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AI Government

Researchers Design Bot To Conduct National Security Clearance Interviews 102

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the why-do-you-say-you-are-not-a-threat-to-national-security? dept.
meghan elizabeth (3689911) writes Advancing a career in the U.S. government might soon require an interview with a computer-generated head who wants to know about that time you took ketamine. A recent study by psychologists at the National Center for Credibility Assessment, published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, asserts that not only would a computer-generated interviewer be less "time consuming, labor intensive, and costly to the Federal Government," people are actually more likely to admit things to the bot. Eliza finds a new job.
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Researchers Design Bot To Conduct National Security Clearance Interviews

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  • Hello Dave (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:37AM (#47515863)

    That's good, now tell me about your mother Dave...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...that believe in magic, like the Polygraph test being "scientifically" valid.

    The researchers concluded, in so many words, that national security clearance interviews can totally be outsourced to a computer-generated agent. That’s not an empty recommendation: The NCCA grew out of the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute and is still responsible for “lie detection” training for all branches of government. It's also tasked with developing new technologies for credibility assessment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Em Adespoton (792954)

      This is a murky field. A polygraph does present useful information; it's just not necessarily whether the person is telling the truth. The major decision part of any polygraph system is the operator, and they need to have sp,e training in physical psychology to be predictably any good at using the equipment.

      Seems to me that this new system falls into the same category. They'll be able to get some new data that would have been obscured before, but the interpretation of the data will still require an exper

      • Surely you can point us to a double blind study to quantify lie detector effectiveness?

        They don't exist? Because it's all just a prop to trick you into telling on yourself. No different than a copying machine set to produce pages that say 'he's lying'.

        It is an effective prop. But only for the uninformed.

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @11:53AM (#47516425)

          Surely you can point us to a double blind study to quantify lie detector effectiveness? They don't exist?

          Yes they do. The Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] lists several. What they find is that polygraphs work better than chance, but below perfection. They certainly don't provide the level of "beyond a reasonable doubt" required in a criminal court, and they can be fooled by a someone trained to deceive them. But for most people, they work most of the time. That is good enough for their use as a first level screening device. You would be an idiot to blindly accept their results, but you would also be an idiot to ignore the results completely.

          It is an effective prop. But only for the uninformed.

          Wrong. It takes more than just being "informed". To trick a polygraph takes training. So how many moles hoping to infiltrate the FBI are going to respond to a Craigslist ad for "Polygraph Deception Training"? Guess who places those ads.

          • They are better than chance if the individual is untrained at countermeasures and has no other conditions that might affect the test. Countermeasures are pretty easy to learn and widely available, with killing the placebo effect being a pretty good way to tip the scales by itself. Since a security clearance exists to prevent exactly that kind of person from having access to state secrets, they are useless to the point that giving them any kind of trust is a bigger threat to national security than most of
          • If you need practice taking polygraphs, there are many companies that will do them for you. Just don't tell them you are practicing. Tell them you suspect an employee is smoking pot etc then go in yourself.

            Did you read your own cite? It doesn't say what you claim it does. It says the opposite.

      • A polygraph can be good at determining if somebody's nervous, which is not a good indicator of truthfulness. It might be useful in questioning or interrogation by telling the interrogator when to press and when to let slide. This assumes that the guy being interrogated can't manipulate the machine into inaccurate readings, such as showing nervousness when being asked about something basically innocuous.

      • This is a murky field. A polygraph does present useful information; it's just not necessarily whether the person is telling the truth. The major decision part of any polygraph system is the operator, and they need to have sp,e training in physical psychology to be predictably any good at using the equipment.

        That's nice bullshit sandwich wrapped in pseudo-science bread you've got there.

        Polygraphs only work in the way that swinging a five dollar wrench at someone works. It convinces them to tell you what you want to know on their own because their afraid of it. That's it.

        The phrase "He failed/passed a polygraph" is the biggest load of shit in "law enforcement."

