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Giving Algorithms a Sense of Uncertainty Could Make Them More Ethical

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Algorithms are increasingly being used to make ethical decisions. They are built to pursue a single mathematical goal, such as maximizing the number of soldiers' lives saved or minimizing the number of civilian deaths. When you start dealing with multiple, often competing, objectives or try to account for intangibles like "freedom" and "well-being," a satisfactory mathematical solution doesn't always exist. "We as humans want multiple incompatible things," says Peter Eckersley, the director of research for the Partnership on AI, who recently released a paper that explores this issue. "There are many high-stakes situations where it's actually inappropriate -- perhaps dangerous -- to program in a single objective function that tries to describe your ethics." These solutionless dilemmas aren't specific to algorithms. Ethicists have studied them for decades and refer to them as impossibility theorems. So when Eckersley first recognized their applications to artificial intelligence, he borrowed an idea directly from the field of ethics to propose a solution: what if we built uncertainty into our algorithms? Eckersley puts forth two possible techniques to express this idea mathematically. He begins with the premise that algorithms are typically programmed with clear rules about human preferences. We'd have to tell it, for example, that we definitely prefer friendly soldiers over friendly civilians, and friendly civilians over enemy soldiers -- even if we weren't actually sure or didn't think that should always be the case. The algorithm's design leaves little room for uncertainty. The first technique, known as partial ordering, begins to introduce just the slightest bit of uncertainty. You could program the algorithm to prefer friendly soldiers over enemy soldiers and friendly civilians over enemy soldiers, but you wouldn't specify a preference between friendly soldiers and friendly civilians. In the second technique, known as uncertain ordering, you have several lists of absolute preferences, but each one has a probability attached to it. Three-quarters of the time you might prefer friendly soldiers over friendly civilians over enemy soldiers. A quarter of the time you might prefer friendly civilians over friendly soldiers over enemy soldiers. The algorithm could handle this uncertainty by computing multiple solutions and then giving humans a menu of options with their associated trade-offs, Eckersley says.

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14 hours ago
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ThreatList: $1.7M is the Average Cost of a Cyber-Attack

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Brand damage, loss of productivity, falling stock prices and more contribute to significant business impacts in the wake of a breach.
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1 day ago
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Professors From 7 US Colleges, Including MIT and Stanford, Have Teamed Up To Design a Cryptocurrency Capable Of Processing Thousands of Transactions a Second

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Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that's designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second. From a report: Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies. Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive. That's in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa.

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1 day ago
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RT @HCDFRS: Winter Weather Advisory in effect for Northwest Howard County from 6 PM until 4 AM Friday. From @NWS_BaltWash: Plan on slippery…

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Winter Weather Advisory in effect for Northwest Howard County from 6 PM until 4 AM Friday. From @NWS_BaltWash: Plan on slippery road conditions and sidewalks. The hazardous conditions could impact the evening commute after sunset as temperatures fall below freezing. #HoCoMD #MDWx


Posted by HCDFRS on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 1:23pm
Retweeted by HCPDNews on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 6:07pm


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1 day ago
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File Your Taxes Early This Year

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Tax season officially starts Jan. 28, and experts are advising people to start filing early this year if they don’t want their refund delayed.

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2 days ago
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US CEOs Are More Worried About Cybersecurity Than a Possible Recession

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With markets uncertain, many onlookers might think a recession is on the way, whether that's most CFOs in the world or voters in the United States. But domestic CEOs don't find heavy economic headwinds their biggest external business worry, according to a new survey by the Conference Board. Instead, it's cybersecurity followed by new competitors. Risk of a recession is third. From a report: After high-profile data breaches experienced over the last two years by such companies as Marriott, Equifax, and Uber, that might seem understandable. But U.S. CEOs stand in stark contrast to those of the rest of the world. Cybersecurity was the sixth most pressing issue for chief executives in Europe. It was seventh in Latin America, eighth in Japan, and 10th in China. Regarding concerns over a potential recession, Europe put that in second place, while Japan, China, and Latin America all rated it number one.

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2 days ago
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