Social Cooling - and the long-term effects it might have.

GoblinCampFollower

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Thanks.

That's my primary thinking on this. There's growing talk that people are being unfairly punished for "mistakes" that they should be entitled to forgiveness for. But in my opinion, there's a line between mistakes and deliberate bad acts and choices that people only act contrite about because they're forced to by exposure or backlash. And it's not a thin or fuzzy line at all; but there's increasing attempts by some with agendas to blur that line, and I am resistant to that.
I'm all for punishing internet trolls and racists for their behavior. I agree that the website makes a hand wavy appeal to them just being "mistakes". My problem is that left to it's own devices, machine learning will associate you with other people who have a habit in common. You can become associated with people who made "mistakes" even if you never did such a thing. As Innula said:

My problem with this sort of profiling is that it risks institutionalising prejudice, and particularly when the scoring rules and algorithms are generated by AI.

That's because, if, for example, existing social prejudices tend to stigmatise and marginalise members of recognisable ethnic or religious minorities, then the AI will pick up on this, noticing that people with particular first or last names tend to get themselves arrested quite a lot, as do people who live in particular parts of town, and that they are also more likely than most to have irregular or insecure employment patterns, and act accordingly.
Machine learning isn't a magical truth telling machine, it's a very powerful stereotyper. Many computer scientists have been very vocal about their distrust of these algorithms for this. Tools for courts to see who is likely to reoffend have already been shown to be very racist. Resume readers punish female or foreign names etc.

Stereotypically "masculine" hobbies can be associated with domestic violence and liking certain movies may make an AI think you are more likely to be a drug user etc etc.

I've spoken before about my mental health issues. I take an antipsychotic for them. I post on subreddits that talk about mental health. An AI is likely to associate things like that with trouble, even if my own record is squeaky clean (which it is).

This isn't being paranoid, this is how machine learning works if left to it's own devices.

However, I would say that's a design problem rather than anything else, and best remedied by encouraging companies to guard against this, possibly by imposing on them a duty to nominate a director to take all reasonable measures to ensure their software, as well as their staff, understands all the fine words in the company's mission statement about equality and fairness and non-discrimination, and hitting both the company and the nominated director for large and well-publicised financial penalties and compensation if they fail to comply.
You're thinking about this like a lawyer, but this is a total nightmare from an engineering perspective. Machine learning algorithms are easy to setup on their own, but what you're talking about is a maintenance nightmare as we'd have to produce an ever growing pile of rules that overrule the natural results of machine learning to make it more fair.

I think that rather than starting with the AI then trying to force it to be more fair, financial institutions and employers should be banned from many data points when trying to grant loans or evaluate employees. For example, I think a bank should get to see your normal credit history and maybe criminal record, and nothing else. Employers don't need to know what an AI thinks of your social media posts...
 

Innula Zenovka

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You're thinking about this like a lawyer, but this is a total nightmare from an engineering perspective. Machine learning algorithms are easy to setup on their own, but what you're talking about is a maintenance nightmare as we'd have to produce an ever growing pile of rules that overrule the natural results of machine learning to make it more fair.
I'm just concerned to ensure that discriminatory practices don't become institutionalised. I don't care whether the practices were a result of human or computer error, but either way I want to see them stopped.
 

Aeon Jiminy

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What bothers me about this broad conversation is I don't ever recall being asked if I wanted this kind of guardianship. This kind of monitoring has generally been reserved for prisoners, children, and incapacitated individuals. It's also really interesting that the monitoring seems to be in one direction only. The institutions that are stripping us of our privacy seem to be working overtime to criminalize invading theirs. Kinda makes me think that all of this isn't happening for our own good.
 

Chalice Yao

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The institutions that are stripping us of our privacy seem to be working overtime to criminalize invading theirs. Kinda makes me think that all of this isn't happening for our own good.
It...isn't.

