Time to study, so I’m link-dumping hard.
- We’re Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction. Stephen Hawking wrote about this a little bit last year; how we’ve only had the ability to completely destroy the world for about half a century and it’s already almost happened at least once (that we know of).
Unthinkable as it may be, humanity, every last person, could someday be wiped from the face of the Earth. We have learned to worry about asteroids and supervolcanoes, but the more-likely scenario, according to Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, is that we humans will destroy ourselves.
Bostrom, who directs Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, has argued over the course of several papers that human extinction risks are poorly understood and, worse still, severely underestimated by society. Some of these existential risks are fairly well known, especially the natural ones. But others are obscure or even exotic. Most worrying to Bostrom is the subset of existential risks that arise from human technology, a subset that he expects to grow in number and potency over the next century.
- How To Make Ethical Robots. Somebody should’ve sent this to the company that created Ash in the Alien universe. Not to mention HAL from 2001 and a whole slew of other androids.
The big question, according to the researchers, is how we can ensure that future robotic technology preserves our humanity and our societies’ values. They explain that, while there is no simple answer, a few techniques could be useful for enforcing ethical behavior in robots.
One method involves an “ethical governor,” a name inspired by the mechanical governor for the steam engine, which ensured that the powerful engines behaved safely and within predefined bounds of performance. Similarly, an ethical governor would ensure that robot behavior would stay within predefined ethical bounds. For example, for autonomous military robots, these bounds would include principles derived from the Geneva Conventions and other rules of engagement that humans use. Civilian robots would have different sets of bounds specific to their purposes.
- Apple’s Market Clout Likely to Draw More Scrutiny. “In everything it does, from product design to business deals, Apple strives for as much control as possible.”
Apple’s clout is coming under scrutiny as the U.S. Justice Department considers filing a lawsuit against the company and five U.S. publishers on allegations they orchestrated a price-fixing scheme on electronic books.
The involved parties are trying to avoid a high-profile court battle by negotiating a settlement, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper broke the news last week about the government’s plans to allege that Apple Inc. and the publishers tried to thwart e-book discounts offered by Amazon.com Inc. and drive up prices since the 2010 release of the iPad.
“I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Apple,” says Ted Henneberry, an antitrust attorney for the Orrick law firm in Washington.
Apple declined to comment.