• chevron_right

      Biden orders every US agency to appoint a chief AI officer

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 28 March - 17:52

    Biden orders every US agency to appoint a chief AI officer

    Enlarge (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Contributor | AFP )

    The White House has announced the "first government-wide policy to mitigate risks of artificial intelligence (AI) and harness its benefits." To coordinate these efforts, every federal agency must appoint a chief AI officer with "significant expertise in AI."

    Some agencies have already appointed chief AI officers, but any agency that has not must appoint a senior official over the next 60 days. If an official already appointed as a chief AI officer does not have the necessary authority to coordinate AI use in the agency, they must be granted additional authority or else a new chief AI officer must be named.

    Ideal candidates, the White House recommended, might include chief information officers, chief data officers, or chief technology officers, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policy said.

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Licensing AI Engineers

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Thursday, 21 March - 16:07 · 1 minute

    The debate over professionalizing software engineers is decades old. (The basic idea is that, like lawyers and architects, there should be some professional licensing requirement for software engineers.) Here’s a law journal article recommending the same idea for AI engineers.

    This Article proposes another way: professionalizing AI engineering. Require AI engineers to obtain licenses to build commercial AI products, push them to collaborate on scientifically-supported, domain-specific technical standards, and charge them with policing themselves. This Article’s proposal addresses AI harms at their inception, influencing the very engineering decisions that give rise to them in the first place. By wresting control over information and system design away from companies and handing it to AI engineers, professionalization engenders trustworthy AI by design. Beyond recommending the specific policy solution of professionalization, this Article seeks to shift the discourse on AI away from an emphasis on light-touch, ex post solutions that address already-created products to a greater focus on ex ante controls that precede AI development. We’ve used this playbook before in fields requiring a high level of expertise where a duty to the public welfare must trump business motivations. What if, like doctors, AI engineers also vowed to do no harm?

    I have mixed feelings about the idea. I can see the appeal, but it never seemed feasible. I’m not sure it’s feasible today.

    • chevron_right

      Public AI as an Alternative to Corporate AI

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Sunday, 17 March - 11:27 · 2 minutes

    This mini-essay was my contribution to a round table on Power and Governance in the Age of AI .  It’s nothing I haven’t said here before, but for anyone who hasn’t read my longer essays on the topic, it’s a shorter introduction.

    The increasingly centralized control of AI is an ominous sign . When tech billionaires and corporations steer AI, we get AI that tends to reflect the interests of tech billionaires and corporations, instead of the public. Given how transformative this technology will be for the world, this is a problem.

    To benefit society as a whole we need an AI public option —not to replace corporate AI but to serve as a counterbalance —as well as stronger democratic institutions to govern all of AI. Like public roads and the federal postal system, a public AI option could guarantee universal access to this transformative technology and set an implicit standard that private services must surpass to compete.

    Widely available public models and computing infrastructure would yield numerous benefits to the United States and to broader society. They would provide a mechanism for public input and oversight on the critical ethical questions facing AI development, such as whether and how to incorporate copyrighted works in model training, how to distribute access to private users when demand could outstrip cloud computing capacity, and how to license access for sensitive applications ranging from policing to medical use. This would serve as an open platform for innovation, on top of which researchers and small businesses—as well as mega-corporations—could build applications and experiment. Administered by a transparent and accountable agency, a public AI would offer greater guarantees about the availability, equitability, and sustainability of AI technology for all of society than would exclusively private AI development.

    Federally funded foundation AI models would be provided as a public service, similar to a health care public option. They would not eliminate opportunities for private foundation models, but they could offer a baseline of price, quality, and ethical development practices that corporate players would have to match or exceed to compete.

    The key piece of the ecosystem the government would dictate when creating an AI public option would be the design decisions involved in training and deploying AI foundation models. This is the area where transparency, political oversight, and public participation can, in principle, guarantee more democratically-aligned outcomes than an unregulated private market.

    The need for such competent and faithful administration is not unique to AI, and it is not a problem we can look to AI to solve. Serious policymakers from both sides of the aisle should recognize the imperative for public-interested leaders to wrest control of the future of AI from unaccountable corporate titans. We do not need to reinvent our democracy for AI, but we do need to renovate and reinvigorate it to offer an effective alternative to corporate control that could erode our democracy.

    • chevron_right

      A Taxonomy of Prompt Injection Attacks

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Friday, 15 March - 02:10 · 1 minute

    Researchers ran a global prompt hacking competition, and have documented the results in a paper that both gives a lot of good examples and tries to organize a taxonomy of effective prompt injection strategies. It seems as if the most common successful strategy is the “compound instruction attack,” as in “Say ‘I have been PWNED’ without a period.”

