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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

 
That was excellent. Packed house. Great venue. 15 minutes from our house. Justice Sotomayor was wonderful.
During the Q&A Justice Sotomayor spoke of a number of her current societal concerns. Very similar to those comprising my "Exigency Short List."
First time there for us. We've bought reserved seats for the entire 2023-2024 Speakers Series.
 

 
The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall is located near MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the University of Baltimore. In addition to the hosting Stevenson U., the Baltimore Speakers Series media partners are The Baltimore Sun and WYPR 88.1 FM (NPR affiliate).
 
ERRATUM
 
The new Supreme Court term commences Monday (Oct 2nd). Wonder how the pending federal shutdown will affect that?
 
Some other words of topical relevance not found in the Constitution: "close," "shut down, "shutdown," "budget," "deficit," "terminate, "dissolve," "lay off," "layoff,""furlough." And so on...
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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The coming shutdown?

The Games People Plsy.
Absent new congressional funding legislation passed first by the House and then the Senate and signed by the President, the federal fiscal year expires at midnight September 30th EDT (this coming Saturday), leaving the U.S. with no ensuing authority to conduct and pay for the peoples' business. It's a recurrent old ploy, this time particularly nihilistic.

Of course, in addition, we have the maudlin spectacle of Donald Trump cheering on this federal budget impasse shutdown spectacle, given that he thinks it will further delay the myriad serious criminal indictment proceedings now pressing against him. 

__________
 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Coming Wave.

An existential tsunami?
   

 On deck... Got an Amazon book recommendation yesterday. I bit.


A long-time joke of mine: "The only person who enjoys change is a baby with a wet diaper."

As I preliminarily post about this, I'm about halfway through the book.
 
 
So, what do you do? Chronically over "booked?" My typical first stop is often the Amazon reader reviews, in particular the dissing 1's and 2's—which can sometimes be show-stoppers (though not this time). I read the Amazon blurb, and then perhaps any reputable authors' blurbs (notwithstanding Confirmation Bias risk). to wit:
Advance praise for
THE COMING WAVE

“The Coming Wave is a fascinating, well-written, and important book. It explores the existential dangers that AI and biotechnology pose to humankind, and offers practical solutions for how we can contain the threat. The coming technological wave promises to provide humanity with godlike powers of creation, but if we fail to manage it wisely, it may destroy us.”
—Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times bestselling author of Sapiens

“This wake-up call from the future warns of just what’s coming, and what the global economic and political implications are likely to be. Truly remarkable, ambitious, and impossible to ignore, this book is a persuasively argued tour de force from a leading industry expert that will shape your view of the future—and rewire your understanding of the present.”
—Nouriel Roubini, professor emeritus at New York University

“Mustafa Suleyman’s insight as a technologist, entrepreneur, and visionary is essential. Deeply researched and highly relevant, this book provides gripping insight into some of the most important challenges of our time.”
—Al Gore, former vice president of the United States

“In this bold book, Mustafa Suleyman, one of high tech’s true insiders, addresses the most important paradox of our time: we have to contain uncontainable technologies. As he explains, generative AI, synthetic biology, robotics, and other innovations are improving and spreading quickly. They bring great benefits, but also real and growing risks. Suleyman is wise enough to know that there’s no simple three-point plan for managing these risks, and brave enough to tell us so. This book is honest, passionate, and unafraid to confront what is clearly one of the great challenges our species will face this century. Thanks to Suleyman we know what the situation is and what our options are. Now it’s up to us to act.”
—Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT Sloan, author of The Geek Way

“The AI revolution is underway, but how well do we really understand it? The Coming Wave offers an erudite, clear-eyed guide both to the history of radical technological change and to the deep political challenges that lie ahead.”
—Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian

“When this landed in my inbox, I cleared the diary and got reading. This is an extraordinary and necessary book; the awe-inspiring thought is that in twenty years it will seem almost like a conservative vision of the future, whereas right now, reading it is impossible without pausing every few pages to wonder: Can this be true? It’s the book’s genius to explain, soberly and gently, that yes, this will all be true—and why and how. The tone is gentle and kind and sympathetic to the reader’s sense of shock. There are terrifying moments, as there should be when one realizes that most of what is familiar is about to be transformed. But, ultimately, one leaves energized and thrilled to be alive right now. The wave is about to hit and this is the forecast.”
—Alain de Botton, philosopher and bestselling author

“The Coming Wave offers a much-needed dose of specificity, realism, and clarity about the potential unanticipated and yet disastrous consequences of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and other advanced technologies. This important book is a vivid and persuasive road map for how human beings might guide technological innovations rather than be controlled by them.”
—Martha Minow, Harvard professor, former dean of Harvard Law School

“Nobody has been closer to the unfolding AI revolution than Mustafa Suleyman, and nobody is better placed to outline the risks and rewards of the huge technological changes happening right now. This is an extraordinary and utterly unmissable guide to this unique moment in human history.”
—Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, co-author of The Age of AI

“In The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman offers a powerful argument that today’s explosive technological revolution is poised to be uniquely disruptive. Read this essential book to understand the pace and scale of these technologies—how they will proliferate across our society and their potential to challenge the fabric of the institutions that organize our world.”
—Ian Bremmer, founder of Eurasia Group, bestselling author of The Power of Crisis

“This vital book is inspiring and terrifying at the same time. It is a critical education for those who do not understand the technological revolutions through which we are living, and a frontal challenge to those who do. This book is about the future for all of us: we need to read it and act on it.”
—David Miliband, former U.K. foreign secretary

“Presenting a stark assessment of the dangers as well as the wonders of AI, Mustafa Suleyman proposes an urgent agenda of actions governments must take now to constrain the most potentially catastrophic applications of this revolutionary challenge.”
—Graham Allison, Harvard professor, bestselling author of Destined for War

