless Bose earbuds since April and I love them. When I occasionally go back to my wired Sony earbuds on my iPhone 6, it clearly feels like a step backwards in technology time.

I bet Samsung’s next Galaxy model will ditch the headphone jack too.

While we figure out how to spot terrorists, let’s update our gun laws.

Meticulous Planning by Las Vegas Gunman Before He Opened Fire:

Before he mowed down concertgoers from a perch high in a hotel tower, Stephen C. Paddock created a ring of surveillance around him, with video cameras in his suite and in the hallway, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday. But investigators were still at a loss to offer a motive for the massacre.

The cameras — apparently intended to warn of approaching threats — along with the 23 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and other equipment found in the gunman’s hotel suite, suggested a thought-out plan to have plenty of time to wreak carnage while holding the police at bay.

And:

Twelve of the rifles Mr. Paddock had in his luxury suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino were outfitted with a “bump stock,” a device that enables a gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, like a machine gun, which may explain how he was able to rain such devastation on the crowd below, law enforcement officials said. Such devices are generally legal, and the possibility that he may have used them set off a fresh round of calls by Democratic lawmakers in Washington to pass more gun regulations after the tragedy.

Paddock didn’t have a criminal record so he flew under the radar of the FBI.

So if we can’t preemptively spot terrorists, then we need to do something else. We need to update our gun laws in the United States.

Preventative measures are much better than reactive treatments.

Microblogging AKA Tumblr AKA Twitter

In 2007, CNet reviewed the then new “microblogging” service, Tumblr:

Tumblr blogging service, which launched last month, gives people the chance to publish brief or full-length, media-rich posts using their browser or mobile phone. It’s a happy medium between a tidbit posting service, such as Twitter, and a full-fledged blogging tool, such as WordPress or Blogger. Tumblr is aimed at folks who feel they may not have enough content or time to write a full blog, yet still want to write and share links and media.

After today’s announcement, Twitter is sounding a lot more like Tumblr.

Twitter Becomes Less Twittery

Twitter is increasing their character limit from 140 to 280:

We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we’re doing something new: we’re going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean).

Huh? The 140-character limit is what makes Twitter unique. What’s next, increasing the limit to 560 characters? Then 1120? Pretty soon Twitter will be able to pivot into a blogging platform like it was 2003 again. Yeah!

Forcing constraints on a situation can lead to more creative solutions.

I’ve heard many comedians say they love using Twitter as a “testing ground” for new material because a) they can get reactions from people immediately and b) it forces them to be economical with their choice of words.

I think this move will water down the Twitter experience.

Those Poor, Poor Men

Over at The New York Times, Nellie Bowles wrote a piece on the backlash that is growing against the women in tech movement:

Their complaints flow on Reddit forums, on video game message boards, on private Facebook pages and across Twitter. They argue for everything from male separatism to an end to gender diversity efforts.

Silicon Valley has for years accommodated a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world.

Now, as the nation’s technology capital — long identified as one of the more hostile work environments for women — reels from a series of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals, these conversations are gaining broader traction.

If men are in such a bad position in Silicon Valley, what sort of position are women and minorities in? Give me a break.

“What Google did was wake up sectors of society that weren’t into these issues before,” said Paul Elam, who runs A Voice for Men, a men’s rights group. He said his organization had seen more interest from people in Silicon Valley.

Men’s rights groups? Douchebag tech bros in Silly Valley have lost their minds.

I moved to California in 2012 with my wife, after living in Manhattan for about 10 years. One of the things I miss most about NYC is the diversity — not just of races, but of everything. In New York everyone worked in different industries, looked different, talked with different accents and in different languages, ate different foods, and listened to different types of music.

Out here in San Francisco (where I live) and Sunnyvale (where I work) it’s way more homogenous. Guys look like me: white dudes with glasses, and do what I do: work for web design and tech companies. This doesn’t appeal to me. I have no interest in hanging out with versions of myself all the time.

Maybe it’s time to move.