Whether in black and white, or in colour, the painting of Philosophy (above) is stunning. The original in colour would have been stunning, especially as it was 170 by 118 inches. Philosophy is represented by the Sphinx-like figure merging with the universe. To one side is a stream of people from the young to the old who hold their heads in confusion. At the bottom is a woman, comparable to the woman in the painting of Medicine, who might be an inspired philosopher looking through us.
Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to. The purpose of this site is to spread awareness and to shame companies that use them.
Reading about Value Sensitive Design I came across a link to Harry Brignul’s Dark Patterns. The site is about ways that web designers try to manipulate users. They have a Hall of Shame that is instructive and a Reading List if you want to follow up. It is interesting to see attempts to regulate certain patterns of deception.
Values are expressed and embedded in technology; they have real and often non-obvious impacts on users and society.
The alternative is introduce values and ethics into the design process. This is where Value Sensitive Design comes. As developed by Batya Friedman and colleagues it is an approach that includes methods for thinking-through the ethics of a project from the beginning. Some of the approaches mentioned in the article include:
Mapping out what a design will support, hinder or prevent.
Consider the stakeholders, especially those that may not have any say in the deployment or use of a technology.
Try to understand the underlying assumptions of technologies.
Broaden our gaze as to the effects of a technology on human experience.
As seniors find themselves cut off from loved ones during the pandemic, some are turning to automated animals for company.
I’m reading about Virtual Assistants and thinking that in some ways the simplest VAs are the robopets that are being given to lonely elderly people who are isolated. See In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort? Robo-cats and dogs (and even seals) seem to provide comfort the way a stuffed pet might. They aren’t even that smart, but can give comfort to an older person suffering from isolation.
These pets, like PARO (an expensive Japanese robotic seal seen above) or the much cheaper Joy for All pets, can possibly fool people with dementia. What are the ethics of this? Are we comfortable fooling people for their own good?
AI assistants continue to reinforce sexist stereotypes, but queering these devices could help reimagine their relationship to gender altogether.
Wired has a nice article on how the The Future of Digital Assistants Is Queer. The article looks at the gendering of virtual assistants like Siri and how it is not enough to just offer male voices, but we need to queer the voices. It mentions the ethical issue of how voice conveys information like whether the VA is a bot or not.
As it has been announced in various media, we regretfully announce the passing of our beloved former Director and founder of Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, and a father of NES and SNES- Professor Masayuki Uemura.We were caught by surprise at the sudden and unfortunate news .
Even after he retired as the director of RCGS and became an advisor, he was always concerned about each researcher and the future of game research.
We would like to extend the deepest condolences to his families and relatives, and May God bless his soul.
As a scholar in video game studies and history, we would like to follow his example and continue to excel in our endeavors.
(from Akinori Nakamura, Director, Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies)
The Proliferation of AI Ethics Principles: What’s Next?
The Montreal AI Ethics Institute has republished a nice article by Ravit Dotan, The Proliferation of AI Ethics Principles: What’s Next?Dotan starts by looking at some of the meta studies and then goes on to argue that we are unlikely to ever come up with a “unique set of core AI principles”, nor should we want to. She points out the lack of diversity in the sets we have. Different types of institutions will need different types of principles. She ends with these questions:
How do we navigate the proliferation of AI ethics principles? What should we use for regulation, for example? Should we seek to create new AI ethics principles which incorporate more perspectives? What if it doesn’t result in a unique set of principles, only increasing the multiplicity of principles? Is it possible to develop approaches for AI ethics governance that don’t rely on general AI ethics principles?
I am personally convinced that a more fruitful way forward is to start trading stories. These stories could take the form of incidents or cases or news or science fiction or even AI generated stories. We need to develop our ethical imagination. Hero Laird made this point in a talk on AI, Ethics and Law that was part of a salon we organize at AI4Society. They quoted from Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories to the effect that,
The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.
What stories do artificial intelligences tell themselves?
Yoko Tawada’s new novel imagines a time in which language starts to vanish and the elderly care for weakened children.
I’ve just finished two brilliant and surreal works of post-climate fiction. One was Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary also called “The Last Children of Tokyo”. This novel follows a great grantfather who is healthy and active at over 100 years old as he raises his great grandson Mumei (“no name”) who is disabled by whatever disasters have washed over Japan. The country is also shutting down – entering another Edo period of isolation – making even language an issue. Unlike most post apocalyptic fiction this isn’t about what actually happened or about how people fight off the zombies; it is about imagining a strange isolated life where Japan tries for some sort of purity again. As such the novel comments on present, but aging Japan – a Japan that has forgotten the Fukushima disaster and is firing up their nuclear reactors again. At the end we find that Mumei might be chosen as an Emissary to be smuggled out of Japan to the outside world where the strange syndrome affecting youth can be studied.
The second book is Harrow by Joy Williams. The novel takes place during the time when we deny there is anything wrong and depicts an America determined to keep on pretending nothing is happening. It is an America extended in harrowing fashion from our strange ignorance. The novel is in three parts and has religious undertones with the main character first called the lamb and then “Khristen.” The last book continually references Kafka’s The Hunter Gracchus, an obscure story about a boat carrying Gracchus that wanders, unable to make it across to the underworld. Likewise, America in this novel seems to wander, unable to make it across to some reality. The third book might be set in the time of judgement, but a Sartrean judgement with no exit where a child is judge and all that happens is more of the surreal same. As a reviewer points out, the “harrow” may be the torture instrument Kafka describes “In the Penal Colony” that writes your punishment on your back where you can’t quite see it. Likewise, we are writing our punishment on our earth where we choose not to see it.
Ask Delphi is an intriguing AI that you can use to ponder ethical questions. You type in a situation and it will tell you if it is morally acceptable or not. It is apparently built not on Reddit data, but on crowdsourced data, so it shouldn’t be as easy to provoke into giving toxic answers.
In their paper, Delphi: Towards Machine Ethics and Norms they say that they have created a Commonsense Norm Bank, “a collection of 1.7M ethical judgments on diverse real-life situations.” This contributes to Delphi’s sound pronouncements, but it doesn’t seem available for others yet.
A Hong Kong company has developed facial expression-reading AI that monitors students’ emotions as they study. With many children currently learning from home, they say the technology could make the virtual classroom even better than the real thing.
With cameras all over, this should worry us. We are not only be identified by face recognition, but now they want to know our inner emotions too. What sort of theory of emotions licenses these systems?