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.


2018 Holiday Gift Guide: What to get for the ones you love this festive season

2018 Holiday Gift Guide
Updated 12 December 2018
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2018 Holiday Gift Guide: What to get for the ones you love this festive season

DUBAI: Here are some gift ideas for this holiday season.

Long-distance love
Lovebox Spinning Heart Messenger ($100)
A 21st-century version of the classic love letter — perfect to let distant loved ones know you’re thinking of them. When you send a new message through the app, the heart on the recipient’s box revolves and your message is displayed on the screen inside.

Point-and-click. And print
HP Sprocket 2-in-1 Camera Printer ($160)
This smartphone-sized instant camera also lets you print your Instagram pics while you’re on the move. So now you can let disinterested strangers in the real world, too, know just how perfect the presentation of your smashed avocado toast was this morning.

For the watch lover
A Lange & Söhne Triple Split ($160,000)
This 100-piece limited-edition white-gold watch is one of the most complex ever created, with 567 components. The maker claims its “the first mechanical split-seconds chronograph in the world that allows multi-hour comparative time measurements,” and we’re not going to argue.

For the absent-minded
Tile Mate ($25)
Put Tile Mate on your key ring and save yourself from minor meltdowns. Can’t find your keys? Simply fire up the app and listen for the signature tune, or check the on-screen map. What if you lose your phone? Press the button and your phone will ring — even if it’s on silent. Lost your keys and your phone? Oh…

Take your tablet old-school
iPad TV stand ($30)
This cardboard faux-TV set from the Seventies is a great little placeholder for your iPad (or other tablet). For a really authentic nostalgia trip, set all your videos to 144p.

Family fun
Don’t Step In It board game ($20)
Put on a blindfold, spin the spinner, and take that many steps across the mat. And hope you don’t tread in the strategically placed poop. (The poop should be fake — we can’t stress that enough.) The weirdest thing about this weird game is that no one thought of it sooner. Seeing someone else tread in poop is always funny.

For the coffee freak
Espro Ultralight Press ($40)
This 16-oz French press (and vacuum-insulated “hydration bottle”) is perfect for the discriminating traveler for whom a sachet of Nescafe in their hotel room just won’t do.


For the coffee geek
R2-D2 Coffee Press ($25)
Everyone’s favorite service droid (yes, BB-8, *everyone’s*) now performing everyone’s favorite service — preparing coffee.

For the audiophile
Shinola Runwell Turntable ($2,500)
The ongoing vinyl revival means any music-loving hipster worthy of their goatee is once again buying LPs. This sleek belt-driven turntable has a built-in phono preamp.

The year’s best-selling book
‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ ($25)
Michael Wolff’s controversial exposé of what (he says) happened behind the scenes in the first nine month’s of Donald Trump’s presidency tops the bestseller list for 2018. Wolff’s ‘access-all-areas’ pass to the West Wing makes for fascinating reading, regardless of your political affiliations.

The year’s best-selling perfume
Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel ($100)
Apparently, it’s 2018’s most-popular smell-in-a-bottle, so you can’t really go wrong with this citrus-y “sexy, fresh Oriental fragrance.”

For the movie buff
100 Movies Scratch Off poster ($15)
You know those films people keep telling you that you must see? Here’s 100 of them on a single poster that you can scratch as you go to reveal the ones you’ve actually watched. Or the ones you feel like you have to pretend you’ve watched.

The shopaholic’s über-hamper
The Covent Garden Shopping Edit ($13,180)
This is only good if you’re planning a visit to London sometime soon, but for many GCC-dwellers, that’s a regular trip. This hamper features must-have gifts from Covent Garden’s most exclusive brands, including Danse Lenté, Penhaligon’s, Mulberry, The Shop at Bluebird, and more. It also includes a $6,400 voucher to spend on a watch at Bucherer.

For the escapist
Oculus Go Standalone VR Headset ($210)
Running away to another world is probably going to be high on everyone’s wish list for 2019. A trip to Mars is potentially lethal (not to mention Elon Musk could be your travel companion), so we recommend this all-in-one virtual-reality set for now.

Get some sleep
LectroFan White Noise Machine ($50)
Help mask those things that go bump (or screech, or whatever that adorable sound of young fellas revving their engines in the street outside is called) in the night with this ambient noise generator, complete with timer and volume control.

For the person who has everything
A castle in Italy ($18.25 million)
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like an 11th-century Florentine castle. Or any castle, really. This one comes with two swimming pools, two farmhouses, an olive grove, vineyard, and 37 hectares of woodland. And serious bragging rights.