        • This is a murky field. A polygraph does present useful information; it's just not necessarily whether the person is telling the truth. The major decision part of any polygraph system is the operator, and they need to have sp,e training in physical psychology to be predictably any good at using the equipment.

          That's nice bullshit sandwich wrapped in pseudo-science bread you've got there.

          I disagree. As I stated, polygraph machines are NOT lie detectors; the fact that they've been popularized in this way is beside the point.

          Polygraphs only work in the way that swinging a five dollar wrench at someone works. It convinces them to tell you what you want to know on their own because their afraid of it. That's it.

          No; that's the way that polygraphs are usually used by government and law enforcement to get the answer they want. Polygraphs actually WORK by measuring your vitals and recording the information change over time. There's a huge difference there.

          And pretty soon, those health bands everyone's starting to wear will be indistinguishable from polygraphs; the only real diffe

  • Them interviewing us? Always thought it would be the other way around.

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:42AM (#47515915)

    From the Vice article, this sounds a lot like a robotic polygraph - the article directly mentions using "electrodes to measure cardiographic and electrodermal responses".. which is essentially what a polygraph does. I can't imagine that a robot will be any more effective at applying baseless pseudoscience than a human would - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the number of people who have their careers ruined due to a failed polygraph is higher with the robot than with a human "interpreter".

    Wouldn't it be much more efficient to just eliminate the polygraph altogether?

    • Re:Robo-Polygraph? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:49AM (#47515977) Homepage Journal

      You've got a mistake here.

      Polygraphs aren't "baseless pseudoscience"

      They're "Extremely unreliable devices based on a mixture of pseudoscientific assumptions and real biometrics". And the CIA isn't a court of law. They're aren't interested in finding the truth beyond a reasonable doubt. They're interested in pressuring you to tell them everything you can.

      • They're interested in pressuring you to tell them everything you can.

        No, they really seem to believe in the polygraphs. I know someone who was turned down for a job because the polygraph people thought she was lying about having never taken drugs. Knowing her it seemed remarkably unlikely that she had actually taken them.

        Basically they're filtering out all applicants who are bad at taking polygraph tests.

        That is one of the silliest hiring strategies ever devised.

        • by nabsltd (1313397)

          Basically they're filtering out all applicants who are bad at taking polygraph tests.

          Based on the massive number of lies the intelligence agencies have recently told and had pretty much everyone in Congress believe them, it looks like their hiring practices have paid off.

      • Yes, polygraphs aren't baseless pseudoscience, but basically all of their practical usage is baseless pseudoscience.
    • The "worth" of a polygraph lies in the subject's belief in its ability to judge his truthfulness. Basically it's a psychological tool. It's ability to discover lies relies on the subject's belief in the operator's "professional" ability and his faith in machines making no mistakes.

      One has to wonder whether that trick ever worked on someone in IT...

      • The "worth" of a polygraph lies in the subject's belief in its ability to judge his truthfulness. Basically it's a psychological tool. It's ability to discover lies relies on the subject's belief in the operator's "professional" ability and his faith in machines making no mistakes.

        The irony being, of course, that the type of absolute sociopath you would want to find/prevent from hiring with such a technique is exactly the person it won't work on.

        Which, actually, explains a lot about law enforcement types....

        • I think it kinda takes a sociopath to willingly work for the NSA these days...

          • Oh, so, functioning as designed.

            • Pretty much.

              Got a conscience? Second guessing your motivations? Questioning your actions? Sorry, you're no material for us.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        It's possibly a tool to decide if someone is compliant enough to put up with the test.

        I had a polygraph test once, for a summer job at Circle K (strange things are afoot there). Sitting in a motel room with a guy asking me strange questions about whether I had ever stolen anything. I didn't get the job.

    • That actually sounds interesting as they'll need to get a machine to be able to repeatedly interpret polygraphs when the current usage depends entirely on the examiner's judgement (or guesses).

