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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Botched white and grey matter with Eric Worrall at WUWT

Sou | 5:29 PM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

It's quiet on the denier front, so while waiting for the next climate conspiracy theory and logical fallacy, you can read about two more articles from Eric Worrall at WUWT. The first was how he is a bit wary of putting computers in people's brains (archived here, latest here). The second was about how some fossil-fuel-funded organisation in the USA is anti-environment (what's new?) (archived here).

Beyond crowd-sourcing

Eric got his notion about putting computers in people's brains from either misreading or extending an idea he got from the Daily Mail.  (He didn't dig any deeper.) His headline was:"Claim: Machine Human Hybrids will Solve Climate Change" under which Eric wrote:
The Daily Mail has claimed that the super intelligence of a new race of cybernetic enhanced humans will be able to solve wicked problems such as Climate Change.
Except that isn't what was written in the Daily Mail, or not if you interpret Eric's "cybernetic enhanced humans" like this. For all his IT expertise, Eric didn't understand what he copied and pasted. The first two lines of his copy and paste were:
‘Superintellingence’ of AI and humans working together could solve climate change and end wars, researchers claim
AI and humans working together - not "cybernetic enhanced humans" or "Machine human hybrids" - or not in the sense that Eric figured.

In case you think I'm misunderstanding Eric's misunderstanding, I'm not. He continued under his copy and paste and wrote: "In general I’m a fan of human augmentation; " and then he went from Cochlear implants to brain implants, writing "early experiments into neural implants were ethically dubious", and how "it only takes a small push to tip a normal person into insanity", and finished with:
As an IT expert who has taken a keen interest in artificial intelligence, I have no doubt artificial enhancements to intelligence will become possible, maybe even routine, within my lifetime. But lets just say I would be nervous about the consequences of abruptly giving a normal human volunteer superhuman intellectual abilities, without a lot of preliminary research, to establish what effect such brain modifications have on someone’s emotional stability.

How he got all that from an article about a fancy form of crowd-sourcing I don't know. Either he didn't read the article, or he didn't understand it, or he just wanted to write about neural implants and figured any old article would suffice as a springboard.

Human computation

The Daily Mail article was about a perspective article in Science mag, by Pietro Michelucci from the  the Human Computation Institute (HCI) and Janis L. Dickinson from Cornell University. What they have written about is separating tasks into those best done by computers and those best carried out by people, and combining the two.

The article is about "human computation", which is described in the article as follows:
Human computation, a term introduced by Luis von Ahn (1), refers to distributed systems that combine the strengths of humans and computers to accomplish tasks that neither can do alone (2). 
The authors give the example of reCaptcha, which is used by 100 million people a day, with the results fed into a "transcription engine that has digitized 13 million articles from The New York Times archives". (Incidentally, Luis von Ahn is the founder and CEO of reCaptcha.) The authors also refer to Wikipedia, probably the most widely known crowd-sourcing effort ever.

The article goes on to describe three types of human computation:

Micro-tasking - where people solve small tasks best suited to people (like pattern recognition in reCaptcha), and the results are fed back into the computer which is doing the overall work (eg digitising the New York Times archives).

Workflow - where the people doing each step in the workflow build on and enhance the work done by people in the previous step. The authors give the example of Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Problem-solving ecosystem - where very difficult problems can be solved by combining the cognitive processing of many human contributors with machine-based computing to build models of complex, interdependent systems. The idea is that this will help to solve some of the more difficult problems facing humanity, such as global warming.

To me it looks a bit like a Delphi method used to solve problems or get to decisions, but using computers to do some of the tasks. The authors wrote:
In the majority of human computation systems, a small number of participants do most of the work. Given this unusual distribution of effort, we need to improve our understanding of how to maximize recruitment and retention of participants, enhance skill development, and maximize the total effort that participants contribute to projects (13). It may be even more challenging to maximize the efficiency with which human inputs, information sharing, and machine-based processing work together. Machines tend to give predictable outputs, such that errors can always be traced to faulty code or design, but humans are less predictable in terms of their availability and the quality of their work.

Human computation thus requires a departure from traditional computer science methods and can benefit from design approaches based on integrated understandings of human cognition, motivation, error rates, and decision theory. Research relating task performance to workflow design and participant experience is sparse; new A-B tests that examine how manipulating such factors can increase performance would increase the predictability of future systems.

The final paragraph relates to ethics and the possibility of using human computation to do harm:
Some believe that faster computer processing speeds will eventually bridge the gap between machine-based intelligence and human intelligence. However, human computation already affords a tremendous opportunity to combine the respective strengths of humans and machines toward unprecedented capabilities in the short term. It is important that nefarious uses, such as disinformation engineering, in which human computation systems are designed to incite panic, steal information, or manipulate behavior (14), are not overlooked. Community-driven guidance concerning transparency, informed consent, and meaningful choice is emerging to address the ethical and social implications of increasingly pervasive and diverse forms of online participation (15). Ethical standards can help to ensure that human computation remains humanistic.

What the article was not about was cyborgs, or neural implants. Eric got it very wrong, as usual. Maybe he would benefit from a brain upgrade?

The National Black Chamber of Commerce wants dirty air

It must be a no news day at WUWT. Eric Worrall's next article was all about how the National Black Chamber of Commerce is agitating for smog. It's not alone and is just one of the many climate science denying and anti-environment lobby groups that proliferate in the USA. In the past it has teamed up with the Heartland Institute and the Libertarian Party of Nevada to agitate for more smog. Joe Romm has reported how the National Black Chamber of Commerce has been funded in part by fossil fuel companies, so maybe it's just doing the bidding of its paymasters, or maybe its members prefer smog to clean air, and seek money from the smog generators.

What Eric regards as "nothing short of vitriolic", most people would regard as mild criticism and setting the record straight:
How the polluter-backed National Black Chamber misleads minorities
By Martin Luther King III December 29
Martin Luther King III is co-founder of the Drum Major Institute.
For months now, the National Black Chamber of Commerce has been warning communities of color that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan will cause job losses and generate higher energy bills.

In fact, the opposite is true.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants will create clean- energy jobs, improve public health, bring greater reliability to our electric power grid, bolster our national security, demonstrate the United States’ resolve to combat climate change and maybe even reduce our utility bills.

By limiting the emission of carbon dioxide, the Clean Power Plan also will slow a main driver of extreme weather, which has inflicted widespread economic damage and human misery, including death.

That’s what the National Black Chamber of Commerce neglects to mention.

Which part did Eric find "nothing short of vitriolic"? Was it that the National Black Chamber of Commerce neglected to mention the benefits of limiting emissions of carbon dioxide? Perhaps it was the thought of creating clean- energy jobs, improving public health, bringing greater reliability to our electric power grid, and bolstering our national security. Perhaps Eric doesn't know the meaning of the word.

Confirmation bias as an art form

Who knows. Science deniers often regard the mildest comment about science as "hate", and the most timid pointing out of facts as "vitriolic". I've noticed that science deniers have a very limited vocabulary and suffer confirmation bias to an extraordinary extent. It could be related to their tendency to accept conspiracy theories, no matter how wild and wacky they may be. Although we all can be affected by confirmation bias to some extent, science deniers seem to me to be afflicted more than most people. I'm not sure that praying to a god will help much.

Credit: XKCD

From the WUWT comments

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 speaks to the natural stupidity of Eric Worrall, or is it a snipe at WUWT in general?
January 1, 2016 at 4:59 am
Artificial Intelligence will never be a match for natural stupidity.

AndyG55 does the same:
January 1, 2016 at 5:07 am
Putting two people together, each with an IQ of 80, does not give them an IQ of 160 !!!
Enhancing stupidity is not the answer.

A lot of deniers view the world through the lens of their false idol, money. davidmhoffer didn't read the article either, and doesn't know that it's about techniques already in use.
January 1, 2016 at 6:44 am
Precisely. This is a blatant attempt to secure funding.
Even if the technology was feasible, the notion that it could solve war is laughable. If such a thing was ever built, the only purpose it would serve would be to establish a military advantage in waging and winning wars for whoever got it first. 

Joe Crawford is money mad, too:
January 1, 2016 at 9:48 am (excerpt)
Of course you’re right David, this is nothing other than an attempt to tap into the billions available for climate research.  

rtj1211 is money mad, cognitively-challenged, and mildly hysterical:
January 1, 2016 at 2:39 pm
Of course, this needs lots of research to find out if it will actually work.
I wonder how much money Cornell will be hoping for in that regards??

