What is a Robot?

LolaMerle

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I noticed that when you see what members are online, like today it shows that there are 115 “Robots”. What does this mean?
 

JayCS

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Yeah, strange, isn't it...! But it's actually thankfully something making us aware that everything we write here is automatically "watched" by search engines and put there, everything is public. As opposed to other forums where it's possible to write posts that are only for members. People incl. us can find things we write using search engines, so this is becoming part of Big Data. That also means everything can be used by Artificial Intelligence to make profiles of us, even tho we are writing under pseudonyms. That may curb us from writing too much details about ourselves. Artificial intelligence is already being used everywhere and may help solve our health problems, but also used "against" us.
Jemima explains robots beautifully here Just having a bad day, for the last 4 months.... and here is another thread on privacy: Private Group?
 

Dooi

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Robots are most often just "crawlers" which are used by Google, Bing and other search engines to; visit website pages, read and index content, and then present links to this indexed content when people make searches for such content.
 

Dooi

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That also means everything can be used by Artificial Intelligence to make profiles of us, even tho we are writing under pseudonyms.
Yes, sadly, I don't think people realize just how powerful machine learning (ML) is when it comes to natural language processing and understanding. ML can read, comprehend, and write eloquent rebuttals and responses. These responses can ascertain opinion and write/respond for or against (just as an example).

Language processing has come a very long way in the past 10 years and there's hundreds of open systems that are free to access and use. Likely, the private systems we don't know about are even more powerful. Many of these systems are indiscernible from real human writings.

Here's a quick list of free language processing based on ML: Best Natural Language Processing software of 2022

NOT to be confused with the "robots" in the original question (these are just recognizable crawlers based on "browser headers"), almost anyone with a decent level of programming know-how can write quite sophisticated programs that can scour the internet, find conversations related to subject XYZ, and then write a unique response on the topic of XYZ in either a positive or negative fashion. The possibilities are endless.

Many "comments" and "responses" in live streams and even in things such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, are not necessarily real humans that are responding. Quite scary indeed. Especially when the vast majority of people reading such comments truly believe these responses have come from a real person.

Enter your "Black Mirror" conspiracy :)
 

JayCS

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Language processing has come a very long way in the past 10 years
Yup, incredible at what speed this "long way" was mastered.
10 years ago it seemed as if machine translation etc. were gonna take 20 years to get "pretty good".
Now deepl.com (deep L = "deep learning") can translate complicated academic texts pretty perfectly - you still have to look it over, of course, but the results are astounding.
Yep, above crawlers are only doing the "dirty work" of providing the Big Data for all kinds of application, language included...
 
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LolaMerle

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Thanks for the responses! I guess I’m one of those people who just don’t have much to worry about hiding. If a serious hacker decided to target me, they would be bored and uninspired 😳, and they certainly wouldn’t get rich! I‘m not on social media at all and keep a low profile online but I’m still not naive enough to assume “they” couldn’t find me. Such is the world now. (Oh boy, I just had a moment of paranoia that this message could show up somewhere and a hacker might be tempted… good grief!)
 

JayCS

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Hehe - no, it's not the usual hacker that's the problem - altho via phishing etc. it'd not nec. be one person/company that makes them rich, it can be the amount of small piles that may be worth it for them and maybe still harms us, because it still may be more than we have.

Hackers also let the machines do the work for them, so that's in common. But what the programs/computers called "robots" do is amass information, databases initially for search engines, so people & companies can find "everything", incl. us. The argument used to be that we are needles in a haystack and cannot be found in the vast amounts. But modern machines can find needles in haystacks in split seconds. It's just the question it it's worth it. And it is - tons of small and medium amounts. And the same way as it's completely normal now for companies to make use of our habits, what we buy etc. to try to sell us more, by analyzing what we search for and where we go on the web before and after that. This has become a completely "decent" way of making money. Those of us who don't use ad blockers may find an interesting health product placed somewhere for us to conveniently find, and placed in a way that they know that it will attract our attention and we may buy it even if it isn't worth it. And those who do use ad blockers may think they're safe, and may go to amazon and look for products and think they are getting the products there placed independently of who they are, which is dead wrong: Amazon uses loads of artificial intelligence to manipulate us into buying the more expensive products on the market, by hiding less expensive ones so they can only be found by experts (which is another of many reasons why I try to avoid that company where I can).
As I wrote in the other thread: In praps 20-30 years from now people like health insurance companies will be able to run machines over health forums, analyze the profiles of our pseudonym-personalities compare them to other data they can buy and their own (like my personal health profile, my writing style) and firstly use that to decide what kind of people should get what kind of things paid for and what not, or even deeper find out who we are and that we shouldn't get something paid for because of an attitude we showed or something we wrote on a forum. Everything we are writing now can already be part of that future database for a depth of analysis we can't begin to imagine today.
And - still on topic - our health systems, incl. how much money is spent on fibromyalgia, depend on political decisions, and it's become normal for politicians (at least in the US) to use machines to analyze and manipulate voters.... As @Dooi implied - what we read today has become even less necessarily what people really say or really think than it always has been....
 

sunkacola

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All of the above that Dooi and JayCS have written is all too true. Although personally I am of the opinion that it won't take another 20-30 years for health insurance companies to analyze content and use it to make determinations. I am pretty sure they are already doing it at least in the US. Everything that you write in a text or online is collected and used in one way or another. This is not conspiracy theory, it is fact. Possibly everything you say on a cell phone as well. We know that this can be done, and has been done by the US government in other countries (see: Ed Snowden), we just don't know for sure if it is still being done.

