Monday, March 30, 2015

Blockchain Thinking: The Brain as a DAC (Decentralized Autonomous Corporation)

Blockchains are a new form of information technology that could have several important future applications. They could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like DACs, distributed autonomous corporations. A DAC is a corporation run without any human involvement through a set of business rules based in software code. It is called a ‘corporation’ because it typically engages in corporate operations like fundraising, providing services, and making profits for shareholders. Blockchains are a software protocol upon which digital cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run.

One potential application is blockchain thinking, formulating thinking as a blockchain process. This could have benefits for both artificial intelligence and human enhancement, and their potential integration. Blockchain thinking could be conceived as an input-processing-output computational system with several features whose benefits might include the ability to orchestrate digital mindfile uploads, advocate for digital intelligences in future timeframes, implement smart-contract based utility functions, instantiate thinking as a power law, and facilitate the enactment of Friendly AI.

Top 4 Killer Apps: Brain as a DAC:
  1. Friendly AI – Digital intelligences will likely not be running in isolation, they will want to conduct operations on smartnetworks that are possibly managed by consensus models or other mechanisms. Any agent wanting to conduct transactions on a smartnetwork will need to be in good reputational standing to do so. Smartnetwork operations could include accessing information and other resources, fund-raising, entering into contracts, and offering services. The consensus only validates and records bonafide transactions from ‘good’ agents. Thus only friendly players would be able to have their transactions executed, and that is how friendly AI could be enacted. There are some objections to this argument, but the key point is that blockchains are a checks-and-balances system that could potentially encourage certain kinds of behavior.
  2. Blockchain Deep-Learners: A crucial moment in AI research was finally having large enough data stores over which to run machine learning algorithms. Google demonstrated this with news, translation, and most recently image recognition of cats in YouTube videos. A similar ‘big data’ argument can be made for thinking where large databases of personal connectome files might lead to an understanding of how thoughts are actually represented in the brain. This understanding could inspire new classes of AI applications. As is currently being explored for EMRs and personal genomes, blockchains could be a useful privacy and access control mechanism for permissioning different parties to the large and sensitive data files more granularly Personal connectome files could also be orchestrated by blockchain processes.
  3. Blockchain Advocates - One of the great potential benefits of blockchains could be instantiating smart contracts as your independent third-party advocates in uncertain future timeframes. An element of the business model that needs to be established is trustworthy oracles for confirming information. The Wikipedia of the future could be a blockchain-based oracle service to look up the current standard for digital mindfile processing, storage, and security as these standards would likely be advancing over time. “You are running on the current standard, Windows 36 and a Lloyd Quantanium 3,” your smart contract valet informs you. Thus, blockchain smart contract advocates could help digital intelligences and AI DACs feel more secure in their future survivability and also humans more comfortable in uploading their digital mindfiles.
  4. Digital Mindfile Services – Already there may be many different representations of you online, and your digital identity. Over time these could become more explicitly a full and fidelitous ‘digital you’ for backup purposes (like stroke rehabilitation) or otherwise. There are already some existing online mindfile services like LifeNaut and CyBeRev. Presumably machine-learning and deep-learning algorithms will eventually crawl the web to assemble ‘digital you’ files in an automated manner, aggregating social media, photos, linkedin profiles, forum comments, academic or other published writings, etc. into a composite you, including with imputations about your value system and goals. Later brain scans and personal connectomes can be added to this data store, as well as real-time lifelogs, memory logs, idea logs, and EEG brain activity logs from quantified self EEG rigs. This could lead to being able to instantiate your mindfile as a DAC and personal thinking blockchains, enabled to carry out digital tasks on your behalf.