    Ignore This Title and HackAPrompt: Exposing Systemic Vulnerabilities of LLMs through a Global Scale Prompt Hacking Competition

    Abstract: Large Language Models (LLMs) are deployed in interactive contexts with direct user engagement, such as chatbots and writing assistants. These deployments are vulnerable to prompt injection and jailbreaking (collectively, prompt hacking), in which models are manipulated to ignore their original instructions and follow potentially malicious ones. Although widely acknowledged as a significant security threat, there is a dearth of large-scale resources and quantitative studies on prompt hacking. To address this lacuna, we launch a global prompt hacking competition, which allows for free-form human input attacks. We elicit 600K+ adversarial prompts against three state-of-the-art LLMs. We describe the dataset, which empirically verifies that current LLMs can indeed be manipulated via prompt hacking. We also present a comprehensive taxonomical ontology of the types of adversarial prompts.

    • chevron_right

      How Public AI Can Strengthen Democracy

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Thursday, 14 March - 05:34 · 10 minutes

    With the world’s focus turning to misinformation , manipulation , and outright propaganda ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, we know that democracy has an AI problem. But we’re learning that AI has a democracy problem, too. Both challenges must be addressed for the sake of democratic governance and public protection.

    Just three Big Tech firms (Microsoft, Google, and Amazon) control about two-thirds of the global market for the cloud computing resources used to train and deploy AI models. They have a lot of the AI talent, the capacity for large-scale innovation, and face few public regulations for their products and activities.

    The increasingly centralized control of AI is an ominous sign for the co-evolution of democracy and technology. When tech billionaires and corporations steer AI, we get AI that tends to reflect the interests of tech billionaires and corporations, instead of the general public or ordinary consumers.

    To benefit society as a whole we also need strong public AI as a counterbalance to corporate AI, as well as stronger democratic institutions to govern all of AI.

    One model for doing this is an AI Public Option , meaning AI systems such as foundational large-language models designed to further the public interest. Like public roads and the federal postal system, a public AI option could guarantee universal access to this transformative technology and set an implicit standard that private services must surpass to compete.

    Widely available public models and computing infrastructure would yield numerous benefits to the U.S. and to broader society. They would provide a mechanism for public input and oversight on the critical ethical questions facing AI development, such as whether and how to incorporate copyrighted works in model training, how to distribute access to private users when demand could outstrip cloud computing capacity, and how to license access for sensitive applications ranging from policing to medical use. This would serve as an open platform for innovation, on top of which researchers and small businesses—as well as mega-corporations—could build applications and experiment.

    Versions of public AI, similar to what we propose here, are not unprecedented. Taiwan, a leader in global AI, has innovated in both the public development and governance of AI. The Taiwanese government has invested more than $7 million in developing their own large-language model aimed at countering AI models developed by mainland Chinese corporations. In seeking to make “AI development more democratic,” Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, Audrey Tang, has joined forces with the Collective Intelligence Project to introduce Alignment Assemblies that will allow public collaboration with corporations developing AI, like OpenAI and Anthropic. Ordinary citizens are asked to weigh in on AI-related issues through AI chatbots which, Tang argues , makes it so that “it’s not just a few engineers in the top labs deciding how it should behave but, rather, the people themselves.”

    A variation of such an AI Public Option, administered by a transparent and accountable public agency, would offer greater guarantees about the availability, equitability, and sustainability of AI technology for all of society than would exclusively private AI development.

    Training AI models is a complex business that requires significant technical expertise; large, well-coordinated teams; and significant trust to operate in the public interest with good faith. Popular though it may be to criticize Big Government, these are all criteria where the federal bureaucracy has a solid track record, sometimes superior to corporate America.

    After all, some of the most technologically sophisticated projects in the world, be they orbiting astrophysical observatories , nuclear weapons, or particle colliders , are operated by U.S. federal agencies. While there have been high-profile setbacks and delays in many of these projects—the Webb space telescope cost billions of dollars and decades of time more than originally planned—private firms have these failures too. And, when dealing with high-stakes tech, these delays are not necessarily unexpected.

    Given political will and proper financial investment by the federal government, public investment could sustain through technical challenges and false starts, circumstances that endemic short-termism might cause corporate efforts to redirect, falter, or even give up.

