InsideAI Weekend Commentary by @robmay | Inside AI - February, 23rd 2020

Inside AI (Feb 23rd, 2020)

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Happy Sunday and welcome to InsideAI.  I'm Rob May, a Partner at PJC, investing in AI and Robotics all across North America.  This weekend edition of InsideAI is meant to provide some commentary on things I'm seeing in the AI ecosystem.  If you like it, please send it to a friend so they can sign up.

Here are the most popular articles this week from our daily newsletter, in case you missed them:

Newly leaked documents shows that EU police forces want to connect facial recognition databases in all 27 member states, creating a network that could eventually link to reciprocal databases in the United States. This could form "a massive transatlantic consolidation of biometric data," according to the Intercept, which obtained the documents from a source in Europe who's concerned about its development. According to the report, national police forces in 10 EU states want to introduce legislation that would call for the creation and connection of facial databases across Europe. The news comes as the European Commission had considered a temporary ban on facial recognition over privacy and mass surveillance concerns, but effectively ruled it out by failing to include such a suggestion its latest white paper on AI. - THE INTERCEPT

An AI model developed by MIT has identified an antibiotic compound that was able to destroy "many of the world’s most problematic disease-causing bacteria," including some antibiotic-resistant strains, MIT News reports today. In only days, the machine-learning algorithm can sift through millions of chemical compounds, singling out possible antibiotics that differ from current ones. “Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered," said James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Department of Biological Engineering. According to The Next Web, the algorithm's newly discovered halicin antibiotic can target Acinetobacter baumannii, which infected dozens of service members who had served in Iraq in the mid-2000s. The bacteria had been previously resistant to antibiotics, though the "discovery of halicin may be able to change that." - MIT NEWS

The U.S. Defense Department is close to adopting rules that will guide how it develops and implements AI projects, according to the publication Defense One. Lt. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said the department "is in the final stages of adopting AI principles that will be implemented across the U.S. military," with an announcement planned soon. Last fall, the independent Defense Innovation Board - which provides U.S. defense leaders with recommendations on its practices - released a draft called “Recommendations on the Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence.” The Pentagon's upcoming AI rules will reportedly mimic much of that draft, which are stricter than many AI rules imposed by tech giants like Google, and stress "human control of AI systems" Defense One reports. - DEFENSE ONE

A developer had released a new version of his AI neural network "These Lyrics Do Not Exist," which produces original song lyrics. In a Reddit post on r/MachineLearning, Peter Ranieri says he has improved the network's architecture, added more topics, re-implemented/retrained each layer, and moved it to TensorFlow 2. Rather than automatically generating lyrics every time you refresh, the program allows users to choose a topic, genre, and mood - from "very sad" to "very happy" - to define their song. "These Lyrics Do Not Exist" derives its name from the popular "This Person Does Not Exist" website, which uses generative adversarial networks to create randomized images of unreal people. - REDDIT

I've written a few times about basic income because I see it as a  possible side effect of AI, automation, and possibly job loss.  I wrote last year about why I think basic income may be a good idea, but that it is ultimately politically unfeasable, and would not recommend it.  As I was reading the Economist's special section this week on the data economy, I realized that there may be a path forward.

It hinges on the idea that people say that want privacy, they say they want control of their data, but ultimately trade privacy for free stuff all the time.  What if we view data as an economic good that, because the effort to control it individually is difficult, we let an independent quasi-government entity control it.  Then we treat this data the way Finland treats it's oil fund, as a fund for the people of the country, but in particular we pay it out as basic income.  And we pool it all together since the data of some users may be worth more than the data of others.  The new institution gets paid by the big tech companies that want to use this data, which also helps some of the current tech backlash against the tech industry.

So the idea would be this.

1.  Setup a body similar to the Federal Reserve - with a mandate and some independence from Congress and the President.

2.  This body produces an app that users can download, that they must use if they want to get their basic income payment.

3.  Now all personal social data is stored by this entity, and if Facebook, Google, other companies want to use it, the independent body makes those decisions based on preferences you set, and update once a year.  

4.  The payments for use of this data go into a fund, and basic income is paid out to the members of the data collective based on how much was taken in last year.

5.  The entity can fund itself by investing the cash it takes in, and earning on that cash before they have to pay it out.

As a politicial libertarian, I'm not keen on recommending government solutions to problems.  But in this case, it may be necessary.  Startups in the "own your own data" and "get paid for your data" space are failing.  We need a solution that is government driven to have the staying power and legal power.  We also need something independent from the main branches of the federal government.  We need it to be a trust.  And we need it to weaken the power of big tech companies (which this would do) and basically re-aligns economic incentives so that their profits go down because users finally get paid for their contribution to those products.  And this is a better way to pay for basic income than new taxes.

In a world where these issues are all becoming more serious, I think this could be a good solution.  If you like it, or if you see major flaws in it, I'd love to hear your point of view.

Thanks for reading.

@robmay

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