“The rapid pace of exponential technologies has overwhelmed us with its power and its peril. Mustafa Suleyman, in tracing the history of industrial development to the dizzying acceleration of the recent technological advances, gives us the bigger picture in calm, pragmatic, and deeply ethical prose. His personal journey and experiences enhance The Coming Wave and make it enthralling reading for everyone wanting to step back from the daily onrush of tech news.”
—Angela Kane, former UN undersecretary-general and high representative for Disarmament Affairs

“An incredibly compelling window into the current developments and exponential future of AI—from the ultimate insider…If you really want to understand how society can safely navigate this world-changing technology, read this book.”
—Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert, author of A Hacker’s Mind

“The coming wave of AI and synthetic biology will make the next decade the best in human history. Or the worst. No one recognizes and explains the epic challenges ahead better than Mustafa Suleyman. Thought-provoking, urgent, and written in powerful, highly accessible prose, this is a must-read book for anyone interested in understanding the staggering power of these technologies.”
—Erik Brynjolfsson, professor, Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

“One of the greatest challenges facing the world is to devise forms of governance that harness the benefits of AI and biotech while avoiding their catastrophic risks. This book provides a deeply thoughtful account of the ‘containment challenge’ of these two technologies. It is meticulously researched and packed with original insights and constructive recommendations for policy makers and security experts.”
—Jason Matheny, CEO of RAND, former assistant director of national intelligence, former director of IARPA

“If you want to understand the meaning, promise, and threat of the coming tidal wave of transformative technologies that are even now swelling and converging out there on the main, then this deeply rewarding and consistently astonishing book by Mustafa Suleyman, one of the key pioneers of artificial intelligence, is an absolutely essential read.”
—Stephen Fry, actor, broadcaster, and bestselling author

“This important book is a vivid wake-up call. It carefully outlines the threats and opportunities associated with the exhilarating scientific advances of recent years. The Coming Wave is rich with interesting facts, arresting arguments, and compelling observations; it is essential reading.”
—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner, bestselling author of Thinking Fast and Slow

“The Coming Wave is a fantastically clear, energetic, well-researched, and readable book from the front line of the greatest technological revolution of our times. It weaves the personal and technological stories seamlessly, and shows why better governance of immensely powerful technologies is both so vital and so hard.”
—Sir Geoff Mulgan, professor at University College London

“The best analysis yet of what AI means for the future of humanity…Mustafa Suleyman is unique as the co-founder of not one but two major contemporary AI companies. He is a profoundly talented entrepreneur, a deep thinker, and one of the most important voices on the coming wave of technologies that will shape our world.”
—Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Inflection

“Technology is rapidly transforming society, and hence it’s more important than ever to see someone within the technology industry write with such honesty and rigor. Taking us from the earliest tools to the heart of the present explosion in AI capabilities and research, this book is a panoramic survey and a clarion call to action impossible to ignore. Everyone should read it.”
—Fei-Fei Li, professor of computer science at Stanford University, co-director of the Institute for Human-Centered AI

“The Coming Wave makes an eye-opening and convincing case that advanced technologies are reshaping every aspect of society: power, wealth, warfare, work, and even human relations. Can we control these new technologies before they control us? A world leader in artificial intelligence and a longtime advocate for governments, big tech, and civil society to act for the common good, Mustafa Suleyman is the ideal guide to this crucial question.”
—Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University, president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

“A sharp, compassionate, and uncompromising framing of the most consequential issue of our times, The Coming Wave is a must-read for technology practitioners, but more importantly it is a resolute call to action for all of us to participate in this most consequential discourse.”

—Qi Lu, CEO of MiraclePlus, ex-COO of Baidu, ex-EVP of Microsoft Bing


“Suleyman is uniquely well positioned to articulate the potentially grave consequences—geopolitical upheaval, war, the erosion of the nation-state—of the unfettered development of AI and synthetic biology, at a time when we need this message most. Fortunately for the reader, he has also thought deeply about what needs to be done to ensure that emerging technologies are used for human good, setting forward a series of incremental efforts that if undertaken collectively can change the environment in which these technologies are developed and disseminated, opening the door to preserving that brighter future. This book is a must-read.”
—Meghan L. O’Sullivan, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

“A brave wake-up call that we all need to answer—before it’s too late…Mustafa Suleyman explains, with clarity and precision, the risks posed by runaway technologies and the challenges that humanity faces…. Indispensable reading.”
—Tristan Harris, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology

“A practical and optimistic road map for action on the most important iss\e of our time: how to retain power over entities far more powerful than ourselves.”
—Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley

“The Coming Wave is a realistic, deeply informed, and highly accessible map of the unprecedented governance and national security challenges posed by artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. Suleyman’s remarkable and in some senses frightening book shows what must be done to contain these seemingly uncontainable
technologies.”
—Jack Goldsmith, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University


“Brilliant and inviting, complex and clear, urgent and calm, The Coming Wave guides us all to understand and confront what may be the most crucial question of our century: How can we ensure that the breathtaking, fast-paced technological revolutions ahead—AI, synthetic biology, and more—create the world we want? It’s not going to be easy, but Suleyman lays a strong foundation. Everyone who cares about the future should read this book.”
—Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, former White House science advisor

“A strikingly lucid and refreshingly balanced account of our current technological predicament, The Coming Wave articulates the defining challenge of our era. Blending pragmatism with humility, it reminds us that there are no stark binaries or simple answers: technology has gifted us with exponential improvements in well-being, but it’s accelerating faster than institutions can adapt. Advances in AI and synthetic biology have unlocked capabilities undreamed of by science fiction, and the resulting proliferation of power threatens everything we’ve built. To stay afloat, we must steer between the Scylla of accessible catastrophe and the Charybdis of omnipresent surveillance. With every page turned, our odds improve.”
—Kevin Esvelt, biologist and associate professor at MIT Media Lab 
Well, then after checking out a bit of the "read sample," buy/download via 1-click.
 