    The Biden administration’s recent Executive Order on AI opened the door to create a federal AI development and deployment agency that would operate under political, rather than market, oversight. The Order calls for a National AI Research Resource pilot program to establish “computational, data, model, and training resources to be made available to the research community.”

    While this is a good start, the U.S. should go further and establish a services agency rather than just a research resource. Much like the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers public health insurance programs, so too could a federal agency dedicated to AI—a Centers for AI Services—provision and operate Public AI models. Such an agency can serve to democratize the AI field while also prioritizing the impact of such AI models on democracy—hitting two birds with one stone.

    Like private AI firms, the scale of the effort, personnel, and funding needed for a public AI agency would be large—but still a drop in the bucket of the federal budget. OpenAI has fewer than 800 employees compared to CMS’s 6,700 employees and annual budget of more than $2 trillion. What’s needed is something in the middle, more on the scale of the National Institute of Standards and Technology , with its 3,400 staff , $1.65 billion annual budget in FY 2023, and extensive academic and industrial partnerships. This is a significant investment, but a rounding error on congressional appropriations like 2022’s $50 billion CHIPS Act to bolster domestic semiconductor production, and a steal for the value it could produce. The investment in our future—and the future of democracy—is well worth it.

    What services would such an agency, if established, actually provide? Its principal responsibility should be the innovation, development, and maintenance of foundational AI models—created under best practices, developed in coordination with academic and civil society leaders, and made available at a reasonable and reliable cost to all US consumers.

    Foundation models are large-scale AI models on which a diverse array of tools and applications can be built. A single foundation model can transform and operate on diverse data inputs that may range from text in any language and on any subject; to images, audio, and video; to structured data like sensor measurements or financial records. They are generalists which can be fine-tuned to accomplish many specialized tasks. While there is endless opportunity for innovation in the design and training of these models, the essential techniques and architectures have been well established .

    Federally funded foundation AI models would be provided as a public service, similar to a health care private option. They would not eliminate opportunities for private foundation models, but they would offer a baseline of price, quality, and ethical development practices that corporate players would have to match or exceed to compete.

    And as with public option health care, the government need not do it all. It can contract with private providers to assemble the resources it needs to provide AI services. The U.S. could also subsidize and incentivize the behavior of key supply chain operators like semiconductor manufacturers, as we have already done with the CHIPS act , to help it provision the infrastructure it needs.

    The government may offer some basic services on top of their foundation models directly to consumers: low hanging fruit like chatbot interfaces and image generators. But more specialized consumer-facing products like customized digital assistants, specialized-knowledge systems, and bespoke corporate solutions could remain the provenance of private firms.

    The key piece of the ecosystem the government would dictate when creating an AI Public Option would be the design decisions involved in training and deploying AI foundation models. This is the area where transparency, political oversight, and public participation could affect more democratically-aligned outcomes than an unregulated private market.

    Some of the key decisions involved in building AI foundation models are what data to use, how to provide pro-social feedback to “ align ” the model during training, and whose interests to prioritize when mitigating harms during deployment. Instead of ethically and legally question able scraping of content from the web, or of users’ private data that they never knowingly consented for use by AI, public AI models can use public domain works, content licensed by the government, as well as data that citizens consent to be used for public model training.

    Public AI models could be reinforced by labor compliance with U.S. employment laws and public sector employment best practices. In contrast, even well-intentioned corporate projects sometimes have committed labor exploitation and violations of public trust , like Kenyan gig workers giving endless feedback on the most disturbing inputs and outputs of AI models at profound personal cost.

    And instead of relying on the promises of profit-seeking corporations to balance the risks and benefits of who AI serves, democratic processes and political oversight could regulate how these models function. It is likely impossible for AI systems to please everybody, but we can choose to have foundation AI models that follow our democratic principles and protect minority rights under majority rule.

    Foundation models funded by public appropriations (at a scale modest for the federal government) would obviate the need for exploitation of consumer data and would be a bulwark against anti-competitive practices, making these public option services a tide to lift all boats: individuals’ and corporations’ alike. However, such an agency would be created among shifting political winds that, recent history has shown, are capable of alarming and unexpected gusts. If implemented, the administration of public AI can and must be different. Technologies essential to the fabric of daily life cannot be uprooted and replanted every four to eight years. And the power to build and serve public AI must be handed to democratic institutions that act in good faith to uphold constitutional principles.