Beyond these killer apps of Blockchain Thinking, there could be more sophisticated uses of blockchains for computational thinking. One could be logging all of an agent’s memories and ideas as discrete units that are encoded, stored, and universally-accessible, perhaps with multiple copies and versions (such as the soft-hashing of ideas in development) that are then deployed in smart contract DACs. Another is that processing might be instantiated in a massively distributed architecture that is not available in human brains, yet still comprises the non-linearity of human thought. Third, blockchain thinking might give rise to new forms of consensus models such as self-mining ecologies and proof of intelligence, and make use of demurrage principles to redistribute brain currencies like ideas and long-term potentiation. Blockchains and blockchain thinking might be not just a tool for the immediate progress of intelligence, but also for the longer-term transition to a world of multispecies intelligence living cohesively and productively in digital societies.

More details: Texas Bitcoin Conference Presentation, Paper, Video

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Immanence Reputations of Intelligent Instances running on Smartnetworks

One vision of the future is digital societies, comprised of different forms of intelligence like blockchain AIs, smart-contract DACs, and human mindfile uploads all running on smartnetworks. Verification of such digital identities may well be required for smartnetwork access. We are already living in a prototype of this world now, in the sense that access to digital properties requires digital identity verification. Many websites invite logging in with Facebook or Twitter as an already-established digital identity heuristic.

Also in the contemporary world, we are currently constrained to an embodied form, but there would be no such requirement in the digital societies of the future. Digital identity could become so distributed, portable, copiable, open-sourceable, sharable, malleable, and shardable, that it no longer makes sense to think in terms of entities. Instead of entities, personal identities, or embodied containers, there could be ephemeral instances; thinking, informational, actional, enjoyful, subjectivational instances. The question would then be how to enable smartnetwork operations in a post-entity society, perhaps one in which ‘ephemeral instances of capability and creativity’ have replaced identity-bounded entities.

One answer is that reputation could still matter. Even if not a full-fledged identity-entity, any instance, any measurable quantum, any participation no matter how ephemeral could still have a reputation. Reputations could become a lot more complicated, measuring different levels like actor, action, and intention, and also line-item credit for contributions and new ideas. Composite team reputations could be calculated for sharded groupmind participations. All this is could be possible through technology like blockchains that afford more granularity and accessibility in record-keeping.

Thus teputation might persist as a validation mechanism, even in advanced scenarios like post-entity digital societies. However, the trick will be to enact reputation assessment schemas that are not completely externally-imposed and outside the purview of the agent being evaluated. Preferable is re-envisioning reputation as a mechanism to empower the liberty and expression possibilities of the entities or instances being reputationified. This is an immanence reputation, one that is reflective of criteria self-determined by the agent and that accentuates its possibilities. The predictive analytics of the big data era could be applied to the development of reputational mechanisms to encourage agent futurity and potentiality realization as opposed to those that solely based on past acts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cogntive Enhancement can Integrate Man and Machine

Cognitive enhancement should be conceived as the philosophical issue of the greater subjectivation possibilities for man, as opposed to primarily a bioethical concern. The current world is one in which man and technology are increasingly interlinked. One high-stakes endeavor is cognitive enhancement, of which there are different working definitions. A precise account is that cognitive enhancement is the augmentation of human skills, attributes, and competencies through the use of technology, medicine, and therapy designed to increase human performance capability (Hildt). Another is that it is the amplification or extension of core capacities of the mind through improvement or augmentation of internal or external information processing systems (Bostrom). Another is it refers to any expanded or new capacity of a human being (Buchanan). The salient distillation is that cognitive enhancement is the targeted improvement of natural human cognitive abilities.

The motivation for cognitive enhancement could be twofold. First, there are the obvious practical benefits of improved perception and memory. However, beyond this, more profoundly the reason for seeking improved cognition is the implication that it can facilitate our own growth and development as humans, actualizing ourselves and our potential more rapidly and effectively. Cognitive enhancement is an important topic for investigation because it examines our existence and also the human-technology relation. Increasingly powerful science and technology tools are emerging that may have the potential to dramatically enhance human performance, and perhaps redefine what it is to be human. Technology advances at a much higher rate than man subjectivates, and man and technology are increasingly being integrated together, with technology no longer being seen as an external tool, but as an embedded presence, such that man and technology are co-evolving and subjectivating together. The rights kinds of cognitive enhancement applications might be of benefit for both humans and technology entities, and their potential integration.

