Who Watches The Watchers?

I never studied Latin. Too stuffy. Too pretentious. (Though it would have come in handy in Spanish class). But sometimes, Latin phrases are the absolute best way to describe a concept that English doesn’t quite have the words for.

Take the question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” The literal translation for this Latin phrase is “Who will guard the guards themselves?” But the spirit behind this phrase is “Who watches the watchers?”

And that’s becoming an increasingly important question in artificial intelligence (AI). AI is designed to learn complex systems, make sophisticated decisions and reach extraordinary conclusions – many of which wouldn’t be obvious to humans. And it’s designed to do all of it autonomously.

But if humans can’t understand why AI reaches certain decisions or conclusions, how are we supposed to monitor it? Letting machines run amok with no supervision hardly seems like the answer.

For one AI entrepreneur, the answer to who should be monitoring AI is more AI (Wired).

According to Wired, Liz O’Sullivan worked for AI startup Clarifai. Clarifai has some Pentagon contracts. And in a letter, O’Sullivan asked the CEO of the company not to design any systems that choose who to kill (and execute the killing) without human intervention.

Clarifai’s CEO declined to make that promise. So O’Sullivan quit. And she co-founded an AI company that allows engineers to monitor the performance of AI systems and spot problems in the AI decision-making process.

The watchers are getting watchers. But will humans manage to stay in charge? Something to ponder as AI startups continue to grow.

Now on to the News Fix!


Searchable.ai raises $2 million in seed round: Defy Partners led the fundraising round. And it was joined by an interesting cast of characters, including Kayak co-founder Paul English and Jonathan Kraft, president of the New England Patriots and the Kraft Group (TechCrunch).

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