Essays Tagged "Slate"
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Big Tech Isn’t Prepared for A.I.’s Next Chapter
In February, Meta released its large language model: LLaMA. Unlike OpenAI and its ChatGPT, Meta didn’t just give the world a chat window to play with. Instead, it released the code into the open-source community, and shortly thereafter the model itself was leaked. Researchers and programmers immediately started modifying it, improving it, and getting it to do things no one else anticipated. And their results have been immediate, innovative, and an indication of how the future of this technology is going to play out. Training speeds have hugely increased, and the size of the models themselves has shrunk to the point that you can create and run them on a laptop. The world of A.I. research has dramatically changed…
How Artificial Intelligence Can Aid Democracy
There’s good reason to fear that A.I. systems like ChatGPT and GPT4 will harm democracy. Public debate may be overwhelmed by industrial quantities of autogenerated argument. People might fall down political rabbit holes, taken in by superficially convincing bullshit, or obsessed by folies à deux relationships with machine personalities that don’t really exist.
These risks may be the fallout of a world where businesses deploy poorly tested A.I. systems in a battle for market share, each hoping to establish a monopoly.
But dystopia isn’t the only possible future. A.I. could advance the public good, not private profit, and bolster democracy instead of undermining it. That would require an A.I. not under the control of a large tech monopoly, but rather developed by government and available to all citizens. This public option is within reach if we want it…
Everything Is Hackable
Every year, an army of hackers takes aim at the tax code.
The tax code is not computer code, but it is a series of rules—supposedly deterministic algorithms—that take data about your income and determine the amount of money you owe. This code has vulnerabilities, more commonly known as loopholes. It has exploits; those are tax avoidance strategies. There is an entire industry of black-hat hackers who exploit vulnerabilities in the tax code: We call them accountants and tax attorneys.
Hacking isn’t limited to computer systems, or even technology. Any system of rules can be hacked. In general terms, a hack is something that a system permits, but that is unanticipated and unwanted by its designers. It’s unplanned: a mistake in the system’s design or coding. It’s clever. It’s a subversion, or an exploitation. It’s a cheat, but only sort of. Just as a computer vulnerability can be exploited over the internet because the code permits it, a tax loophole is "allowed" by the system because it follows the rules, even though it might subvert the intent of those rules…
How to Cut Down on Ransomware Attacks Without Banning Bitcoin
Ransomware isn’t new; the idea dates back to 1986 with the “Brain” computer virus. Now, it’s become the criminal business model of the internet for two reasons. The first is the realization that no one values data more than its original owner, and it makes more sense to ransom it back to them—sometimes with the added extortion of threatening to make it public—than it does to sell it to anyone else. The second is a safe way of collecting ransoms: Bitcoin.
This is where the suggestion to ban cryptocurrencies as a way to “solve” ransomware comes from. Lee Reiners, executive director of the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law, …
Let the NSA Keep Hold of the Data
Giving it to private companies will only make privacy intrusion worse.
One of the recommendations by the president’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies on reforming the National Security Agency—No. 5, if you’re counting—is that the government should not collect and store telephone metadata. Instead, a private company—either the phone companies themselves or some other third party—should store the metadata and provide it to the government only upon a court order.
This isn’t a new idea. Over the past decade, several countries have enacted mandatory data retention laws, in which companies are required to save Internet or telephony data about customers for a specified period of time, in case the government needs it for an investigation. But does it make sense? In December, Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith …
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.