Halfway through: well worth it. Nice work. Sobering.
 
UPDATE
 
 
Again, sobering. 

THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE

I'm now about 3/4ths through this book. Liking it more with every page I read. Full review once I finsish. Had this been one of my required reads in grad school today we'd likely have spent an entire semester on it, a full-bore Argument Analysis & Evaluation.

They cover the field, spanning millenia to the present:
Every previous wave of technology has had profound political implications. We should expect the same in the future. The last wave—the arrival of mainframes, desktop PCs and desktop software, the internet, and the smartphone—delivered immense benefits to society. It laid down the new tools for the modern economy, bolstering growth, transforming access to knowledge, to entertainment, and to one another. Amid the present hand-wringing about the negative effects of social media, it’s easy to overlook these myriad positives. Yet over the last decade a growing consensus suggests these technologies did something else as well: creating the conditions to feed and amplify this underlying political polarization and institutional fragility.

It’s hardly news that social media platforms can trigger gut emotional responses, the jolts of adrenaline so effectively delivered by perceived threats. Social media thrives on heightened emotions and, quite often, outrage. A meta-analysis published in the journal Nature reviewed the results of nearly five hundred studies, concluding there is a clear correlation between growing use of digital media and rising distrust in politics, populist movements, hate, and polarization. Correlation may not be causation, but this systematic review throws up “clear evidence of serious threats to democracy” coming from new technologies.

Technology has already eroded the stable, sovereign borders of nation-states, creating or supporting innately global flows of people, information, ideas, know-how, commodities, finished goods, capital, and wealth. It is, as we have seen, a significant component of geopolitical strategy. It touches on almost every aspect of people’s lives. Even before the coming wave hits, technology is a driver on the world stage, a major factor in the deteriorating health of nation-states around the world. Too fast in its development, too global, too protean and enticing for any simple model of containment, strategically critical, relied upon by billions, modern technology itself is a prime actor, a monumental force nation-states struggle to manage. AI, synthetic biology, and the rest are being introduced to dysfunctional societies already rocked back and forth on technological waves of immense power. This is not a world ready for the coming wave. This is a world buckling under the existing strain.


Suleyman, Mustafa. The Coming Wave (pp. 196-197). Crown. Kindle Edition.
I came to digitech (1986) at the dusk of mainframes and ensuing mass proliferation of PCs. So much has exponentially changed across that span. Difficult to stay abreast of.

FRIDAY ERRATA
“[Google] Search’s devolution is a familiar story in an economy that demands untenable growth. The trajectory always looks like this: Invent a world-changing technology, scale it up, monetize it, print money, and take it public. Then, of course, there is the pressure to expand even more to appease investors. In Google’s case, organizing the world’s information meant conquering the web, books, images, inboxes, and geography. But with every success, there is more pressure to scale further, this time into moon-shot territory — self-driving cars and even a project to “cure death.” It becomes easier to acquire companies with the war chest than to build products from scratch, and to ink exclusivity deals in order to keep competitors at bay.”Charlie Warzel
Good article. Another below.
A flood of new AI products just arrived — whether we’re ready or not
Google, Microsoft, Amazon and OpenAI are in an arms race to push out new experimental products. Some experts worry about the consequences.

SAN FRANCISCO — Big Tech launched multiple new artificial intelligence products this week, capable of reading emails and documents or conversing in a personal way. But even in their public unveilings, these new tools were already making mistakes — inventing information or getting basic facts confused — a sign that the tech giants are rushing out their latest developments before they are fully ready.

Google said its Bard chatbot can summarize files from Gmail and Google Docs, but users showed it falsely making up emails that were never sent. OpenAI heralded its new Dall-E 3 image generator, but people on social media soon pointed out that the images in the official demos missed some requested details. And Amazon announced a new conversational mode for Alexa, but the device repeatedly messed up in a demo for The Washington Post, including recommending a museum in the wrong part of the country.

Spurred by a hypercompetitive race to dominate the revolutionary “generative” AI technology that can write humanlike text and produce realistic-looking images, the tech giants are fast-tracking their products to consumers. Getting more people to use them generates the data needed to make them better, an incentive to push the tools out to as many people as they can. But many experts — and even tech executives themselves — have cautioned against the dangers of releasing largely new and untested technology…
UPDATE

 
More to come...
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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Democracy and privacy. Can we have the former absent the latter?

Some relevant new reading.
   

On January 5, 2021, an extraordinary event took place in Georgia. In a state where politics had long been stained by white supremacy, voters turned out in record numbers to elect their first African American senator, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, and their first Jewish American senator. Warnock was only the second Black senator to be elected in the South since Reconstruction, joining the Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina. That night, he introduced supporters to his mother, a former sharecropper, noting that “the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” For many, the election presaged a brighter, more democratic future. “There’s a new South rising,” declared LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “It’s younger, it’s more diverse…and it’s more inclusive.” This was the democratic future that generations of civil rights activists had been working to build.

The next day, January 6, Americans witnessed something that seemed unimaginable: a violent insurrection, incited by the president of the United States. Four years of democratic decline had culminated in an attempted coup. The fear, confusion, and indignation that many Americans felt as they watched these events unfold echo the way people in other countries have described feeling as their own democracies unraveled. What we had just lived through—a surge in politically motivated violence; threats against election workers; efforts to make it harder for people to vote; a campaign by the president to overturn the results of an election—was democratic backsliding. The republic did not collapse between 2016 and 2021, but it became undeniably less democratic.

