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Darius Bacon (darius) wrote,
@ 2002-11-21 18:09:00
not my department
(via Electrolite)

Elton Beard writes, of the Orwellian Information Awareness Office's ``story telling, change detection, and truth maintenance'':
Call me suspicious, but somehow this makes me think that the IAO intends not only to collect information but to generate information too. That is, to fabricate and disseminate for public consumption stories that convey government-certified truth. The news media has provided this service to the administration pretty reliably for some time now, but maybe they're ready to cut out the middleman.
Given a background in artificial intelligence, it's clear they don't mean any such thing. (Not in those particular buzzwords, that is; as you say, there's been no shortage of storytelling of the traditional sort from this administration.)

Say you have a database including presumed facts and automatic deductions from those facts, and you discover a contradiction. Which of your facts did it come from, ultimately? You settle on some subset of the facts that must be wrong, and delete them -- which deductions does that leave dangling? Better throw them out, too. (But be careful: some of the deductions we made from the mistake may have independent support via facts that are still believed true.) Perhaps later you discover that you were mistaken about the mistakes, and want to bring the deductions back in without puzzling them out from scratch again. (Or you might go through this exercise as a what-if game, not for the sake of real mistakes, so you definitely don't want to throw out our original deductions permanently.)

The techniques for handling all this in a program, developed starting in the 1970s by Jon Doyle and others, got named `truth maintenance'. They soon realized this was a bad name -- better to call it `reason maintenance' or something -- but by then it was, er, too late to change.

Storytelling was another AI subfield starting in the 70s. Human narratives always leave out almost all of the details for the listener to fill in. How does that work? How can a program read a story and fill in the details? How can one tell a story in a way that a human won't find bizarre?

Though it's odd that they listed story telling instead of story understanding, I don't see any extra sinister plot here beyond the incredibly nasty total-surveillance program they're talking about. In re which, check out this transcript:
Aldridge: I'll repeat, again, that what John Poindexter is doing is developing a tool. He's not exercising the tool. He will not exercise the tool. That tool will be exercised by the intelligence, counterintelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Let's all sing along:
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

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