Bostrom, N., and Sandberg, A. (2009). "Cognitive enhancement: methods, ethics, regulatory challenges." Sci. Eng. Ethics 15, 311–341.
Buchanan, A. (2013). Beyond Humanity: The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
Hildt, E. and Franke, A.G., Eds. (2013). Cognitive Enhancement: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Dordrecht DE: Springer.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Blockchain Thinkers and Smart Contracts to take over the World?

Automatically-executing smart contracts and their impact on society has been contemplated in many different contemporary science fiction works like Daemon (Suarez), and Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross). The interesting point is that artificial autonomous agents are becoming increasingly full-fledged participants in the real-life contemporary world. There are many forms of artificial intelligence in development, and also the advent of new kinds of information technology like blockchains.

Blockchains could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like distributed autonomous corporations (DACs), a long-envisioned concept in computing and science fiction. Blockchains are a universal permanent public transaction ledger where smart contracts can be encoded to conduct certain activities in the future. For example, a smart contract could be used to specify a bet between two parties about the maximum temperature tomorrow. The smart contract, itself being online, will automatically check the temperature tomorrow per a pre-specified information oracle (like an Internet-based weather site) and pay out the proceeds to the winning party. Similarly, more complicated arrangements like mortgages (with interest rate resets) and wills (payout per a person’s death) could be encoded in smart contracts.

Far more complicated smart contracts could also be specified, for example for DACs where all corporate documents are encoded to blockchains. This would include the operating charter, governance rules, financial statements, client contracts, licenses, and other documents for orchestrating all manner of corporate conduct. A DAC would engage in the full suite of activities conducted by any physical-world corporation, except that all operations would be triggered to execute automatically per blockchain-based smart contracts. Since all of the DAC’s activities are blockchain-registered transactions, its operations are transparent and publically-inspectable on demand at any moment. Other advanced entities could include Blockchain Thinkers and fully-autonomous Blockchain AIs.

Smart-contract entities are a new concept that is not presently part of everyday human life, but is contemplated in science fiction works such as Daemon (Suarez), Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross), and the Golden Age trilogy and Hermetic Millennia (John C. Wright). These narratives provide various portrayals of what life might be like with humans and autonomous corporations living in coexistence. On one hand, there are many potential efficiency and transparency benefits that facilitate societal interaction as agent motives and activities can be observed more closely and constitute a truer measure of reputation. On the other hand, DACs are a monolithic code entity that may execute unstoppably despite changing world conditions. Code has always been law (inexorably-executing), but the context for human interaction with such code has been more limited. In the current connected world, humans may be increasingly living side-by-side with different gradations of code-based sentient entities such as personalized robots, artificial companions, Internet-of-Things smarthome networks, self-driving connected cars, and Blockchain Thinkers.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

New Legal Regime for Blockchain-based Smart Property and Smart Contracts?

Beyond the already wide-ranging digital currency and financial transaction applications for blockchain technology, there is another class of applications that could allow a complete reconfiguration of law and government. Blockchains are a new form of decentralized information technology, the trustless cryptographic public ledger system that underlies digital currencies like Bitcoin. Some of these potential application in law and government are that in the future, all property (hard and soft assets, and intellectual property) could be registered and transacted via blockchains as smart property. Likewise, all forms of legal agreements, contractual relationships, and governance could be enacted through code-based smart contracts.

