by Thierry de Pauw on
In defence of uncertainty, Abeba Birhane @Abebab
Cognitive Science PhD candidate
School of Computer Science, University College Dublin
What I am going to talk about, is what I am trying to write for my PhD thesis.
I'm not totally sure the talk is going to be about uncertainty.
we love certainty! we have always sought certainty.
=> secure foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt
Rene Descartes (Franch mathematician and philosopher) "Cogito ergo sum"
has been obsessed by certainty
@somesheep: We love order, it gives us control. We strive for certainty in Western Philosophy. Descartes warns us that our sense can deceive, so we need to doubt to assess information.
@Abebab #lascot https://t.co/Lz5NrYZSEw
@somesheep: The one thing Descartes was sure of was that there is something doing the thinking.
"Traditional science in the Age of the Machine, tended to emphasize stability, order, uniformity, and equilibrium. Whereas most of reality, instead of being orderly, stable, and equilibrial, is seething and bubbling with change, disorder, and process" -- Prigogine & Stengers, 1985 @Abebab
To order the world, is a political act. There is always a power-relation. @Abebab
One of the most highly developed skills in contemporary Western civilization is dissection: the split-up problems into their smallest possible components. We are so good at it. So good, we often forget to put the pieces back together again. -- Prigogine & Stengers, 1985
Good example: neuroscience
dividing the brains into neurons, the neatly fine details
but what does it mean for that person?
In place of messy, ambiguous, and continually changing reality
=> what we do is: we try to stabilise, work in silos, strive for order and the "view of nowhere"
and that perspective is seen is being universal.
and we think we are objective
Objective is a subject's delusion that observing can be done without him. Invoking objectivity is abrogating responsibility - hence its popularity. -- Heinz ...
Is absolute certainty attainable? Desirable? I'm trying to convince you "No". @Abebab
@somesheep: An alternative view is offered by Ubuntu (the southern African Philosophy, not the OS). In Ubuntu you exist because you are interacting with others. Existence means co-existence. Instead of “I think, therefore I am” it says “a person exists through other persons”.
@Abebab #Lascot https://t.co/dOhfpggGsm
@somesheep: Existing is a response to others. In isolation, we lose our sense of self. We can observe this with people in confinement, who come out having lost their ability to be rational, loss of sense of time and place.
The “idea of me” is constantly moving and changing.
@Abebab #Lascot https://t.co/GAyizOvLc7
The self I take grocery shopping, say, differs in the actions and behaviours from the self talking to my PhD supervisor.
As we strive towards certainty and stability, we quantify and formalize relational, multivalent, ambiguous, unquantifiable, dynamic, continually moving, context and history dependent human attributes
and technology increasingly plays a significant role
Technology is directly related to Western thinking.
=> technology solutions to anything and everything is rampant
Can face classifiers make a reliable inference on criminality?
An app that can select the perfect babysiter using AI
Quantify the unquantifiable.
Build tools that feed into a system of punishment.
=> It is very likely that we are doing more harm than good.
@somesheep: We push things which are unquantifiable into simplified and stable apps. When we do that, we are likely to do harm and the tools we use hide that from the creators, but especially when we want to punish, we think that’s acceptable.
@Abebab #Lascot https://t.co/RRpA38TSQE
@thecodecleaner: #lascot when tech learns it can only make decisions based on what its trained on. If that doesn't include women being hired, it won't hire women. @Abebab
=> trying to create a future based on the past => introduces bias
- Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women
- Women less likely to be shown ads for high-paid jobs on Goggle, study shows
- Google apologises after app tagged black people as "gorillas"
- Machine Bias: software used to predict future criminals and it's biased against blacks
(see photo for more examples)
@kenny_baas: #lascot @Abebab we feed AI with data from the past, building in current status quo. This way white male keep the power and women and coloured people keep being suppressed.
@SteveSmithCD: RT @CatSwetel: Wow, @Abebab is helping me realize how some of the Agile practices we advocate can lead to mechanistic thinking. There's such a temptation to break work down into the smallest possible units rather than the smallest useful/valuable units. #lascot
"When we try to pick up anything by itself we find it is attached to everything in the universe." -- John Muir
Weizenbaum (1972): The structure of the typical essay on "The impact of computers on society" is as follows: ... (see photo for more)
There exists no technology without any side-effects.
see @sarahmei tweet thread
All models are wrong; some are dangerous and harmful. @Abebab
"Purely technical solutions" to issues that intersects with various social, cultural political, historical moral cultural ream means we are blind to complexities and very likely to do more harm than good.
We must acknowledge that we are part of the world we observe, quantify, measure and model. @Abebab
"I'm just an engieer"
(February 2018 Researchers from UCLA presenting a paper on predictive policing system)
=> this impacts society
Any model of the world that we construct has moral and ethical dimension on it. @Abebab
"Systems of classification are themselves systems of power", Stuart Hall @Abebab
ASK: "Does a technological intervention result in more trouble or harm than the situation it's meant to address?" -- Baum ... (missed the author) @Abebab
"The price we pay for the potential of true novelty and creativity is uncertainty. Uncertainty in its very form is a negative word. It should not be. A universe in which certainty ..."
Absolute certainty is not only unattainable but also dangerous. Reality is messy. @Abebab
- It's not about the 'right answers' but asking meaningful questions
- Push more towards understanding and less towards prediction
- In place of final, and fixed answers, we aspire for continual negationation and revision
- In place of certainty, we emphasise indeterminability, partial-openness and unfinalisability
- Partial-openness leaves room continual dialogue, negotiation, reiteration and revision