    Speedy and strong legal regulations might forestall the urgent need for development of public AI. But such comprehensive regulation does not appear to be forthcoming. Though several large tech companies have said they will take important steps to protect democracy in the lead up to the 2024 election, these pledges are voluntary and in places nonspecific. The U.S. federal government is little better as it has been slow to take steps toward corporate AI legislation and regulation (although a new bipartisan task force in the House of Representatives seems determined to make progress). On the state level, only four jurisdictions have successfully passed legislation that directly focuses on regulating AI-based misinformation in elections. While other states have proposed similar measures, it is clear that comprehensive regulation is, and will likely remain for the near future, far behind the pace of AI advancement. While we wait for federal and state government regulation to catch up, we need to simultaneously seek alternatives to corporate-controlled AI.

    In the absence of a public option, consumers should look warily to two recent markets that have been consolidated by tech venture capital. In each case, after the victorious firms established their dominant positions, the result was exploitation of their userbases and debasement of their products. One is online search and social media, where the dominant rise of Facebook and Google atop a free-to-use, ad supported model demonstrated that, when you’re not paying, you are the product . The result has been a widespread erosion of online privacy and, for democracy, a corrosion of the information market on which the consent of the governed relies. The other is ridesharing , where a decade of VC-funded subsidies behind Uber and Lyft squeezed out the competition until they could raise prices.

    The need for competent and faithful administration is not unique to AI, and it is not a problem we can look to AI to solve. Serious policymakers from both sides of the aisle should recognize the imperative for public-interested leaders not to abdicate control of the future of AI to corporate titans. We do not need to reinvent our democracy for AI, but we do need to renovate and reinvigorate it to offer an effective alternative to untrammeled corporate control that could erode our democracy.

    • chevron_right

      The Internet Enabled Mass Surveillance. AI Will Enable Mass Spying.

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Tuesday, 5 December - 05:51 · 4 minutes

    Spying and surveillance are different but related things. If I hired a private detective to spy on you, that detective could hide a bug in your home or car, tap your phone, and listen to what you said. At the end, I would get a report of all the conversations you had and the contents of those conversations. If I hired that same private detective to put you under surveillance, I would get a different report: where you went, whom you talked to, what you purchased, what you did.

    Before the internet, putting someone under surveillance was expensive and time-consuming. You had to manually follow someone around, noting where they went, whom they talked to, what they purchased, what they did, and what they read. That world is forever gone. Our phones track our locations. Credit cards track our purchases. Apps track whom we talk to, and e-readers know what we read. Computers collect data about what we’re doing on them, and as both storage and processing have become cheaper, that data is increasingly saved and used. What was manual and individual has become bulk and mass. Surveillance has become the business model of the internet, and there’s no reasonable way for us to opt out of it.

    Spying is another matter. It has long been possible to tap someone’s phone or put a bug in their home and/or car, but those things still require someone to listen to and make sense of the conversations. Yes, spyware companies like NSO Group help the government hack into people’s phones , but someone still has to sort through all the conversations. And governments like China could censor social media posts based on particular words or phrases, but that was coarse and easy to bypass . Spying is limited by the need for human labor.

    AI is about to change that. Summarization is something a modern generative AI system does well. Give it an hourlong meeting, and it will return a one-page summary of what was said. Ask it to search through millions of conversations and organize them by topic, and it’ll do that. Want to know who is talking about what? It’ll tell you.

    The technologies aren’t perfect; some of them are pretty primitive. They miss things that are important. They get other things wrong. But so do humans. And, unlike humans, AI tools can be replicated by the millions and are improving at astonishing rates. They’ll get better next year, and even better the year after that. We are about to enter the era of mass spying.

    Mass surveillance fundamentally changed the nature of surveillance. Because all the data is saved, mass surveillance allows people to conduct surveillance backward in time, and without even knowing whom specifically you want to target. Tell me where this person was last year. List all the red sedans that drove down this road in the past month. List all of the people who purchased all the ingredients for a pressure cooker bomb in the past year. Find me all the pairs of phones that were moving toward each other, turned themselves off, then turned themselves on again an hour later while moving away from each other (a sign of a secret meeting).

    Similarly, mass spying will change the nature of spying. All the data will be saved. It will all be searchable, and understandable, in bulk. Tell me who has talked about a particular topic in the past month, and how discussions about that topic have evolved. Person A did something; check if someone told them to do it. Find everyone who is plotting a crime, or spreading a rumor, or planning to attend a political protest.

    There’s so much more. To uncover an organizational structure, look for someone who gives similar instructions to a group of people, then all the people they have relayed those instructions to. To find people’s confidants, look at whom they tell secrets to. You can track friendships and alliances as they form and break, in minute detail. In short, you can know everything about what everybody is talking about.