An important consideration raised by the possibility of smart contracts and systems of cryptographically-activated assets is whether a new body of law and regulation is required to distinguish between technically-binding code contracts, and more flexible legally-binding human contracts. Contract compliance or breach is at the discretion of human agents in a way that it is not with blockchain-based or any kind of code-based contracts. Since it could be nearly impossible to enforce smart contracts with law as currently enacted (for example, a decentralized program already launched and running is difficult to control, regulate, or sue for damages), the legal framework is essentially pushed down to the level of the contract. It is not that lawlessness and anarchy would ensue with smart contracts, but the implication is that legal frameworks would become more granular and customized to the situation. Parties agreeing to a contract could choose a legal framework just as jurisdiction is selected as a parameter now. Thus smart contracts impact not just property law and contract law, but more broadly the notion of the social contract within society.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Top 5 Immediate Money-Making Applications of Blockchain Technology

The right question is not whether Bitcoin is over or under-valued, or over or under-hyped, but what the biggest potential money-making applications might be. While we wait for consumer-ready cryptocurrency applications to be presented to us by the financial services industry and other trusted providers, in the progression of ATMs, online billpay, eStatements, and Apple Pay, there are many other opportunities to be explored.
Blockchains could be the last piece of core infrastructural technology needed to facilitate the machine learning revolution in the same progression as the industrial revolution, only quicker.
  1. Banking 2.0: The first and most obvious application of blockchain technology is the opportunity to reinvent the banking and financial services industry. The current monetary system is far too slow - it takes days and weeks to transfer funds, where cryptocurrency transactions are received immediately anywhere in the world. Sending a payment to a software development team in India means people receiving money instantly, and at a fraction of the traditional transaction cost. This could mean a tremendous speed-up in the velocity of money, and a way to allow legacy banking systems to interoperate, reorganize themselves, and make the whole way they do business more efficient. 
  2. Financial Markets. In financial markets, one clear application of blockchain technology is algorithmic trading and back office operations. High-frequency trading could be taken to the next level implemented in smart contract DACs (decentralized autonomous corporations) and executed by semiautonomous agents with the ability to act more quickly and better crawl information sources for price, news, and sentiment changes. Similarly, whole tiers of back-office operations like clearing currently handled by people-agents could be handled by blockchain-agents. The automation economy is well under way, and blockchains provide the final required checks-and-balances feature of accountability. Blockchains instantiate a robust technology record of all transactions in a universal ledger system that is available for future lookup on-demand at any moment. Financial services businesses like the mortgage industry could implement smart property via blockchains as a universal asset registry and transfer system, and smart contracts for payment automation, interest rate resets, and securitization packaging. 
  3. RTB and BI Automation. In the same vein as smart contract-based algorithmic trading, blockchains are also well-suited for implementation in other automated high-frequency markets like real-time bidding for advertising and business intelligence. These are already heavily machine algorithm-based markets that could be easily facilitated by being instantiated in blockchains. Again there is quicker, better, more-trackable, more-efficient, permanent, universal worldwide execution, together with record-keeping, monitoring, and tracking. The RTB market is billions of dollars at present and estimated to grow to $42 billion in the next three years. Likewise automated business intelligence is big business, and big data, for example, domain name hosting services use machine learning algorithms to continuously obtain competitive data points for standard services such as the cost of 1-year hosting with 2 GB of storage.
  4. Blockchain IOT and M2M. We think cryptocurrencies might make our human lives easier, and they do, but even more so, they are for the machine economy. Cryptocurrencies are the economic layer the web never had, and can facilitate not just remuneration, but also the communication, coordination, and tracking of all machine-to-machine and machine-to-human interactions. While two thirds of people are estimated to be online in five years (from the current one-third), 25 billion things are forecast to be online by 2020. A corresponding Internet-of-Money is needed to organize this Internet-of-People and Internet-of-Things, for example seamlessly facilitating a connected car’s progression from smarthome IOT network to smartcity highway to automated city center parking. IBM's Adept announcement at CES is an early example of the idea of smartnetwork IOT coordination using blockchain technology.
  5. Blockchain Thinkers. Not only is blockchain technology a potential means of enacting Friendly AI, it is more broadly a new concept and tool for instantiating intelligent computing operations in a blockchain architecture. This could have implications for both the development of artificial intelligence and human cognitive enhancement. DeepMind's Neural Turning Machines as an external memory for machine learning algorithms is an example of this kind of instantiation structure in artificial intelligence. For cognitive enhancement too, a blockchain could be the tool that makes lifelogging useful, recording every thought as a transaction in a blockchain memory, for search and recovery later, for example in the cases of Alzheimer's disease and stroke rehabilitation. One implication of Blockchain Thinkers is Blockchain Advocates. Blockchain Advocates are blockchain-based smart contracts as a new form of independent third-party advocate that can act on your behalf in future time frames. Right now you can set up smart contracts to monitor your smarthome IOT network, for example pinging you if the security system goes offline. In the future, your smart contract advocates could confirm that your digital mindfile is still running and being backed up appropriately, doing future real-time oracle lookups. “You’re still running on the current standard, Windows 36” your smart contract butler informs you. (More information: Blockchain Thinkers: The Brain as a DAC and Cognitive Applications of Blockchain Technology).
Bitcoin and blockchain technology could be just the first application of decentralization as a new form of information technology. 
Overall, blockchains are a new class of decentralized information technology for the potential execution of any kind of administrative task more efficiently, from all applications of money and finance, to government to health. Blockchains are a global-scale coordination mechanism - quicker, more transparent, more participative, and more accessible. Blockchains are a supercomputer for reality in the sense that they are a management tool for any system that can be quantized or divided into discrete elements or constituent parts. Bitcoin as the current ‘legacy’ cryptocurrency with more entrenched network effect adoption than other cryptocurrencies might not be the final or enduring cryptocurrency. Likewise the blockchain architecture as currently instantiated with questionably expensive and wasteful proof-of-work mining operations might not be the final architecture. However, it is harder to argue that decentralization as a new concept and class of information technology is not here to stay given the liquidity and penetration reach of the Internet. Focusing on end-user applications could help Bitcoin shift from its nacency into a more mature phase of cryptocurrency industry development, becoming a value currency, not just a development currency or speculative currency.

