Risks of Artificial Intelligence on Society

Random Thoughts on Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, and Future Risks at the OECD Event - AI: Intelligent Machines, Smart Policies

It is the end of the first day of a fascinating event in artificial intelligence, its impact on societies and how policymakers should act upon what seems like a once in lifetime technological revolution. As someone rooted deeply in the world of cybersecurity, I wanted to share my point of view on what the future might hold.

The Present and Future Role of AI in Cyber Security and Vice Verse

Every new day we are witnessing new remarkable results in the field of AI and still, it seems we only scratched the top of it. Developments which reached a certain level of maturity can be seen mostly in the areas of object and pattern recognition which is part of the greater field of perception and different branches of reasoning and decision making. AI has already entered the cyber world via defense tools where most of the applications we see are in the fields of malicious behavior detection in programs and network activity and the first level of reasoning used to deal with the information overload in security departments helping prioritize incidents. AI has a far more potential contribution in other fields of cybersecurity, existing and emerging ones:

Talent Shortage

A big industry-wide challenge where AI can be a game changer relates to the scarcity of cybersecurity professionals. Today there is a significant shortage of cybersecurity professionals which are required to perform different tasks starting from maintaining the security configuration in companies up to responding to security incidents. ISACA predicts that there will be a shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals by 2019. AI-driven automation and decision making have the potential to handle a significant portion of the tedious tasks professionals are fulfilling today. With the goal of reducing the volume of jobs to the ones which require the touch of a human expert.

Pervasive Active Intelligent Defense

The extension into active defense is inevitable where AI has the potential to address a significant portion of the threats that today, deterministic solutions can't handle properly. Mostly effective against automated threats with high propagation potential. An efficient embedding of AI inside active defense will take place in all system layers such as the network, operating systems, hardware devices and middleware forming a coordinated, intelligent defense backbone.

The Double-Edged Sword

A yet to emerge threat will be cyber attacks which are powered themselves by AI. The world of artificial intelligence, the tools, algorithms, and expertise are widely accessible, and cyber attackers will not refrain from abusing them to make their attacks more intelligent and faster. When this threat materializes then AI will be the only possible mitigation. Such attacks will be fast, agile, and in magnitude that the existing defense tools have not experienced yet. A new genre of AI-based defense tools will have to emerge.

Privacy at Risk

Consumers privacy as a whole is sliding on a slippery slope where more and more companies collect information on us, structured data such as demographic information and behavioral patterns studied implicitly while using digital services. Extrapolating the amount of data collected with the new capabilities of big data in conjunction with the multitude of new devices that will enter our life under the category of IoT then we reach an unusually high number of data points per each person. High amounts of personal data distributed across different vendors residing on their central systems increasing our exposure and creating greenfield opportunities for attackers to abuse and exploit us in unimaginable ways. Tackling this risk requires both regulation and usage of different technologies such as blockchain, while AI technologies have also a role. The ability to monitor what is collected on us, possibly moderating what is actually collected vs, what should be collected in regards to rendered services and quantifying our privacy risk is a task for AI.

Intelligent Identities

In recent year we see at an ever-accelerating pace new methods of authentication and in correspondence new attacks breaking those methods. Most authentication schemes are based on a single aspect of interaction with the user to keep the user experience as frictionless as possible. AI can play a role in creating robust and frictionless identification methods which take into account vast amounts of historical and real-time multi-faceted interaction data to deduce the person behind the technology accurately. AI can contribute to our safety and security in the future far beyond this short list of examples. Areas where the number of data points increases dramatically, and automated decision-making in circumstances of uncertainty is required, the right spot for AI as we know of today.

Is Artificial Intelligence Worrying?

The underlying theme in many AI-related discussions is fear. A very natural reaction to a transformative technology which played a role in many science fiction movies. Breaking down the horror we see two parts: the fear of change which is inevitable as AI indeed is going to transform many areas in our lives and the more primal fear from the emergence of soulless machines aiming to annihilate civilization. I see the threats or opportunities staged into different phases, the short term, medium, long-term and really long term.

The short-term

The short-term practically means the present and the primary concerns are in the area of hyper-personalization which in simple terms means all the algorithms that get to know us better then we know ourselves. An extensive private knowledge base that is exploited towards goals we never dreamt of. For example, the whole concept of microtargeting on advertising and social networks as we witnessed in the recent elections in the US. Today it is possible to build an intelligent machine that profiles the citizens for demographic, behavioral and psychological attributes. At a second stage, the machine can exploit the micro-targeting capability available on the advertising networks to deliver personalized messages disguised as adverts where the content and the design of the adverts can be adapted automatically to each person with the goal of changing the public state of mind. It happened in the US and can happen everywhere what poses a severe risk for democracy. The root of this short-term threat resides in the loss of truth as we are bound to consume most of our information from digital sources.