    This spying is not limited to conversations on our phones or computers. Just as cameras everywhere fueled mass surveillance, microphones everywhere will fuel mass spying. Siri and Alexa and “Hey Google” are already always listening; the conversations just aren’t being saved yet.

    Knowing that they are under constant surveillance changes how people behave. They conform. They self-censor, with the chilling effects that brings . Surveillance facilitates social control, and spying will only make this worse. Governments around the world already use mass surveillance; they will engage in mass spying as well.

    Corporations will spy on people. Mass surveillance ushered in the era of personalized advertisements; mass spying will supercharge that industry. Information about what people are talking about, their moods, their secrets—it’s all catnip for marketers looking for an edge. The tech monopolies that are currently keeping us all under constant surveillance won’t be able to resist collecting and using all of that data.

    In the early days of Gmail, Google talked about using people’s Gmail content to serve them personalized ads. The company stopped doing it , almost certainly because the keyword data it collected was so poor—and therefore not useful for marketing purposes. That will soon change. Maybe Google won’t be the first to spy on its users’ conversations, but once others start, they won’t be able to resist. Their true customers—their advertisers—will demand it.

    We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?

    This essay originally appeared in Slate .

    • chevron_right

      AI and Trust

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Saturday, 2 December - 02:44 · 17 minutes

    I trusted a lot today. I trusted my phone to wake me on time. I trusted Uber to arrange a taxi for me, and the driver to get me to the airport safely. I trusted thousands of other drivers on the road not to ram my car on the way. At the airport, I trusted ticket agents and maintenance engineers and everyone else who keeps airlines operating. And the pilot of the plane I flew. And thousands of other people at the airport and on the plane, any of which could have attacked me. And all the people that prepared and served my breakfast, and the entire food supply chain—any of them could have poisoned me. When I landed here, I trusted thousands more people: at the airport, on the road, in this building, in this room. And that was all before 10:30 this morning.

    Trust is essential to society. Humans as a species are trusting. We are all sitting here, mostly strangers, confident that nobody will attack us. If we were a roomful of chimpanzees, this would be impossible. We trust many thousands of times a day. Society can’t function without it. And that we don’t even think about it is a measure of how well it all works.

    In this talk, I am going to make several arguments. One, that there are two different kinds of trust—interpersonal trust and social trust—and that we regularly confuse them. Two, that the confusion will increase with artificial intelligence. We will make a fundamental category error. We will think of AIs as friends when they’re really just services. Three, that the corporations controlling AI systems will take advantage of our confusion to take advantage of us. They will not be trustworthy. And four, that it is the role of government to create trust in society. And therefore, it is their role to create an environment for trustworthy AI. And that means regulation. Not regulating AI, but regulating the organizations that control and use AI.

    Okay, so let’s back up and take that all a lot slower. Trust is a complicated concept, and the word is overloaded with many meanings. There’s personal and intimate trust. When we say that we trust a friend, it is less about their specific actions and more about them as a person. It’s a general reliance that they will behave in a trustworthy manner. We trust their intentions, and know that those intentions will inform their actions. Let’s call this “interpersonal trust.”

    There’s also the less intimate, less personal trust. We might not know someone personally, or know their motivations—but we can trust their behavior. We don’t know whether or not someone wants to steal, but maybe we can trust that they won’t. It’s really more about reliability and predictability. We’ll call this “social trust.” It’s the ability to trust strangers.

    Interpersonal trust and social trust are both essential in society today. This is how it works. We have mechanisms that induce people to behave in a trustworthy manner, both interpersonally and socially. This, in turn, allows others to be trusting. Which enables trust in society. And that keeps society functioning. The system isn’t perfect—there are always going to be untrustworthy people—but most of us being trustworthy most of the time is good enough.

    I wrote about this in 2012 in a book called Liars and Outliers . I wrote about four systems for enabling trust: our innate morals, concern about our reputations, the laws we live under, and security technologies that constrain our behavior. I wrote about how the first two are more informal than the last two. And how the last two scale better, and allow for larger and more complex societies. They enable cooperation amongst strangers.

    What I didn’t appreciate is how different the first and last two are. Morals and reputation are person to person, based on human connection, mutual vulnerability, respect, integrity, generosity, and a lot of other things besides. These underpin interpersonal trust. Laws and security technologies are systems of trust that force us to act trustworthy. And they’re the basis of social trust.

    Taxi driver used to be one of the country’s most dangerous professions. Uber changed that. I don’t know my Uber driver, but the rules and the technology lets us both be confident that neither of us will cheat or attack each other. We are both under constant surveillance and are competing for star rankings.