More Information: Swan, M. (2015). Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy. O'Reilly Media.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blockchains as a Granular Universal Transaction System

Blockchain technology is a new concept in large-scale coordination due to a number of key features. First, a blockchain is an open universal transaction system. Every transaction worldwide is processed the same way and posted and made available for viewing on the blockchain. The transaction ledger is publicly-inspectable on-demand at any future moment.

Second, blockchains are trustless in the sense of not having to find or trust any of the other parties in the transaction; it is just necessary to trust the system. This suggests that orders-of-magnitude more transactions may be possible in trustless systems since the architecture is a mechanism allowing anyone to transact with anyone anywhere; geographical proximity, personal knowledge, and the search problem are all reduced or resolved. This is conceptually a next step in the progression of how Amazon (a global system) opens up trading in a way that Craigslist (geographically-local) does not.

Third, blockchains are a universal tracking system that might be able to accommodate infinitely more granularity than has been feasible and cost-effective to monitor previously. The optimality of what level of transaction detail is best to post directly to the blockchain (thus invoking the expensive mining operation for their recording) is being sorted out in different ecosystem tiers. The overall blockchain ecosystem is developing to avoid bloating the blockchain with too many micro-transactions by making use of special-purpose sidechains, decentralized off-chain storage (for example with MaidSafe, batched transactions (like batched notary sidechains to register large groups of legal documents), and Merkle trees (confirming and storing a whole corpus of data with one meta-hash).
Blockchains are a Supercomputer for Reality, a Mechanism for Orchestrating Quanta
The key idea of blockchains as a universal transaction system is that they are an automated computational mode, a seamless universal infrastructural element for the coordinated activity of granularity. Blockchains could be a universal transaction system on an order never before imagined that could possibly be used to coordinate the whole of human and machine activity. In this sense, blockchain technology is a supercomputer for reality. Any and all phenomena that can be quantized (defined in discrete units or packages) can be denoted this way and encoded and transacted in an automated fashion on the blockchain. As big data seeks to perhaps eventually model and predict all phenomena, natural and otherwise, so too might blockchains accompany big data for the tracking and administration of all phenomena.

