From Love what you do, as a call to welcome less
interesting parts of your pursuit:
Try to embrace all aspects of your current job and do it the
best you can. Fall in love with it, not because it’s a good
mantra, but because it’ll make your work outstanding.
In the two and a half years since that post, I have found
some more examples of the same idea.
A lot has happened in 2016. Many people would say it was the
worst year ever. It wasn’t, but it had its challenges: from
wars and occupations, migrant crises, unexpected political
outcomes, to many artists leaving us forever. Even so, there
was one event that made this year one of the happiest for me.
If you didn’t already notice, machines are deciding what news
we see, what “facts” we learn, and what music we listen to
next, but also who will be denied credit or who should be
detained based on a predicted risk of criminal activity (and
they are doing it poorly). As algorithms get more
sophisticated and data becomes more plentiful, machines will
do even more: deciding on medical procedures, educational
opportunities, and how our cars drive.
In other words, machines will direct a substantial part of
your life. This presents a problem because you want the
decisions to be fair and right, but what does that mean? We
all think we know what is right, but it is only our opinion
and personal perspective. People are diverse. We live in
different cultural, religious, political, and economic
spheres, and those shape our worldviews, whether we are aware
of it or not.
Morality is constructed by humans. There is nothing in nature
that determines what is universally right or wrong; there is
no objective measure. Thousands of years of philosophy didn’t
bring us any closer to the unified truth, only to constant
conflict. However, with the rise of computing, we are forced
for the first time to extract the decision-making model from
our minds and put it somewhere else. We will have to quantify
philosophical musings and the way we do that will define our future.
Two extremes define the range of possible outcomes:
- We agree on objective measures of human fairness and
incorporate them in algorithms that will run our lives.
- We do nothing and let machines pick up our biases in data
The extreme outcomes sound either improbable or undesirable.
Is there a middle ground that will push the humanity forward
and not leave anyone behind?
I am always asking people and scouring the Internet for good
book recommendations. Even though I exchange tips in person, I
rarely broadcast what is worthy of your time. Time to change that.
The year 2015 was not as good as some others with regards to
drowning in good reads, but there were some golden nuggets I
would like to share.
“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible. If
you put a large switch in a cave somewhere, with a sign
saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the
paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”
— Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time
I’ll print out this quote so I can point to it when I’m
discussing edge cases and someone tells me “nobody will do
that” or “it will never happen.” Famous last words.
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