No AI tool that makes logging optional should be expected to operate safely.

If “safety” is something you have to turn on, any tool will be used unsafely. Today, unsafe yet powerful AI tools are made available for anyone, for free – tensorflow, openAI, et al.

Even America has some regulations on handing out free guns, but powerful features are added for commercial reasons, and turned loose for the public. It is sheer folly that free tools will be used with the same level of responsibility by individuals, as by organisations that claim effective checks and balances. The organisations use the same tools internally as they release for others – in a dash for market share and mindshare of developers.

The release of powerful AI tools without a correspondingly available audit or safety infrastructure suggests the claims to prioritise safety are entirely hollow – by definition, AI safety mechanisms are entirely optional, with the burden on every user and not the system.

External logging infrastructures are basically a spreadsheet. Google Docs’ spreadsheet capabilities are the minimal viable necessary for everyone (with a google account), for free. Google gives 15Gb of storage space with every account, which should be good for years of run logs, and even then, google spreadsheets don’t count in that space. The spreadsheet API lets you do this already – and you can implement a blockchain in a spreadsheet to have some level of audit.

If you don’t want to use google tools tensorflow/cloud platform/gDrive, there is also AWS. Amazon will rent you high powered GPUs for cents per hour, and have APIs for everything, include write only logging to S3, but no support for ensuring the minimal audit on your AIs you run there.

For the rugged individualists replicating AlphaGo in your back bedroom, and who don’t want to hand their logs to a megacorp, those tools could allow logging to other infrastructures (Plasma would let you confirm you are logging without saying what; many other storage options exist today).

The current version of the test is: No AI tool that makes logging optional can be expected to operate safely.

The logs can be kept private, and they can be at high level, but they have to be written. What should go in them is something the well funded AI debates continue to have, but as it stands today, the commitment to AI safety is impossible to deliver, because the tools do not require anything be logged. Nothing stops a decision to delete any logs, but deleting logs is a coverup.

This won’t do everything, but currently there’s nothing at all. And nothing at all makes the claims of AI safety sound distinctly hollow.

posted: 16 Aug 2017

Puntcon 2017 – Sunday 9th July

Conferences are fun, but don’t have ducklings. Or champagne. Many years ago the legendary Geek Punt Picnic morphed into PuntCon, the Cambridge leg of the alternative conference circuit. And after the undoubted success of our earlier ventures, we’re going to head off up river again on Sunday 9 July 2017.


In keeping with tradition there will be no talks, no presentations, no agenda and nothing to disturb the quiet delights of the river on a Sunday afternoon. But apart from that, it’s a conference and therefore probably tax-deductible.


The Official Invitation:


You are invited to Puntcon, the fourteenth great geek punt picnic, taking place on or about the River Cam on the afternoon of Sunday 9 July 2017.


Full details are here on Eventbrite. There’s a Facebook event, too, for those who want it.


Although it says there are 250 tickets that is ‘nominal’ as it’s a big river… but Eventbrite needed a number 🙂


How it Works:


As before, turn up outside the Mill public house on Mill Lane between 1200 and 1230. We will head off  between 1230 and 1300 – if you are late you can walk up river and catch us as we don’t punt very fast!  We will be heading upriver rather than along the Backs – more picnic places, fewer tourists.


Bring something to drink and something to eat. Actually, bring a lot to eat and a lot to drink – it’s thirsty work!


Punts will be booked/organised/commandeered for you so you do not need to hire one. We will take as many punts as we need [one for every six/twelve people] and head up river to a convenient picnic place on Grantchester Meadows where we will eat/drink/carouse. Those arriving late can join us there.


Anyone can punt. Anyone can be shown how to punt. But you are not expected to punt.


We normally get back to Scudamores around 1800. Those heading back to the railway station can be dropped at a bridge within walking distance.


Post punting we have the option of retiring to the pub or a restaurant and letting Sunday evening happen around us.


How Much


There is no registration fee or indeed any other cost. Bring food and drink and entertainment. Punt fare will be split between all comers – works out at fifteen quid per person. Infants are not expected to contribute.


The Invitees


Please feel free to invite other people – it’s a big river and there are lots of punts. This page is here to give us a rough idea of numbers in advance so I know how much bread to get, but there’s a Sainsburys five minutes walk away anyway…


Some idea of who’s coming is available via the facebook. Book your spot in a punt via eventbrite.


So come along — it’ll be fun.






Bill and Sam


posted: 19 Jun 2017