Episode 206:  The threat of evil AI from outer space – or maybe a lot closer to home

Our interview features an excellent and mostly grounded exploration of how artificial intelligence could become a threat as a result of the cybersecurity arms race. Maury Shenk does much of the interviewing in London. He talks to Miles Brundage, AI Policy Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford and Shahar Avin of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and Research Associate at Cambridge. They are principal authors of a paper The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention and Mitigation. The discussion was mostly grounded, as I said, but I did manage to work in a reference to the all-too-plausible threat of a hacking, bargaining AI sent by aliens from other star systems.

In the news roundup, semi-regular contributor Gus Hurwitz does a post-mortem on the oral argument in Microsoft’s Ireland case. Maury notes that Google has issued its most detailed report yet on how it’s implementing the right to be forgotten. My takeaway: apart from censoring media in their own countries, everyone’s favorite censorship targets seem to be US sites. I am not comforted that 90 percent of the censorship stays home, since the rest of it seems aimed at keeping true facts from, well, me.

Gus evaluates the latest Securities and Exchange Commission cybersecurity guidance. Bottom line: no surprises, but a good thing nonetheless. I do a quick recap of the CFIUS butcher’s bill for Chinese deals. It’s every bit as ugly as you’d expect. The Xcerra and Cogint deals have collapsed over chip and personal data worries. The Genworth deal is on the bubble. And CFIUS is taking unprecedented action to intervene in the Qualcomm-Broadcom proxy fight.

Steptoe advisor Maury Shenk (right) with Miles Brundage and Shahar Avin

A new contributor, Megan Reiss, of the R Street Institute, unpacks a couple of new security industry reports covering the emergence of false flags at the Olympics and the increasingly blurred line between criminal and state cyberespionage.

Maury covers the latest EU effort to wrongfoot Big Tech over scrubbing terrorist content. And I try to broaden the point, noting that the idea of a tech “platform” immunity has begun to fray even in the US, the land of its birth.

For those listeners afraid to traverse the feverswamps of conservative media, I bring back a story that shows why the loss of Big Tech platform immunity is shaping up as a bipartisan issue. Would you believe that CNN has bought an industrial washing machine so that it can spin stories more efficiently before airing them?  Do you need Snopes.com to tell you that’s satire? Does anyone need an anonymous Big Tech finger-wagger to tell you it’s fake news and threaten the site with penalties for repeat offenses? If not, you can see the right is uncomfortable with Big Tech as media gatekeeper.

Finally, as a bit of comic relief, last week Edward Snowden took to Twitter to criticize Apple for posing as a protector of privacy while actually cozying up to a dictatorship. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with Megan Reiss

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback.  Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

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Download the 206th Episode (mp3).

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.