A.I. Researchers’ Joke: Whenever You Ask, Real A.I. Is 30 Years in Future

On February 1, 2019, at a conference at Texas A&M, I saw a demonstration of prototypes of A.I. driverless car technology. One of the lead researchers told us that it would be 30 years before we saw real driverless cars on the road.

(p. B3) While the A.C.L.U. is ringing alarm bells about the use of video analytics now, it’s anyone’s guess how quickly the technology will advance.

“The joke in A.I. is that you ask a bunch of A.I. researchers, ‘When are we going to achieve A.I.?’ and the answer always has been, ‘In 30 years,’” Mr. Vondrick said.

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “Intelligent ‘Robot Surveillance’ Poses Threats, A.C.L.U. Warns.” The New York Times (Friday, July 14, 2019): B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 13, 2019, and has the title “How Surveillance Cameras Could Be Weaponized With A.I.”)

Thai Royal Navy Seizes Tiny Floating Galt’s Gulch

(p. A1) American software engineer Chad Elwartowski thought he had found the perfect refuge from the long arm of meddlesome, overbearing governments. It was a home floating in the turquoise waters far off the coasts of Thailand and Indonesia.

Last year, he joined a project that built an octagonal fiberglass pod and mounted it atop a floating steel spar that reached 65 feet down into the ocean, like a giant keel.

It was to be a place for people to gather and live by their own rules, he said, beyond the jurisdiction of any government. “I was free for a moment,” he wrote on his Facebook page after settling in with his girlfriend in March. “Probably the freest person in the world.”

Not anymore. He and his (p. A8) girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, are in hiding on dry land after the Royal Thai Navy said their nautical haven was within Thai jurisdiction and accused them of trying to set up their own micro-nation. Last Monday, a utility ship towed the abandoned seastead to shore as evidence. Police say they are figuring out whether to request an arrest warrant for endangering Thai sovereignty—which potentially carries the death penalty.

The concept of a seastead—a homestead at sea—is a popular one in libertarian and cryptocurrency circles. Mr. Elwartowski, 46 years old, described it in a YouTube video as the closest he could get to the secret enclave cut off from the rest of society depicted in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For the full story, see:

James Hookway. “Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into an Opponent: the Thai Navy.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 29, 2019): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 28, 2019, and the title “A Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into a Stubborn Opponent: the Thai Navy.”)

The Ayn Rand novel mentioned above, is:

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

Facebook Hires More Humans to Do What Its AI Cannot Do

(p. B5) If telling us what to look at next is Facebook’s raison d’être, then the AI that enables that endless spoon-feeding of content is the company’s most important, and sometimes most controversial, intellectual property.

. . .

At the same time, the company’s announcement that it is hiring more humans to screen ads and filter content shows there is so much essential to Facebook’s functionality that AI alone can’t accomplish.

AI algorithms are inherently black boxes whose workings can be next to impossible to understand—even by many Facebook engineers.

For the full commentary, see:

Christopher Mims. “KEYWORDS; The Algorithm Driving Facebook.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, October 23, 2017): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 22, 2017, and the title “KEYWORDS; How Facebook’s Master Algorithm Powers the Social Network.”)

“If You Do No Harm, Then You Do No Harm to the Cancer, Either”

(p. B16) James F. Holland, a founding father of chemotherapy who helped pioneer a lifesaving drug treatment for pediatric leukemia patients, died on Thursday [March 22, 2018] at his home in Scarsdale, N.Y.

. . .

“Patients have to be subsidiaries of the trial,” he told The New York Times in 1986. “I’m not interested in holding patients’ hands. I’m interested in curing cancer.”

He acknowledged that some patients become guinea pigs, and that they sometimes suffer discomfort in the effort to eradicate tumors, but he said that even those who die provide lessons for others who will survive.

“If you do no harm,” Dr. Holland said, “then you do no harm to the cancer, either.”

. . .

Dr. Holland acknowledged that while experimenting with drug treatment sometimes amounts to trial and error, the primary killer is typically the disease itself.

“The thing to remember,” he said, “is that the deadliest thing about cancer chemotherapy is not the chemotherapy.” Continue reading ““If You Do No Harm, Then You Do No Harm to the Cancer, Either””

Forecasts “of Doom and Gloom” Fail Because “Lot of Moving Parts That Are Not Well Understood”

(p. A3) The science community now believes tornadoes most likely build from the ground up and not from a storm cloud down, potentially making them harder to spot via radar early in the formation process. But scientists still struggle to say with certainty when and where a tornado will form, or why some storms spawn them and neighboring storms don’t.

“Sometimes the science and the atmosphere remind us of the limitations of what we can predict,” said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

. . .

“We have big outlooks of doom and gloom, and nothing happens because there are a lot of moving parts that are not well understood yet,” said Erik Rasmussen, a research scientist with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

For the full story, see:

Erin Ailworth. “Tornadoes Outrun Forecaster Data.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 30, 2019): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 29, 2019, and the title “New Science Explains Why Tornadoes Are So Hard to Forecast.”)

Art Diamond on EconTalk 8/12/19 Podcast with Russ Roberts

The podcast will posted sometime during the morning of Mon., 8/12/19. EconTalk podcasts can be downloaded from (or listened to at) econtalk.org.