Algocracy Newsletter #4

Instagram is for chimps, let’s disrupt democracy...

In this newsletter, we aggregate for you the most interesting online content recently published in the domain of Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and their fairness, privacy and other topics, which are important for the emerging future world of algocracy - world governed by algorithms.

If this is your first time seeing this, then please, Read our manifesto and subscribe, if you find it interesting.

Video: Instagram is for chimps

Image result for chimpanzee instagram

The above video clearly demonstrates the level of interactions between the Instagram’s algorithm and its users. It is only visual and takes into account only a very limited users context.

Simply put - with the right content, Instagram works even for the Chimpanzee.

What type of systems can be built from such low-level user signals? Only the addictive ones, which target users dopamine centers and optimize for user engagement, which is exactly what Instagram (and Facebook and others) are doing.


From the Ministry of Algocracy

To save democracy, we must disrupt it

Interesting piece by Carl Miller (who I highly recommend to follow) about how Taiwan Sunflower revolution essentially started the integration of online platforms for crowdsourced decision making into the country democratic procedures.

It describes an emergence of the g0v open source/hacking group, which aims to fork the government (in software development, “to fork” means to span a new separate version of the original software, independent on the original version).

This group eventually led to the official initiative called vTaiwan - a platform, which allows citizens to comment and rate for suggestions on policy issues and to come to a consensus (instead of conflict) which is then used by the government to shape the legislation.

From the article:

“For centuries, democracy has pretty much meant one thing: elected representatives sitting in sovereign Parliaments. But vTaiwan challenged that basic vision of how democracy should work”

“Voting is a single opportunity for a citizen to give a political signal, and an incredibly weak signal at that”

“Politicians won’t see their job as making decisions at all. Instead, they will see themselves as a ‘channel for collective intelligence’”


Some people saw that coming in 1985

If you don’t have time to read the whole article above, then watch this video from 1985 (!!!), which describes pretty much the same in about one minute.

From the Ministry of Big Brotherhood

China is exporting its surveillance tools...

In the last decade, the totalitarian government in China has started to use various online and offline surveillance technologies to track their citizens, with the goal of seizing even more power.

This has created a new generation of companies, developing tools and practices. These companies are now starting to sell that infrastructure to other countries, mostly in the developing world (like f.e. Ecuador).


… but don’t worry, you can become invisible.

If you government closes the deal with China, don’t worry - researchers have you covered.

A new paper by from the Belgian university KU Leuven describes an efficient (and low-cost) way how to literally become invisible for the standard image recognition AI, variants of which are growingly being used in surveillance systems across different contexts.

Screenshot from the YOLO v2 demo video

To become literally invisible, you need to attach a patch to your body, covered with a certain type of colorful pattern. It confuses the deep neural network, which is trained to recognize objects and people in the live video feeds coming for example from the security cameras.

Apart from being an interesting experiment on its own, this study also demonstrates the fragility of systems, which are nowadays being called “artificially intelligent” and which are in fact only pre-trained pattern-recognizers.

Did anyone say the self-driving cars are near?


From the Ministry of complex challenges

How AI can enable a sustainable future

“Research by PwC UK, commissioned by Microsoft, models the economic impact of AI’s application to manage the environment, across four sectors – agriculture, water, energy and transport.”

“AI levers could reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 4% in 2030, an amount equivalent to 2.4 Gt CO2e – equivalent to the 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Canada and Japan combined.”


Forget about artificial intelligence, extended intelligence is the future

Related to the above article, here are some good thoughts on why the ideas of Artificial General Intelligence and Singularity are basically religions built on the belief, that the reality can be reduced to a finite set of narrow optimization functions in which we will be ultimately beaten by a superhuman AI.

The contrary is true - the future of AI is in the systems which will help humans in solving complex and multi-dimensional issues (like for example the climate change).


Other Links

  • Russians are the best in Youtube SEO - The former Youtube engineer Guillaume Chaslot has shown, that one week after the release of the Mueller report, the most recommended channel covering the topic among the 1000+ channels that he monitors daily was Russia Today. (Link to the twitter thread)

  • How a Google Street View image of your house predicts your risk of a car accident - researchers are constantly finding new ways how to extract unforseen value from the data exhaust. Approaches from this study could be very useful for your insurance company :-(link)

  • Local governments and police across the U.S. have been secretly testing crime-predicting AIs on falsified data (link) , the secretive “security” company Palantir has been helping them. (link)

  • Cognitive bias cheat sheet, simplified - cognitive biases make our lives simpler, but they often skew our perception of the reality and influence our decision making abilities. Biases are natural not just for us humans, but for algorithms as well. (Link)

Thanks for scrolling down here, we hope you’ve found at least some parts interesting. You will hear from us again, once we gather enough interesting stuff for you!