Friday, March 17, 2017

Losses in Space

Artificial intelligence, though developed with benevolent purposes, might soon open up IT to catastrophes that would turn us away from technological overreach. Combining AI with robotics raises the possibility of a Frankenstein scenario. An intelligent computer that wanted to solve the world's problems might conclude, through machine learning, that we humans must be culled in order for life on Earth to continue. Inside a brigade of self-arming robots, that knowledge could spell trouble. Yoshimi, we may need you soon.

On the way to creating Frankenstein's monster, intelligent computers will be employed in fights against one another. Most IT systems are developed with information security and anti-tampering tools added on, rather than included from conception. As a result, early versions are often more vulnerable to hacking than those which have matured. If AI systems incorporate self-taught protection from cyberattacks, the cycle is likely to become shorter, provided the system's intelligence doesn't become impaired by prior attacks.

A red cell running progressively more sophisticated attacks on the system would build its immunity prior to going live. The red cell will eventually consist mainly of an AI computer dedicated to giving new AI systems experience in identifying and defeating cyber attacks. Successful attacks from a real adversary would be for keeps. Those with an edge in cyber warfare stand to be able to destroy their target's system or hijack it for their own purposes.

To illustrate the stakes involved in cyber warfare, consider the fact that there are about 1,000 satellites in use which feed us information about earth and relay communications around the globe. Additionally, there are about 350 which perform like functions for militaries. Three major powers (China, Russia, and the U.S.) own two-thirds of all these. Not only could a cyber attacker steal information, but they could corrupt it with bad data, or disable or even steal the satellite. Massive cyber warfare in space could set back global coordination, navigation, and weather forecasts half a century (though, initially, those would be regressed even more for the period of time it takes people to relearn many black arts). War in space is war on many nations' way of life. That's why, in their platform,
The Green Party calls for the end of Space militarization and opposes any form of space-based military aggression. We embrace peaceful Space exploration as a means for all people on this planet to work together. The benefits of inspired education are well worth the investment in peaceful Space exploration.
Though we might forswear space war, there is no guarantee other players will cooperate. To be prepared, do we accept a way of life that doesn't depend on information coming from satellites? Do we enlarge the battlefield to retaliate in kind?

In spite of what the President's budget proposes to cut, in the near future the only aspect of satellite technology that matters much will be earth sensors. When empires become passé, there will be little need for military satellites. Global communications may not be so important in another decade when we walk in the dark shadow of peak everything. Environmental information, however, will be crucial for safety and restoring balance to ecosystems. Outer space should be a place of wonder and inspiration, not shock and awe.
Andromeda Galaxy by NASA

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