Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. This week, Farhad and Mike also talked with Cade Metz, who just joined The Times as a technology reporter.
Farhad: Hello, Mike! There’s a lot going on in the world, but can I just say: How great is it that the Warriors won the N.B.A. championship and proved, once and for all, that the Bay Area is the best? California4Eva! Anyway, how are you?
Mike: Ahoy, Farhad! I don’t care about sports, so I won’t pretend to now for the sake of exchanging pleasantries.
You know what I do care about? Artificial intelligence. No, I’m not referring to your intellect, Farhad. I’m making a quick segue into introducing our newest addition to the tech team, Cade Metz. He just joined us.
Cade: Yes, I am the first A.I. reporter ever at The Times. I’m a bot trained from reams of data detailing the behavior of some Silicon Valley hack during his five years at Wired magazine, incluing al thos typos. So when I insult you and Farhad on Twitter, don’t take it personally. That’s just the way I was built.
O.K., that’s not true. I’m not a bot. I’m just some hack who covers A.I. The truth is: A.I. is a long way from mimicking the behavior of a Times reporter. I hope.
Mike: Elon Musk was right. We are all doomed.
Farhad: Great, let’s chat about tech news. So the big thing this week was Uber, more Uber and still more Uber, with a little bit of Amazon and Whole Foods thrown in. But we’ll get to all that in a bit. Let’s start with other stuff.
Facebook said that it would begin to explain to the public how it tackles “hard questions” that arise out of its service — things like how Facebook affects democracies, or whether and how kids should use it. In its first such effort, the company detailed how it’s using artificial intelligence to fight the spread of terrorists online.
I have to say, I was really impressed with this whole exercise. I think tech companies have long been too reluctant to talk about the potential dangers of their technology. It’s great that Facebook — after, of course, a lot of questions and prodding arising out of its role in the election — is taking these issues seriously. But Cade, you’re our resident A.I. expert, so could you explain what exactly Facebook is doing, and whether it’ll work?
Cade: Well, the people who wrote that blog post are policy folks, not engineers. They’re using the term A.I. in the broadest of ways (like so many people these days). In most cases, they use A.I. to mean technology, as opposed to human involvement.
Some of the stuff they talk about, like identifying an image known to be related to terrorism, will work well. But other stuff, like the experimental system that seeks to identify online conversation and other natural language that points to terrorism, won’t work really well for years. (Hint: experimental is a key word). That kind of thing requires A.I. that is still very much under…
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