One summary and prognostication of this dynamic and the potential universal applicability of blockchains is that anything that can be decentralized will be. This has an implied assumption about the inherent efficiency, benefit, and potential superiority in certain situations of the blockchain model. Decentralization is ‘where water goes’ (where water flows naturally, along the path of least resistance and least effort). The blockchain is an Occam’s razor, a natural efficiency process.

Blockchains are thus an intriguing model for coordinating the full transactional load of any large-scale system, whether the whole of different forms of human activity (social systems) or any other system too like a brain. In a brain there are quadrillions of transactions that could perhaps be handled in the universal transactional system architecture of a blockchain, like with Blockchain Thinking models.

Further, it is not just the transaction-handling capability of the blockchain as a universal coordination system but other properties that can also be applied through-out such as demurrage incitory stimulation for dynamic resource redistribution across the system. In Blockchain Thinking, this could be redistributing brain currencies like ideas and potentiation. Thus, it is not the mere orchestration features of universal blockchain systems but their enhancement possibilities that is perhaps the more interesting point. Not only can we better organize larger-scale existing activity with blockchains, but we can also possibly open up new classes of as-yet unimagined functionality and potentiality.

More information: Swan, M. (2015). Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy. O'Reilly Media.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Technology is ‘The Other’ with whom Humans Engage the most

The Contemporary Media Environment (CME) is the current situation of the widespread connected world of computing, which features the pervasive presence of technology in an increasingly rich information environment between and amongst human and machine entities.

One aspect of the CME is the increasing emergence of technology as ‘the other’ in the human-technology relation. Humans are now in a wholly new conceptualization and interaction with technology, and also information, where non-human entities are the primary other party in the majority of interactions (Floridi 2014). Technology is ‘the other’ with whom humans are engaging the most.

The theme of the ‘technology other’ has often been explored in film, with the increasing trend of humans and technology being portrayed in full partnership, for example in Big Hero 6 (2014), Her (2013), and Robot & Frank (2012).

Another way that the CME is manifesting the technology other is through embodiment, and in an escalation in the forms and types of human interaction. The technology other is no longer conceived narrowly as Amazon and Netflix recommendations, but instead as a fully-embodied agent. An example of this is robotic personal assistants for home and work like Robotbase’s Personal Robot, MIT’s JIBO, and Amazon’s Echo. Likewise artificial companions, for a variety of functional interaction with humans, may be the next innovation.

A sense of embodiment might also be perceived with advanced voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana; they are a new kind of object-person.

Even beyond technology-as-other is technology-as-partner: the best ‘worker’ for many contemporary jobs in the automation economy, perhaps soon to be the machine economy, is a human and a machine in collaboration (Cowen 2013, Carr 2014).

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Machine Cognition and AI Ethics Percolate at AAAI 2015

The AAAI’s Twenty-Ninth Conference on Artificial Intelligence was held January 25-30, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Machine cognition was an important focal area covered in two workshops on AI and Ethics, and Beyond the Turing Test, and in a special track on Cognitive Systems. Some of the most interesting emergent themes are discussed below.

