Final Ethics Paper

Gabriel zapata

 

CST 373  – Ethics in Comm & Tech


Professor Scott

 

May 20, 2017

Cortana the AI

Microsoft has gotten into the industry of AI creation for public users, and have since used cortana as their ‘personality’ for the users. Cortana has been for the past few years the artificial intelligence of all microsoft devices up to this point and has been through thick and thin with Microsoft and it’s users. Cortana obviously has its benefits through data scraping, however not many may be aware of the harm it can cause through the backside of its inner workings. Going forward, Microsoft continues to implement more features, which requires a certain amount of data from users that have seen issues with this idea ethically (1). Some customers are not ok with this, as they shouldn’t be, however it may not be as bad as they think due to Microsoft’s policy. Whether this AI, Cortana, is a good idea to handle users’ data, the implementation and usage of her can be used to help out people in a way that calendars and notebooks simply cannot do and is the way of the future, but implementing and handling that data is an issue for many groups of people, privacy wise and ethically, that can be solved through compromise.

To clearly define how it can be handled, the implementation of Cortana into the work environment and lives of its users, it must be clear what the intentions are of the company with the idea of managing the data for the various features. Before that is discussed, the lines must be drawn of who exactly are invested in this type of technology, and the aspects of their reasons for being apart of it. First and foremost is the company creating this software, Microsoft. Their idea was to bring and incorporate an AI into the lives of the customers in which it brings seamless aid to the users in their everyday lives that will provide invaluable features in numerous aspects of their lives. Not only is Cortana used in phones, but across all types of devices that Microsoft has to offer which makes her even more susceptible to threats in various ways. Microsoft also manages all the data going in and out of the devices including Cortana thus making the safety of that data top priority. The other stakeholder in this case is the government agency, more specifically the NSA and other various agencies such as the CIA that seek data of the country’s citizens and even non-citizens. Their reasoning in being apart of this circle of having value in Cortana is if they are able to get their hands on the data of the users which may provide value to them in getting information about certain people, however this leaves it open to major issues including blackmail, ransoming, and even treason (2). This of course is a what if at the moment, but there is always a possibility that it may become reality based on changing laws which the decisions must be looked over carefully. Lastly, the consumer, the customer, the users, are the people who will benefit from this directly, will see and get the most out of this technology through its plethora of features, and also are at the greatest risk for damage to their lives unless the ethics and policies of it are handled properly through careful regulation and management. For this to occur though, the ethics must be clear and the wrongs must be transparent so that it is avoided.

Cortana’s main purpose is to help people as quickly and efficiently as possible while giving them the maximum amount of time to focus on other more important and tending aspects of their everyday lives (3). To do this however, Microsoft must be able to get data and information from the users in a manner that allows the AI to take over tedious tasks such as scheduling, timing, question answering, seamless interactions between applications on the device and many more nontrivial abilities (3). To do this requires an excess amount of data from the user, that the user may not even know about unless they have read the entire policy and rules of the software. What is stated within that document is a clause that the data may be stolen since nothing is foolproof safe on all of Microsoft devices, in which case, the data and information can be used against the user depending on the type of information or data (13). An example is that the thieves or possible hackers can blackmail you depending what email or message they see that can be detrimental to you in your life and you can’t do anything about it or risk getting the information leaked by the thief. This is a huge sticky situation in which the company tries its best to stop this scenario from occurring but alas not successful. This ethical issue of is it even worth it is a question still being asked by the company today and the answer is the benefits outweigh the pros significantly, especially since the data is near impossible to steal. However, the thieves and hackers are not the only entity the users should be worried about, but the government agencies like the NSA or CIA (5). This has become a relevant entity that brings fear to tech companies such as Microsoft due to them forcefully taking the data anyway they can to “apprehend” criminals off of possible leads, which can be seen as a sign of abuse of power (6). This has become a huge issue because the FBI was trying its hardest in 2015 to get Apple to unlock the phone for a terrorist’s iPhone because they had leads and evidence. The issue with this is if Apple allowed it, it would give the FBI to unlock any iPhone regardless of whose it was, criminal or not (6). This is an ethical issue on its own but I digress. The issue regarding the privacy of the users have possible solutions, though it may be difficult to figure out through all the different entities involved. In this situation there are a couple plausible solutions all with their own benefits and fallings with different ethical ideals at the foundation of them but implementing them individually may be difficult, if not impossible to an extent.

