Artificially Intelligent Killer Robots

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

– Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

Earthquakes & Tsunamis

I mentioned The Really Big One after reading about the Cascadia subduction zone a few weeks ago. Kathryn Schultz put together a fascinating report for The New Yorker on the seismic history and future of the Pacific Northwest. 

The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.

Not surprisingly, this caused some alarm among readers in the region. This week she published a follow-up, How to Stay Safe When the Big One Comes

The Psychology of Human Misjudgment

The audio below contains the often referred to speech by Charlie Munger on the psychology of human misjudgment given to an audience at Harvard University back in 1995. In his speech, Charlie talks about some of the different kinds of human misjudgments that he has encountered through his life.

The following is a summary of Charlie’s 25 standard causes of human misjudgments, revised in 2005 and included in Poor Charlie’s Almanack – The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger:

  1. Reward and Punishment Superresponse Tendency
  2. Liking/Loving Tendency
  3. Disliking/Hating Tendency
  4. Doubt-Avoidance Tendency
  5. Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency
  6. Curiosity Tendency
  7. Kantian Fairness Tendency
  8. Envy/Jealousy Tendency
  9. Reciprocation Tendency
  10. Influence-from-Mere Association Tendency
  11. Simple, Pain-Avoiding Psychological Denial
  12. Excessive Self-Regard Tendency
  13. Overoptimism Tendency
  14. Deprival Superreaction Tendency
  15. Social-Proof Tendency
  16. Contrast-Misreaction Tendency
  17. Stress-Influence Tendency
  18. Availability-Misweighing Tendency
  19. Use-It-or-Lose-It Tendency
  20. Drug-Misinfluence Tendency
  21. Senescence-Misinfluence Tendency
  22. Authority-Misinfluence Tendency
  23. Twaddle Tendency
  24. Reason-Respecting Tendency
  25. Lollapalooza Tendency – The Tendency to Get Extreme Confluences of Psychological Tendencies Acting in Favor of a Particular Outcome

 

Take the Trees

Walking through a forest is the best way I know to improve my mood. Several studies to understand how and why have recently been published.

These results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers.

How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain, New York Times.

Something deep within us responds to the three-dimensional geometry of nature.

How Trees Calm Us Down, The New Yorker.

 

Stanford Prison Experiment

I had the good fortune of attending a screening of The Stanford Prison Experiment, followed by a Q&A with Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and Stanford University Professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo.

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo cast 24 student volunteers as prisoners and guards in a simulated jail to examine the source of abusive behavior in the prison system. The results astonished the world, as participants went from middle-class undergrads to drunk-with-power sadists and submissive victims in just a few days.

The acting was superb and the director did a great job eliciting the emotional tone of the experiment. Zimbardo is a highly controversial figure, so it was not a surprise when the first question came from an audience member asking how he could live with himself and stating he should have been fired. As she stormed out in disgust, a woman who identified herself as a black panther gave a monologue of praise for his study. The emotionally-charged controversy of The Stanford Prison Experiment continues, even after more than 40 years.

Was the study about our individual fallibility, or about broken institutions? Were its findings about prisons, specifically, or about life in general?

The Real Lesson of The Stanford Prison Experiment is an interesting look at this controversial study from The New Yorker.

Here is a clip with some of the original footage: