Smart Software: Can the Outputs Be Steered Like a Mini Van? Well, Yesssss

October 13, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[2]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Nature Magazine may have exposed the crapola output about how the whiz kids in the smart software game rig their game. Want to know more? Navigate to “Reproducibility Trial: 246 Biologists Get Different Results from Same Data Sets.” The write up explains “how analytical choices drive conclusions.”

10 13 biases

Baking in biases. “What shall we fiddle today, Marvin?” Marvin replies, “Let’s adjust what video is going to be seen by millions.” Thanks, for nameless and faceless, MidJourney.

Translating Nature speak, I think the estimable publication is saying, “Those who set thresholds and assemble numerical recipes can control outcomes.” An example might be suppressing certain types of information and boosting other information. If one is clueless, the outputs of the system will be the equivalent of “the truth.” JPMorgan Chase found itself snookered by outputs to the tune of $175 million. Frank Financial’s customer outputs were algorithmized with the assistance of some clever people. That’s how the smartest guys in the room were temporarily outfoxed by a 31 year old female Wharton person.

What about outputs from any smart system using open source information. That’s the same inputs to the smart system. But the outputs? Well, depending on who is doing the threshold setting and setting up the work flow of the processed information, there are some opportunities to shade, shape, and weaponize outputs.

Nature Magazine reports:

Despite the wide range of results, none of the answers are wrong, Fraser says. Rather, the spread reflects factors such as participants’ training and how they set sample sizes. So, “how do you know, what is the true result?” Gould asks. Part of the solution could be asking a paper’s authors to lay out the analytical decisions that they made, and the potential caveats of those choices, Gould [Elliot Gould, an ecological modeler at the University of Melbourne] says. Nosek [Brian Nosek, executive director of the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia] says ecologists could also use practices common in other fields to show the breadth of potential results for a paper. For example, robustness tests, which are common in economics, require researchers to analyze their data in several ways and assess the amount of variation in the results.

Translating Nature speak: Individual analyses can be widely divergent. A method to normalize the data does not seem to be agreed upon.

Thus, a widely used smart software can control framing on a mass scale. That means human choices buried in a complex system will influence “the truth.” Perhaps I am not being fair to Nature? I am a dinobaby. I do not have to be fair just like the faceless and hidden “developers” who control how the smart software is configured.

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2023


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