The medium-term

We will witness a big wave of automation which will disrupt many industries assuming that whatever can be automated whether if it is bound to a logical or physical effort then it will eventually be automated. This wave will have a dramatic impact on society, many times improving our lives such as in the case of detection of diseases which can be faster with higher accuracy without the human error. These changes across the industries will also have side effects which will challenge society such as increasing the economic inequality, mostly hurting the ones that are already weak. It will widen the gap between knowledge workers vs. others and will further intensify the new inequality based on access to information. People with access to information will have a clear advantage over those who don’t. It is quite difficult to predict whether the impact in some industries would be short-term and workers will flow to other sectors or will it cause overall stability problems, and it is a topic that should be studied further per each industry that is expecting a disruption.

The longer term

We will see more and more intelligent machines that own the power to impact life and death in humans. Examples such as autonomous driving which has can kill someone on the street as well as an intelligent medicine inducer which can kill a patient. The threat is driven by malicious humans who will hack the logic of such systems. Many smart machines we are building can be abused to give superpowers to cyber attackers. It is a severe problem as the ability to protect from such threat cannot be achieved by adding controls into the artificial intelligence as the risk is coming from intelligent humans with malicious intentions and high powers.

The real long-term

This threat still belongs to science fiction which describes a case where machines will turn against humanity while owning the power to cause harm and self-preservation. From the technology point of view, such event can happen, even today if we decide to put our fate into the hands of a malicious algorithm that can self-preserve itself while having access to capabilities that can harm us. The risk here is that society will build AI for good purposes while other humans will abuse it for other purposes which will eventually spiral out of the control of everyone.

What Policy Makers Should Do To Protect Society

Before addressing some specific directions a short discussion on the power limitations of policymakers is required in the world of technology and AI. AI is practically a genre of techniques, mostly software driven, where more and more individuals around the globe are equipping themselves with the capability to create software and later to work on AI. In a very similar fashion to the written words, software is the new way to express oneself and aspiring to set control or regulation on that is destined to fail. Same for idea exchanges. Policymakers should understand these new changed boundaries which dictate new responsibilities as well.

Areas of Impact

Private Data

Central intervention can become a protective measure for citizens is the way private data is collected, verified and most importantly used. Without data most AI systems cannot operate, and it can be an anchor of control.

Cyber Crime & Collaborative Research

Another area of intervention should be the way cybercrime is enforced by law where there are missing parts in the puzzle of law enforcement such as attribution technologies. Today, attribution is a field of cybersecurity that suffers from under-investment as it is in a way without commercial viability. Centralized investment is required to build the foundations of attribution in the future digital infrastructure. There are other areas in the cyber world where investment in research and development is in the interest of the public and not a single commercial company or government which calls for a joint research across nations. One fascinating area of research could be how to use AI in the regulation itself, especially enforcement of regulation, understanding humans' reach in a digital world is too short for effective implementation. Another idea is building accountability into AI where we will be able to record decisions taken by algorithms and make them accountable for that. Documenting those decisions should reside in the public domain while maintaining the privacy of the intellectual property of the vendors. Blockchain as a trusted distributed ledger can be the perfect tool for saving such evidence of truth about decisions taken by machines, evidence that can stand in court. An example project in this field is the Serenata de Amor Operation, a grassroots open source project which was built to fight corruption in Brazil by analyzing public expenses looking for anomalies using AI.

Central Design

A significant paradigm shift policymaker needs to take into account is the long strategic change from centralized systems to distributed technologies as they present much lesser vulnerabilities. A roadmap of centralized systems that should be transformed into distributed once should be studied and created eventually.

Challenges for Policy Makers

  • Today AI advancement is considered a competitive frontier among countries and this leads to the state that many developments are kept secret. This path leads to loss of control on technologies and especially their potential future abuse beyond the original purpose. The competitive phenomena create a serious challenge for society as a whole. It is not clear why people treat weapons in magnitude harsher vs. advanced information technology which eventually can cause more harm.
  • Our privacy is abused by market forces pushing for profit optimization where consumer protection is at the bottom of priorities. Conflicting forces at play for policymakers.
  • People across the world are different in many aspects while AI is a universal language and setting global ethical rules vs. national preferences creates an inherent conflict.
  • The question of ownership and accountability of algorithms in a world where algorithms can create damage is an open one with many diverse opinions. It gets complicated since the platforms are global and the rules many times are local.
  • What other alternatives there are beyond the basic income idea for the millions that won’t be part of the knowledge ecosystem as it is clear that not every person that loses a job will find a new one. A pre-emptive thinking should be conducted to prevent market turbulences in disrupted industries. An interesting question is how does the growth in population on the planet impacts this equation.
The main point I took from today is to be careful when designing AI tools which are designated towards a specific purpose and how they can be exploited to achieve other means. UPDATE: Link to my story on the OECD Forum Network.