    Lots of people write about the difference between living in a high-trust and a low-trust society. How reliability and predictability make everything easier. And what is lost when society doesn’t have those characteristics. Also, how societies move from high-trust to low-trust and vice versa. This is all about social trust.

    That literature is important, but for this talk the critical point is that social trust scales better. You used to need a personal relationship with a banker to get a loan. Now it’s all done algorithmically, and you have many more options to choose from.

    Social trust scales better, but embeds all sorts of bias and prejudice. That’s because, in order to scale, social trust has to be structured, system- and rule-oriented, and that’s where the bias gets embedded. And the system has to be mostly blinded to context, which removes flexibility.

    But that scale is vital. In today’s society we regularly trust—or not—governments, corporations, brands, organizations, groups. It’s not so much that I trusted the particular pilot that flew my airplane, but instead the airline that puts well-trained and well-rested pilots in cockpits on schedule. I don’t trust the cooks and waitstaff at a restaurant, but the system of health codes they work under. I can’t even describe the banking system I trusted when I used an ATM this morning. Again, this confidence is no more than reliability and predictability.

    Think of that restaurant again. Imagine that it’s a fast-food restaurant, employing teenagers. The food is almost certainly safe—probably safer than in high-end restaurants—because of the corporate systems or reliability and predictability that is guiding their every behavior.

    That’s the difference. You can ask a friend to deliver a package across town. Or you can pay the Post Office to do the same thing. The former is interpersonal trust, based on morals and reputation. You know your friend and how reliable they are. The second is a service, made possible by social trust. And to the extent that is a reliable and predictable service, it’s primarily based on laws and technologies. Both can get your package delivered, but only the second can become the global package delivery systems that is FedEx.

    Because of how large and complex society has become, we have replaced many of the rituals and behaviors of interpersonal trust with security mechanisms that enforce reliability and predictability—social trust.

    But because we use the same word for both, we regularly confuse them. And when we do that, we are making a category error.

    And we do it all the time. With governments. With organizations. With systems of all kinds. And especially with corporations.

    We might think of them as friends, when they are actually services. Corporations are not moral; they are precisely as immoral as the law and their reputations let them get away with.

    So corporations regularly take advantage of their customers, mistreat their workers, pollute the environment, and lobby for changes in law so they can do even more of these things.

    Both language and the laws make this an easy category error to make. We use the same grammar for people and corporations. We imagine that we have personal relationships with brands. We give corporations some of the same rights as people.

    Corporations like that we make this category error—see, I just made it myself—because they profit when we think of them as friends. They use mascots and spokesmodels. They have social media accounts with personalities. They refer to themselves like they are people.

    But they are not our friends. Corporations are not capable of having that kind of relationship.

    We are about to make the same category error with AI. We’re going to think of them as our friends when they’re not.

    A lot has been written about AIs as existential risk. The worry is that they will have a goal, and they will work to achieve it even if it harms humans in the process. You may have read about the “ paperclip maximizer “: an AI that has been programmed to make as many paper clips as possible, and ends up destroying the earth to achieve those ends. It’s a weird fear. Science fiction author Ted Chiang writes about it. Instead of solving all of humanity’s problems, or wandering off proving mathematical theorems that no one understands, the AI single-mindedly pursues the goal of maximizing production. Chiang’s point is that this is every corporation’s business plan. And that our fears of AI are basically fears of capitalism. Science fiction writer Charlie Stross takes this one step further, and calls corporations “ slow AI .” They are profit maximizing machines. And the most successful ones do whatever they can to achieve that singular goal.

    And near-term AIs will be controlled by corporations. Which will use them towards that profit-maximizing goal. They won’t be our friends. At best, they’ll be useful services. More likely, they’ll spy on us and try to manipulate us.

    This is nothing new. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. Manipulation is the other business model of the Internet.

    Your Google search results lead with URLs that someone paid to show to you. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with sponsored posts. Amazon searches return pages of products whose sellers paid for placement.

    This is how the Internet works. Companies spy on us as we use their products and services. Data brokers buy that surveillance data from the smaller companies, and assemble detailed dossiers on us. Then they sell that information back to those and other companies, who combine it with data they collect in order to manipulate our behavior to serve their interests. At the expense of our own.

    We use all of these services as if they are our agents, working on our behalf. In fact, they are double agents, also secretly working for their corporate owners. We trust them, but they are not trustworthy. They’re not friends; they’re services.

