Correlation Is Not Totality: Avoiding AI Screw-ups

Pattern-Finding Algorithms

This is how ML currently works. It is a pattern-finding system. If it finds a “correct” pattern — which is to say, a pattern more likely than others, and one that fits enough of the training set — it goes with it, whole-heartedly. There is no “65% he is a doctor, 35% she is a doctor” (the actual US statistics).

Marked exceptions

Humans learn similarly. We quickly find patterns and associations, and stick with them. (“This! THIS is the remote control that works.”) And we over-fit sometimes, too. Ate dodgy fish tacos one time and got food poisoning? Boy howdy, your stomach is now going to refuse ALL fish tacos, maybe all restaurants on that block, maybe all fish, until you can figure out how to give it some counter-examples.

Poor lonely AI

See, AI systems don’t get this feedback.

The uncanny valley of wisdom

And that’s the punchline. We’re not at the place where machine learning can actually substitute for human judgment. But we are close enough that we’re in the uncanny valley of wisdom.

Push The Button

If you’re either of those programmers, or near either of them, and that meeting comes up — throw a red flag. Pull the andon cord, throw the emergency brake lever, push the Madagascar button.

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Alex Feinman

Alex Feinman

Obligate infovore. All posts made with 100% recycled electrons, sustainably crafted by artisanal artisans. He/him/his.