The main driving force behind those techniques and technologies is simple, and sadly the usual: Profit and/or influence. And the main groups that are implementing it more and more are the financial sectors (be it banks or insurance), the advertising firms, and the political lobbies to use it in campaigns. Meanwhile big money is made on the side by data brokers developing infrastructure to gather, collect and connect. Of course this all also plays into the hands of any three letter agency out there (The NSA had an absolute gigglefit field day regarding smartphone users, according to certain leaked documents), and regimes elsewhere, depending on where you live.

And when it comes to 'our own good', law enforcement groups of course also welcome this with open arms, often spinning the need for it as somehow being the only way to fight crime these days, and more often than not relying heavy on fearmongering to push that kind of angle.

The really sad part is, that all this stuff has what I'd like to call 'The Google Problem'.
You can do amazing things with this kind of technology that benefits people! it has lots of potential, and there are certain services, conveniences and neat things you can only offer or make in the first place if you connect data like this. Google is the prime example.
Many of Google's technologies, assistant functions, convenience apps and personal management functionalities only work with this kind of data, up to that traffic indicator on Google maps relying a lot on GPS data from all sorts of devices. All those things can be super neat and impressive, but they rely on that cloud of data on the internet.
But the problem with it all is, of course, that it can also be used for very bad things and is equally potentially valuable for ruthless abuse and cold decisions.

And ultimately the big issue these days being that less and less of it all is gathered through a concious decision by the users of modern technology to actually let it happen.
More and more stuff being collected in the background, sold by brokers, traded between companies where you expected your data to be 'private', and the end user being left in front of smokescreens and 100 page EULAs, if at all mentioned.
 

Aeon Jiminy

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I agree with everything you said, Chalice, so I'm not going to make everyone read it again. I can't imagine how all of this could ever be "undone" any more than I can imagine how you get rid of nuclear weapons until they all blow up. The US is marching boldly into 5G wireless. We know that "chips" are coming along with advanced robotics and AI. Although I'm concerned about all of the information being collected, I'm even more concerned about this highway being built that will inevitably be used to send information back in... for my own good.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Also, related!
The article provides an example of why I think this sort of concern is misplaced or, perhaps more accurately, why I think some of the remedies proposed are ill-thought-out:

Elsewhere in today’s report, the EU’s experts suggest that citizens should not be “subject to unjustified personal, physical or mental tracking or identification” using AI. This might include using AI to identify emotions in someone’s voice or track their facial expressions, they suggest. But again, these are methods companies are already deploying, using them for tasks like tracking employee productivity. Should this activity be banned in the EU?
We already have perfectly serviceable protections under existing privacy law, particular Section 8 of the EHCR (respect for privacy and a right to family life), which are already used to protect employees from intrusive surveillance, whether at home or at work, by employers.

To my mind, the EU should concentrate on seeing that provision is vigorously enforced by courts, who are very used to balancing the conflicting rights and obligations of real people and organisations in real situations and in particular cases.

Politicians, and I don't mean this at all pejoratively, are very good at dealing with hypothetical problems of imaginary people in hypothetical situations, but whenever they try to go further into the detail than that, it tends to go horribly wrong very quickly, because we inevitably end up with provisions that are clearly inappropriate and unjust in particular and unusual cases but the courts, nevertheless, have to enforce them as they're written.

So I would be looking to beef up existing legislation on data protection and employees' rights, not doomed attempts to ban whole technologies.
 

Kara Spengler

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Just on the cashless society thing, down here in Oz we're already well on the way to being cashless. Cash transactions currently account for less than 10% of transactions and it's predicted that figure will drop to 2% by 2022.

Linkage.

Edit: Here's an article on what the transition looks like at "street" level.
Cashless is great IF everyone has a noncash way to pay and there are no privacy issues. Remove either one and it is a terrible idea as you then wind up with 1st class and 2nd class consumers.
 
