Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code

“Computers are already vastly superior to us at certain specialized tasks, but the day they rival our general ability is probably some way off – if it ever happens. Human beings may not be best at much, but we’re second-best at an impressive range of things.

Here’s the problem. Between the “dumb” fixed algorithms and true AI lies the problematic halfway house we’ve already entered with scarcely a thought and almost no debate, much less agreement as to aims, ethics, safety, best practice. If the algorithms around us are not yet intelligent, meaning able to independently say “that calculation/course of action doesn’t look right: I’ll do it again”, they are nonetheless starting to learn from their environments. And once an algorithm is learning, we no longer know to any degree of certainty what its rules and parameters are. At which point we can’t be certain of how it will interact with other algorithms, the physical world, or us. Where the “dumb” fixed algorithms – complex, opaque and inured to real time monitoring as they can be – are in principle predictable and interrogable, these ones are not. After a time in the wild, we no longer know what they are: they have the potential to become erratic. We might be tempted to call these “frankenalgos” – though Mary Shelley couldn’t have made this up.


Algorithms are beginning to learn from their environments. Illustration: Marco Goran Romano”

Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/29/coding-algorithms-frankenalgos-program-danger
via Instapaper