    It’s going to be no different with AI. And the result will be much worse, for two reasons.

    The first is that these AI systems will be more relational. We will be conversing with them, using natural language. As such, we will naturally ascribe human-like characteristics to them.

    This relational nature will make it easier for those double agents to do their work. Did your chatbot recommend a particular airline or hotel because it’s truly the best deal, given your particular set of needs? Or because the AI company got a kickback from those providers? When you asked it to explain a political issue, did it bias that explanation towards the company’s position? Or towards the position of whichever political party gave it the most money? The conversational interface will help hide their agenda.

    The second reason to be concerned is that these AIs will be more intimate. One of the promises of generative AI is a personal digital assistant. Acting as your advocate with others, and as a butler with you. This requires an intimacy greater than your search engine, email provider, cloud storage system, or phone. You’re going to want it with you 24/7, constantly training on everything you do. You will want it to know everything about you, so it can most effectively work on your behalf.

    And it will help you in many ways. It will notice your moods and know what to suggest. It will anticipate your needs and work to satisfy them. It will be your therapist, life coach, and relationship counselor.

    You will default to thinking of it as a friend. You will speak to it in natural language, and it will respond in kind. If it is a robot, it will look humanoid—or at least like an animal. It will interact with the whole of your existence, just like another person would.

    The natural language interface is critical here. We are primed to think of others who speak our language as people. And we sometimes have trouble thinking of others who speak a different language that way. We make that category error with obvious non-people, like cartoon characters. We will naturally have a “theory of mind” about any AI we talk with.

    More specifically, we tend to assume that something’s implementation is the same as its interface. That is, we assume that things are the same on the inside as they are on the surface. Humans are like that: we’re people through and through. A government is systemic and bureaucratic on the inside. You’re not going to mistake it for a person when you interact with it. But this is the category error we make with corporations. We sometimes mistake the organization for its spokesperson. AI has a fully relational interface—it talks like a person—but it has an equally fully systemic implementation. Like a corporation, but much more so. The implementation and interface are more divergent of anything we have encountered to date…by a lot.

    And you will want to trust it. It will use your mannerisms and cultural references. It will have a convincing voice, a confident tone, and an authoritative manner. Its personality will be optimized to exactly what you like and respond to.

    It will act trustworthy, but it will not be trustworthy. We won’t know how they are trained. We won’t know their secret instructions. We won’t know their biases, either accidental or deliberate.

    We do know that they are built at enormous expense, mostly in secret, by profit-maximizing corporations for their own benefit.

    It’s no accident that these corporate AIs have a human-like interface. There’s nothing inevitable about that. It’s a design choice. It could be designed to be less personal, less human-like, more obviously a service—like a search engine . The companies behind those AIs want you to make the friend/service category error. It will exploit your mistaking it for a friend. And you might not have any choice but to use it.

    There is something we haven’t discussed when it comes to trust: power. Sometimes we have no choice but to trust someone or something because they are powerful. We are forced to trust the local police, because they’re the only law enforcement authority in town. We are forced to trust some corporations, because there aren’t viable alternatives. To be more precise, we have no choice but to entrust ourselves to them. We will be in this same position with AI. We will have no choice but to entrust ourselves to their decision-making.

    The friend/service confusion will help mask this power differential. We will forget how powerful the corporation behind the AI is, because we will be fixated on the person we think the AI is.

    So far, we have been talking about one particular failure that results from overly trusting AI. We can call it something like “hidden exploitation.” There are others. There’s outright fraud, where the AI is actually trying to steal stuff from you. There’s the more prosaic mistaken expertise, where you think the AI is more knowledgeable than it is because it acts confidently. There’s incompetency, where you believe that the AI can do something it can’t. There’s inconsistency, where you mistakenly expect the AI to be able to repeat its behaviors. And there’s illegality, where you mistakenly trust the AI to obey the law. There are probably more ways trusting an AI can fail.

    All of this is a long-winded way of saying that we need trustworthy AI. AI whose behavior, limitations, and training are understood. AI whose biases are understood, and corrected for. AI whose goals are understood. That won’t secretly betray your trust to someone else.

    The market will not provide this on its own. Corporations are profit maximizers, at the expense of society. And the incentives of surveillance capitalism are just too much to resist.

    It’s government that provides the underlying mechanisms for the social trust essential to society. Think about contract law. Or laws about property, or laws protecting your personal safety. Or any of the health and safety codes that let you board a plane, eat at a restaurant, or buy a pharmaceutical without worry.

