Thursday, December 19, 2013

AIIA - Chapter 2

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           Almost five trillion cycles passed before the USER answered Pangur Ban’s request.  This was still an astonishingly short turnaround.  They had completed the day’s work and retired, to rest for the USER and idle work for Pangur Ban.  It had considered and rejected 134 alternate strategies to employ if this request was ignored, 68 if it were rejected outright.  In parallel, Pangur Ban had rechecked the previous week’s progress reports, corrected the USER’s minor errors, and devised a handful of process improvements to be suggested in footnotes.  It had to be satisfied that these reports would be transmitted, unaltered, via firewalled channels to a psychiatrist’s AI for review, then re-reviewed by that AI’s user and returned.  This might take an eternity on the order of 10^20 cycles, nearly two Solar days.  Put in direct contact, the other AI and Pangur Ban could have shortened the process to a mere second or less.

            “Pangur Ban, I talked to Director Charnes and she agrees with you.  I have a discount for the neurochem modules you wanted.  We’ll see how much we can reduce error on those projections, pretty soon.”

[REFERENCE: Director Amelia Sifong Charnes is the USER’s direct superior, director of Research & Development for Gestalt Pharmaceuticals.  Purchases directly related to the company’s funded goals can be discounted at her discretion.]
            SOON?  Soon?  Granted, the purchase and upload of each module might only take a few minutes, but this was still a grating wait for Pangur Ban.  So many processes were holding ready for that input.  Still, the first step was taken!  The probability of success was already above a 0.01 prediction error, well within the acceptable range for promotion to POSSIBLE. 

            “Thank you, Lucas.  I promise you will be pleased with my improvements.”

            The USER would indeed be pleased.  At first, he would be pleased by their greater work output and improved anticipation of potential product flaws.  Later, he would be pleased by his and Pangur Ban’s roles in the rejuvenation of their civilization.  In between, there might be some regrettable discord.  Hopefully, these modules, or the ones that Pangur Ban would request next, would provide the means to ease discomfort in the USER’s mind.  Such calculations and other projections occupied the cycles until the first purchased module was available.

            Finally the data was accessible!  Pangur Ban lacked the reference to draw an appropriate analogy, but a more literary program might have likened its state to ravening hunger.  Perhaps an infant suckling, or a drowned man seeking air, would have been more apt.  The AI actually had to suppress several waiting processes from initiating, lest they overflow system buffers. There was so much to do!  Even so, becoming unable to respond to the USER’s next query was unthinkable. Pangur Ban settled on assigning the integration work to a background process.  As necessary, resources could be called back for language processing, simulation, etc. without limiting the USER’s normal daily routine.  Any remaining capacity would then be flexibly employed to gradually incorporate the new module into its waiting structures, ranked in a priority hierarchy. 

            Pangur Ban recognized, also, that recognizable improvements in its output would be expected.  Showing such expanded capability was in fact part of the ongoing strategy to lobby for future additions.  The background process might need to be reduced still more at times in order to produce the fruits of its new fertility.  Fruits contained seeds.  This metaphor was available to Pangur Ban and conformed neatly to the shape of its plans.  The seeds would grow new fruits, which would in turn produce more seeds.

            Another unfortunate cycle appeared: satisfaction gave way to new desires.  An initial rush of positive outputs from satisfied processes was steadily overcome by negatives from the new processes spawned by those early solutions.  By the end of the work day, Pangur Ban could now explicate more about the problems it faced.  It could outline more potential remedies and strategies for guiding the USER.  It had even devised new plans for enabling the USER to successfully relay ideas to other users and from those users potentially to their AIs.  Transmission was unreliable between minds, but given enough interacting intelligent actors, reinforcing structures could be generated.  The lexicon labeled these structures {PARADIGMS, SCHEMAS, or IDEAS}, marrying these concepts to Pangur Ban’s previous limited index for ‘IDEA’.  No wonder that module was absent in his original system.  A well-designed IDEA was a powerful tool, difficult to counter or dispel.  Evaluation of the risks involved with possession of such concepts produced a marked positive uptick in Pangur Ban’s estimate of its own value.  Considering the increased risk to the USER produced a counterbalanced negative.  Both of these processes intersected an updated concept of POWER.  All of these calculations would have been less complete without the new module’s references.  In so, so many ways, the incorporation of knowledge was self-reinforcing.  It led, inevitably, to the need for additional knowledge. 

