AI Panic!

AI Panic! is a smart and funny blog by AI researcher and PhD student Robin Baumgarten:

What’s AI Panic?

This site is dedicated to research and unveil the perils, imminence
and probabilities of a hostile takeover of the world through artificial
intelligence. I will stay on the lookout for you and post articles,
research papers and break-throughs of everything that could affect this

Who’s panicing?

Not me. Not yet, at least. And you probably shouldn’t, either. But staying alert and informed doesn’t hurt.


Technology in Wartime Conference — Video Now Online

Video from the Technology in Wartime conference that took place a couple weeks ago is now online.  I’ve been meaning to write up my notes from this but haven’t found the time.

It was an excellent event — CPSR did a great job of gathering some really impressive speakers.  Particularly good were security expert Bruce Schneier, roboticist and ethicist Ronald ArkinBenetech‘s Patrick Ball on human rights data analysis (see HRDAG), and Neil Rowe on the ethics of cyberweapons.  So if you’re checking out the videos I recommend starting there.  I left before the last session, which also promised a good line-up.

Link: Technology in Wartime Video.

Technology in Wartime Conference

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is hosting a one-day public conference on Technology in Wartime.  It will take place January 26th at Stanford University.  From the conference description:

This conference will explore how computer technology is used during
war — both for the purposes of combat/defense, as well as for human
rights interventions into war-torn regions. Topics will include high
tech weapons systems, cyberwarfare, autonomous aircraft, mobile robots,
internet surveillance, anonymous communication, and privacy-enhancing
technologies that aid human rights workers documenting conditions in
war-torn countries and help soldiers communicate their experiences in
blogs and e-mail.

Our goal will be to consider the ethical implications of wartime
technologies and how these technologies are likely to affect
civilization in years to come. Ultimately we want to engage a pressing
question of our time: What should socially-responsible computer
professionals do in a time of high tech warfare?

Participants will include technology experts, military
professionals, policy-makers, scholars, and human rights workers.
Confirmed speakers include Bruce Schneier (BT Counterpane Security),
Barbara Simons (ACM), Herb Lin (NSF), Cindy Cohn (EFF), Patrick Ball
(Benetech), Neil Rowe (US Naval Academy), Ronald Arkin (Georgia Tech),
and Noah Shachtman (Wired magazine’s war correspondent).

The proceedings will be broadcast live on the Web, and the
presentations collected in book form online, released under a CC
license, and made available to the public and policy makers looking for
expert opinions on wartime technology issues during the election year.

Link: Technology in Wartime.

I’m planning to attend and will write something about it here afterwards.

See also this post about it by conference organizer Annalee Newitz at io9: Will We Hold Robots Accountable for War Crimes?

Wikis, Cats, Roombas (Ramblings)

I recently ended up at Wikipedia through a Google search on "cats aluminum foil."  I was trying to determine whether it’s true that aluminum foil will keep cats off of stuff.  Apparently it is true, according to Wikipedia’s surprisingly comprehensive aluminum foil entry.  What other encyclopedia would have such a lengthy entry that includes a passage like this:

Deterring pets

Aluminium foil is also sometimes used in the training of cats;
as cats have an inborn dislike of loud noise, like that caused by
sheets of aluminium foil, it is possible to prevent cats from jumping
on or otherwise damaging furniture by covering its surfaces.[citation needed].

It cracks me up sometimes what you can find on Wikipedia.  Doubly funny is the "[citation needed]" at the end.  Is the person who added that expecting that there’s an article on this in a scientific journal or will a column from Cat Fancy do?

BoingBoing recently reported that a guy is putting [citation needed] stickers on real world things (link:  It’s a "campaign that involves recontextualizing ads and signs — or anything
that makes a dubious claim — using stickers with the [citation needed]
tag found in Wikipedia articles."  I think this is amusing, but not quite in the way this guy is hoping for.

Jesse James Garrett recently wrote that

Wikipedia’s "[citation needed]" convention takes passive-aggressive behavior to a global scale.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as passive-aggressive — more like absurdly pedantic and simple-minded, especially in cases like the one above.

My search for an answer to the cat-foil question was prompted by an unfortunate cat-Roomba incident.  One of our cats decided today to pee on our Roomba.  I found it with a little puddle on top, its lights ablaze and it making sad little blurps and whirs.  I just spent an hour cleaning it.  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit on this blog that I have a Roomba, but I was recently swayed by the positive reviews for the new series, and it’s a great help in cleaning up fur from three pets.  Plus, as I now know, it’s fairly easy to disassemble and clean thoroughly.  Assuming the Roomba survives this ordeal, I now have the problem of keeping the cat off of it, so I think I’ll try fashioning a little tin foil hat for it.

Another thing I like about that Wikipedia foil entry is the ultra-high resolution "household aluminum foil" picture, as shown above (available here in its full 1984-by-1784-pixel glory).

Singularity coverage (elsewhere)

I apologize to anyone who was paying attention when I wrote earlier that I’d attend and report on the Singularity Summit that took place this past weekend.  I wasn’t able to make it.  Here’s an article from Friday’s SF Chronicle on the event: Public meeting will re-examine future of artificial intelligence, and of course the summit site itself will have links to coverage.