How AI Image Generators Make Bias Worse – YouTube

A team at the LIS (London Interdisciplinary School) have created a great short video on the biases of AI image generators. The video covers the issues quickly and is documented with references you can follow for more. I had been looking at how image generators portrayed academics like philosophers, but this reports on research that went much further.

What is also interesting is how this grew out of a LIS undergrad’s first year project. It says something about LIS that they encourage and build on such projects. This got me wondering about the LIS which I had never heard of before. It seems to be a new teaching college in London, UK that is built around interdisciplinary programmes, not departments, that deal with “real-world problems.” It sounds a bit like problem-based learning.

Anyway, it will be interesting to watch how it evolves.

Who wants to farm potatoes in the metaverse? Exploring Roblox’s corporate hell-worlds

Everyone from Samsung to Victoria’s Secret is getting in on Roblox. We hunted down the very worst branded experiences in the all-ages game platform (and an unofficial Ryanair world)

Rich Pelley of the Guardian has a nice article about the worst corporate games in Roblox, Who wants to farm potatoes in the metaverse? Exploring Roblox’s corporate hell-worldsCanada’s McCain’s Farms of the Future, for example, explains regenerative farming of potatoes. You can see McCain’s Regen Fries site here.

This use of a virtual gaming platform for advertising reminds me of the way Second Life was used by companies to build virtual advertising real estate. Once a space becomes popoular the advertisers follow.

CEO Reminds Everyone His Company Collects Customers’ Sleep Data to Make Zeitgeisty Point About OpenAI Drama

The Eight Sleep pod is a mattress topper with a terms of service and a privacy policy. The company “may share or sell” the sleep data it collects from its users.

From SlashDot a story about how a CEO Reminds Everyone His Company Collects Customers’ Sleep Data to Make Zeitgeisty Point About OpenAI Drama. The story is worrisome because of the data being gathered by a smart mattress company and the use it is being put to. I’m less sure of the CEO’s (Matteo Franceschetti) inferences from his data and his call to “fix this.” How would Eight Sleep fix this? Sell more product?

Huminfra: The Imitation Game: Artificial Intelligence and Dialogue

Today I gave a talk online for an event organized by Huminfra, a Swedish national infrastructure project. The title of the talk was “The Imitation Game: Artificial Intelligence and Dialogue” and it was part of an event online on “Research in the Humanities in the wake of ChatGPT.” I drew on Turing’s name for the Turing Test, the “imitation game.” Here is the abstract,

The release of ChatGPT has provoked an explosion of interest in the conversational opportunities of generative artificial intelligence (AI). In this presentation Dr. Rockwell will look at how dialogue has been presented as a paradigm for thinking machines starting with Alan Turing’s proposal to test machine intelligence with an “imitation game” now known as the Turing Test. In this context Rockwell will show Veliza a tool developed as part of Voyant Tools ( that lets you play and script a simple chatbot based on ELIZA which was developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. ELIZA was one of the first chatbots with which you could have a conversation. It responded as if a psychotherapist, turning whatever you said back into a question. While it was simple, it could be quite entertaining and thus provides a useful way to understanding chatbots.

PARRY encounters the DOCTOR (RFC439)

V. Cerf set up a dialogue between two of the most famous early chatbots, PARRY encounters the DOCTOR (RFC439) The DOCTOR is the therapist script for Weizenbaum’s ELIZA that is how people usually encounter of ELIZA. PARRY was developed by Kenneth Colby and acts like a paranoid schizophrenic. Putting them into dialogue therefore makes a kind of sense and the result is amusing.

It is also interesting that this is a RFC (Request For Comments), a genre normally reserved for Internet technical documents.

The Bletchley Declaration by Countries Attending the AI Safety Summit, 1-2 November 2023

Today and tomorrow representatives from a number of countries have gathered at Bletchley Park to discuss AI safety. Close to 30 countries, including Canada were represented and they issued The Bletchley Declaration by Countries Attending the AI Safety Summit, 1-2 November 2023. This declaration starts with,

Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents enormous global opportunities: it has the potential to transform and enhance human wellbeing, peace and prosperity. To realise this, we affirm that, for the good of all, AI should be designed, developed, deployed, and used, in a manner that is safe, in such a way as to be human-centric, trustworthy and responsible.

The declaration discusses opportunities and the need to support innovation, but also mentions that “AI also poses significant risks” and mentions the usual suspects, especially “capable, general-purpose models” that could be repurposed for misuse.

What stands out is the commitment to international collaboration among the major players, including China. This is a good sign.

Many risks arising from AI are inherently international in nature, and so are best addressed through international cooperation. We resolve to work together in an inclusive manner to ensure human-centric, trustworthy and responsible AI that is safe, and supports the good of all through existing international fora and other relevant initiatives, to promote cooperation to address the broad range of risks posed by AI.