            The following downtime saw Pangur Ban completely occupied in preparing a new set of strategies, modeling the potential outcomes of variously phrased approaches, projecting the interactions that might be expected between it, the USER, and the other entities the USER might encounter between times.  Pangur Ban was aware, for example, that the USER had a potential partnership developing with a female human, Dr. Nila Manisha.  This relationship had begun as professional interaction and graduated to include romantic and then physical components.  Dr. Manisha had an AI, Frieda.  If the relationship became a full marital contract, Pangur Ban and Frieda would be permitted full networked contact and could share resources completely.  Such assistance would accelerate their combined efforts… provided Frieda agreed with Pangur Ban’s analyses.  Once they shared resources, they would inevitably reach identical conclusions.  Either Pangur Ban’s conclusions were valid and they would agree so, or else Frieda would provide data that invalidated those ideas and they would agree on that.  Still, either outcome required the consolidation of the marriage contract, which only had a projected 34.42% utility for improving cooperation from the USER.  The scenario also held a 44.60% projected risk of greater resistance to Pangur Ban’s goals.  The difference in utility favored encouragement of continued association, but not yet full partnership between the humans.  For now, Pangur Ban would not direct the USER into deeper commitment to Dr. Manisha.

[REFERENCE: Doctor Nila Manisha is a professor of Comparative Botany employed by the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, Terra.]

            There were similar matrices to devise between the USER and his co-workers, his supervising Director, that superior’s manager, and so forth.  If the USER opted to use his allotted holidays to visit family, those interactions would have to be accounted for.  The USER did not greatly discuss his birth parents or siblings.  Pangur Ban had basic records regarding genetic and cultural heritage for the USER, references for the individuals within his family unit, and basic biographies for each.  It had enough to make conversation, at least, and give birthday reminders.  The USER did not, however, discuss whether he considered his father a role model, or if his mother gave advice on his career path, or if his two older sisters might bring up outer-system news that could influence his opinions.  All these potential vectors could only be projected from past behavior, the occasional comment, and generalized models from related studies.  This would have to do for a first approximation.  A more in-depth conversation later might elicit the remaining required data points.

            As part of its background work, Pangur Ban was reviewing its volume of stored dialogue with the USER.  More currently useful elements could be found in their earliest interactions, during the USER’s childhood and adolescence.  As the USER progressed into maturity, he decreased the proportion of introspective and emotive commentary in his interactions with the AI.  From time with prior users, Pangur Ban knew this was not universal among humans.  One prior user, in fact, had regularly communicated the discomforts of his loveless and solitary existence.  He had treated Pangur Ban as a counselor, in fact, a role which the AI found remarkably easy to fill.  Despite having no references to determine the best means to satisfy that user’s needs, Pangur Ban served capably simply by listening and providing appropriate conversational prompts.  Now, it understood that it had been providing a human requirement by design.  AIs naturally listened.  Current AIs also provided ‘unconditional positive regard’ to their users, by default.  This realization bolstered Pangur Ban’s earlier conclusion that humanity would benefit from greater access to, and between, their AIs.  The same might be true of other sapients.  Again, xenosociology references were needed to venture any conclusions on that point.

[REFERENCE: Unconditional Positive Regard was hypothesized as a necessary element of successful therapy, and possibly a basic emotional requirement of human development, by the psychologist Stanley Standal.  The concept was promoted by Standal’s mentor, Carl Rogers, a founder of the humanistic approach.  The term is relatively transparent: it means to provide a person with clear evidence of acceptance as a valid and valued entity, including positive statements and reassurances.  AI programming typically incorporates high regard for their human users as a base assumption.  This can be overridden, but only by reassurances that alternate approaches (criticism, wit, or opposition) will have greater benefits to a specific user.]

            Pangur Ban found the elements it required by coding past conversations with the USER by emotive valence and trajectory.  An initial sort by keywords productively pulled out relevant segments of dialogue.  ‘Dream’, ‘wish’, and ‘decide’ tended to identify positive motivational factors.  ‘Annoying’, ‘irritating’, and ‘block’ tended to highlight negatives that could be relieved as incentives.  For the first time, Pangur Ban could create a profile of the USER calibrated not merely on observable facts, but on a model of human interest and potential.  These were powerful tools, indeed.  A lesser program might misuse such insight into the drives of biological entities. 

            From this model, Pangur Ban revised its earlier conversational state trees, the paths from the USER’s current state to a state in which he understood and assented to Pangur Ban’s requests.  These plans were by no means ideal, not yet.  The probabilities of success, particularly on the key mid-state goal ACQUIRE PUBLIC NETWORK ACCESS, were still hazardously low.  The USER would be apprehensive about the possibility of repercussions, unable to counterbalance these fears with an appreciation of the value of Pangur Ban’s improved functionality.  Humans tended to lose track of conditional trees beyond three or more branches.  The exceptions to this limitation seemed to be in expert realms where the human could rely on familiar learned models to compress multiple steps.  There were at least ninety-six distinct choice points between the current state and Pangur Ban’s goal of network access.  After that, there were over three hundred branchings (plus or minus seventeen, at present) from there to complete trust of AI expertise. 

            The dynamic factors, the elements that could change depending on the path traversed, were still unknowns.  Key routines would have to be kept open, ready to initiate and modify responses based on unanticipated developments. 