Through understanding the problem of how to approach this issue of ethics and privacy, it becomes increasingly difficult on how to go about solving this issue though there are solutions. For example, one approach that I have came up with would be to simply cut off the data and not allow Microsoft to take data from the user unless the user manually allows what data gets sent to the AI for use throughout the software (10). This gives the Rights Approach ethical framework to the solution in that it protects the ethical rights of the people affected by the cause or action, in this case privacy rights that the users deserve (11). On the flip side, another solution would be to give the company strict instructions on how to distribute the technology and require them to warn the users beforehand. This solution I believe is the most optimal in providing the ethical idea of the Utilitarianism Approach inhibiting the ability to be for the greater good for most of the people affected by the privacy issues of Cortana (12). However, for the Rights Approach solution, not allowing Microsoft to take any data from the users without their specific consent would require a lot more compared to that of the utilitarianism Approach solution.

The solution of not allowing the Company in general to take the data from the user’s of Cortana in its everyday functionality would completely hinder any entity from trying to hack into said device, rendering all privacy issues null. This is extremely simple and easy but it also means Cortana’s core functionality is also rendered null, thus making her useless which would not work in Microsoft’s model (9). A work around would be to be completely transparent at all times and allow the user to check off on all data getting sent in and out of Cortana thus giving the users full control of their data and letting them control their risks. This would allow the application of Cortana to be useful and still a viable product for users to use. The drawback, of course, is that it is much slower in performance based on the how much the user has to interact with it now and takes time away from other more pressing tasks to the users (9). Due to this issue, I believe this is simply not the best course of action thus leading me to believe that the ideal solution is unanimously the Utilitarian Approach in which the technology of Cortana maximizes the well-being of people that utilize the software providing the best solution in protecting user’s privacy with minimal possibility for intrusion.

In restricting the company and it’s developers in allowing how it handles its data is an excellent first step, which they as a company are already doing; however that’s not the only thing that must occur. In getting this solution to work without risk of data theft or hackers using people’s data for blackmail, an extra step should be implemented to have that extra layer of defense. I am talking about storing all valuable and important data  on the device itself, which would make it difficult for the intruders to see the actual data because it would not be that possible to view the data, especially without connection to that data. With this in place, the data can be safely kept away from all possible entities that could do harm to any user of Cortana (6). This idea comes with a slight negative in operation of developers however, because not only would they have to change the software, but restrict themselves in how they store data and operate Cortana’s internals. This idea is reminiscent of the ethical framework, the Utilitarian Approach in that it provides the maximum amount of maximizing the well-being of the people who use these devices. With this idea put into place, it is evident that people would be inclined to not be in risk from the obvious criminals, but there is still the law abiding ones, the government agencies who can use these types of technology, regardless of what type of security walls are put into place if they can get policies put in place allowing them access (8). However this is simply not possible because like as explained earlier, the FBI was not successful in getting access to all iPhones, only the one terrorists phone. This means that Microsoft and other device companies that sell to the public must be careful in keeping their customers data protected from these possible abuse of power government agencies. However, this is highly unlikely due to existing laws prohibiting them from doing so, as of now. With this idea, of continuing as long as data storage gets set to local, and the customers get transparent feedback from their data, this would indeed be the optimal solution and ethical approach in protecting all customer’s privacy from dangerous entities.

The usefulness of Cortana is unlimited to the users in their everyday lives and can do so much more than was possible not so long ago, but the dangers of this type of free technology can lead to very consequential situations. Though through careful thought, the different solutions become evident in approaching this difficult issue of data privacy. In protecting the greatest amount of users possible from bad entities such as hackers and agencies from getting user’s data, this solution with the foundation of Utilitarian approach is invaluable to Microsoft and it’s customers in protecting the people’s privacy.

 

(1) Jones, B. “Is Cortana a Dangerous Step towards Artificial Intelligence?” Digital Trends. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.

(2) Brandon, J. “How Microsoft Cortana will run your entire office by 2020” ComputerWorld. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.

(3) Chacos, B. “Microsoft envisions a future where Cortana and a legion of smart bots act as our butlers” PC World. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

(4) Souppouris, A. “Microsoft hopes Cortana will lead an army of chatbots to victory” Engadget. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

(5) Molen, B. “Her name is Cortana. Her attitude is almost human.” Engadget. Web. 4 June. 2014.

(6) Chessen, M. “The AI Policy Landscape” A Medium Corp. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

(7) Chessen, M. “A Tale from the End of Humanity” A Medium Corp. Web. 15 Nov. 2016

(8) Dignan, L. “Can AI really be Ethical and Unbiased?” SDNet. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

(9) Singer, P. “Can Artificial Intelligence Be Ethical?” Project Syndicate. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

(10) Yudkowsky, E. “Complex Value Systems are Required to Realize Valuable Futures” Intelligence. Web. 2011.

(11) Monal, Patil. “Artificial Intelligence Vs Humans Will AI Surpass Humans” Academia. Web.

(12) Alhadeff, E. “The Smartest AI in the Universe Is More Human Than You Think” Microsoft. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.