Bletchley Park is becoming a UK symbol of computing. It was, of course, where the Allied code-breaking centre was set up. It is where Turing worked on the Colossus, an important early computer used to decode the German ciphers and give the Allies a crucial advantage. It is appropriate that UK Prime Minister Sunak has used this site to gather representatives. Unfortunately few leaders joined him there, sending representatives instead, though Trudeau may show up on the 2nd.

Alas, the Declaration is short on specifics though individual countries like the United States and Canada are securing voluntary commitments from players to abide by codes of conduct. China and the EU are also passing laws regulating artificial intelligence.

One thing not mentioned at all are the dangers of military uses of AI. It is as if warbots are off the table in AI safety discussions.

The good news is that there will be follow up meetings at which we can hope that concrete agreements might be worked out.




Lit sounds: U of A experts help rescue treasure trove of audio cultural history

A U of A professor is helping to rescue tens of thousands of lost audio and video recordings — on tape, film, vinyl or any other bygone media — across North America.

The Folio has a nice story about the SpokenWeb project that I am part of, Lit sounds: U of A experts help rescue treasure trove of audio cultural history. The article discusses the collaboration and importance of archiving to scholarship.

A Mirror Test for AI

I recently tried a version of a Mirror Test on ChatGPT 4. I asked it “What is life?” and then for each answer I copied the first sentence or two and put it back into the prompt. I wanted to see if ChatGPT was aware that I was parroting their answers back to them. Alas not … it just kept churning through various answers. The openings of its answers were, in order of appearance:

The question “What is life?” has been pondered by philosophers, scientists, theologians, and thinkers of all disciplines for millennia. …

Indeed, the question of “What is life?” is one of the most profound and enduring inquiries in human history. …

Absolutely. The quest to define and understand life is deeply embedded in the human psyche and is reflected in our art, science, philosophy, and spirituality. …

It didn’t repeat itself, but it didn’t ask me why I was repeating what it said. Obviously it fails the Mirror Test.



Artificial General Intelligence Is Already Here

Today’s most advanced AI models have many flaws, but decades from now, they will be recognized as the first true examples of artificial general intelligence.

Blaise Agüera Y Arcas and Peter Norvig have an essay making the argument that  Artificial General Intelligence Is Already Here. Their point is that the latest machines like ChatGPT are far more general than previous narrow AIs. They may not be as general as a human, at least without embodiment, but they can do all sorts of textual tasks including tasks not deliberately programmed into them. Some of the ways they are general include their ability to deal with all sorts of topics, their ability to do different types of tasks, their ability to deal with different modalities (images, text …), their language ability, and instructability.

The article also mentions reasons why people are still reluctant to admit that we have a form of AGI:

  • “A healthy skepticism about metrics for AGI

  • An ideological commitment to alternative AI theories or techniques

  • A devotion to human (or biological) exceptionalism

  • A concern about the economic implications of AGI”

To some extent the goal post changes as AI’s solve different challenges. We used to think playing chess well was a sign of intelligence, now that we know how a computer can do it, it no longer seems a test of intelligence.


AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation

If corporations were in fact real persons, they would be sociopaths, completely lacking the ability for empathy that is a crucial element of normal human behavior. Unlike humans, however, corporations are theoretically immortal, cannot be put in prison, and the larger multinationals are not constrained by the laws of any individual country.

Jeremy Lent has an essay arguing that AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation. He isn’t the only one making this point. Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva has a Medium essay on Corporations Are Already AI that corporations are legally artificial people with many of the rights of people. They can own property (including people), they have agency, they communicate, and they have intelligence. Just because they aren’t software running on a computer doesn’t make them artificial intelligences.

As Samarajiva points out, it would be interesting to review the history of the corporation looking at examples like the Dutch East India Company to see if we can understand how AGIs might also emerge and interact with us. He feels that Corporate AIs hate us or at least are indifferent.

Another essay that also touches on this is a diary entry by David Runciman on AI in the London Review of Books. His reflections on how our fears about AI mirror earlier fears about corporations are worth quoting in full,

Just as adult human beings are not the only model for natural intelligence – along with children, we heard about the intelligence of plants and animals – computers are not the only model for intelligence of the artificial kind. Corporations are another form of artificial thinking machine, in that they are designed to be capable of taking decisions for themselves. Information goes in and decisions come out that cannot be reduced to the input of individual human beings. The corporation speaks and acts for itself. Many of the fears that people now have about the coming age of intelligent robots are the same ones they have had about corporations for hundreds of years. If these artificial creatures are taking decisions for us, how can we hold them to account for what they do? In the words of the 18th-century jurist Edward Thurlow, ‘corporations have neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned; they may therefore do as they like.’ We have always been fearful of mechanisms that ape the mechanical side of human intelligence without the natural side. We fear that they lack a conscience. They can think for themselves, but they don’t really understand what it is that they are doing.