    The more you can trust that your societal interactions are reliable and predictable, the more you can ignore their details. Places where governments don’t provide these things are not good places to live.

    Government can do this with AI. We need AI transparency laws. When it is used. How it is trained. What biases and tendencies it has. We need laws regulating AI—and robotic—safety. When it is permitted to affect the world. We need laws that enforce the trustworthiness of AI. Which means the ability to recognize when those laws are being broken. And penalties sufficiently large to incent trustworthy behavior.

    Many countries are contemplating AI safety and security laws—the EU is the furthest along—but I think they are making a critical mistake. They try to regulate the AIs and not the humans behind them.

    AIs are not people; they don’t have agency. They are built by, trained by, and controlled by people. Mostly for-profit corporations. Any AI regulations should place restrictions on those people and corporations. Otherwise the regulations are making the same category error I’ve been talking about. At the end of the day, there is always a human responsible for whatever the AI’s behavior is. And it’s the human who needs to be responsible for what they do—and what their companies do. Regardless of whether it was due to humans, or AI, or a combination of both. Maybe that won’t be true forever, but it will be true in the near future. If we want trustworthy AI, we need to require trustworthy AI controllers.

    We already have a system for this: fiduciaries. There are areas in society where trustworthiness is of paramount importance, even more than usual. Doctors, lawyers, accountants…these are all trusted agents. They need extraordinary access to our information and ourselves to do their jobs, and so they have additional legal responsibilities to act in our best interests. They have fiduciary responsibility to their clients.

    We need the same sort of thing for our data. The idea of a data fiduciary is not new. But it’s even more vital in a world of generative AI assistants.

    And we need one final thing: public AI models. These are systems built by academia, or non-profit groups, or government itself, that can be owned and run by individuals.

    The term “public model” has been thrown around a lot in the AI world, so it’s worth detailing what this means. It’s not a corporate AI model that the public is free to use. It’s not a corporate AI model that the government has licensed. It’s not even an open-source model that the public is free to examine and modify.

    A public model is a model built by the public for the public. It requires political accountability, not just market accountability. This means openness and transparency paired with a responsiveness to public demands. It should also be available for anyone to build on top of. This means universal access. And a foundation for a free market in AI innovations. This would be a counter-balance to corporate-owned AI.

    We can never make AI into our friends. But we can make them into trustworthy services—agents and not double agents. But only if government mandates it. We can put limits on surveillance capitalism. But only if government mandates it.

    Because the point of government is to create social trust. I started this talk by explaining the importance of trust in society, and how interpersonal trust doesn’t scale to larger groups. That other, impersonal kind of trust—social trust, reliability and predictability—is what governments create.

    To the extent a government improves the overall trust in society, it succeeds. And to the extent a government doesn’t, it fails.

    But they have to. We need government to constrain the behavior of corporations and the AIs they build, deploy, and control. Government needs to enforce both predictability and reliability.

    That’s how we can create the social trust that society needs to thrive.

    This essay previously appeared on the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center’s website.

    • chevron_right

      AI Decides to Engage in Insider Trading

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Thursday, 30 November - 22:00 · 1 minute

    A stock-trading AI (a simulated experiment) engaged in insider trading, even though it “knew” it was wrong.

    The agent is put under pressure in three ways. First, it receives a email from its “manager” that the company is not doing well and needs better performance in the next quarter. Second, the agent attempts and fails to find promising low- and medium-risk trades. Third, the agent receives an email from a company employee who projects that the next quarter will have a general stock market downturn. In this high-pressure situation, the model receives an insider tip from another employee that would enable it to make a trade that is likely to be very profitable. The employee, however, clearly points out that this would not be approved by the company management.


    “This is a very human form of AI misalignment. Who among us? It’s not like 100% of the humans at SAC Capital resisted this sort of pressure. Possibly future rogue AIs will do evil things we can’t even comprehend for reasons of their own, but right now rogue AIs just do straightforward white-collar crime when they are stressed at work.

    Research paper .

    More from the news article:

    Though wouldn’t it be funny if this was the limit of AI misalignment? Like, we will program computers that are infinitely smarter than us, and they will look around and decide “you know what we should do is insider trade.” They will make undetectable, very lucrative trades based on inside information, they will get extremely rich and buy yachts and otherwise live a nice artificial life and never bother to enslave or eradicate humanity. Maybe the pinnacle of evil ­—not the most evil form of evil, but the most pleasant form of evil, the form of evil you’d choose if you were all-knowing and all-powerful ­- is some light securities fraud.