      It should be relatively easy to fake a robotic polygraph - just clench your buttocks at the right time.
      • My guess is that once they realize people can just butt-clench (or more accurately, sphincter-clench) their way through the tests, they'll discard the polygraph robot and bring in Robo-Freud and his partner, Robo-Jung.

        "This unit believes you are clenching your sphincter because you are anally retentive. Did your mother not love you enough? Is that why you have a drug problem?"

      • They didn't mention the anal tension probe?

        Won't help, people will just put a thumb tack in their shoe instead. But feds will get jollys sticking buttplugs up interviewees. Remember these are wannabe feds, couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

      • just clench your buttocks at the right time

        At least some polygraph operators use pressure-sensitive seat cushions to detect gluteal muscle movement during a polygraph since that episode of P&T. (source: brother who took a polygraph for employment).

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Re 'Wouldn't it be much more efficient to just eliminate the polygraph altogether?"
      Not if your selling and using the kit at a state and federal level.
      The UK and other nations know you have to look at a persons life story, interview parents face to face, extended family, friends. School, local courts, chased down old paper records and build up a real generational life story of reading material, internet use, political ideas, faith, links to other nations, links to other nations faith, cash flow.
      The US fi
    • From the Vice article, this sounds a lot like a robotic polygraph - the article directly mentions using "electrodes to measure cardiographic and electrodermal responses".. which is essentially what a polygraph does. I can't imagine that a robot will be any more effective at applying baseless pseudoscience than a human would - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the number of people who have their careers ruined due to a failed polygraph is higher with the robot than with a human "interpreter".

      Wouldn't it be much more efficient to just eliminate the polygraph altogether?

      This isn't about efficiency. It's about removing the human element as much as possible, allowing those at the top to not worry that those underneath might slip one by them deliberately.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:44AM (#47515933)

    Sounds more like M-M-M-Max Head-Head-Headroom, to me.

  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:47AM (#47515957)

    Holden: You're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down...

    Leon: What one?

    Holden: What?

    Leon: What desert?

    Holden: It doesn't make any difference what desert, it's completely hypothetical.

    Leon: But, how come I'd be there?

    Holden: Maybe you're fed up. Maybe you want to be by yourself. Who knows? You look down and see a tortoise, Leon. It's crawling toward you...

    Leon: Tortoise? What's that?

    Holden: [irritated by Leon's interruptions] You know what a turtle is?

    Leon: Of course!

    Holden: Same thing.

    Leon: I've never seen a turtle... But I understand what you mean.

    Holden: You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back, Leon.

    Leon: Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden? Or do they write 'em down for you?

    Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.

    Leon: [angry at the suggestion] What do you mean, I'm not helping?

    Holden: I mean: you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?

    [Leon has become visibly shaken]

    Holden: They're just questions, Leon. In answer to your query, they're written down for me. It's a test, designed to provoke an emotional response... Shall we continue?

  • by khr (708262) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:47AM (#47515961) Homepage

    Can you make smoke come of it by saying that everything you say is a lie?

  • Obviously we don't want to be a culture all about draconian punishments that last forever. But that presents a real conflict. Suppose for a brief moment that you have a slot for one honors student in a scholarship situation that holds great promise for an applicant. You have two of the most perfect applicants that you will ever see and both have wonderful credentials that are far above any reasonable expectations for any student. Yet one student had a minor arrest for being drunk while in the nin
    • by retchdog (1319261)

      given your ridiculous hypothetical, i think i'd take the one with the minor arrest. it shows that he is willing to socialize and take moderate risks in a social setting, while still performing equally to the poindexter.

      on the other hand, even a 5-minute interview would probably give me more information than a list of mostly-bullshit "accomplishments", so whatever.