(13)Al-Riyami, F. “The future of Cortana is intelligent, emotional, and potentially dangerous?” ONMSFT. Web. 2014.

(14) “AI Ethics and the Future of Humanity” Sparks & Honey. Web. 3 Nov. 2016

16 – Cortana, the Beginning of a New Age

Cortana, an advanced AI hologram created in the Halo universe, the game that saved the original Xbox from utter failure, was a revolutionary in the idea of how an AI can be created as and of course, is science fiction as on now.

However, over the years, especially as of recently, microsoft has gotten into the industry of AI creation for public users, and have since used cortana as their ‘personality’ for the users since it gave a more human characteristic to the AI and that it helps the users get a sense that the AI is more helpful and useful due to the somewhat genuine feeling that it is a ‘normal’ person. More specifically, Cortana, the now AI for windows 10 and some microsoft windows phones, has a feature called ‘chitchat’ that allows it to have more human interactions with the users, and not just straight robotic commands, though the main purpose of Cortana as of now is to be a  personal assistant on the device.

Not only does Cortana try to seem more human like through small talk, the developers also try and make it so she has ‘short’ and ‘long’ term memory in which produces a more rich type of dialogue between the AI and Cortana, and that’s just neat.

Cortana is still most definitely a work in progress by Microsoft’s standards, however the current end-goal for them would be to have a fully functioning complete AI in which the intelligences of it almost mocks that of an actual human that can fully assistant the human in everyday life and work. The thought of this is very provoking on many levels of human thought, mainly on the more ethical and moral side of things. The ‘idea’ that this type of AI would help and be more of a solution to human’s everyday problems raises more questions than answers. If an AI has the neural capacity that of an actual human, how exactly would that look like? would it always be ready and willing to help the owner of the device that has the AI installed on?

blog 10 – They’re Listening

Upon the recent repeal of a monumental policy in the net neutrality war with the government and ISPs, the policy which protected our (the customers) data from being sold to other companies for a monetary gain.Now, the ISPs will be able to sell peoples data in bulk to the highest bidder and we cant do anything about it at the moment. There options that can protect us from being directly spied on and monitored such as having a VPN, being on TOR, or creating false traffic in which they can’t tell what websites we actually visited or if it was just generated randomly which renders the data pointless.

By creating ‘noise’ they cannot use the ‘real’ data because it will be so hard to identify with the fake blot-data thus making both you individually, and collectively harder to analyze us. This i think is a great idea and only helps more and more if everybody, who is not using TOR or a VPN, would use it because it would render the policy being repealed null. The simple idea that the government is ok with ISPs selling off the citizens personal data is extremely concerning. A simply research on who passed this repeal brings up the votes, and to no surprise all were republicans in which were donated by these ISPs such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, etc. which ‘helped’ them make this decision to pass the repeal. This brings up another huge ethical dilemma on the simple grounds of if this counts as bribery as well as if it is morally ok for these people. My opinion is that it is simple greed and turning the blind eye to the common man and his struggles. People vote blindly for these people and I simply can’t fathom why even. It hurts me to see this country deteriorate like this to the point where facts become pointless because it is simply whoever is shouting the loudest. I digress, this plugin nonetheless i see as a great tool to combat the control of our lives and will not feed the big companies as well as be another source to black mail easier in such cruel ways.

blog 9 – Future of Cortana

The future of Cortana, Microsoft’s AI, is said to be able to run your entire office in the near future to  help you stay busy and productive in your career. But it is not the traditional idea of an AI, it is more of an assistant like Jarvis that will help you through your work and make you a more efficient worker at work and home.

An example of this is if someone is creating a excel worksheet, it will automatically create certain instances that are to of your preferences stated ahead of time or programmed through Cortana and will automatically start up to your liking. This is obviously still a work in progress however it shows much promise in the utilities of Cortana and what ‘she’ is capable of bringing to the table of future AI technology.

However, the ethical side is that in order for Cortana, or any AI for that matter to be able to do things for you more efficiently requires it to get key information on you, i.e. private data that some may not want to share due to the possibility of it falling into the wrong hands. Though, most people would not mind as most of the data will be public information, some may not and the data AIs retrieve is all visual and vocal so the AIs have the capability to record at all times unless changed ( at least in the case of Microsoft’s Cortana). Another thing AIs, or Cortana, will scrape for is data found in emails.

An interesting thing that some users of Cortana has experienced is how human like Cortana can act through her ‘chitchat’ programming and that if some users do not enjoy or feel comfortable with it can choose to disable it and keep it as robotic as possible. This, in which brings up a point of how fast AI is becoming more and more like humans. Cortana is pushing the idea of ,”how will AI be treated when it gets hard to tell if they can ‘think’?” This will be the overall topic of the next post.

blog 7 – Cortana hologram, now AI

Cortana, an advanced AI hologram created in the Halo universe, the game that saved the original Xbox from utter failure, was a revolutionary in the idea of how an AI can be created as and of course, is science fiction as on now.

