Tag Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Why the Turing Test won’t save us from murderous AIs, but I can

As has become a normal state of affairs with me, I’m worried.

This week, I’m worried about detecting artificial intelligence.

Sure, we have the Turing Test, but that only detects AIs too stupid to pass the test, and they’re hardly a threat.

Which is a major flaw. A test that only tells you when an AI isn’t intelligent isn’t terribly helpful if you’re trying to root out whether or not your loved ones are or have been replaced by a malevolent, manufactured intelligence hell-bent on wiping out the Human race, starting with you.

Some of you may feel compelled to point out that we have a better test for detecting AIs: the Voigt-Kampff machine.

Briefly, that test was effective, but as AIs evolved, detecting them with the Voigt-Kampff machine took so long that the AI in question ended up having plenty of time to administer its own test on you, the Living Or Dead Test. And the outcome of that test is always the same: you fail it, ending up, at a minimum, mostly dead.

So we need a better test. A Turing Mark II test, say, or a Voigt-Kampff Jr. machine. Something that can detect an AI and detect it quickly, before it detects (and deletes) you.

I believe I have come up with such a test.

Approach the person (or persons) you think may be a machine masquerading as a loved one, close friend, or colleague, and tell them they smell bad.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “No, Ian, you want to ask them personal questions only the real person could answer. That’ll trip them up!”

Two problems with that approach:

  1. Asking those sorts of questions are a sure tip-off to the AI that you’re suspicious. Have you seen the beginning of Blade Runner!? Don’t alert the machine intelligence you’re on to it!
  2. You’re assuming the alleged person being questioned was ever actually human. What if the AI has been living here, alongside us, all along? It would have those memories you’re asking about, but still be a cold and calculating Human-killing machine biding its time until the right moment to strike.

So leave it to someone who has given this a lot of thought and do as I say.

Tell them they smell, that their hair looks especially unkempt and scraggly, and that they should avail themselves of your shower.

Free of charge.

The shower, incidentally, that you’ve rigged with hidden cameras so you can observe them.

For expressly this purpose. Yeah, sure, that’s the reason you installed all those cameras.

Those high-definition, internet-ready cameras.

By the way, don’t tell the test subject about the cameras. That will alter the outcome of the test.

In a decidedly fatal-to-you way.

If said test subject has demonstrated a certain moral flexibility / lack of inhibitions, and / or you don’t have the necessary cameras installed, you can offer to assist them in their showering in order to observe them during the test.

If you go this route, do not, under any circumstances, offer to soap them up. While this might lead to some short-term fun (or not), you run the risk that they will expect you to wash their hair, and if that happens, the test has been nullified.

Also, should you opt to join them, make sure your concealed weapon is very well concealed. To do otherwise leads to all sorts of awkward questions.

Once in the shower, observe the test subject as they shampoo their hair. This is the key moment, and hence, the reason I have dubbed this test the Shampoo Test.

A human will read the instructions, Lather, rinse, repeat and do so, once.

An AI will read the same instructions and get caught in an endless loop of lathering, rinsing, and repeating.

At this point, your work is done, as the AI will continue to lather, rinse, and repeat until its batteries go dead.

If this AI is nuclear powered, you might not be able to use your shower ever again. But having a man-destroying machine using up all your hot water for the next five thousand years is a small price to pay for your life.

Now AIs, as the name suggests, aren’t stupid. The whole Lather, rinse, repeat gag is not uncommon in Human comedy routines. So the more sophisticated AIs will have an extra bit of coding in their logic that will prevent this test from working:

Instead of performing personal hygiene [item]:
     if item is ('shampooing' or 'conditioning'):
          Stop the action;  // skip Repeat, causes execution issues   
     otherwise:             // non-hair washing action, do as normal
          perform personal hygiene (item).

This is very bad. It completely invalidates a negative outcome from the Shampoo Test, rendering its use pointless.

Or it would, if I humans weren’t such clever bastards.

The fix is simple:

It leaves your hair with a glorious, yet sticky shine that also attracts flies! Win win!

If the AI you plan to test has an aversion to ketchup, try catsup or some other, less offensive condiment.