Computational Ethics Systems
One main research activity in machine ethics is developing computational ethics systems. The status is that there are several such systems, however, a paucity of overall standards bodies, general ethics modules, and an articulation of universal principles that might be included like human dignity, informed consent, privacy, and benefit-harm analysis. Some standards bodies that are starting to address these ideas include the IEEE’ s Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and European committees involved in RoboLaw and Roboethics

One required feature of computational ethics systems could be the ability to flexibly apply different systems of ethics to more accurately reflect the ways that human intelligent agents approach real-life situations. For example, it is known from early programming efforts that simple models like Bentham and Mill’s utilitarianism are not robust enough ethics models. They do not incorporate comprehensive human notions of justice that extend beyond the immediate situation in decision-making. What is helpful is that machine systems on their own have evolved more expansive models than utilitarianism such as a prima facie duty approach. In the prima facie duty approach, there is a more complex conceptualization of intuitive duties, reputation, and the goal of increasing benefit and decreasing harm in the world. This is more analogous to real-life situations where there are multiple ethical obligations competing to determine the right action. GenEth is a machine ethics sandbox that is available to explore these kinds of systems for Mac OS, with details discussed in this conference paper.

There could be the flexible application of different ethics systems, and also integrated ethics systems. As in philosophy, computational ethics modules connote the idea of metaethics, a means of evaluating and integrating multiple ethical frameworks. These computational frameworks differ by ethical parameters and machine type; for example an integrated system is needed to enable a connected car to interface with a smart highway. The French ETHICAA (Ethics and Autonomous Agents) project seeks to develop embedded and integrated metaethics systems.

An ongoing debate is whether machine ethics should be separate modules or part of regular decision-making. Even though ultimately ethics might be best as a feature of any kind of decision-making, ethics are easiest to implement now in the early stages of development as a standalone module. Another point is that ethics models may vary significantly by culture; consider for example collectivist versus individualist societies, and how these ideals might be captured in code-based computational ethics modules. Happily for implementation, however, the initial tier of required functionality might be easy to achieve: obtaining ethicist consensus on overall how we want robots to treat us as humans. QA’ing computational ethics modules and machine behavior might be accomplished through some sort of ‘Ethical Turing Test;’ metaphorically, not literally, evaluating the degree to which machine responses match human ethicist responses.

Computational Ethics Systems: 
Enumerated, Evolved, or Corrigible
There are different approaches to computational ethics systems. Some involve the attempted enumeration of all involved principles and processes, reminiscent of Cyc. Others attempt to evolve ethical behavioral systems like the prima facie duty approach, possibly using methods like running machine learning algorithms over large data corpora. Others attempt to instill values-based thinking in ways like corrigibility. Corrigibility is the idea of building AI agents that reason as if they are incomplete and potentially flawed in dangerous ways. Since the AI agent apprehends that it is incomplete, it is encouraged to maintain a collaborative and not deceptive relationship with its programmers since the programmers may be able to help provide more complete information, even while both parties maintain different ethics systems. Thus a highly-advanced AI agent might be built that is open to online value learning, modification, correction, and ongoing interaction with humans. Corrigibility is proposed as a reasoning-based alternative to enumerated and evolved computational ethics systems, and also as an important ‘escape velocity’ project. Escape velocity refers to being able to bridge the competence gap between the current situation of not yet having human moral concepts reliably instantiated in AI systems, and the potential future of true moral superintelligences indispensably orchestrating many complex societal activities.

Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Machine cognition features prominently in lethal autonomous weapons where weapon systems are increasingly autonomous, making their own decisions in target selection and engagement without human input. The banning of autonomous weapons systems is currently under debate. On one side, detractors argue that full autonomy is too much, and that these weapons no longer have ‘meaningful human control’ as a positive obligation, and do not comply with the Geneva Convention’s Martens Clause requiring that fully autonomous weapons comply with principles of humanity and conscience. On the other side, supporters argue that machine morality might exceed human morality, and be more accurately and precisely applied. Ethically, it is not clear if weapons systems should be considered differently than other machine systems. For example, the Nationwide Kidney Exchange automatically allocates two transplant kidneys per week, where the lack of human involvement has been seen positively as a response to the agency problem.

