‘Henry. You can tell a lot from someone’s footwear,’ his mother had been fond of saying.
He stared at his feet, lost in thought about his parents’ prenatal decision to enhance him, the embryonic Henry, for a life of fully fledged privilege. A high-performing human.
His shoes were scuffed, dirty and fraying where the plastic upper was coming loose from the sole. His whole body sagged with despair. Although, looking along the neatly lined-up feet of the bus queue, his were no worse than anyone else’s; public transport and poverty must be symbiotic, each dependent on the other.
In contrast, a pair of hand-made soft leather shoes stood a few feet away in the gutter. Nice trousers too, but why the hi-vis jacket and protective gloves? Aha, a streetcleaner. An extremely rich streetcleaner if he was willing to work in such expensive shoes. They lived in an effortocracy and no matter what Henry did or said would change that.
What a fucked up world.
Despondent, Henry continued to wait passively in the queue which he suspected was almost entirely made up of the morning’s appointments at the same assessment centre that he was being forced to attend. This poor struggling batch of humanity would be cajoled into behaving properly, to fulfil their potential. Made to acknowledge that they’d let themselves and everyone else down. Continue reading
Screaming white noise. Pitch black darkness.
What a way to be greeted into a new day.
Aiden felt around for the edge of his cardboard mattress. Beyond its frayed borders buried among the food scraps and his few discarded clothes was the nectar he craved. The withdrawal was intense as the nanobots issued their friendly warning that his addiction needed feeding for him to stay alive.
Fumbling around in the detritus of his life he found his last vial of nanobot nectar and gulped it down.
A pinpoint of bright light appeared. Then another. And another. And another. He blinked. The nanobots were working. A gradual shift from the oppressive white noise to the welcoming sounds of a city about its daily business.
As his sight returned he noticed the clock on the house control unit in which his robot waited while he slept.
‘Jessie. Why didn’t you wake me? I told you – 7am.’ Continue reading
Google Translate has developed an understanding of the meaning behind words so that it can translate directly from one language to another using the concepts behind phrases rather than a word by word translation.
This means it can be taught to translate from French to German and from German to Chinese and because it understands language at a conceptual level it can translate French into Chinese without going via German; it matches concepts not words.
Should we be worried by this latest revelation of a Neural Machine that has created its own internal language that nobody understands?
I’m not sure.
Imagine an algorithm to determine where to concentrate health-care research. If its inputs are biased towards one section of society, accidentally rather than by design, wouldn’t it develop a skewed view of the world?
Wouldn’t it favour some people over others?
Yes, but we already have a healthcare system that does that, don’t we? And, this could be less biased because it would be much more effective at using large volumes of data to determine the best outcome overall.
The difference is that in a world of “bias in, bias out” and opaque algorithms nobody, not even the creators, would know why it made the choices it did.
Maybe this is a price worth paying.
As this TechCrunch article says, “Neural networks may be complex, mysterious and little creepy, but it’s hard to argue with their effectiveness.”
photo credit: Adi Korndörfer … brilliant ideas via photopin (license)