No Kidding.

2014 年 5月底,一家香港的風險投資公司 Deep Knowledge Ventures (DKV) 宣佈認命新的董事會成員 VITAL (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences)。這個認命特殊之處在於 VITAL 不是一個有血有肉(flesh and blood)的人,它(他?她?)是一個演算法

同年九月,DKV 宣佈,引進他們的投資標的 Transplanetary 開發的演算法 SPOCK (Space Program Ontologically Computed Knowledge),評估航太(Space)相關投資案。

The Huffington Post 的專欄作者 John Bates 看到這情況,也湊趣的來一篇 I’m the Chairman of the Board

Yuval Noah Harari 一直在新書裡強調人類必須升級成 SuperHuman,要不然智人(Homo Sapiens)就變成廢人,當然不會放過這個機會,屢屢強調演算法總有一天會變成企業主 – 我們的老闆。

…the algorithms might not only manage business, but actually come to own them.

演算法可不可以擁有「法人」一樣的地位與權利,不是技術問題,牽涉到政經法律社會方方面面,鄙人不是專家不敢妄言。但一般實務界和學界對當下演算法究竟有何能耐的看法,大概和 Harvard Business Review 在 2016 年 1 月發表的文章 Algorithms Need Managers, Too 差相彷彿,演算法還是一個需要管教, 需要時時勤拂拭的東西。

Algorithms capable of making predictions do not eliminate the need for care when drawing connections between cause and effect; they are not a replacement for controlled experiments.

不過 Michael Luca & Jon Kleinberg 合作的這篇文章標題有個很微妙的隱喻( metaphor) ,若是需要時時勤管教的演算法多年媳婦熬成婆,從被管理(need managers)升級成管理者(manage others),變成你、我的上司了。有一天,演算法說不定真的可以擁有一家企業。 就像 Yuval Noah Harari 所說:

5,000 years ago much of Sumer was owned by imaginary gods such as Enki and Inanna. If gods can possess land and employ people, why not algorithms?

不要說不可能,如果沒有血肉的國家、社團、政黨可以擁有財產,演算法為什麼不行。如果蘇美人的神祇 Enki 可以任命(僱用)祭司代替他管理神廟和神廟的財產,演算法當然也可以。

如果你說技術的進展沒那麼快,擔心這個問題太早了,Yuval 早就想到你的辯詞,他說:

But it turns out that ‘for ever‘ often means no more than a decade or two.

總之,Yuval 新書的精神就是 How Humankind Could Become Totally Useless

Cases come to mind in which algorithms could discriminate against people in unlawful ways. Now, it is much easier to fix an algorithm than to fix a human being’s discrimination, because humans have a subconscious, which influences their decisions without them being aware of it. But the other side of the coin is that algorithms may come to recognize some pattern that makes no sense to human beings like race or gender or sexual orientation do — the algorithm discriminates against people, and we don’t know why.