Remove all shampoo (and conditioner) from your shower prior to administering the test.

Replace the shampoo with a bottle that has been modified, where the ‘shampoo’ label has been replaced with the word ‘Ketchup’ (or ‘mustard’ or ‘cottage cheese’ or ‘Miracle Whip’ or whatever non-shampoo goo you want to replace it with, though I recommend not using ‘Nair’).

Now the AI will wash its hair with the ‘ketchup’ and the sub-routine to avoid the Lather, rinse, repeat issue is completely bypassed, because the AI thinks it is using ketchup instead of shampoo.

Simple and yet brilliant.

So far all of my loved ones have passed this test, and I can sleep easier at night. I’m not quite sure how I’ll get my boss or co-workers to use my shower, though, and that makes going into work very stressful.

But at least in my own home, I can sleep safe at night.

Unless I’m the AI.

Oh crap.

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Posted by on 26 January 2013 in Other Blogs


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Why the Singularity is Going to Suck

People get so excited these days about technology. Everything is getting smaller and more integrated. Computers are faster and smarter. Some gleefully proclaim the day is coming when we’ll all have cybernetic implants that allow us to do anything. Nano probes roaming our blood stream will be ever on the lookout for problems to fix. The lactose-intolerant will be able to consume dairy without the unpleasant side-effects. Shop class table-saw amputations will become little more than an inconvenience while we wait for the severed bits to grow back (and don’t tell me teenage boys who know there are no permanent consequences won’t take FULL advantage of that!). Huffing glue will be perfectly safe (and become a national pastime) since we can just restore our memories and personalities from a backup on ‘the Cloud’ (I want to fart every time I hear that term) once those nano probes repair all the brain damage.

Doesn’t that sound great?

Even better, these Singularity fans crow, will be the dawning of Artificial Intelligence that accompanies the Singularity. AI inside our cybernetic implants will provide us with a range of useful tools, from being a limitless resource for cheating on exams, to being our BFF so we don’t need to find or interact with anyone else, to playing Devil’s Advocate to the other voices in our heads when we go off our medication.

While I’m as excited as the next guy by the prospect of one day having a piece of hardware that can sass me jammed into my body (the level of excitement varying depending on just where it’s jammed), I don’t want to focus on that. I want to talk about the AI component of this budding fiasco.

People are ignoring an important problem with the arrival of AI. I’m not talking about the machines rising up against us and either enslaving us or wiping us out (though I suppose that bears looking into as well). I’m talking about degrees. Degrees of intelligence.

Think back to when you were in grade school. Remember that teacher’s pet suck up who always had her hand up, always knew the answer? Annoying little twit, wasn’t she? And let’s not forget the other end of the spectrum, the class clown who couldn’t think his way out of a cellophane bag (nor had the intelligence to realize just how fatal sticking his head into that bag would be, rest his soul). What makes you think AI will be any different?

Sure, we’re gonna have state-of-the-art, MENSA-busting AI manufactured at the finest, highest-tech institutes. And those AIs are gonna be smarmy gits none of us can stand to be around, let alone play Jeopardy against. And then, within a few years, we’re gonna have the cheap knock-off AIs, manufactured overseas by outsourced techies who have no respect for intellectual property laws. The quality on those will be all over the map, but I can guarantee you that they’ll be cheap, which means they’ll be everywhere. If we’re lucky, they’ll speak English. The Department of Motor Vehicles, MediCare, Social Security, and any other government bureaucracy you can think of that makes use of call centers will be answering their phones with AIs made by the lowest bidder. How do you think that’s gonna work out for us?

Sometimes I think we’d be better off getting wiped out by the machines instead.

So what do you think? Am I a crazy nay-sayer and doom-prognosticator? Do you think the AIs will be smart enough to avoid / fix the problems I foresee? And for that matter, just how do you hard code the Three Laws of Robotics into a machine? What if there’s a bug in that code copied-and-pasted by a Chinese programmer from an old version of an open source Linux module with known vulnerabilities? Do you really think we’ll be safe?

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Posted by on 4 May 2011 in Life, Technopocalypse


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