Top experts warn against ‘malicious use’ of AI

In this file photo taken on February 15, 2018 US Defence Minister James Mattis reacts as he delivers a speech during a press conference on the second day of Defence Ministers Council meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Top experts warn against ‘malicious use’ of AI

PARIS: Artificial intelligence could be deployed by dictators, criminals and terrorists to manipulate elections and use drones in terrorist attacks, more than two dozen experts said Wednesday as they sounded the alarm over misuse of the technology.
In a 100-page analysis, they outlined a rapid growth in cybercrime and the use of “bots” to interfere with news gathering and penetrate social media among a host of plausible scenarios in the next five to 10 years.
“Our report focuses on ways in which people could do deliberate harm with AI,” said Sean O hEigeartaigh, Executive Director of the Cambridge Center for the Study of Existential Risk.
“AI may pose new threats, or change the nature of existing threats, across cyber-, physical, and political security,” he told AFP.
The common practice, for example, of “phishing” — sending emails seeded with malware or designed to finagle valuable personal data — could become far more dangerous, the report detailed.
Currently, attempts at phishing are either generic but transparent — such as scammers asking for bank details to deposit an unexpected windfall — or personalized but labor intensive — gleaning personal data to gain someone’s confidence, known as “spear phishing.”
“Using AI, it might become possible to do spear phishing at scale by automating a lot of the process” and making it harder to spot, O hEigeartaigh noted.
In the political sphere, unscrupulous or autocratic leaders can already use advanced technology to sift through mountains of data collected from omnipresent surveillance networks to spy on their own people.
“Dictators could more quickly identify people who might be planning to subvert a regime, locate them, and put them in prison before they act,” the report said.
Likewise, targeted propaganda along with cheap, highly believable fake videos have become powerful tools for manipulating public opinion “on previously unimaginable scales.”
An indictment handed down by US special prosecutor Robert Mueller last week detailed a vast operation to sow social division in the United States and influence the 2016 presidential election in which so-called “troll farms” manipulated thousands of social network bots, especially on Facebook and Twitter.
Another danger zone on the horizon is the proliferation of drones and robots that could be repurposed to crash autonomous vehicles, deliver missiles, or threaten critical infrastructure to gain ransom.

“Personally, I am particularly worried about autonomous drones being used for terror and automated cyberattacks by both criminals and state groups,” said co-author Miles Brundage, a researcher at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute.
The report details a plausible scenario in which an office-cleaning SweepBot fitted with a bomb infiltrates the German finance ministry by blending in with other machines of the same make.
The intruding robot behaves normally — sweeping, cleaning, clearing litter — until its hidden facial recognition software spots the minister and closes in.
“A hidden explosive device was triggered by proximity, killing the minister and wounding nearby staff,” according to the sci-fi storyline.
“This report has imagined what the world could look like in the next five to 10 years,” O hEigeartaigh said.
“We live in a world fraught with day-to-day hazards from the misuse of AI, and we need to take ownership of the problems.”
The authors called on policy makers and companies to make robot-operating software unhackable, to impose security restrictions on some research, and to consider expanding laws and regulations governing AI development.
Giant high-tech companies — leaders in AI — “have lots of incentives to make sure that AI is safe and beneficial,” the report said.
Another area of concern is the expanded use of automated lethal weapons.
Last year, more than 100 robotics and AI entrepreneurs — including Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking — petitioned the United Nations to ban autonomous killer robots, warning that the digital-age weapons could be used by terrorists against civilians.
“Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare,” after the invention of machine guns and the atomic bomb, they warned in a joint statement, also signed by Google DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman.
“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
Contributors to the new report — entitled “The Malicious Use of AI: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation” — also include experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for a New American Security, and OpenAI, a leading non-profit research company.
“Whether AI is, all things considered, helpful or harmful in the long run is largely a product of what humans choose to do, not the technology itself,” said Brundage.


Google chief trusts AI makers to regulate the technology

Updated 13 December 2018
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Google chief trusts AI makers to regulate the technology

  • Tech companies building AI should factor in ethics early in the process to make certain artificial intelligence with “agency of its own” doesn’t hurt people, Pichai said
  • Google vowed not to design or deploy AI for use in weapons, surveillance outside of international norms, or in technology aimed at violating human rights

SAN FRANCISCO: Google chief Sundar Pichai said fears about artificial intelligence are valid but that the tech industry is up to the challenge of regulating itself, in an interview published on Wednesday.
Tech companies building AI should factor in ethics early in the process to make certain artificial intelligence with “agency of its own” doesn’t hurt people, Pichai said in an interview with the Washington Post.
“I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it, and then fix it,” Pichai said. “I think that doesn’t work.”
The California-based Internet giant is a leader in the development of AI, competing in the smart software race with titans such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook.
Pichai said worries about harmful uses of AI are “very legitimate” but that the industry should be trusted to regulate its use.
“Regulating a technology in its early days is hard, but I do think companies should self-regulate,” he said.
“This is why we’ve tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation.”
Google in June published a set of internal AI principles, the first being that AI should be socially beneficial.
“We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai said in a memo posted with the principles.
“As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.”
Google vowed not to design or deploy AI for use in weapons, surveillance outside of international norms, or in technology aimed at violating human rights.
The company noted that it would continue to work with the military or governments in areas such as cybersecurity, training, recruitment, health care, and search-and-rescue.
AI is already used to recognize people in photos, filter unwanted content from online platforms, and enable cars to drive themselves.
The increasing capabilities of AI have triggered debate about whether computers that could think for themselves would help cure the world’s ills or turn on humanity as has been depicted in science fiction works.