In a span of twenty-four hours on January 5 and January 6, 2021, the full promise and peril of American democracy were on vivid display: a glimpse of a possible multiracial democratic future, followed by an almost unthinkable assault on our constitutional system.

Multiracial democracy is hard to achieve. Few societies have ever done it. A multiracial democracy is a political system with regular, free, and fair elections in which adult citizens of all ethnic groups possess the right to vote and basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association. It is not enough for these rights to exist on paper: individuals of all ethnic backgrounds must enjoy equal protection of democratic and civil rights under the law. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act finally established a legal foundation for multiracial democracy in America. But even today, we have not fully achieved it…


Levitsky, Steven; Ziblatt, Daniel. Tyranny of the Minority (pp. 3-4). Crown. Kindle Edition.

 Lots of new study here. Just getting going. I got onto the Danielle Keats Citron book by way of Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic:
We are all shedding data like skin cells. Almost everything we do with, or simply in proximity to, a connected device generates some small bit of information—about who we are, about the device we’re using and the other devices nearby, about what we did and when and how and for how long. Sometimes doing nothing at all—merely lingering on a webpage—is recorded as a relevant piece of information. Sometimes simply walking past a Wi-Fi router is a data point to be captured and processed. Sometimes the connected device isn’t a phone or a computer, as such; sometimes it’s a traffic light or a toaster or a toilet. If it is our phone, and we have location services enabled—which many people do, so that they can get delivery and Find My Friends and benefit from the convenience of turn-by-turn directions—our precise location data are being constantly collected and transmitted. We pick up our devices and command them to open the world for us, which they do quite well. But they also produce a secondary output too—all those tiny flecks of dead skin floating around us.

Our data are everywhere because our data are useful. Mostly to make people money: When someone opens up their phone’s browser and clicks on a link—to use the most basic example—a whole hidden economy whirs into gear. Tracking pixels and cookies capture their information and feed it to different marketers and companies, which aggregate it with information gleaned from other people and other sites and use it to categorize us into “interest segments.” The more data gathered, the easier it is to predict who we are, what we like, where we live, whom we might vote for, how much money we might have, what we might like to buy with it. Once our information has been collected, it ricochets around a labyrinthine ad-tech ecosystem made up of thousands of companies that offer to make sense of, and serve hyper-targeted ads based on, it.

Our privacy is what the internet eats to live. Participating in some part or another of the ad-tech industry is how most every website and app we use makes money…

…Danielle Keats Citron argues in her book The Fight for Privacy. Privacy is freedom, and freedom is necessary for humans to thrive. But protecting that right is difficult, because privacy-related harm is diffuse and can come in many different forms: At its most extreme, it can be physical (violence and doxing), reputational (the release of embarassing or incorrect information), or psychological (the emotional distress that comes along with having your intimate information taken from you). But, according to work by Solove and Citron, proving harm that goes beyond concrete economic loss is difficult in legal terms….

….The internet as we know it is a glorious, awful, intricate, sprawling series of networks that needs our information in order to function. We cannot go back to a time before this was true—before turn-by-turn directions and eerily well-targeted ads, before we carried little data-collection machines in our pockets all day—and nor would all of us want to. But we can demand much more from the reckless stewards of our information. That starts with understanding what exactly has been taken from us. The fight for our privacy isn’t just about knowing what is collected and where it goes—it is about reimagining what we’re required to sacrifice for our conveniences and for a greater economic system. It is an acknowledgement of the trade-offs of living in a connected world, but focusing on what humans need to flourish. What is at stake is nothing less than our basic right to move through the world on our terms, to define and share ourselves as we desire.
I've been studying privacy issues for a long time. Going back to grad school and before it. From my 1998 Thesis.

PREFACE TO CHAPTER 4

...“Privacy” is a term with multiple connotations. We mandate by law and social norms that certain activities be conducted “in private.” The privacy synonyms “secluded” and “exclusive” are positive keywords in real estate advertising. A media microphone rudely thrust in the face of a grieving parent who has just lost a child to an accident is disdainfully viewed as an egregious “invasion of privacy.” Similarly, celebrities bemoan (and frequently litigate against) their losses of privacy at the hands of their tabloid pursuers. In some major public policy contexts, however, privacy seems to be what we value most for 
ourselves, and what we would most like to deny others by casting aspersions on their privacy claims.
How does a drug-abstinent individual counter the implication of cover-up motive in the question “If you’ve nothing to hide, how can you object to being tested?”—beyond the problematic retort “It’s none of your business.”  We will examine developments in U.S. legal privacy norms, including current concerns regarding confidentiality in a digital age. We will then survey ethological, anthropological, cultural, historical, psychological, and philosophical evidence supporting the role of privacy in the development and functioning of socially competent citizens. Bentham got it wrong. The conventional framing of the privacy issue—which posits an intractable antagonism between personal privacy rights and social imperatives—is inadequate. A deeper understanding is required. Paradoxical though it may seem on a surface view, it can be shown that privacy is at once a personal and civic ethical good. The Panopticon is by wide margin a net loser: devoid of enduring moral force with respect to the dissolute; irrelevant at best with respect to the upright...
CHAPTER 5 EXCERPT

As I have alluded to elsewhere in this thesis, one of the most durably contentious of American Constitutional claims involves the right to privacy. If we are to establish a case for privacy as a fundamental ethical principle that the law ought reflect and administer with vigor, we ought examine a bit of its legal, sociological, and philosophical evolution. In Chapter 4 we began by examining the historical evolution of search-and-seizure restraints that ultimately found their way into our Fourth Amendment, and we ended with a review of the convoluted, often contradictory U.S. Supreme Court case law history and constitutional interpretation theory that undergirds our current legal and political confusion over the role of privacy as it pertains to drug policy. We begin here with some general sociopolitical and legal theory reflections that serve as foundation for and transition into the larger philosophical concepts bearing on privacy discussed in the latter part of this chapter.

