Denial of Judgment and Responsibility
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Categories: Modern, Not an expert

Denial of Judgment and Responsibility

a postwar printed document with a sign in capital letters: A compter can never be held responsible, therefore a computer must never make a management decision
IBM understood the issue and the stakes in 1979! This image seems to come from a random social media post by on 17 February 2017 ( via a blog but I am sure I heard the principle in my days in computer science.

Since 2020 I am trying not to talk about corporate social media but I want to record this thought. Authors are seeing books appearing on with their name and titles but a text generated by chatbot. Scammers hope that people will buy these books thinking they are the real thing. People who buy consumer goods on Amazon are seeing a lot of knockoffs with random strings of letters for a brand name; the people who sell these goods focus on search-engine optimization, buying positive reviews and suppressing negative ones, and other marketing tricks rather than on making good products. And of course sites like Facebook gladly sell ads promoting hate, and suggest genocidal propaganda in users’ feeds, while claiming that they are not responsible for what users post and that they carefully vet ads before accepting them.

The common thread in all of these is that the companies deny human judgment and responsibility. Those cost money and can get in the way of doing some kinds of business. You can see the same idea in some blockchain scams which promise ‘smart contracts’ which are fully automated and autonomous (in practice this means that if there is a bug in your contract, money can be permanently locked inside, or people of bad will can steal it). You can make a lot of money by refusing to take responsibility (“we are just an intermediary; our content-moderation team will investigate your concerns; to dispute a sale, please call …”) But at some point, the market or the communication starts to fall apart without systems of mutual verification. As big web service companies get more desperate for ever-higher proffits, I think many of them have already crossed into the territory where things fall apart.

(scheduled 8 August 2023)

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