Robot crime?

1041809723Yesterday I was interviewed by Radio Sputnik to comment on some recent claims about robot/AI crime.  They have made a transcription and recording of the interview available here.

Some highlights:

“We need to be worried about criminals using AI in three different ways. One is to evade detection: if one has some artificial intelligence technology, one might be able, for instance, to engage in certain kinds of financial crimes in a way that can be randomized in a particular way that avoids standard methods of crime detection. Or criminals could use computer programs to notice patterns in security systems that a human couldn’t notice, and find weaknesses that a human would find very hard to identify… And then finally a more common use might be of AI to just crack passwords and codes, and access accounts and data that people previously could leave secure. So these are just three examples of how AI would be a serious threat to security of people in general if it were in the hands of the wrong people.”

“I think it would be a tragedy if we let fear of remote possibilities of AI systems committing crimes, if that fear stopped us from investigating artificial intelligence as a positive technology that might help us solve some of the problems our world is facing now. I’m an optimist in that I think that AI as a technology can very well be used for good, and if we’re careful, can be of much more benefit than disadvantage.”

“I think that as long as legislators and law enforcement agencies understand what the possibilities are, and understand that the threat is humans committing crimes with AI rather than robots committing crimes, then I think we can head off any potential worries with the appropriate kinds of regulations and updating of our laws.”

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What’s really interesting about the dress colour illusion

dress-color-illusionA piece in today’s Guardian (“The Science Behind the Dress Colour Illusion“) quotes me as a primary source, but the exigencies of copy deadlines mean that in a few places my intended meaning was lost.  Here are my (unedited) notes on the matter, which should clarify my comments in the Guardian article that might have left more than a few people scratching their heads: Continue reading

What is colour?

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Fellow Sackler member Jim Parkinson brought to my attention the fact that this year’s Flame Challenge – explaining science to 11-year-olds in less than 300 words – is on the topic “What is Color?”.  I decided to take up the challenge; here’s my entry (299 words!):

The question “what is color?” is tricky.  Understood one way, it hardly needs answering for people with normal vision, who have no problem learning how to use the word “color” and what the names for different colors are: color is just part of the way that things look.   But that answer would be of little use to a blind person, since for them objects don’t “look” any way at all.  Science should try to explain things for everyone, so here’s an explanation of color that works for all people, sighted or blind.
Light is a collection of extremely small particles called photons. A photon might begin its journey at a lamp, bounce off an object (such as a book), and end its journey by being absorbed by one of the cells that line the back wall inside your eye.  Photons wiggle while moving – some wiggle slowly, some quickly.
The color of an object is the mixture of wiggle speeds of photons the object gives off in normal light. 
 
Sighted people can see an object’s color because the way a photon affects their eye cells depends on its wiggle speed.  For example, if your eye absorbs a slow wiggling photon, you see red; a fast wiggling photon, you see blue. Mixtures of wiggle speeds have a mixture of effects on your eye cells, letting you see a mixture of colors.  Something colored white gives off photons of all wiggle speeds.
 
If you shine red light on a white ball it looks red, but its actual color is still white because if it were in normal light it would give off photons of all wiggle speeds.  Similarly, a blue book in the dark is still blue because it would still give off fast wiggling photons were it in normal light. 

Comments welcome.

Barry Smith: “The Mysteries of the Brain”

Steve Torrance says:

I just heard an interview with Barry Smith on Start the Week (Radio 4).

Barry has a series on BBC World Service – see http://tinyurl.com/37k928d

The Mysteries of the Brain
How do our brains work in everyday life?

The experiences that we take for granted – talking to a friend, listening
to a piece of music, lifting a cup of coffee, tasting a peach – depend for
their existence on the intricate and silent workings of several cooperative
regions of the brain.

Why do some people see numbers as coloured? Do we have five or twenty-five
senses? How much of the brain do we need to understand language? Can we
cure chronic pain or depression at the flick of an electrical switch? Do we
decide how to act before we know about it?

For this four-part series, Professor Barry Smith from the Institute of
Philosophy, explores the way neuroscience is addressing the ultimate
scientific challenge: namely, how our brain makes us the conscious
creatures we are – capable of language, thinking and feeling.

The BBC Start the Week programme is repeated tonight, and will soon be
available online:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006r9xr

Cheers

Steve