Frogger AI Explains Its Decisions

...using automated, plausible lies:

After training the AI system to play the popular arcade game Frogger, and documenting how human players explained the decisions they made while playing the game, the team of researchers developed the agent to generate language in real time to explain the motivations behind its actions. [...]

When it comes to neural networks -- a kind of AI architecture made up of potentially thousands of computational nodes -- their decisions can be inscrutable, even to the engineers that design them. Such systems are capable of analyzing large swaths of data and identifying patterns and connections, and even if the math that governs them is understandable to humans, their aggregate decisions often aren't.

Upol Ehsan, lead researcher and PhD student in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech along with Riedl and their colleagues at Georgia Tech, Cornell University, and University of Kentucky, think that if average users can receive easy-to-understand explanations for how an AI software makes decisions, it will build trust in the technology to make sound decisions in a variety of applications.

"If I'm sitting in a self-driving car and it makes a weird decision, like change lanes unexpectedly, I would feel more comfortable getting in that car if I could ask it questions about why it was doing what it was doing," Riedl said.

This is absolutely horrifying. The idea here is: the self-driving car has done something inscrutable. What if there was a chatbot that was good at looking at what just happened, and making up a plausible explanation for it after the fact?

(Side note: that's probably how human consciousness actually works. Your "mind" is the post-facto explainer for what the meat-zombie automaton just happened to do. Sweet dreams.)

But this research is just mechanized "truthiness"! It's not actually explaining what happened inside the neural net, which it still treats as a black box. It's solving the problem of: "If the self-driving murderbox decided to cross 4 lanes and slam on the brakes, let's dig around in our memory and imagination, find a scenario where a human might have done that same thing, and proffer that as the explanation."

Even though the AI and the human might have done those for completely different reasons, that's the explanation that will sound most plausible!

The human's decisions were based on an unbroken straight line chain of 85 million years of "I am the primate who did not get eaten", layered with decades of fine motor control trailing. Whereas the AI based its decisions on whatever ad hoc junk a bunch of low-paid contractors dumped into the training set over a period maybe as long as 18 months.

So they're building an AI whose goal is to lie to you -- to build your confidence in decisions made by AIs.

We are so completely doomed.

Because, at this very minute, 25 CONTROL agents are converging on this building. Would you believe it? 25 CONTROL agents!
Savage: I find that hard to beleive.
Max: Would you believe 2 squad cars and a motorcycle cop?
Savage: I don't think so.
Max: How about a vicious street cleaner and a toothless police dog?

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Air tanker drops in wildfires are often just for show

"CNN Drops"

The reason for the interference, they say, is that aerial drops of water and retardant make good television. They're a highly visible way for political leaders to show they're doing everything possible to quell a wildfire, even if it entails overriding the judgment of incident commanders on the ground.

Firefighters have developed their own vernacular for such spectacles. They call them "CNN drops." [...]

Increased use of aircraft is helping to drive up the cost of fighting wildfires. The Forest Service spent $296 million on aerial firefighting last year, compared with $171 million in 2004. Aviation costs amount to about one-fifth of the agency's fire-suppression spending.

Nearly all of the nation's firefighting aircraft are owned and operated by private companies under contract with the government. The meter starts running when an incident commander calls aircraft to a fire. It continues whether a plane is in the air dropping retardant or sitting on a remote tarmac, waiting for visibility to improve.

It costs up to $14,000 a day to keep an air tanker on call and as much as $4,200 per hour to put it in the air. Heavy-duty helicopters, the workhorses of aerial firefighting, can cost $32,000 a day on standby, plus $6,300 per hour of flight time.

"When you deal with aviation on a wildland fire, you have a big bank in the sky that opens up and showers money," said Timothy Ingalsbee, a former Forest Service and National Park Service firefighter who has criticized federal firefighting and forest management practices.

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Alien: Night Shift

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Glenn Greenwald Taking Assange Arrest Really Hard, Y'all, Bless His Heart


Briefly, before we move on, a note. We get that many of our readers think well of Assange, and Greenwald, and Edward Snowden, and we understand that! It does not make you a bad person. But if you've got an hour, well, here's why you're wrong. It's not because the three are Ron Paul weirdo libertarian racists; that just means they should shut up about being more progressive than other people who are actually progressive. It's not because they're BIASSSSSSS. Wonkette is a practitioner of BIASSSSSS journalism its own self, because that is how the Founders intended. It's mostly because ... well, it's mostly because they really really really seem to be working on behalf of Russia, yeah we fucking said it, because they hated Obama and Hillary Clinton THAT MUCH. And hacking for Russia really ISN'T journalism, even if Glenn Greenwald is caterwauling NO HACKING NO HACKING YOU ARE THE HACKING.

Now let's continue!

