Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,797) summarizes a new article in the Guardian: The death of a woman hit by a self-driving car highlights an unfolding technological crisis, as Code piled on code creates "a universe no one fully understands." "In some ways we've lost agency. When programs pass into code and code passes into Algorithms and then algorithms start to create new algorithms, it gets farther and farther from human agency. Software is released into a code universe which no one can fully understand." The author dubs these man-made monsters "franken-algos," since "After a time in the wild, we no longer know what they are: they have the potential to become erratic." Self-learning algorithms are already part of the "new all-machine phase" of Wall Street trading, leading to what science historian George Dyson believes are rules "where nobody knows what the rules are: the algorithms create their own rules -- you let them evolve the same way nature evolves organisms." Where does it end? There's already a robotic sharpshooter policing the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and "swarms of coordinated, weaponized drones" already being developed by three different countries. The article suggests re-thinking our legal system to assign blame for any badly malfunctioning algorithms, noting that the Association for Computing Machinery recently updated its code of ethics "along the lines of medicine's Hippocratic oath, to instruct computing professionals to do no harm and consider the wider impacts of their work.... Solutions exist or can be found for most of the problems described here, but not without incentivizing big tech to place the health of society on a par with their bottom lines. "More serious in the long term is growing conjecture that current programming methods are no longer fit for purpose given the size, complexity and interdependency of the algorithmic systems we increasingly rely on." Toby Walsh, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales, even says "We will eventually give up writing algorithms altogether... "because the machines will be able to do it far better than we ever could. Software engineering is in that sense perhaps a dying profession."
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