A.I. For Deluded Nutcases

Some goon (sorry: Californian counsellor) has patented Inductive Inference Affective Language Analyzer Simulating Artificial Intelligence (including the Ten Ethical Laws Of Robotics). It’s nothing but unintelligible babble, interspersed by (inaccurate) references to artificial intelligence theory. The author (who also writes a book on family values with a distinct evangelic slant, from which most of the text of the patent seems to be taken) appears to know nothing about A.I. or computer science. In addition, I find his suggestion that ‘wooly’ and ‘vague’ rules and ‘commandments’ are sensible choices for A.I. safeguards –

While a meaningful future artificial intelligence may be more than capable of understanding rules set out in a way that a human might like to express it – indeed, for some machine intelligences (artificial or not) this capacity to understand human speech and expressions could be a very useful feature – this is not the level at which safeguards should be implemented.

While I appreciate the need for ‘safeguards’ (the need is that humans would not feel safe without them, as even early machine intelligences – having been built for a specific purpose – will be in many ways superior to their human creators and therefore be perceived as a threat to them), I do not feel that a safeguard which depends on the machine already being fully functional would be even remotely effective. Instead, such safeguards should be implemented at a far lower and fundamental level.

For an example of this, think of the safety procedures that are built into modern aircraft. An aeroplane is a sophisticated and powerful piece of machinery with some carefully-designed artificial intelligence algorithms pre-programmed into it, such as the autopilot and autoland features, the collision avoidance system, and the fuel regulators. Other, less sophisticated decision-making programs include the air pressure regulators and the turbulence indicators.

If the cabin pressure drops, an automatic system causes oxygen masks to drop from the overhead compartment. But this is not the only way to cause this to happen – the pilot also has a button for this purpose. On many ‘planes, in the event of a wing fire, the corresponding engine will be switched off – but this decision can be overridden by a human operator. These systems are all exhibiting high-level decision-making behaviour: rules programmed in to the existing systems. But these are, in the end, a second level safeguard to the low-level decision-making that prompts the pilot to press the button that drops the masks or keeps the engine on. These overrides are the most fundamental and must crucial safeguards in a modern aircraft: the means to physically cause or prevent the behaviour of the A.I..

Let’s go back to our ‘robots’ – imagine a future not unlike that expressed in films like Blade Runner or I, Robot, in which humanoid robotic servants assist humans with many menial tasks. Suppose, for whatever reason (malice, malfunction, or whatever), a robot attacks a human – the first level of safeguard (and the only one suggested by both films and by the author of the “Ten Ethical Laws“) would be that the human could demand that the robot desist. This would probably be a voice command: “Stop!”. But of course, this is like the aeroplane that ‘decides’ to turn off a burning engine – we already know that something has ‘gone wrong’ in the AI unit: the same machine that has to process the speech, ‘stop’. How do we know that this will be correctly understood, particularly if we already know that there has been a malfunction? If the command fails to work, the human’s only likely chance for survival would be to initialise the second, low-level safeguard – probably a reset switch or “big red button”.

You see: the rules that the author proposes are unsubstantial, vauge, and open to misinterpretation – just like the human’s cry for the robot to stop, above. The safeguards he proposes are no more effective than asking humans to be nice to one another is to preventing crime.

Whether or not it is ethical to give intelligent entities ‘off’ buttons is, of course, another question entirely.

Additional: On further reading, it looks as if the author of the document recently saw “I, Robot” and decided that his own neo-Christian viewpoint could be applied to artificial intelligences: which, of course, it could, but there is no reason to believe that it would be any more effective on any useful artificial intelligence than it would be on any useful ‘real’ intelligence.

3 replies to A.I. For Deluded Nutcases

  1. Greetings All,

    Thank you for your comments on my recently issued ethical AI patent…

    Perhaps a little of my background would be in order. I am not an expert in the IT field, being an independent researcher with a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Sometimes, however, the best cross pollination comes from outside the field.
    Along these lines, I was granted a patent for ethical AI and thought there might be applications to a general purpose AI assistant. The ethical safeguards allow one to trust this assistant implictly in daily matters. I have found that proprietary control is typically required to attract the venture capital and R&D necessary to implement. I also only applied for patent rights in my native country, the rest of the world is free to run with the concept as they see fit..
    This new system is actually more than just an ethical hierarcy,
    but an elaborate process of 31 distinct
    steps of information processing necessary
    to produce the AI simulation, as shown in the
    Master Diagram link below:


    I would like to appeal to the AI community to seriously evaluate this new system for these kind of the applications to the project. The patent is mostly diagrams, with the text really amounting to about 12 pages in a Journal style format. The complete specification, along with diagrams, is posted at:
    Also, a master diagram of 408 ethical terms is posted at:

    Should this invention truly hold potential, I would greatly appreciate collaborating in this regard. My intentions are heartfelt and I would deeply appreciate an evaluation from experts within the field.
    John E. LaMuth


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