jeudi 18 novembre 2010

The first church of robotics -- Jaron Lanier

What all this comes down to is that the very idea of artificial intelligence gives us the cover to avoid accountability by pretending that machines can take on more and more human responsibility. This holds for things that we don’t even think of as artificial intelligence, like the recommendations made by Netflix and Pandora. Seeing movies and listening to music suggested to us by algorithms is relatively harmless, I suppose. But I hope that once in a while the users of those services resist the recommendations; our exposure to art shouldn’t be hemmed in by an algorithm that we merely want to believe predicts our tastes accurately. These algorithms do not represent emotion or meaning, only statistics and correlations. 

What makes this doubly confounding is that while Silicon Valley might sell artificial intelligence to consumers, our industry certainly wouldn’t apply the same automated techniques to some of its own work. Choosing design features in a new smartphone, say, is considered too consequential a game. Engineers don’t seem quite ready to believe in their smart algorithms enough to put them up against Apple’s chief executive, Steve Jobs, or some other person with a real design sensibility. 

But the rest of us, lulled by the concept of ever-more intelligent A.I.’s, are expected to trust algorithms to assess our aesthetic choices, the progress of a student, the credit risk of a homeowner or an institution. In doing so, we only end up misreading the capability of our machines and distorting our own capabilities as human beings. We must instead take responsibility for every task undertaken by a machine and double check every conclusion offered by an algorithm, just as we always look both ways when crossing an intersection, even though the light has turned green.

L'article complet est . L'auteur a ceci de particulier de faire à la fois partie des "top few digits researchers" dans le domaine des "computer sciences" et du camp des sceptiques voire des hérétiques devant la foi dans la technoscience dont la forme la plus ridicule s'incarne du côté des "singularistes" (ici, pour les vrais croyants de l'exponentielle ...) mais dont l'influence croît régulièrement à mesure que recule la pratique d'autre chose que l'accès immédiat à l'information. Non que cet accès soit en soi prolématique (*); simplement, il dresse une barrière invisible et rapidement infranchissable entre ceux qui font écho à cette information (pour ne pas dire la "retwittent" ! J'ai un peu de mal à y voir quelque chose de "non trivial et créatif" comme Jaron Lanier ... question de génération ?) et ceux qui la transforment ou, plus rares, qui la produisent.

(*) sans entrer dans le débat bien plus large de la technologie comme "moyen sans fin" mais sans ignorer la naïveté (que Jaron Lanier n'a pas) de la technologie simple outil, "ni bon ni mauvais en soi mais seulement en fonction de l'usage qu'on en fait".