Quick, know how many tweets Greenwald has sent since Julian Assange was arrested? TRICK QUESTION, because the asshole has been tweeting in such a rapid-fire manner over the past 24 some-odd hours that it's impossible for scientists to get a full and accurate count. And as you might expect, he is MAD. He's almost as mad about this particular violation of the sacred right of journalists (using the term loosely) to publish information in the public interest as he's been at Republican Attorney General Bill Barr for hiding the Mueller report from Congress and the American people! HAHA WE KID, Glenn has been totally fine with Barr's cover-up. It's almost as if he has one standard for alleged criminals he really loves and adores, like Julian Assange, and a whole different standard for those he deems DEEP STATE RUSSIAGATE FAKE COLLUSION WITCH HOAXERS.

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Contractors are giggling about your Alexa and Siri requests in chat rooms.

This remake of Blow Up seems completely unnecessary.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously," an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon's Bucharest office. [...]

Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word -- or come across an amusing recording.

Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn't Amazon's job to interfere. [...]

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DNA Lounge: Wherein "Avoid Spikes" remains solid advice

The SF Weekly Best of SF poll is up again, so vote for us, won't you?

Relevant categories include: Best Dance Club, Best Live Music Venue, Best Late Nite Bite, Best Pizza, and Best Live Theatre (which I guess is the only category this year that fit Hubba Hubba Revue or Mortified?)

It means nothing, but we like the validation. If you're the "thoughts and prayers" type, voting for us there is the least you could do. Literally the least. Oh hey, this month we had four new people sign for our Patreon -- count 'em, four -- so please nag your friends, ok?

As the DNA Lounge apocalypse rolls ever nearer, one of the ways that I fiddle while Rome burns is by repairing obsolete electronics.

To that end, welcome to the DNA Lounge Arcade. I fixed up and nightclub-hardened some old arcade games. These had been sitting in my apartment for years, adding excellent ambience but mostly being powered off. But what good are they doing anyone if they aren't being played? That is their mission. So now they're at the club. So I re-built a few boards, put in beefier fans, moved the power switches, got the coin-mechs working, and generally made them more tolerant of the gentle embrace of customers. Please don't tag them.

Sadly, Tempest did not survive all the jostling in the truck and up the stairs. I have not had a chance to figure out which component died this time. Star Wars and Millipede are working great, though! Oh yeah, I also fixed Vectrex: the screen was all squished at the top, and I made the reset button go back to the menu, rather than just restarting the current game, which is something I often saw people being confused by. (Like Vectrex, Star Wars and Tempest use vector CRTs instead of raster CRTs, which makes them just inherently better. No emulation or LCD has ever done these games justice. Elegant games for a more civilized age.)

Oh, hey! We hired a new pizza manager! This guy beat the record for shortest duration ever: this one quit 4 hours before his first shift! He accepted the job, set a start date, and then said "I changed my mind" that very day.

Go team.

Let me leave you with one final thought. The other night I was considering going to see a band that I was barely familiar with (not at my club). But I was grumpy and almost talked myself into staying home. But I didn't, I went to see this random band, and by the time they began their second song, I remembered -- no matter how depressed I am, I have never, not once, ever said, "I should have just sat on my couch instead of going to see that show." Even if the band sucked. (They didn't.)

Support your local live entertainment. Or it won't be there.

Which brings us to the fairly eclectic mix we have coming up in the next couple of weeks. If one of these doesn't float your boat, please consider the possibility that you have already died.



Yeah, that's pretty much what it looked like.

Gotta say, their show at Rickshaw a few years ago remains the best. This just felt sedate somehow. Despite the four techbros making a halfhearted pit for two songs.

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"Buckle Up Twitter"

Listen up bitches, it's time to learn incorrect things about someone you've never heard of:

I do know this, though: anyone reading who knows anything significant about either Victorian pseudoscience or the life of Charlotte Brontë is very annoyed right now, because all this is so obvious to them, has been covered in so many workshops and seminars, torn apart and examined and understood, and here I am laying it on the table like it's news to anyone at all. The other thing I know for sure is that, if I were so inclined, I could turn all of the above into an intoxicatingly abrasive thread and briefly become a bright star in the firmament of what I like to call "Buckle Up Twitter." We all know exactly how it would go, but if you will indulge me ...

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Happy Second Birthday, Leon Kowalski!

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Important Fungiculture News

In this, The Year of Our Diplopoda, Two Thousand and Nineteen, I just noticed that the rules that govern mushroom growth in Millipede are literally Conway's Life.

The Archer looked out beyond the horizon. He knew only too well the revengeful signs of his father. "I beseech thee to turn back your rage from the netherworld and stop this onslaught." As if in laughing response, the ground below him began to tremble. And the day ended in utter darkness.

The sun rose upon the land in its usual manner. But the wains of the past night had produced a new, uncontrollable growth...a sudden nurturing of nature that caused everything except that which was human to grow to sizes beyond belief. [...]

The Archer realized that, even from the grave, the spirit of his father had commanded these creatures to act in unison against him...these same creatures whom he had loved so and had loved him. Saddened by true to his pledge, he took up his bow and arrow to defend his homeland from these aggressors. He would meet their challenge. With truth and goodness truly on his side, he would be victorious and restore the natural order and beauty of life to the kingdom.

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