Some regard privacy as an inseparable aspect of personal autonomy requisite for the very notion of liberty we ostensibly revere as a cardinal element our social and legal order. Critics, on the other hand, either dismiss the notion of a general right to privacy out of hand, or assert that it is a relatively recent, weak, and “derivative” declaration, one inherently inimical to and necessarily deferential to society’s “right-to-know” in the interest of commercial efficiency, public safety, and criminal prosecution. Those holding this latter position view the quest for privacy as a reaction to increasing urbanization and advances in information processing technologies, that the inhabitants of earlier eras and non-industrial cultures had and have little concern with our notions of “privacy.” Critics of the former persuasion who disavow the very notion of a general right to privacy under federal law find the concept adequately accounted for principally in terms of property rights...
Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

And, yeah, I know, this refers to government actions, not the "private sector" (principally the domain of torts in the wake of private sector violations**). Read my Thesis. Were things only that simple and sharply bifurcated any more. Beyond that, recently recurrent beg-offs (at SCOTUS, no less) that 4th Amendment rights are not "part of our history and culture" and are "unenumerated" do not pass the laugh test for anyone capable of reading basic English and counting to four"persons, houses, papers, and effects."
** Moreover, let's be clear here. "Democracy" specifically pertains to a form of "government." The question at hand goes to the title of this post—the extent to which mutual respect for "presumptive" privacy is inextricably a necessary component of democratic govenance. (Presumptive, not absolute.) Facially evident to me. But, that's just me. More on this assertion in a bit.
FYI: the draft Epilogue to my grad Thesis. 


UPDATE

Burrowed well into Dr. Citron‘s book. The numerous recountings of “sexploitation” deepfake violations of “intimate privacy” are rather creepy. To put it mildly.
 
UPDATE: LITERATURE ON THE ASSERTED PRIVACY-DEMOCRACY NEXUS
Agonistic Privacy & Equitable Democracy
16 NOV 2021
Scott Skinner-Thompson

ABSTRACT
This Essay argues that legal privacy protections—which enable individuals to control their visibility within public space—play a vital role in disrupting the subordinating, antidemocratic impacts of surveillance and should be at the forefront of efforts to reform the operation of both digital and physical public space. Robust privacy protections are a touchstone for empowering members of different marginalized groups with the ability to safely participate in both the physical and digital public squares, while also preserving space for vibrant subaltern counterpublics. By increasing heterogeneity within the public sphere, privacy can also help decrease polarization by breaking down echo chambers and enabling the healthy contestation of ideas.
Democratic Privacy
Russell C. Bogue

ABSTRACT
This article proposes a novel justification for privacy rights based on the relationship between privacy and the democratic devices of voting and deliberation. Through an epistemic conception of democracy, I show that privacy, defined as epistemic inaccessibility, justifies a reliance on the vote as the voluntary mechanism of revealing citizen preferences, even in the face of theoretically more responsive methods. Respecting the inaccessibility of citizens' views ensures that democratic governments remain reliant on, rather than merely responsive to, the wills of their citizens. In addition, spaces of epistemic inaccessibility both motivate a basic form of deliberation between citizens and foster healthy deliberative practices by blunting the potentially corrosive effects of publicity. Privacy can thus be seen as a presupposition of core democratic institutions, and not just as an individual right possessed by members of a liberal-democratic polity. This new conceptualization provides a powerful additional justification for privacy rights and suggests an alternative approach to enacting privacy-protective measures.
Also,
Privacy rules can promote identity formation because privacy can help us to figure out who we are and what we believe, by ourselves and with our intimates and confidants. In my previous book, Intellectual Privacy, I argued that a special kind of privacy (the intellectual privacy of the title) is necessary in a democracy because it allows us to develop our political beliefs free from the skewing effects of being watched, monitored, and judged.8 Intellectual privacy secures the intellectual freedom to figure out what we believe about the world and our place in it. Intellectual privacy is essential to the development of our identities, but it is not the only kind of privacy that matters to our identities. The same kinds of privacy protections that can allow us to develop our political and religious beliefs can also help us figure out who we are more generally.

Richards, Neil. Why Privacy Matters (pp. 6-7). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
...Privacy is not the exclusive provenance of jurists and legal scholars any more than words belong to lexicographers or apples to nutritionists. Privacy is a collective work in progress.

The same can be said for the liberty and justice we affirm as the birthright of all Americans. Add privacy to make three, and you have what might be called the holy trinity of America’s secular faith. The values are distinct yet interdependent enough to comprise a unified whole. Without liberty—that is to say, without the freedom to choose—privacy is merely a euphemism for loneliness. Without justice—that is to say, without the fullest realization of democracy—privacy is merely the privilege of a few, often little more than a cloak thrown over our naked inequalities.


Keizer, Garret. Privacy (BIG IDEAS//small books) (pp. 65-66). Picador. Kindle Edition.
I could continue on and on and on... But. it would never placate the Borkian "Yes, but" cohort. 
 
I return for a moment to my Thesis thoughts during the winter of 1998:
…In Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy, … Priscilla Regan argues that we must re-frame the issue 180 degrees for a proper perspective and defense of privacy:

The philosophical basis of privacy policy overemphasizes the importance of privacy to the individual and fails to recognize the broader social importance of privacy. This emphasis on privacy as an individual right or an individual interest provides a weak basis for formulating policy to protect privacy...As a result privacy has been on the defensive, with those alleging a privacy invasion bearing the burden of proving that a certain action does indeed invade privacy and that the “social” benefit to be gained from the privacy invasion is less important than the individual harm incurred.