Artificial Intelligence Is Going to Kill Patents

The patents system never got along quite well with software inventions. Software is too fluid for the patenting system, a system that was built a long time ago for inventions with inherent physical aspects. Software is perceived by the physical point view as a big pile of bits organized in some manner. In recent years the patenting system was bent to cope with software by adding into patent applications artificial additions containing linkage into physical computing components such as storage or CPU so they can be approved by the patent office. But that is just a patch and not evolution.

The Age of Algorithms

Fast forward to nowadays where AI has become the main innovation frontier – the world of intellectual property is about to be disrupted as well and let me elaborate. Artificial intelligence although a big buzzword, when it goes down to details it means algorithms. Algorithms are probably the most complicated form of software as it is composed by base structures and functions dictated by the genre of the algorithm such as neural networks but it also includes the data component. Whether it is the training data or the accumulated knowledge it eventually is part of the logic which means a functional extension to the basic algorithm. That makes AI in its final form an even less comprehensible piece of software. Many times it is difficult to explain how a live algorithm works even by the developers of the algorithm themselves. So technically speaking patenting an algorithm is in magnitude more complicated. As a side effect of this complexity, there is a problem with the desire to publish an algorithm in the form of a patent. An algorithm is like a secret sauce and no one wants to reveal their secret sauce to the public since others can copy it quite easily without worrying about litigation. For the sake of example let’s assume someone copies the personalization algorithm of Facebook, since that algorithm works behind the scenes it will be difficult up to impossible to prove that someone copied it. The observed results of an algorithm can be achieved in many different ways and we are exposed only to the results of an algorithm on not to its implementation. Same goes for the concept of prior art, how can someone prove that no one has implemented that algorithm before? To summarize, algorithms are inherently difficult to patent, no one wants to expose them via the patenting system as they are indefensible. So if we are going into a future where most of the innovation will be in algorithms then the value of patents will be diminished dramatically as fewer patents will be created. I personally believe we are going into a highly proprietary world where the race will not be driven by ownership of intellectual property but rather by the ability to create a competitive intellectual property which works.

Upgrade in progress

Hi All,

During the next two weeks you will notice slowdowns or lack of service and that is due to a server upgrade we are running. We have enjoyed a surge in traffic and to provide better service we are investing in our infrastructure.

Thanks,

Dudu

2007 Wrap-up in Aggreg

Hi All and Happy Holidays!

2007 was an excellent year for me personally and for Aggreg as well. During 2007 we have reached the following achievements:

- We have launched Aggreg corporate web site
- Strategicboard, our blog search engine, reached a steady 20K daily unique visitors and the trend is going up. Most of our traffic comes from the US and the rest spreads across the globe evenly.

- Strategicboard has received a big infrastructure infusion and now we have more then 20 servers handling indexing and serving user requests. We have gone from 50K to >700K blogs that we cover after eliminating more then a million spam blogs.

- King Ping, our central ping service that we acquired during 2007, has been relaunched and now handles around 10K daily unique and real pings (we verify that there is a real update within pinged blogs before we update our more then 50 search engines on the list). Our automatic blogging feature has been a huge success and we have several hundred thousands of bloggers who opted for the service, where we check once in a while the blogs to see whether there is a change and if we detect one then we go and do the ping automatically.

- TrendMapper, the social search trending service was also acquired during 2007 and I have to say although we had plans to relaunch it this year we didn't succeed to do so yet. We are going through a major change within TrendMapper both in terms of scalability and user experience and we do expect to have the new version up and running until february 2008.

That was all for 2007 and our plans for 2008 include first the relaunch of TrendMapper which holds many cool features behind it and of course the launch of our vertical blog search engines W2Apps, CarsMonitor, GoogMS and Middleastern. Most important for us is providing good quality service to our users and needless to say infrastructure will stay a hot topic for 2008 as well.

Anyway, I would like to thank all our users and supporters and we hope 2008 will be no less interesting then 2007.
Dudu

Strategicboard search results as RSS / OPML or Mobile edition

Hi All,

We have now made sure every search result can be grabbed as an RSS feed, blog reading list in an OPML format or clear mobile edition that can be viewed easily in a mobile phone. Our OPML list is changing dynamically based on the blogs who appear top ranked for each search and can be used as an excellent tool for identifying new bloggers related to a specific subject.

Dudu

Startegicboard – Plans for next two weeks

Hi All,

In the next two weeks we are going to upgrade our online operation (which is different than our backend indexing farm, which has been upgraded lately) to support our growth and provide higher response time for searches. There might be some shutdowns but we will do our best to minimize downtime.

Dudu

Strategicboard cleanup

Hi All,

During the last two weeks we have worked hard to clear our index from spam blogs and duplicates and after removing around 250K feeds that were not blogs from our 1 million feeds index we can proudly say our search results look good. We have made sure we don't have search engines feeds, aggregators feeds, spammers and duplicate feeds of the same blogs.

Dudu

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