Thursday, November 3, 2016

Singularity Watch: National Review fail of the week

Corporate overlord: The Colossus of Rhodes as visualized in the 1911 Grolier Encyclopedia, via Wikipedia.

National Review's human exceptionalism troll (I'm not kidding, that's really a thing, situating anti-abortion arguments in a frame of hysterical H. sapiens species patriotism) Wesley J. Smith has found something new to panic about:
In order to receive a patent, the subject of the protection must be a human invention.
Some want to change that and allow computers programmed to “artificial intelligence” sophistication to receive patents. From the Science Daily story:
New research published by the University of Surrey in Boston College Law Review is calling for inventions by computers to be legally granted patents.
The research states that the rapid increase in computer power is posing new challenges when it comes to patenting an invention. Artificial intelligence is playing an ever larger role in innovation — with major players such as IBM, Pfizer and Google investing heavily in creative computing — but current patent law does not recognise computers as inventors.
Without a change in the law, the findings warn that there will be less innovation, caused by uncertainty, which would prevent industry from capitalising on the huge potential of creative computers. We are also likely to see disputes over inventorship, with individuals taking credit for inventions that are not genuinely theirs.
Baloney. If a computer’s programming is so sophisticated that it can “invent,” the patent should go to the copyrighted software designer or the owner of the machine. After all, it would be their inventions (or property) that actually enabled the patentable discovery to be made.
Scary picture, huh? Computers will be collecting royalties! What are they going to do with the money? Buy themselves stuff—paintings, rare wines, that farmhouse in Tuscany—or invest it in mutual funds, amass some kind of estate to leave the little pads and phones. Or they could end up owning companies! Your boss could be a computer!

And human exceptionalism could be down the toilet (like the 30% of human fetuses that vanish in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in many cases without the woman even being aware she's pregnant, apparently for God's personal amusement) before we even realize what's going on! It's the Singularity, and this is how they'll take over!

Or not. Like if you weren't so easily spooked you could try reading down to paragraph 3 of the Science Daily piece:
Ryan Abbott, Professor of Law and Health Sciences at the University of Surrey's School of Law proposes that non-humans should be allowed to be named as inventors on patents as this would incentivise the creation of intellectual property by encouraging the development of creative computers. By assigning ownership of a computer's invention to a computer's owner, he argues, it would be possible to reward inventive activity which happens before the invention itself.
Take a deep breath, Wesley, nobody's planning to give those computers any money. It's just for the idle rent-seekers, like always.

Except, you know, that the computer's owner is more than likely to not be a human either; it's going to be a corporate entity of some kind, a publicly held company or research institution. That's the real Singularity I've been warning you about, where large corporations, embodied perhaps in their intranets, acquire the ability to act autonomously, stalking their prey and managing their reproduction, developing perhaps a second-order consciousness and ruling the world. Why shouldn't they own computer-invention patent rights? They already own the rights to the human inventions!

But you capital-loving conservatives won't listen.

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