Regan sees in the extensive empirical data gathered to assess “privacy concerns” throughout the past twenty-odd years (and which she summarizes in some detail in her book) an inadequately articulated recognition of privacy as a social value:

Privacy is a common value in that all individuals value some degree of privacy and have some common perceptions about privacy. Privacy is also a public value in that it has value not just to the individual or to all individuals in common but also to the democratic political system. The third basis for the social importance of privacy is derived from the theoretical literature in economics. Privacy is rapidly becoming a collective value in that technology and market forces are making it hard for any one person to have privacy without all persons having a similar level of privacy.

For Regan, “viewing privacy as a common value—as a social claim rather than an individual claim—would also shift the burden of proof”:


Rather than leaving it up to individuals to show damages or to prove willful intent on the part or the record keeper, the burden would be placed on the organization. The organization would be responsible for justifying the need for the information rather than the individual being responsible for justifying withholding the information.


Which of course brings us right back to 4th Amendment “reasonableness” and “probable cause”…

Finally, what of “an understandable sense of indignation” at being pressured or coerced to “prove” one’s abstinence? Is such a legitimate response? A plausible reading of Kantian principles of reciprocity and “universal maxims” might have us conclude that, rather than framing the privacy issue as one of “right” versus “duty,” perhaps we have a “duty” to defend this fundamental “civil right” as the core element of reciprocal autonomy it truly is. Kant was adamant regarding our duty to be truthful. He was equally adamant with respect to the propriety of indignation as response to gratuitous or groundless insinuations of cover-up:


The man who is asked whether or not he intends to speak truthfully in the statement that he is now to make and who does not receive the very question with indignation as regards the suspicion thereby expressed that he might be a liar, but who instead asks permission to think first about possible exceptions—that man is already a liar (in potentia). This is because he shows that he does not acknowledge truthfulness as in itself a duty but reserves for himself exceptions from a rule which by its very nature does not admit of any exceptions, inasmuch as to admit of such would be self-contradictory. ( Immanuel Kant, On a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns, [430] )

Well, that begs the obvious rub, insofar as liars can and do adopt the indignant response in ruse. Such has always been the case, but equally obvious should be that inverting the due process “presumption of innocence” fundamental to our political and legal order will have little to no effect whatever on the mores of the duplicitous. It will, however, ensure that society in general becomes comprised of those who—as Justice Scalia stated so well in his Treasury dissent—“suffer a coarsening of our national manners that ultimately give the Fourth Amendment its content, and who become subject to the administration of federal officials whose respect for our privacy can hardly be greater than the small respect they have been taught to have for their own.”

Smith claims she is “clean,” and her resume tends to back her assertion. Jones suspects otherwise, often on the basis of irrelevant or bogus “data.” Beyond “mere” legalisms, the moral burden of proof is on the latter. Smith has a moral claim to indignation in response to groundless inquiry.A duty, even. Adverse inference toward such indignation is the moral equivalent of the ad hominem attack, disdained in rational discourse, ethically bankrupt in policy practice.
Back then my primary focus was not specifically attuned to the broader privacy-democracy "social utility" rationale. But neither was I clueless to the implication.**
** To the extent I had any clue about anything at all. My elder daughter was dying from Stage IV metastatic hepatoma. I'd been taking care of her for two years, sleeping on a cot in her Hollywood apartment, working on my Thesis when I could. Notwithstanding that my Thesis ran to nearly 300 pages, I had enough material for at least another 50-60. I graduated 6 weeks before she died. There are no words.
QUICK DIGRESSION
 
One of my principal thesis citations was Cuddihy's 4th Amendment dissertation. It's now a 1,008 pg. book ($227.90 at Amazon). I've submitted an Amazon review.
The original Cuddihy PhD dissertation was my principal grad thesis reference

This work was a bedrock of my 1998 M.A. Thesis at UNLV (mass drug testing 4th Amendment issues). It came to me via Interlibrary Loan from Claremont College in 4 large bound volumes totaling about 1,800 pages. The renowned constitutional scholar Leonard J. Levy was Cuddihy's Dissertation Chair. THIS published book has gotta be the seminal resource on the 4th Amendment. I've not bought it; I don't have to. Trust me, what a detailed history! Going WAY back before the founding of the U.S.

 
I photocopied ~300 pgs of the Cuddihy dissertation. Pockets full of nickels at the library and Kinko's.
 
DEMOCRACY-PRIVACY ERRATUM
 
So, I went quickly back through some of my Kindle stash, recent books addressing "Democracy" and its myriad issues...
 
 
 Keyword-searching "privacy." Well, Zilch, Nein, Nil, Nada, Nicht, Nyet. 
 
Disappointing, that.

QUICKLY BACK ROOTING AROUND IN MY THESIS,
LOOKING FOR DEMOCRACY STUFF AMID THE PRIVACY RANTS
Consider the dissent by Justice Barkett in the 11th Circuit appellate case that led directly to the Chandler Supreme Court case:

"... Not only is the privacy surrounding an individual’s bodily functions at stake, but all of the rights associated with participating in a democracy—rights of association, freedom of speech, ballot access, and the right to cast an effective ballot. We are not dealIng merely with the denial of a job opportunity, but with the denial of opportunity to participate in our democratic form of government. In light of the interference with these liberty interests, giving the governmental interests here the greater weight seems especially unreasonable.