The scope and reach of what data analysis can do is far beyond what most people even imagine let alone consider when they are online. The invasion of privacy is actually far deeper than we tend to think it is, because those doing the collection of data on each of us as individuals have been doing it for far longer than we knew, and are far more advanced in what they do than we can conceive.

It doesn't matter if a person considers himself or herself "boring". All that data is being collected, analyzed, and stored anyway. this post of mine is being collected, analyzed, and stored. I know some people say "I have nothing to hide, so nothing to fear", but that is not the point. No one knows how all that data may be used right now or in the future. It might be used in a manner you appreciate, and it might not. And you will have zero control over who has it and how it is used. Nobody, unless they live entirely off-grid, has privacy any more. And even then, the powers that be know where you are and who in most cases.

My way of dealing with this, which I adopted a few years ago now, is just to accept it. There is literally nothing I or anyone else can do about it. Whether or not it affects me in a seriously negative way at some point is as much out of my control as the weather. So, while I am aware of it, and I accommodate for it, just as I do for the weather, I do not worry about it or spend a lot of time thinking about it. It is just a fact of existence today. A person may not like it, but there's no point in letting it get to you. That database that JayCS mentions is not in the future. It has been in existence for years already, and is only becoming more sophisticated.
 

LolaMerle

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My way of dealing with this, which I adopted a few years ago now, is just to accept it. There is literally nothing I or anyone else can do about it. Whether or not it affects me in a seriously negative way at some point is as much out of my control as the weather. So, while I am aware of it, and I accommodate for it, just as I do for the weather, I do not worry about it or spend a lot of time thinking about it. It is just a fact of existence today. A person may not like it, but there's no point in letting it get to you. That database that JayCS mentions is not in the future. It has been in existence for years already, and is only becoming more sophisticated.
I absolutely agree. This is the way I deal with it also. It’s a waste of time worrying about it.
 

JayCS

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Yes, I agree fully (i.e. was understating) that
- contents of "The Database" started even before the www in 1993, since things before then not only computer data, but all books, historic documents etc. are being digitally converted,
- all kinds of companies in the US and China are already letting artificial intelligence analyze content.
- it is important not to get anxious / worry about this.

3 differences I want to make:
- Artificial intelligence / machine learning is advancing this process light years faster in comparison to simple Big Data and Data Analysis.
- It does make a bit of a difference how much personal details we write publicly. I maybe write much too much here, altho on the other hand I use neither google (but duckduckgo or better European privacy search engines), nor facebook, nor whatsapp etc.
- As it is a political / ethical decision how freely we allow privacy, data collection and artificial intelligence to develop, I wish people everywhere could see, discuss & curb the dangers as much as we do in Europe/Germany and protect privacy as a human right more and not take its violation for granted, put up with, accept and even condone it.
 

LolaMerle

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As it is a political / ethical decision how freely we allow privacy, data collection and artificial intelligence to develop, I wish people everywhere could see, discuss & curb the dangers as much as we do in Europe/Germany and protect privacy as a human right more and not take its violation for granted, put up with, accept and even condone it.
Here in the U.S. it is impossible to get anything at all through Congress, especially anything regarding human rights and privacy protection. But I guess that’s another forum.
- It does make a bit of a difference how much personal details we write publicly. I maybe write much too much here, altho on the other hand I use neither google (but duckduckgo or better European privacy search engines), nor facebook, nor whatsapp etc
I am astounded at how much I see my 22 year old granddaughter sharing on every media format there is, and all of her friends do the same. Photos and every aspect of their lives. Really scary but she doesn’t listen to me (I’m her “Mom” because I raised her, plus her grandmother) and hasn’t since she was about 12. Oh well.
 

sunkacola

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As it is a political / ethical decision how freely we allow privacy, data collection and artificial intelligence to develop, I wish people everywhere could see, discuss & curb the dangers as much as we do in Europe/Germany and protect privacy as a human right more and not take its violation for granted, put up with, accept and even condone it.
Here's the thing, JayCS. While I agree with the sentiment of your post, it is not possible for us to protect the privacy that is already gone. Sure, we can talk about it all we want to (so far there don't seem to be any Thought Police :)
But there's no putting the vapor back into the bottle. It's not going to stop. Sure, you can say that privacy is a basic human right but that makes no difference. It's gone and isn't coming back. We do not have to condone it, but we do have to accept it because we cannot possibly change it. If your own country is not amassing data on you constantly (which I would strongly bet it is, in Europe and everywhere else) then other countries definitely are for their own reasons. Big business is world wide and they and governments, are collecting data on everyone. The time for curbing all of that was a long time ago. And we didn't curb it when we might have been able to because we did not even know it was happening.

