Google AI: Can You Keep A Secret? | MsWitchcraft | Digital Voodoo | Michele Baker

Google AI: Can You Keep A Secret?

What if artificial intelligence learns how to keep secrets from humans? 

Yeah, well, Google has taught its AI bots to do just that

In a somewhat questionable move, Google researchers asked one of their AIs, Alice, to try to communicate with Bob, another AI, without a third, Eve, being able to listen in. It took her a while, but after 15,000 attempts, Alice and Bob exchanged an encrypted conversation which Eve was unable to understand or take part in.

Effectively, what Alice and Bob did was to create their own language, and Google’s researchers couldn’t work it out. The very nature of how neural networks, like these Google AIs, work means that it’s also pretty much impossible to find out precisely how the bots encrypted the message in the first place. Alice hadn’t been told to use any particular encryption method, so she just worked it out on her own.

Whilst working out how to encrypt a message and send it over to Bob, Alice also learned another trick. She learned to decide what data to share with others, and what to keep secret. So, essentially, she could say something to Bob or Eve, and the human researchers would know nothing about it.

Scary or Meh?

Google seem untroubled by the accomplishments. In fact, they see it as a positive development in the realm of cybersecurity. Indeed, there are some tangible practical uses for such encryption.

However, it seems pretty strange that they wouldn’t be concerned about the way that this new learning can empower AI. Mainly, I guess, because the artificial intelligence we’re dealing with right now isn’t exactly that intelligent…

Not that we know of, anyway.



Snow White is Dead: Neurofiction

Imagine one of those ‘choose your own ending’ adventure books where the outcome is decided by your brain’s electrical activity.

Your story is driven by signals picked up by a simple wearable brain scanner, which decides which route the narrative will take depending on whether your mind prefers imagery of life, or imagery of death.

I’ve been reading about the work of author Hannu Rajaniemi and his partner, a data scientist named Samuel Halliday. Back in 2012, they began looking at how technology can be used to tell more engaging stories. Using a wireless brain scanning device, they worked on precisely the storytelling tech I’ve mentioned above.

It’s the same EEG technology that’s been used for decades in mental health and medicine. The same as used in neuromarketing, where subjects were tested on their cognitive and affective responses to different kinds of advertising. And now, beyond what Halliday and Rajaniemi achieved with their Snow White neurostorytelling, EEG is coming to a theatre near you.

The Hydra

The film and games industries are, obviously, all about delivering the ultimate story. Technology such as this is enabling these industries to hone in on precisely what audiences want. And with greater scope for storytelling coming from new media like virtual reality, the possibility of offering personalised, adaptive storylines to individual audience members could mean big business.

In the near future, we could find ourselves going to see the same movie three times and experiencing a different version each time.

The internet has already given rise to a completely new movement in the world of storytelling. Fan fiction, with the aid of internet forums and social media, now has the capacity to turn one story into infinite others, created anew in the imaginations of countless readers. Every story is now annotated; as readers are freer now than they have ever been to engage directly with the author via social media, to create their own versions that meet their own identity better, and to illustrate and recreate their favourite fictions through a multitude of media. Right from their own laptop.

This neurofiction technology is another face on the many-headed hydra that is storytelling in the digital age.

Bio-physiological data can be gathered through observation of eye movement, pupil dilation, heart rate, and – of course – electrical impulses in the brain. The data, when analysed, determines whether a story is intuitive, enjoyable, and engaging, or boring, confusing, or ridiculous. These are things that writers like me have been agonising over, crying, sweating, bleeding over, for centuries. And now, tech can take the place of our peers, our workshop groups, and our agents.

Some say the robots will start writing better than we ever could. And that raises a heck of a lot of questions for creative writers, not to mention the parallel problems for musicians and, indeed, artists from all disciplines.


An Introduction to Digital Voodoo

This is my first post for this blog. And it’s high time. I’ve been writing about Tech for a year now as my day job, and it’s fast become far more than just that. I have always said that one of the most important things in life is to find a job that you love, and I’ve been searching for it for over a decade.

Now, my time has come, and I am writing every day about the most exciting things I have ever heard. More or less. Hey, it’s still a job – there are some topics that are more interesting than others. My boss and mentor, James Dearsley, has been nagging me for some time to get my own blog sorted, and he’s totally right. So, here I am, sitting here on my sofa on a cold Sunday evening, ready to do the business.

You may be wondering why this blog is called Ms Witchcraft. Well, the answer is a number of reasons. Before I developed my passion for technology, I was really into witchcraft. I wasn’t doing spells or anything, but I was fascinated by the link between witchcraft and womanhood, and the shadowy space of the occult and uncanny. I am still into this, but my focus has now turned to the future, and I see some overlaps.

Though technology is still a man’s world for the most part, the number of women entering the space is growing. And so it should. I consider myself a feminist, but that’s not really what I want to make central to my identity as a tech writer. I will transcend by example, by getting my head down and doing the work, and by supporting other women as they do the same. But enough about that.

Science is alchemy; technology is conjuring of the highest order. It’s witchcraft, pure and simple. It has its dark side, its shadows, its eerie moments. Is that eeriness, the twilight zone of technology that fascinates me, and so it’s that twilight zone you’re going to get here on my blog.