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AI starting to have big real-world impact, says expert

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‘Yeah, we’re spooked’: AI starting to have big real-world impact, says expert

A scientist who wrote a leading textbook on artificial intelligence has said experts are “spooked” by their own success in the field, comparing the advance of AI to the development of the atom bomb.

Prof Stuart Russell, the founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley, said most experts believed that machines more intelligent than humans would be developed this century, and he called for international treaties to regulate the development of the technology.

“The AI community has not yet adjusted to the fact that we are now starting to have a really big impact in the real world,” he told the Guardian. “That simply wasn’t the case for most of the history of the field – we were just in the lab, developing things, trying to get stuff to work, mostly failing to get stuff to work. So the question of real-world impact was just not germane at all. And we have to grow up very quickly to catch up.”

Artificial intelligence underpins many aspects of modern life, from search engines to banking, and advances in image recognition and machine translation are among the key developments in recent years.

Russell – who in 1995 co-authored the seminal book Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, and who will be giving this year’s BBC Reith lectures entitled “Living with Artificial Intelligence”, which begin on Monday – says urgent work is needed to make sure humans remain in control as superintelligent AI is developed.

“AI has been designed with one particular methodology and sort of general approach. And we’re not careful enough to use that kind of system in complicated real-world settings,” he said.

For example, asking AI to cure cancer as quickly as possible could be dangerous. “It would probably find ways of inducing tumours in the whole human population, so that it could run millions of experiments in parallel, using all of us as guinea pigs,” said Russell. “And that’s because that’s the solution to the objective we gave it; we just forgot to specify that you can’t use humans as guinea pigs and you can’t use up the whole GDP of the world to run your experiments and you can’t do this and you can’t do that.”

Russell said there was still a big gap between the AI of today and that depicted in films such as Ex Machina, but a future with machines that are more intelligent than humans was on the cards.

“I think numbers range from 10 years for the most optimistic to a few hundred years,” said Russell. “But almost all AI researchers would say it’s going to happen in this century.”

One concern is that a machine would not need to be more intelligent than humans in all things to pose a serious risk. “It’s something that’s unfolding now,” he said. “If you look at social media and the algorithms that choose what people read and watch, they have a huge amount of control over our cognitive input.”

The upshot, he said, is that the algorithms manipulate the user, brainwashing them so that their behaviour becomes more predictable when it comes to what they chose to engage with, boosting click-based revenue.

Have AI researchers become spooked by their own success? “Yeah, I think we are increasingly spooked,” Russell said.

“It reminds me a little bit of what happened in physics where the physicists knew that atomic energy existed, they could measure the masses of different atoms, and they could figure out how much energy could be released if you could do the conversion between different types of atoms,” he said, noting that the experts always stressed the idea was theoretical. “And then it happened and they weren’t ready for it.”

The use of AI in military applications – such as small anti-personnel weapons – is of particular concern, he said. “Those are the ones that are very easily scalable, meaning you could put a million of them in a single truck and you could open the back and off they go and wipe out a whole city,” said Russell.

Russell believes the future for AI lies in developing machines that know the true objective is uncertain, as are our preferences, meaning they must check in with humans – rather like a butler – on any decision. But the idea is complex, not least because different people have different – and sometimes conflicting – preferences, and those preferences are not fixed.

Russell called for measures including a code of conduct for researchers, legislation and treaties to ensure the safety of AI systems in use, and training of researchers to ensure AI is not susceptible to problems such as racial bias. He said EU legislation that would ban impersonation of humans by machines should be adopted around the world.

Russell said he hoped the Reith lectures would emphasise that there is a choice about what the future holds. “It’s really important for the public to be involved in those choices, because it’s the public who will benefit or not,” he said.

But there was another message, too. “Progress in AI is something that will take a while to happen, but it doesn’t make it science fiction,” he said.

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the petroleum products subsidy regime from 2017 to 2021.

The resolution followed a motion by Honourable Sergius Ogun who stated that component costs in the petroleum products subsidy value chain claimed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is highly over-bloated while the transfer pump price per litre, used by the NNPC in relation to Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC), is underquoted.

The lawmaker described this as fraudulent while also expressing worry that the subsidy regime has been used by the NNPC and other critical stakeholders to subvert the nation’s crude oil revenue to the tune of over $10 billion.

The committee is to report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative action.

Wednesday’s move by the lawmaker came on the same day that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mele Kyari ruled out the possibility of a subsidy for diesel.

He made the comments while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Downstream, alongside the CEO of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed, among others.

“In our country today, we do not produce AGO and we regret that our refineries are not working,” he said. “Are we doing anything about it? Yes. I have heard the honourable members lamenting; yes, they (the refineries) are not working.

“This is the truth. I don’t want to bore you with why they are not working, but they are not working; I admit they are not working but we regret it. I will invite this committee at your convenience to join us to see how much work we have done to get them back to work, but they will not come back tomorrow.

“They will not! You cannot start it tomorrow. We regret this; we regret this situation, and we are doing everything possible. As a matter of fact, we have decided to do a quick fix for the Warri refinery. The reason is very simple: we don’t even want to go the long route of doing comprehensive turnaround maintenance because we are concerned.”

 

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

A former governor of Ekiti State Ayodele Fayose has insisted that the southern part of Nigeria must produce the country’s president in 2023.

Fayose, a two-time governor under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said this in a series of tweets on his official handle on Wednesday, pinning his argument on the party’s constitution.

“The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the Party shall pursue its aims & objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation & zoning of Party & Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice, and fairness’,” Fayose maintained.

“The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it MUST be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or NOTHING. Awa ‘South’ lo kan’. Nigerians should await details soon.”

Fayose, who contested the PDP presidential primary, lost out to former Vice President Atiku Abukar in the exercise held earlier this month.

He has been one of the strong advocates for a power shift to southern Nigeria despite the party Atiku from the northern region, as the party’s flagbearer.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who also lost in the exercise, had campaigned, among others, based on a power shift to the south.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), however, is fielding a southerner – Bola Tinubu – as its presidential candidate to honour the power-sharing deal called zoning between the north and south.

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

The senate has confirmed seven persons nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for ministerial positions.

The upper legislative chamber confirmed the nominees on Wednesday after they were screened by the “committee of the whole” chaired by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The ministers-designate will replace those who resigned to pursue political bids.

Rotimi Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Godswill Akpabio and Emeka Nwajiuba are some of the ministers who resigned to pursue presidential bids.

The ministers confirmed on Wednesday are Henry Ikoh (Abia), Umana Okon Umana (Akwa Ibom), Ekuma Joseph (Ebonyi), Goodluck Nana Obia (Imo), Umar Ibrahim Yakub (Kano), Ademola Adewole Adegorioye (Ondo), and Odo Udi (Rivers).

During screening, Ikoh said as a way of tackling employment in the country, “technical” graduates can be job creators.

“On the unemployment situation, we need more technical graduates to do most of the things we are doing right now. If you are a technical graduate, you can employ yourself and employ others,” he said.

On his part, Umana said the country could boost its foreign exchange earnings with its free trade zones.

“On the issue of how to boost foreign exchange, I want to say that even the free zones platform is a veritable platform for this,” he said.

“The free zone is a platform that can drive production because when you produce for export, you earn foreign exchange.”

Nakama said the federal government must be ready to make some compromise to end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

“On tackling the issue of ASUU, my answer is that there will be leave of compromise. Government and ASUU will have to come to a compromise and through this, we will able to solve these incessant strikes once and for all,” he said.

The remaining four nominees were asked to “take a bow and go” on the grounds of their experience.

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