I don't know what Gerry, England was talking about with his robots:
January 1, 2016 at 7:12 am
But what if the robots turned out to be deniers? That would be a laugh. With their superior intelligence and reasoning they might see climate change as the scam it is.

Bruce Cobb did read the article from the look of it. He thinks that using computers to help solve problems is "frankly retarded". Bruce doesn't get about much in the real world.
January 1, 2016 at 5:49 am
“Computer intelligence”, of course, is an oxymoron. They are only as “smart” as those who program them. And the idea that the combination of computers, no matter how powerfyl, and crowdsourcing can solve human problems, real or imagined is frankly retarded.

Marcus wants to lock up the majority of the population in loony bins. Now that may indeed help, provided the loony bins put out zero carbon-emissions.
January 1, 2016 at 6:51 am
There is no need to control the weather in order to solve the ” climate change ” problem…All we need to do is put the Eco-terrorists back in the loony bins and the non existent problem would be solved!!.

emsnews likes building straw men - a telltale technique of climate science denial
January 1, 2016 at 6:06 am
Nothing is scarier than trying to deal with or stop a very intelligent person who is bent on ‘solving a problem’ when they decide this problem is to be eliminated via killing everyone.
And this WILL happen, convince some high intelligence that humans are destroying the earth and…it will bend its will to kill all humans! Duh!

Patrick MJD replied to Steven Mosher, who pointed out in an uncharacteristically long, relatively well-structured comment that Eric got it wrong.
January 1, 2016 at 4:28 pm
“Steven Mosher January 1, 2016 at 8:11 am
One task humans are good at is reading.”
A skill seriously lacking in the climate science community.

To which Steven Mosher retorted in a style more characteristic of him:
January 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm
weirdly, I got it right and the skeptic got it wrong.
go FIGURE. If we are seriously lacking the skill and we get this article right, and Eric gets it wrong,
then that should tell you something.
“A skill seriously lacking in the climate science community.”
A skill totally absent in the climate skeptic community. 

whiten is the only person who thanks Steven. Most of the rest ignore him.
January 1, 2016 at 2:36 pm
Totally I do agree with you in this one,,Mosher…..
Very very poor work from Eric…….Completely missing the point….and kinda of misleading the reader.
Got to thank you Mosh…..
Thank you …..

Steven Mosher wasn't the only one who eventually noticed Eric's misunderstanding. Barry wrote:
January 1, 2016 at 10:47 am
Eric, I think you’ve misinterpreted this story by a wide margin. It has to do with building collaborative networks, not really “enhancing” any individual’s intelligence. I may be wrong (I’m open to input from others), but I think either you or the Daily Mail misunderstood or are sensationalizing the original study.

 The comments under the second article about how an anti-environment organisation is opposed to clean air and climate change mitigation were a hotch potch and forgettable. You can read them here if you're so inclined.

References and further reading

Human Computation. Thesis by Luis von Ahn, CMU-CS-05-193, December 7, 2005 (pdf here)

Pietro Michelucci and Janis L. Dickinson, "Human Computation: the Power of Crowds" Science, 1 January 2016: Vol. 351 no. 6268 pp. 32-33 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6499

‘Superintellingence’ of AI and humans working together could solve climate change and end wars, researchers claim - article in the Daily Mail, 1 January 2016


  1. Most unlike Worrall to get his science wrong ;). Or the Daily Mail come to that. Perhaps Mr Eugenics is worried about the Borg. Isn't it funny how those that use the word "warmist" seem to be the most alarmist (how are those denier predictions coming along?).

    1. I for one welcome are now Borg Overlords... nah just kidding ;)

  2. If one is correct or even literate in the presence of RW nut jobs then one immediately attracts suspicion. Eric's stupidity is his life raft.

  3. A climate sceptic misinterpreting science? No way...

  4. Eric and Anthony could both improve their vocabulary by replacing the word "Claim" with "Purported". Nah ... that'd confuse their discombobulated, befuddled, addled readers.

  5. Eric and Anthony could both improve their vocabulary by replacing the word "Claim" with "Purported". Nah ... that'd confuse their discombobulated, befuddled, addled readers.

  6. "how "it only takes a small push to tip a normal person into insanity", "

    He's right, just look at what happens to WUWT commenters when Al Gore is mentioned in a post. :) ....or don't they qualify as "normal"???


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