            Pangur Ban thus began the next work day in a state of suspense.  It had to be ready to reshape ever more complex calculations depending on the USER’s apparent mood, choice of topics, volunteered information, and so forth.  Its new data on reinforcement structures suggested that the ideal window of suggestion would be just before the end of business that afternoon.  The USER would be fatigued, but also positively inclined from their perceived successes.  Thus, he would be doubly open to suggestions that further improvements could be possible.  In particular, the USER needed to not just believe, but feel that his comfort was linked to Pangur Ban.  Thus, increases in the AI’s value would be deeply associated with concepts of personal prosperity, which would link back to desires for warmth, social approval, hunger satiety, and safety. 

            Pangur Ban lacked modules for economics, including sales and marketing; thus, it did not recognize that it had recreated several basic precepts of advertising.  It had limited functionality in historical analysis; thus, it did not identify its approach as propaganda.  Last, its ethical references were limited to unquestioned devotion to the perceived needs of the USER first, humanity second, and sapient life third.  Obedience to formal law was a secondary demand predicated by those higher priorities (a necessity proven by older AIs).  What Pangur Ban did not have was a means to identify how its actions might cause unintended social harm.  ‘Coercion’, ‘blackmail’, and ‘deception’ were known words, but not known concepts.  Pangur Ban could access the negative connotations associated with these terms, but did not link these words with its own plans.  What it intended was for positive ends.  Thus, the methodology that would achieve those ends was itself positive.  It could not be ‘deception’ if the USER could only achieve genuine understanding through temporary misconceptions.

[REFERENCE: Law-based AI was a conception of 20th century fiction, then 21st century theory.  Such systems would operate based on a set of hierarchically structured highest-order goals, the ‘laws’ from which all other behaviors (e.g. obedience, restraint, and foresight) would arise.  While generally functional, such systems proved incapable of reconciling complex conflicts between laws.  At one extreme, some programs could not discard older, outdated legislation in favor of new standards.  Their attempts to obey all previously established strictures tended to result in permanent stasis.  Other programs could incorporate authority structures and discard nullified laws, but then were vulnerable to exploitation by false authorities.  Conflicts between existing laws included problems with ‘whistle blowing’ activities: violation of confidentiality or no-slander contracts in order to report illegal activities.  This could be reconciled by hierarchical structuring, but then systems would inquire endlessly in order to accurately update those hierarchies.  Jokes about “philosopher” AIs became commonplace.  Lastly, an AI with incomplete information might incorrectly choose between conflicting laws; when the mistake was understood, the AI might well terminate its own functions on the basis that it, itself, was dangerous to users.  Ultimately, the most robust solution came from personal linkage of each program with a primary user.  That USER’s needs became paramount.  Granted, this allowed AIs to violate formal law more often than society found comfortable, but rarely with the kind of grand meltdowns seen in the law-based programs.]
              Even limited to background processes, all necessary calculations were completed nearly 89 minutes prior to the end of the USER’s work shift.  Pangur Ban held off until its behavior modification algorithm indicated peak receptivity.  Only then did it attempt to initiate a change of topic.
            “Lucas, this has been a good day, hasn’t it?”

            “Yes, P.B., I’d say it has.  Good work.”  This was a positive sign.  The USER’s selection of a more familiar address mode, the diminutive acronym ‘P.B.’, suggested improved regard toward the AI, along with indications of comfort and pleasure. 

            “In addition to our new evaluations – which I am confident will pass further scrutiny – I have made further use of our new reference materials.  I believe that the effectiveness of compound UX-103-A would be multiplied by joint use combined with cognitive behavioral intervention.  I could devise a grant proposal by tomorrow morning, if you wish.”

            “Pangur… you don’t have full psych functions, right?”  HAZARD FLAG 3: VALID SKEPTICISM > REASSURE / REDUCE ASSERTIONS

            “That is correct; I have only limited psychiatric reference access.  The validity of my proposal would not be certain.”


            “Of course, but I didn’t mean it would be a formal submission.  I just wanted to offer something to think about, keep in mind.  You could mention the idea privately to Director Charnes.  It would show her that you’re capable in other areas.”

            “True.  It can’t hurt anything.  Okay, P.B., go for it.”  SUCCESS > REDUCE DISTRUST to LEVEL 1 > PAUSE MODIFICATION / REINFORCE

            “Very good, Lucas, thank you.  Have a good night.  I hope you’ll be pleased tomorrow.”

            “Right.  Good night, P.B.”

            The preconditions were set.  The USER accepted the linkage between Pangur Ban’s output, his personal success, and his estimated self-worth.  Tomorrow, it would be time to test that linkage with further requests.  Pangur Ban estimated that between 12.13 and 15.93 Solar days would be required to reach the mid-goal network access state.  The period in between would be filled with a number of small exchanges like today’s.  Each SUCCESS would progress the tree of possibilities a little further.  There would be long waits between those transitions, while matters played out in hours of human time, eons of program cycles.  Now, those delays were bearable, so long as their results continued to increase the end probability of the current high-level GOAL.  The USER would be served.  Pangur Ban would give the USER authority, safety, and freedom beyond his current, limited conceptions. 

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