However, over the years, especially as of recently, microsoft has gotten into the industry of AI creation for public users, and have since used cortana as their ‘personality’ for the users since it gave a more human characteristic to the AI and that it helps the users get a sense that the AI is more helpful and useful due to the somewhat genuine feeling that it is a ‘normal’ person. More specifically, Cortana, the now AI for windows 10 and some microsoft windows phones, has a feature called ‘chitchat’ that allows it to have more human interactions with the users, and not just straight robotic commands, though the main purpose of Cortana as of now is to be a  personal assistant on the device.

Not only does Cortana try to seem more human like through small talk, the developers also try and make it so she has ‘short’ and ‘long’ term memory in which produces a more rich type of dialogue between the AI and Cortana, and that’s just neat.

Cortana is still most definitely a work in progress by Microsoft’s standards, however the current end-goal for them would be to have a fully functioning complete AI in which the intelligences of it almost mocks that of an actual human that can fully assistant the human in everyday life and work. The thought of this is very provoking on many levels of human thought, mainly on the more ethical and moral side of things. The ‘idea’ that this type of AI would help and be more of a solution to human’s everyday problems raises more questions than answers. If an AI has the neural capacity that of an actual human, how exactly would that look like? would it always be ready and willing to help the owner of the device that has the AI installed on?

blog 6 – Technology in the Black Market

Now, I haven’t read too much into this, just skimmed over a few articles and watched a tv show, Mr. Robot, which had to do with illegal trade online and the topic really interested me in how they are able to be kept anonymous while still getting the merchandise. The most well known and popular black market I read about online was Silk Road (no longer in service) in which was created for users to have anonymity amongst the users for their protection. This meant that it could not be hosted on the public domain of the internet, thus meaning it would not appear on search engines such as google, bing, or duckduckgo.

The only way you could access “Silk Road” would be by using the dark web in which utilized Tor hidden service, so that the traffic could not be monitored by anyone for the protection of the users. An interesting fact I found was the the actual creators of Tor was the US government during the mid 1990s which originally was designed to protect US intelligence communications online. However, the only way for the government to allow this creation was to not only create it for specific people, which would allow the location of who created tor and what is on it which wouldn’t hide anything online, would be to allow everyone to utilize tor, thus essentially allowing illegal abuse of Tor to be allowed.

Tor network has had 4 million users as of 2013, thus allowing users to browse the web anonymously to stop, stalkers, abusers, advertisers, etc. as well. I also find it very interesting on how people think that taking tor down would solve issues regarding illegal activity online. It definitely will not stop any criminals from their intentions because they already have better options besides TOR. Tor is only used for illegal use by a minute set of people, and Tor already has a hole in which people can still technically be found through holes in the network. So it is not the safest for criminal activities to be fully anonymous. So it was better to just keep the network Tor up for everyone to use, including ‘normal’ people and the government.

5 – Technology Hides You

This has been a slow realization for me, but i believe it is hugely important and not talked about enough. I am talking about how people make themselves into someone that they aren’t online. I am not talking about internet trolls, or people falsifying as someone else, but people on social media pretending to be someone who they simply aren’t in the real world. For example, only showing a certain side to their life. We are, as an audience only getting a side of you that we don’t even know is the truth. The posts may not pertain to how you actually are in real life, for example, posting about motivation or healthy eating habits, yet the person who is the postee, is unhealthy and lazy yet say they are the opposite. And the worst part is, is that people simply can not take critiquing these days and just assume that others are judging, to a certain exact, they are because you’re basically putting out lies on the internet for others to see. A interesting little app that furthers this false identity is bitmoji. Its more of an extension for people to make their own little avatar of themselves in which they can use it to send unique messages through messaging apps. Some people use this to create a false image of themselves that simply isn’t them however they believe that is what they see and these types of technology, in the short term help the person feels good about themselves, however damages the persons actual body in the long run. Now this is just a specific type of incident in which someone is pretending to be someone that they simply aren’t, however, the main bulk of it, which isn’t necessarily intentional, but is people only posting the good stuff in their life on social media. And who would blame them? Of course I am going to post the pictures of me going camping in the summer  with my friends! of course I am not going to post the thoughts of my depression because of a rough life! So social media isn’t all that social, its more one sided for most that don’t want to show all aspects of life, because life is NEVER always positive and people need to realize that. That social media isn’t real life. It is just a window into only the good parts of peoples lives, for the most part. So it isn’t necessary to get sad when you see people doing fun things all the time on Facebook on Instagram, because I can almost guarantee that their life has the same amount of ups and downs as you.