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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/20/19

Is AI Just Rearguard Capitalism?

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in February, Trump signed a five-point plan to assure AI makes America Great Again, down the line. The five: to promote R&D, reduce barriers, train workers, foster trust, and compete globally, really amount to one:

(b) The United States must drive development of appropriate technical standards and reduce barriers to the safe testing and deployment of AI technologies in order to enable the creation of new AI-related industries and the adoption of AI by today's industries. [i]

In other words, hand the government's knowledge, resources, and labor over to private companies.

In their usual, contradictory way, the gatekeepers of capitalism - your officials - mandate, the future is free-market-based Ai. Of course, this is just to house-keep. The plan was already working. Venture capital funding for AI startups reached record levels in 2018, increasing 72% compared to 2017 to $9.33bn in funding. [ii]

Digital technologies, in general, appeal to investors. In part, because they forego a lot of the hard inputs of manufacturing. In part, because the workforce is young and still willing to compete against itself. And in part, particularly with AI, because we don't really know what it does yet, they can promise anything.

AI has particular-value to speculators, as it makes analysis of highly-complex data more within reach. Yet it's important to recall, markets themselves are a form of predictive technology, and speculators have never really minded that their predictions and outcomes rarely coincide, so long as they further casino capitalism.

Thus, besides what additional risks AI brings, it inherits all the problems of the market. Namely, that its predictions are only a synthesis of its inputs. When they fail, as they do, we invert blame to 'market-failures', rather than the fruition of a biased set.

According to a recent New York University research center report (published by the AI Now Institute, as one of 150+ studies with like conclusions), AI is adopting our hierarchies and prejudices. The industry's overwhelmingly white-male workforce has gifted us systems that perpetuate race and gender biases. [iii]

For instance, in 2016, Pro Publica ran an analysis on a proprietary algorithm, COMPAS, that predicts recidivism rates to weigh in sentencing. It "found that black defendants were far more likely than white defendants to be incorrectly judged to be at a higher risk of recidivism, while white defendants were more likely than black defendants to be incorrectly flagged as low risk. " At its best it proved 60% accurate. Among other miscalculations, it was incorrect in 80% of the cases regarding violent recidivism. [iv]

Of course, (if you're not Pro Publica) the role of our so-called free press is to glean otherwise critical studies for their nod toward market-based solutions. In this age of fashionable, collective self-criticism, its sexy to endite the status quo (the market-mandate), but it rarely if ever takes outside the bounds of market-capitalism.

In this case, the report suggests making pay-rates, harassment, and discrimination reports public, and increasing affirmative action to dilute AI's prejudices. [v] In other words, these are market-failures. To which they prescribe market tweaks.

Add to that, Trump's mandate gets frequent criticism for not adding a sixth point facilitating immigrant contributions to R&D. This, from both sides of the isle, not as politics, certainly not to preach human rights, but as a necessary market-adjustment.

In sum, these are market corrections to address market-failures. Already there's a contradiction (dating much-further back the AI). Simply put, you cannot tweak your way out of failure.

Today, market-failure on a grand-scale may end capitalism - and civilization - for good, through climate-change. How confident should we be that market-corrections will avert full-scale disaster? The common fear is that they'll produce too little change, too late.

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JAMES MUNSON Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Writer, activist, some-times artist and musician, all-times dad. Pissed and saying so in Portland, OR.

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