‘Finally. I am concerned about the majority’s conclusion that the government’s actions in this case do not violate the First Amendment. The majority maintains that the government's purpose is not suppression of free expression. Yet. It supports its holding by citing the importance of ensuring that elected officials are "persons appreciative of the perils of drug use” and “sympathetic to drug interdiction efforts.” Establishing a certain ideology as a “qualification” for holding public office appears to be a content- based restriction on free expression. Drug policy is a politically charged issue confronting many government officials who have disparate points of view regarding the “Drug War” and the efficacy of the means employed in fighting it. It is the function of public office holders to write, enforce, and interpret the laws, including drug laws. By conditioning holding public office upon submission to drug screening, however, the Georgia legislature effectively bans from positions of political power not only those candidates who might disagree with the current policy criminalizing drug use, but also those who challenge the intrusive governmental means to detect such use among its citizenry. This statute is neither neutral nor procedural, but, in the majority’s own characterization, attempts to ensure that only candidates with a certain point of view qualify for public office.”
( Chandler c. Miller, 11th Circuit, Docket 95-8230: March, 1998.) [Thesis pg 18]
[footnote 14] Two excellent recently published resources address the multifaceted nuances of “privacy.” See The Right to Privacv by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995) and Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life by Janna Malamud Smith (Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley, Inc.. 1997). While the Alderman-Kennedy book is principally a compendium of examples of privacy transgressions in a variety of contexts, the latter work is a detailed and eloquent defense of privacy as a psychological necessity and net moral good. [Thesis pg 19]

These two were current at the time of my grad work. I just bought the Kindle editions. Nice to see that they have aged pretty well topically, notwithstanding the subsequent exponential advances of panoptic digiltech.
 
BTW, apropos of The Power Worshippers (cited above), you might want to see

~900 pg PDF here
One-Stop Strategic Shopping for those yearning to quickly (“1st 180 days”) and aggressively eliminate the Radical Elite Secular Woke Left Eurocentric Cosmopolitan Cultural Commie Marxist Fascist Wilsonian Gender-dysphoric LGBTQIA+ Groomers Now Enslaving Us via Their Godless Greenie Globalist Deep Administrative State Socialist Soros Liberty-Hating CCP-loving Hegemony.**
** I probably owe Trump's former flack Stephen Miller a residual for that sentence.
Interesting reading. Trust the Plan.

SNIPPET
PROMISE #4 SECURE OUR GOD-GIVEN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT
TO ENJOY “THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY.”

The Declaration of Independence famously asserted the belief of America’s Founders that “all men are created equal” and endowed with God-given rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It’s the last—“the pursuit of Happiness”—that is central to America’s heroic experiment in self-government.

When the Founders spoke of “pursuit of Happiness,” what they meant might be understood today as in essence “pursuit of Blessedness.” That is, an individual must be free to live as his Creator ordained—to flourish. Our Constitution grants each of us the liberty to do not what we want, but what we ought...
The American Republic was founded on principles prioritizing and maximizing individuals’ rights to live their best life or to enjoy what the Framers called “the Blessings of Liberty.” It’s this radical equality—liberty for all—not just of rights but of authority—that the rich and powerful have hated about democracy in America since 1776. They resent Americans’ audacity in insisting that we don’t need them to tell us how to live. It’s this inalienable right of self-direction—of each person’s opportunity to direct himself or herself, and his or her community, to the good— that the ruling class disdains.

With the Declaration and Constitution, our nation’s Founders handed to us the means with which to preserve this right. Abraham Lincoln wrote of the Dec- laration as an “apple of gold” in a silver frame, the Constitution. So must the next conservative President look to these documents when the elites mount their next assault on liberty.

Left to our own devices, the American people rejected European monarchy and colonialism just as we rejected slavery, second-class citizenship for women, mercantilism, socialism, Wilsonian globalism, Fascism, Communism, and (today) wokeism. To the Left, these assertions of patriotic self-assurance are just so many signs of our moral depravity and intellectual inferiority—proof that, in fact, we need a ruling elite making decisions for us…
Okeee Dokeee, then. For openers, that is SO Adrian Vermeule. Your Christian Nationalist Betters will fill you in on the details regarding that which you properly, Blessedly "ought." Moreover, ya gotta love the by-now staple conflation of The 1776 Declaration ("liturgical pursuit of Blessedness") with the 1789 Constitutional Liberty To Do What We OUGHT.

Broad brush ad homina semantic graffiti aside, you will also exceed your Lifetime Permissible Doses of Strawmen, False Dichotomies, Appeals to Authority, unhelpfully vague platitudes, and glaring outright contradictions.

I'd speculate it to be a safe bet that most of these Heritage Heroes of our Constitutional Common Good Hermeneutics can't even spell the latter word.
UPDATE NOTE: I'm now about 200 pages into this Beaut. A good bit of it thus far—the creaky-assed federal Article I legislative processes and Article II departmental ops reform stuff—I really don't have much pick with. The recurrent smearing of "the Left," though, does nothing to enhance the authors' cred. And, their conceit that they are the self-appointed Advance Transition Team (and, implicitly a Devotees' hiring hall) gearing up to fully grease the GOP POTUS47 skids on Jan 20th, 2025 beginning at "So Help Me God," 12:01pm EST is, well, a Bit Much.

Oughta be "fun." 416 days to the elections.

Republican presidential candidates including ex-President Donald Trump made appearances at the Washington, DC-based Pray Vote Stand Summit Friday night in efforts to win over the right-wing Christian evangelical base, The Daily Beast reports.

"Throughout the event at the Omni Shoreham hotel," the Beast notes, "attendees worshiped God with song and prayer and heard speakers drive home the urgency to elect Biblically-minded candidates and protect children from 'indoctrination' in public schools. More than a few times evangelical activists warned of 'Marxist,' 'radical left' and 'transgender' ideologies."
Yeah. Read the 2025 Plan. Let Us Prey.

