Thursday, January 29, 2015

Los Angeles County court spokesperson defines limits to use of social media by prospective jurors

In response to an inquiry by Etopia News, Mary Hearn, Director of Public Information at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center (formerly the Los Angeles County “Criminal Courts Building”) sent the following statement on Tuesday, January 27th:

“Regarding the use of social media by jurors, the restrictions pertain to jurors who are assigned to a case.  It does not appear that there are prohibitions regarding social media that apply to jurors not assigned to a case and serving in the assembly room.  

“There are prohibitions against unauthorized photography in the courthouse and against photographing jurors under any circumstances.  So, a prospective juror would not be permitted to take photos in the Jury Assembly Room or anywhere in the courthouse.

“It is Court policy not to authorize any proposal for research that involves questioning or interviewing any person summoned to serve or who is serving as a juror.  Therefore, when you are in the assembly room as a juror, you are prohibited from questioning or interviewing other jurors or 'acting' as a journalist.

“Regarding the use of automated profiling, or automated analytics, while the Court does not have a court-wide policy regarding attorneys’ use of such analytics, that does not preclude individual judges ruling on such matters in individual cases.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Federal Judicial Center reports that the extent of social media profiling employed during voir dire is unknown

According to “Jurors’ and Attorneys’ Use of Social Media During Voir Dire, Trials, and Deliberations,” A Report to the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management prepared by Meghan Dunn, Research Associate, Federal Judicial Center and released May 1, 2014:

 “Attorneys’ use of social media to research prospective jurors during voir dire is difficult to both detect and quantify; most judges do not know whether attorneys are accessing potential jurors’ social media profiles during voir dire, and most do not address the issue with attorneys.”

To access the entire report, and to see how infrequently judges report juror misuse of social media during trials, click here

Congressmember Schiff is giving “serious consideration” to a U.S. Senate run in 2016

A spokesperson for the potential campaign of U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) today issued this statement to Etopia News:

"Since Senator Boxer announced her retirement, I have been encouraged by many Californians to run for her seat in 2016.  As the opportunity to run for a California senate seat comes around very seldom and I would relish the chance to serve the entire state, I am giving the matter serious consideration.

"Last week, I was named to the top Democratic position on the intelligence committee, and I am deeply grateful for the confidence that my House colleagues have placed in me. The demands and responsibilities of this new position are considerable, and I hope to reach a decision in the near future after consulting with my family, friends and constituents."

Up until now, this race has been dominated by the presence in it of California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the decision not to contest the seat by billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lack of interest by government in regulating runaway AI exposed

So far, efforts by Etopia News to determine the views of elected California officials on the issue of regulating the development and implementation of advanced artificial intelligence systems have only revealed this is a subject not yet on the radar of those charged with protecting the public from possible negative side-effects from building software that can outperform humans at most jobs and get into all manner of other mischief, even if it doesn’t evolve into Skynet or the Matrix.

From newly-elected California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, came this reply to an inquiry about what the state legislature might be considering by way of regulating powerful computer systems capable of simulating human-level intelligence, or self-evolving into systems much more intelligent than humans:

“As for high-level intelligence, frankly, that’s not an issue that’s come up during the seven days we’ve been in session. Maybe someday soon but for now we’re tryin’ like heck to get our heads around tax reform, energy, local guvment, etc. “

Aurelio Rojas, a spokesperson for California State Senator Jerry Hill, who represents a large swathe of Silicon Valley, shared by phone the general proposition that the slowness of the legislative process, being more cumbersome than the process of technological innovation, results in some problems not being addressed until after they manifest themselves acutely.  In the case of a self-aware computer system, waiting until after it’s operational might mean it’s too late to do anything about it.

Rojas also pointed out that electeds tend to respond more actively to issues that are raised by organized groups of their constituents, and that no one has yet come to Senator Hill asking that he look into the questions of regulating super-intelligent computers or preventing a runaway AI.  No one is asking for public hearings on the subject or asking for specific safeguards against powerful AI systems that could and might routinely violate personal and commercial privacy and cause other negative effects.

There is massive public concern about privacy violations via computer-based surveillance, but the opposition to this surveillance is based on worries about the privacy violations, not the existence of the AI systems that make them possible.  This is only one of the things that powerful AI can get up to.  Greater interest from electeds could go some way towards igniting the effort to regulate runaway AI, even if they haven’t yet received calls and e-mails from constituents urging them to look into this emerging threat. 

It is, in short, a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate exactly those qualities of foresight, understanding, and action that constitute true leadership. .