Future of Work and Leisure
The automation economy is one of the great promises of machine cognition, where humans are able to offload more and more physical tasks, and also cognitive activities to AI systems. The Keynesian prediction of the leisure society by 2030 is becoming more imminent. This is the idea that leisure time, rather than work, will characterize national lifestyles. However, several thinkers are raising the need to redefine what is meant by work. The automation economy, possibly coupled with Guaranteed Basic Income initiatives, and an anti-scarcity mindset, could render obligation-based labor a thing of the past. There is ample room for redefining ‘work’ as productive activity that is meaningful to one’s sense of identity and self-worth for fulfillment, self-actualization, social-belonging, status-garnering, mate-seeking, cooperation, collaboration, and meeting other needs. The ‘end of work’ might just mean the ‘end of obligated work.’ 

Persuasion and Multispecies Sensibility
As humans, we still mostly conceive and employ the three modes of persuasion outlined centuries ago by Aristotle. These are ethos, relying on the speaker’s qualities like charisma; pathos, using emotion or passion to cast the audience into a certain frame of mind; and logos, employing the words of the oration as the argument. However, the human-machine interaction might cause these modes of human-related persuasion to be rethought and expanded, in both the human and machine context. Given that machine value systems and character may be different, so too might the most effective persuasion systems; both those employed on and deployed by machines. The ethics of human-machine persuasion is an area of open debate. For example, researchers are undecided on questions such as “Is it morally acceptable for a system to lie to persuade a human?” There is a rising necessity to consider ethics and reality issues from a thinking machine’s point-of-view in an overall future world system that might comprise multiple post-biological and other intelligent entities interacting together in digital societies.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blockchain Consensus Models Increase the Information Resolution of the Universe

There is ample opportunity to explore blockchains as a new form of information technology, including what consensus models as a core feature might mean and enable. A key question is “What is consensus-derived information?” that is, what are its properties and benefits vis-à-vis other kinds of information? Is consensus-derived information a different kind or form of information? One way of conceiving of reality and the universe is as information flows, where blockchain technology helps to delineate three distinct levels of information:
  1. Level one: Dumb, unenhanced, unmodulated data
  2. Level two: Socially-recommended data. These are data elements enriched by social network peer recommendation, which has been made possible by networked Internet models. The quality of the information is denser because it has been recommended by social peers. 
  3. Level three: Blockchain consensus-validated data. Now a third level of data has been exposed, blockchain consensus-validated data, data’s highest yet recommendation level based on group consensus-supported accuracy and quality. Not just peer recommendations, but a formal structure of intelligent agent experts, have formed a consensus about the quality and accuracy of these data. Blockchain technology thus produces a consensus-derived third tier of information that is higher resolution in that it is more densely modulated with quality attributes, and simultaneously is more global, more egalitarian, and freer-flowing. The blockchain as an information technology provides high-resolution modulation regarding the quality, authenticity, and derivation of information.

Consensus data is thus data that comes with a crowd-voted confirmation of quality, a seal of approval, the vote of a populace standing behind the quality, accuracy, and truth value of the data, in its current incarnation effectuated by a seamless automated mining mechanism. The bigger questions are “What can a society do with this kind of quality of data?” or more realistically, “What can a society do with this kind of widespread mechanism for confirming data quality?

Thinking of the benefits of consensus-derived information only helps to underline that blockchain technology might be precisely the kind of core infrastructural element, and scalable information authentication and validation mechanism, necessary to scale human progress and to expand into a global and eventually beyond-planetary society. Further, blockchains are a system of checks and balances that might help to effectuate not only friendly Blockchain AI, but also the transition to a future world of multipsecies intelligence. The speculative endgame vision is that the universe is information, where the vector of progress means transitioning toward higher-resolution information flows. Information may be conserved, but its density is not. Even beyond conceiving of blockchain technology as a core infrastructural element to scale the future of human progress, ultimately it might be a tool for increasing the information resolution of the universe.