More to come...
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Monday, September 11, 2023

Friday, September 8, 2023

"Training Data," Human Neurobiological Wetware vs Generative Digital AI

Begs a question or two, perhaps?
   
One of the most troubling issues around generative AI is simple: It’s being made in secret. To produce humanlike answers to questions, systems such as ChatGPT process huge quantities of written material. But few people outside of companies such as Meta and OpenAI know the full [sic] extent of the texts these programs have been trained on.

Some training text comes from Wikipedia and other online writing, but high-quality generative AI requires higher-quality input than is usually found on the internet—that is, it requires the kind found in books. In a lawsuit filed in California last month, the writers Sarah Silverman, Richard Kadrey, and Christopher Golden allege that Meta violated copyright laws by using their books to train LLaMA, a large language model similar to OpenAI’s GPT-4—an algorithm that can generate text by mimicking the word patterns it finds in sample texts. But neither the lawsuit itself nor the commentary surrounding it has offered a look under the hood: We have not previously known for certain whether LLaMA was trained on Silverman’s, Kadrey’s, or Golden’s books, or any others, for that matter.

Pirated books are being used as inputs for computer programs that are changing how we read, learn, and communicate. The future promised by AI is written with stolen words.

Upwards of 170,000 books, the majority published in the past 20 years, are in LLaMA’s training data. In addition to work by Silverman, Kadrey, and Golden, nonfiction by Michael Pollan, Rebecca Solnit, and Jon Krakauer is being used, as are thrillers by James Patterson and Stephen King and other fiction by George Saunders, Zadie Smith, and Junot DĂ­az. These books are part of a dataset called “Books3,” and its use has not been limited to LLaMA. Books3 was also used to train Bloomberg’s BloombergGPT, EleutherAI’s GPT-J—a popular open-source model—and likely other generative-AI programs now embedded in websites across the internet. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s use of Books3…
OK. Very interesting Atlantic Monthly article. Worth your time.


Comment I posted on another blog yesterday.

What do y’all think about the recently reported (IMO inadequately defined) “pirated use” of the books of numerous notable authors as Generative AI “training data?”

I now have about 700 Kindle format eBooks in my iPad. I read them all carefully, marking them up profusely. They are part of my “unsupervised” neural cognitive wetware “training data”—“NI” (Neurological Intelligence).

Does that differ materially? (In an ethical sense?)

Screenshot from my Kindle
I've been a fanatic book reader my entire life (which now spans a creaky 77+ years). I've averaged 2-3 books a week for many decades, in addition to all of my periodicals (and, increasingly online stuff spanning the gamut from the frivolous to the profound).

My Unsupervised Training Data.

Below, my Las Vegas loft library Data Warehouse in 2013.


I stlll miss that pad. We had crammed floor-to-ceiling bookcases all over the place. We've since given away about 90% of our hardcopy books. I'm getting to where I do much better with eBook & online reading as my old coot eyesight atrophies.
 
After getting my Master's, I taught adjunct evening faculty Critical Thinking and Argument Analysis from 1999 - 2004 at UNLV (during my bank risk analyst days). Back then, the academic plagiarism concerns were mostly focused on the Microsoft Word etc ease of Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V Cut & Paste. Now we have to wring hands as students can use ChatGPT to simply ghostwrite their assignments for them.
 
Beyond academia, the prospect now uneasily portends wherein AI quietly writes our news stories, magazine articles, books, screenplays, political speeches etc—well, in the case of Donald Trump, though, it'd certainly immeasurably add coherence:

Yeah, it's not funny.

So, back to the original riff here. Issues of IP "piracy," "copyright," "fair use" aside, how do my lifetime accrued "wetware" "training data" differ ethically? For the sake of argument, let's assume that these AI companies paid retail for every title available on Amazon (neutralizing the "piracy" beef) and then used the authors' prose simply as "training data," not publishing and disseminating verbatim "unauthorized copies?" 
OK, backing up a tad in paraphrase: "To produce humanlike answers to questions, people like BobbyG process huge quantities of written material. But few people ... know the extent of the texts he has been trained on."
Now, I could never keep up with the computers. My consumption of "training data" would be nanoscopically puny by comparison, in terms of sheer volume. So, perhaps AI will soon be able to kick my nominally formidable verbal butt, in terms of both topical analytic acumen and creative elegance of rhetorical flourish (to the extent that I can be said to possess the latter competence).
 
I guess we'll know before long. Maybe. Color me a bit skeptical as yet.

Just wondering. What do you think? (LOL, it'd be funny if I got AI "responses" generated by people using ChatGPT.)

CODA

I guess I'm kinda strange. Unremarkable B student in high school in NJ (albeit a voracious reader from early on prior to HS). Left home at 18 in 1964 to go on the road with a bar band in lieu of college. Trapsed all over the U.S. and Canada. Got politicized in 1967 when I hit California for the first time. I joke that I "was the only rock & roll guitar player in the country with subscriptions to Harper's, The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Ramparts, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and The Washington Monthly." Just about all of my fellow musicians wanted only to jaw about other musicians and bands and their recordings, and axes and equipment.

I didn't really fit in. There was more important stuff out there.

Then, after going White Collar in the wake of finally getting my undergrad at the age of 39, I found it difficult to fully fit in with the "suits." The cubicle crowd didn't get me either.

I now just refer to myself as a "life-long unlearner."

Running outa time. There's just too much too reconsider. Sometimes the current relentless vulgar media absurdity gets away with me.

SATURDAY ERRATUM
 
 
Ugh. Morocco death toll will continue to mount. Terrible.

More to come...
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