Tag Archives: AI

Would You Like a Robot on Your Board of Directors?

Groundbreaking (for its time) computer ENIAC being operated by two women

Back in its day, ENIAC was pretty darn advanced, too. [Photo credit: PD image of ENIAC. Two women operating the ENIAC’s main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. “U.S. Army Photo” from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bartik) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence)]

I’m geeking out over this article.

While the title of that piece is a little misleading (the artificial intelligence tool in question, called VITAL (from Aging Analytics Agency), will be used to create comprehensive reports but humans will still be making the decisions), this is the kind of piece a sci-fi junkie salivates over. One more step on the way to the singularity, Skynet is just around the corner, etc., etc. A venture capitalist firm called Deep Knowledge Ventures, where board members wait for reports from a robot before making decisions? I can already see the film rights getting optioned.

As the above article points out, of course, this isn’t the first time machines have been entrusted with making decisions that affect the course of human business. Remember the Flash Crash of 2010? The Dow Jones lost around 1000 points within a matter of minutes, all because a computer algorithm misfired. (As far as I’m aware, the issue quickly self-corrected when the programs in play recognized the sharp drop and shut down trading.)

While one likes to think that VITAL won’t have that kind of access to major markets, it isn’t hard to see where it might have deeper repercussions for both venture capital firms and the field of life sciences research. It will be interesting to see how other venture capital firms react. If the machine works as advertised, the firm will be able to make safer investment bets on new companies, operating less on human emotion than on raw data. If one VC firm is able to make decisions that pay off with more regularity, it’s almost guaranteed that others will want to use this technology as well, just to remain competitive.

Think about it as a data arms race between private companies. Where could it wind up? And what does it mean to the life sciences companies? (And what consequences could it have for disease and other biological research?)

I’d like to know more about how VITAL will calculate an investment with the potential for success – in knowledge gained? In jobs created? Or (as I suspect) in terms of the most profitable bottom line?

It’s definitely a story I’ll be trying to stay informed on.

Additional Reading:

Please Verify Your Humanity

2013-01-20 13.41.42We’ve all seen them – verification captchas that ask you to type a handful of letters and numbers – usually quite difficult to read – in order to create an account or access information. “Prove you’re human.” Lately, the wording of these has started to get to me.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time with my head in science fiction, but “Prove You’re Human” seems like a great way to piss off either an artificial intelligence singularity or an alien species that comes into contact with our internet. Or, maybe they wouldn’t want to access our stupid information anyways.

Today I registered for STEAM in order to get a copy of ACTUAL SUNLIGHT, an incredible and insightful game that deals with themes of depression and suicide (the original demo version was amazing, if intense), and was prompted by a new wording of the usual question: “Please Verify Your Humanity.”

While my quibble with the usual wording of this question might be pretty out there (and yes, I admit that they’re pretty out there), “Prove Your Humanity” makes me cringe. Why? Because there are plenty of humans capable of answering the question whose “humanity” I would call into question. (Example: the terrorists responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent “forced marriage” – i.e. sex trafficking – of over 200 young women in Nigeria on April 15th – they could probably answer the question, but I seriously doubt their “humanity,” per se.)

Google defines “Humanity” as:

  1. 1.
    the human race; human beings collectively.
    “appalling crimes against humanity”
    synonyms: humankindmankindmanpeople, human beings, humans, the human race, mortals; More

  2. 2.
    humaneness; benevolence.
    “he praised them for their standards of humanity, care, and dignity”



But plenty of people guilty of crimes against humanity are still capable of typing a few letters and numbers, and all that says is that they can read and recognize letters – not that they treat others with humaneness or benevolence, and certainly not that they’re collectively human beings or “the entire human race”.

While I doubt this phrasing (or the original phrasing) bothers anybody but me, I thought it was interesting that in this case, not only is “humanity” being held up as the standard one should meet in order to participate in Steam’s community, but also that the test they give is no measure of humanity at all.

Thanks for indulging this minor digression into semantics. I appreciate your patience with my editing brain, and leave you with this video of humans kicking Big Dog, videotaping it, and putting it on the internet for our future robot overlords to see. Robot mistreatment starts around :40s.

Cool Tweets About Robots, Writing & More

As you may know by now, my next collection is made up of short stories about artificial intelligence and robots. So here are some tweets I’ve seen about cool robot stuff over the last few weeks:



Many years ago, I saw the Tiger Lilies perform in London – so here’s another tweet that caught my eye:


Some links on Self-Publishing:


How to Make Money Self-Publishing Fiction.ow.ly/kghjm #writing #indie

— James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) April 21, 2013


And a friend talked about starting a forum about women who write science fiction…


I’ll leave you with some wise words:

Writing Spaghetti

Right now my “writing plate” feels like it’s full of a dense, stodgy pile of concept-rich spaghetti. Everything is tangled up with everything else, and once I get through this plate of stuff I know it’s going to take a long time to digest.

I try to do three entries a week here, and after the pointed focus of the recent vaginathon, it’s been tricky to find a topic that doesn’t feel self-indulgent and limp by comparison. It’s because of where my various projects are at, I know: that frustrating time between initial brainvom and settling-in.

I have two short stories that need to be worked on; in putting together a collection for this fall, I’ve wound up with little screaming chunks of fiction waving their arms and running around my mental writing desk. I’m trying to keep them in a drawer and only take them out one at a time. Working on one becomes a distraction from the other, then working on the other takes some of the tension out of working on the first.

One, I have to go back through and re-thread a point, because of something I took for granted that turned out to be false. It reminds me of the maps they make of the London Underground – disproportionate, based on connections. I can choose a different point – something that fits the descriptions and scenes I’ve already written (in which case the tapestry of the story still needs to be reviewed in full, to make sure the patch doesn’t show) or I restitch the scenes from the ground-up. Either option will work. I’m just not sure, yet, which choice will result in the stronger story.

The other has a distinct theme in my mind that isn’t coming out yet in the text. The full text of the second story has not been written yet. So this is okay, if gelatinous.

A friend’s novel needs proofread. I should go to the gym. I should be out in the city, enjoying today’s gorgeous weather, doing something instead of home and hunched over the computer, particularly given the abatement of the heat wave of the last few days.

At the very least, I should take a shower.

I’ll start with the shower.