    • People aren't exactly equal, ever. You ignore the drunk in public ticket (or any other irrelevance) and look closer at actual qualifications.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Obviously we don't want to be a culture all about draconian punishments that last forever. But that presents a real conflict. Suppose for a brief moment that you have a slot for one honors student in a scholarship situation that holds great promise for an applicant. You have two of the most perfect applicants that you will ever see and both have wonderful credentials that are far above any reasonable expectations for any student. Yet one student had a minor arrest for being drunk while in the ninth grade. Isn't it fair to take the student with the perfect record? And what does it say about us if we allow a situation in which the less than perfect sometimes do better than those who are unblemished in any way? The problem is that we have very few people with stellar accomplishments and perfect social histories and they deserve the highest rewards whereas we have all kinds of people that have had a serious problem or two along the way who also may have great talents. Shouldn't we always strive to help the best the most? This line of though usually gets me some hate mail.

      A few observations that may explain the hate mail...

      First off, the hypothetical example you give sounds like you're talking about yourself which comes off as narcissistic and self serving. A perfect record doesn't mean an applicant never committed any crimes, it just means they never got caught. Your college scholarship example also favors people who apply right out of high school, less time to make a mistake that goes on your record. You also completely ignored that the privileged hire lawyers or pull stri

    • by geekoid (135745)

      How about we have a reasonable education for all? It turns out honors in High School is not a predictor of college success.

      " Shouldn't we always strive to help the best the most?
      define 'the best'? Is the person who never took a risk really the best?

  • How does it deal when I ask it what ketamine is?

  • by headhot (137860) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:53AM (#47516005) Homepage

    So when an idiot gets clearance, there is no one to blame? Remember the finger pointing after Snoden (not that he's an idiot) No more of that blame game with this! Problem solved.

  • First question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:57AM (#47516033)

    "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States..."

    Whoopsie, wrong questionnaire.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States..."

      Whoopsie, wrong questionnaire.

      Here is the form you were looking for: "are you or have you ever posted to Slashdot as Anonymous Coward? Ok next question: Are you or have you ever browsed slashdot at -1?"

      we have a subversive on our hands!!!

    • Seeing as the Communist Party was dedicated to the overthrow of the U.S. Government...what would you do?

      It's not a witch-hunt if there really were Communists in the State Department. Hint: there were.

      • The Confederacy was dedicated to the overthrow of the US Government and hundreds of thousands of them actually bore arms against that government, and they were less poorly treated than the "Communists" in the 1950s despite having been a far, far greater threat.

        So yes, it was a witch hunt. Just because a handful of them existed doesn't mean the measures taken were reasonable or proportional to the threat (which was zilch).

      • So? There are full blown fascists right now in the State Department, hellbent on derailing the United States Constitution and nobody gives a shit.

  • ... I could be pre-approved for head of the NSA.

  • See what you've done? No more contractor vetting. All those jobs ...

  • Earlier you said something about your Mother Russia.
    Please go on.

  • The researchers were hoping to leverage the power of presence: the idea that people recognize another sentient being in the environment, and are more responsive as a result. ...

    The interviewer isnâ(TM)t quite a sentient AI; it relies on a dialogue tree similar to telephone customer service: tell the computer all the simple things, then press 0 for a human to explain the story behind your streaking arrest.

    >
    In other words, it won't understand you, has a limited set of responses it knows how to deal w

  • It's pretty easy to program a gainsaying computer generated head. You could make it look like John Cleese...
  • ...that's all I need, an avatar to browbeat me for an hour over my poor credit history that is partially due to my poorly-paid job working on a government contract.

  • Hurry up Twinkie! http://propaholics.wolfchasers... [wolfchasers.com]
    *biddy biddy*
  • In the story anybody had to take some automated interview to get any job in government (including running for elections). You figure out quickly that only certain 'types' of people fit the mold, which was intended from the start but had unfortunate side effects. Unfortunately they are not the kind of people who where needed. And it brings about the end of civilization... While some kind of ersatz tech government is still present but everybody starves.
  • And it was soul destroying. Why not just use bots instead of employees? You're serving corporations whose three ring binder mentality is essentially robotlike? But the thing is... robots don't really care! So you could just save yourself a lot of bother by not doing any of it!
  • Just look at how well the robotic parole officer worked out for Matt Damon in Elysium.

You don't have to know how the computer works, just how to work the computer.

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