Update 30.04.19: If you are interested in learning more about the Fake News and the Truth Engine, do not miss Dr Cochrane’s talk in our next OSINT Training (11.06.19) at our headquarters in Vienna.
How to Build a Truth Engine
Teaser Interview with Peter Cochrane
Dr Peter Cochrane, Professor of Sentient Systems @ The University of Suffolk OBE, CEng, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc, CGIA, FREng, FRSA, FIEE, FIEEE, FITP will hold a keynote speech “How to Build a Truth Engine” at the conference “Fake News and other AI Challenges for the News Media in the 21st Century” (29.-30. November 2018, Vienna).
Dr Cochrane, a futurist, entrepreneur, business and engineering advisor to international industries and governments, was interviewed about the Fake News phenomenon, ways how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help with the issue and what social media providers could do to prevent Fake News from spreading.
Q: Based on your extensive experience in various fields, do you have a favorite area of interest that you keep returning to?
PC: Yes, I do, one of my favorite fields are sentient systems and sensors. Specifically, I am interested in the relationship between living things and intelligence, their modes of communication, connection and networking. These routes provide us with the opportunity to learn a lot about the resilience of evolutionary systems, and it is also entirely applicable to our technologies and networks.
We have entered an era where we can design and build extremely complex systems, but we have no means of comprehensively testing or predicting the outcomes with any precision, which is a big worry for engineers. We have to think and explore anew!
Q: According to your perception, what does Fake News actually mean?
PC: Fake News is probably the biggest threat to our species that we have ever encountered. I believe that it has the potential to do more damage than any other means of warfare.
Our civilization is built on a foundation of hard-won truths, facts, knowledge and wisdom and if this framework would be destroyed or distorted, a disaster will rapidly fill the void!
Q: Do you believe that Fake News is a concept that has always been part of a disinformation communication, or is it a new and more powerful tool that arose with the emergence of new media?
PC: Disinformation has always been a vital tool of warfare and Fake News has been around for thousands of years. Although, today’s scale is different, it is now visible on every screen in every home and office almost instantaneously.
We now have perception distortion on after-burners!
Q: Since AI can be used to create Fake News themselves, how can it be used to detect them?
PC: No doubt about AI being able to create Fake News!
The big problem is that Fake News is easily created and networked. Moreover, it does not need human energy or thinking to be accepted, therefore it can become really pervasive.
An AI defense will be expensive, difficult and slow to engineer. Furthermore, it will still demand that people think and reason, which can be a challenge. So, our defense has to be to seek out and destroy Fake News before it propagates and gets subsumed into the culture!
Q: What are the biggest technical challenges regarding the detection of Fake News?
PC: Much of the technology already exists in the form of over 160 Fact Checking organizations world-wide. Although, we need a comprehensive library of lies, a catalogue of liars, and a statistical ranking or truth index for all organizations and individuals, which could for instance look like this:
Washington Post ~ 98.4%
BBC, Economist ~ 98.2%
Reuters ~ 98.1%
New York Times, The Wall Street Journal ~ 97.5%
Q: Since your presentation would be about the construction of a Truth Engine, what are the technical challenges regarding this issue?
PC: Without doubt we face two big problems in creating effective Truth Engines. The first is the sheer scale of the problem in terms of information flow – the creation and distribution rate of Fake News. The second is human bias built into the AI engine.
The solution to both is the creation of many Truth Engines by different teams using different tech routes. This way we could cope with the scale and then detect any human bias and filter it out.
Q: How would the Truth Engine itself needed to be secured, so that the creators of Fake News would not construct their own “Truth Engine”, which would promote disinformation as “truth”?
PC: This is a conundrum (difficult problem, an editor’s note)! It is the ultimate and reductive scenario “Who watches the watchers?” Finding the solution to this challenge would need more time and human resources.
Q: If there was a perfect solution for detecting Fake News, do you think this should be accessible for anyone?
PC: Nothing is perfect, and there is no one all powerful solution. What we need is a broad spectrum of solutions that can evolve in response to the enemy.
And yes, we have to make this technology widely available and get it built into browsers and other applications as soon as possible.
Q: Do you think that social media providers should be more active in promoting truthful news through developing algorithms which will examine the content of the news?
PC: Yes, indeed. They have a primary responsibility and a key role to play here. Moreover, they also have massive resources to invest in the field.
Q: What are the possible threats of this kind of decision-making regarding “approved” news through social media providers?
PC: The possible threats are human bias, “political correctness” and a normalisation of truth in the fashion of Orwell’s 1984. It is very dangerous!
Q: According to your opinion, what could the future bring for the interaction of AI and news?
PC: The future could bring more considered and analytically broad and correct reporting devoid of human bias. Simply, facts without distortion!
Peter is an internationally sought after guru who invests his time and money as an agent of change. Renowned for his out of the box thinking, he is an advisor and consultant to companies and governments, the author of blogs, articles and books on technology, business and managing rapid change.
With over 40 years of technology and operational experience, Peter has been involved in the creation and transformation of corporations. His British Telecom career saw him progress to CTO with teams engaged in optical fiber, fixed and mobile networks, artificial life and healthcare, through to war gaming, eCommerce, and business modeling.
Peter has also spent time as an educator and was appointed Professor for the Public Understanding of Science & Technology @ Bristol (1998). He received the Queen’s Award for Innovation & Export (1990), numerous Honorary Doctorates and was awarded an OBE (1999) for his contribution to international communications.
Update 30.04.19: If you are interested in learning more about the Fake News and the Truth Engine, do not miss Dr Cochrane’s talk in our next OSINT Training at our headquarters in Vienna.
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