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Brenda Archer

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Cashless is great IF everyone has a noncash way to pay and there are no privacy issues. Remove either one and it is a terrible idea as you then wind up with 1st class and 2nd class consumers.
We still have a lot of unbanked people. I finally gave in and went cashless, but it shouldn’t be mandatory.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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Cashless is great IF everyone has a noncash way to pay and there are no privacy issues. Remove either one and it is a terrible idea as you then wind up with 1st class and 2nd class consumers.
When you have cash, then you do own money. When you totally went cashless, you just own a ledger that tells that you own money, and you've given away your control over your money.
 

Sid

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What bothers me about this broad conversation is I don't ever recall being asked if I wanted this kind of guardianship.
You are asked most likely nore than a dozen times already. It is in the terms of the user agreement when you install a new app on the phone, visit a website etc.
That button "I accept" that is clicked without second thought, because you don't want to wade trough pages of legal stuff, but you want to use the app or browse the website.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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When you have cash, then you do own money. When you totally went cashless, you just own a ledger that tells that you own money, and you've given away your control over your money.
But that's true anyway, or so it seems to me. The only cash I own comprises the notes and coins I have in my possession, same as Jeff Bezos. Like him, though, I own several bank accounts (ledgers) that tell me I have access to considerably more (though of course Mr Bezos owns more ledgers than do I, and his contain rather more 0s in the positive totals, too.

Money exists to the extent it can be exchanged for goods and services, and much of the time it's of little use to me -- I can't use it, or not (at least not readily), to buy goods or services online, but that doesn't reduce the cash in my purse to the status of worthless pieces of paper and metal any more than does the fact some vendors and contractors insist on being paid in cash rather than electronically or by paper cheque mean the money in my bank account is valueless.

You don't even have control over your own money -- certainly in the UK the Mint regularly withdraws coins and notes and replaces them with new designs. The process is a protracted and well-publicised one, so in practice it's completely seamless, but over the last few years we've seen several deadlines come and go after which older designs of £5 and £10 notes, and £1 coins, have ceased to be legal tender.
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Cash cannot be wiped out of existence by one mouse click; your account can. Keeping track on the cash flow of real money is hard to do; on book money it's not.

Cash works absolutely fine without electricity, internet/phone connection and/or supporting machines; non cash does not.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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Cash cannot be wiped out of existence by one mouse click; your account can. Keeping track on the cash flow of real money is hard to do; on book money it's not.

Cash works absolutely fine without electricity, internet/phone connection and/or supporting machines; non cash does not.
Cash works only when someone is prepared to accept it and when you have access to it. Same as lumps of gold, cowrie shells and cashless.

It's a bit like discussing which language is best to use -- to my mind, it's whichever one you happen to speak that works best for the situation in which you find yourself.
 

Kara Spengler

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We still have a lot of unbanked people. I finally gave in and went cashless, but it shouldn’t be mandatory.
There was a salad chain out here (Sweetgreen) that went cashless for a time. I guess they felt they could get away with it because a 10$ salad place must not have many unbanked customers. Anyway, at least here in DC the city came down on them about that.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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I've seen reports about some coffee shops and similar in Stockholm, I think it was, that are completely cashless -- their argument is that the convenience and the savings to them in staff time and admin (freeing up the time of reasonably senior staff that would otherwise be spent in counting and checking the cash every day, and making sure it all balances, and then schlepping it to the bank and so on) are so great that they don't mind losing business from people who can pay only in cash.
 
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Chalice Yao

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Heh. And green lettuce salad is the cheapest type, and doesn't really have any nutrients to speak of either...it's mostly just filler.
(That's why you stay far away from the lettuce salad bar at all-you-can-eats, and go for the seafood instead!)
 

Arkady Arkright

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One year from now I'm retiring. I'm very thankful for that, eventually corporations (if they haven't already) will lose interest in retirees and just let us be.
Don't you be believe it. I've been retired for over 10 years, and it hasn't changed my volume of unwanted spam (both e- and snail-mail), just its nature - these days it's all about 'lifetime mortgages', 'stairlifts', 'walk-in baths' and 'pre-purchase funerals'.