So, while it is nice to think that is is a decision we make how much to "allow", our decisions are meaningless because they cannot change anything. It's like having a trunk full of counterfeit $100 bills. Sure, you have a trunk full of $100 bills. But you can't actually do anything with them.

Of course, if you have a big internet presence and put your life on display through social media you are just handing them everything and making it easier. I don't do that, myself. But there is nothing about you that they cannot find out if they want to. They know what you read, watch on TV or the internet, what websites you visit or contribute to, what you say on forums, what music you listen to, what you wear, how you vote, what you eat and everything you buy if you ever use a bank card or credit card. They know who you know, who you associate with, where you live, how much money you make and pay for rent or mortgage or food each month, what your house and car cost, how much money you have and what you do with it. You name it, they already know it. And additional to that, in many places you are on camera everywhere you go- walking. driving, entering any building.

This is why I say that the only thing we can do is accept the situation as it is, and "put up with it", meaning that it is a waste of energy to do anything but take it for granted at this point. Being against it is only something we can do on an intellectual level, and best not to put too much energy into it.

If a person has lived entirely off-grid for the past 20 years, they may be exempt from this. If you have lived completely off grid for 30 or 40 years, or were born off-grid with no birth certificate, then you are probably exempt from this. There are certainly people in places where that is the case. But if you are a regular person in the modern world using technology, you are in the spider's web. It's not all bad; there is some good to come out of it. I don't focus on the good or the bad, don't focus on it at all. I just let it be what it is.
 

JayCS

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A bit of philosophy again... ;-P

We can't change human nature in its thirst for knowledge, but we are always controlling it, so that is something we can & do change
Both "since" "Adam and Eve" "ate" from "The Tree" and then put their "Fig Leaves" on for their privacy.
Those seeking power keep looking for new ways how to use knowledge for their profit, those that want their privacy prosecute for it.
The reason we have been allowing it is that we're seeing/feeling/getting more advantages than disadvantages from the amassment.
The reason it seems so free, like a vapor, is that the majority in the US value and choose freedom more than privacy.
Whenever that tide changes this can be changed. The reason you can't see that is because the tide isn't changing much in the US.
Here in Germany CoV is encouraging more digitization. At the same time laws regarding privacy are getting stricter.
We can no longer burn every single copy of certain books on earth, like in the (legend of the) fire of Alexandrian library in 48 BC,
but we can and do use the same machines to reduce and make it hard to find and use the digital "carbon copies".
I can find some old webpages via the wayback machine, but it is possible to not only take sites offline,
but also delete web content to a practical and helpful extent, if there is enough will.
Same goes for any databases - regulations & human ethics can account for 90-95%, practice shows that works enough.
So some "vapor" can be put back into the bottle, a lot of it can be neutralized: enough. Once there's a will, there's a way.
Here we know and can influence what is allowed. In the US you can do much less.
To protect your privacy you'd need to read European information, use European search engines and e-mail accounts etc.
Whistleblowers like Snowden don't just show us "how bad the world is", they show us what you could do about it.

However, a much more important part of this is becoming aware that
machine learning is an exponential quantum leap away from simply amassing information,
it is possibly the most powerful instrument we have ever invented.
And much slicker / slyer than Thought Police!
The manipulation of thoughts since the last 3(+?) US elections is far greater
than any advertising or media control & normal fake news has ever been able to.
Thought Police is kindergarten.
The machines learn from any data they are given, apply what is wanted and spit out according recommendations
without the humans even knowing how & "why" they do it - better & better.
All humans need to do is adjust & push the machines in the right direction a few times as long as the results don't fit.
As @Dooi said, there are millions of robots in social media
to spread fake news and get people emotional, to influence their decisions. Dangerous enough without machine learning.
Almost since the beginning of the e-mails large scale scam mails used social engineering
to emotionalize some people to do rash things if they didn't realize in time.
But the more machine learning is used to steer any utterances,
the less anyone realizes there is something making them do it, because the machines can quickly learn how to do this.
So it's become much more dangerous with the use of machine learning, much harder to distinguish and a "black box" behind it all.
And yes, that genie is out of the bottle. But I don't think it's impossible to influence how it is used, same as fairy tale genies are "used".
However only if you really want and try to. My impression is that it is being trivialized in the US even more than other countries.
The majority is continually deciding to give it free play, altho they would know if they wanted to.
And that makes way for the belief that everything about it impossible to change, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy....
As long as people don't try it enough, this won't be realized.

All I'm writing here is something about me for machines to analyze once again -
I know they "know" and even "understand" that, and I know someone may try to use that on me and I'm tempting fate... ;->
 
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Auriel

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That was one of the earliest questions I asked when I joined 😂 I think I must have sounded like I’d been eating “special” mushrooms the way I phrased it 😮🍄 🌈
 

LolaMerle

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Now I'm curious to know how you phrased it! (Hmmm....maybe "special" mushrooms are the answer to fibromyalgia issues - who knows?!)

But I did hesitate to ask. :unsure: If I had thought about it for a while I think I would have figured it out.
 
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