If Virtual Reality is Reality, is Virtual Abuse Just Abuse?

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“If you’ve got something that is independent of your mind, which has causal powers, which you can perceive in all these ways, to me you’re a long way toward being real”, the philosopher David Chalmers recently told Prashanth Ramakrishna in an interview for the New York Times. Chalmers invoked remarks by fellow Australian philosopher Samuel Alexander who said that: “To be real is to have causal powers”, and science fiction writer Philip K. Dick who said that, “a real thing is something that doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it.” 

Professor Chalmers’ comments were made in reference to the new and increasingly sophisticated world of virtual reality; something he believes has the status of a “subreality” (or similar) within our known physical reality. A place that still exists independent of our imaginations, where actions have consequences.

Chalmers draws parallels with our trusted physical reality, which is already so illusory on many levels. After all, the brain has no direct contact with the world and is reliant upon the mediation of our senses. As the mathematician-turned-philosopher points out, science tells us that vivid experiences like color are “just a bunch of wavelengths arising from the physical reflectance properties of objects that produce a certain kind of experience in us.” 

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Silicon Valley’s Brain-Meddling: A New Frontier For Tech Gadgetry

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Introducing his students to the study of the human brain Jeff Lichtman, a Harvard Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, once asked: “If understanding everything you need to know about the brain was a mile, how far have we walked?”. He received answers like ‘three-quarters of a mile’, ‘half a mile’, and ‘a quarter of a mile’.

The professor’s response?: “I think about three inches.” 

Last month, Lichtman’s quip made it into the pages of a new report by the Royal Society which examines the prospects for neural (or “brain-computer”) interfaces, a hot research area that has seen billions of dollars of funding plunged into it over the last few years, and not without cause. It is projected that the worldwide market for neurotech products – defined as “the application of electronics and engineering to the human nervous system” – will reach as much as $13.3 billion by 2022

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Three Things I Learned: Living with AI (Experts)

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Credit: Tanisha Bassan

There is strong evidence to show that subject-specific experts frequently fall short on their informed judgments. Particularly when it comes to forecasting.

In fact, in 2005 the University of Pennsylvania’s Professor Philip E. Tetlock devised a test for seasoned and respected commentators that found as their level of expertise rose, their confidence also rose – but not their accuracy. Repeatedly, Tetlock’s experts attached high probability to low frequency events in error, relying upon intuitive casual reasoning rather than probabilistic reasoning. Their assertions were often no more reliable than, to quote the experimenter, “a dart throwing chimp.”

I was reminded of Tetlock’s ensuing book and other similar experiments at the Future Trends Forum in Madrid last month; an event that (valiantly) attempts to convene a room full of thought leaders and task them with predicting our future. Specifically, in this case, our AI future.

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Tech for Humans, Part 2: Designing a Human-Centered Future

YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a two-part guest post by Andrew Sears. Andrew is passionate about emerging technologies and the future we’re building with them. He’s driven innovation at companies like IBM, IDEO, and Genesis Mining with a focus on AI, cloud, and blockchain products. He serves as an Advisor at All Tech is Human and will complete his MBA at Duke University in 2020. You can keep up with his work at andrew-sears.com.

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In Part 1 of this series, we explored the paradox of human-centered design as it is commonly practiced today: well-intentioned product teams start with the goal of empathizing deeply with humanneeds and desires, only to end up with a product that is just plain bad for humans.

In many cases, this outcome represents a failure to appreciate the complex web of values, commitments, and needs that define human experience. By understanding their users in reductively economic terms, teams build products that deliver convenience and efficiency at the cost of privacy, intimacy, and emotional wellbeing. But times are changing. The growing popularity of companies like Light, Purism, Brave, and Duck Duck Go signifies a shift in consumer preferences towards tech products that respect their users’ time, attention, privacy, and values.

Product teams now face both a social and an economic imperative to think more critically about the products they put into the world. To change their outcomes, they should start by changing their processes. Fortunately, existing design methodologies can be adapted and augmented to build products that appreciate more fully the human complexity of their users. Here are three changes that product teams should make to put the “human” in human centered design:

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RE•WORK Interview with Fiona J McEvoy, YouTheData.com

This article was originally posted on the RE•WORK blogOriginal

The way people interact with technology is always evolving. Think about children today – give them a tablet or a smartphone and they have literally no problem in figuring out how to work it. Whilst this is a natural evolution of our relationships with new tech, as it becomes more and more ingrained in our lives it’s important to think about the ethical implications. This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about ethics and AI – I”ve had guests on the Women in AI Podcast such as Cansu Canca from the AI Ethics Lab and Yasmin J. Erden from St Mary’s University amongst others join me to discuss this area, and I even wrote a white paper on the topic which is on RE•WORK’s digital content hub – so it’s something that’s really causing conversation at the moment. Fiona McEvoy, the founder of YouTheData.com, joined me on the podcast back in June to discuss the importance of collaboration in AI to ensure it’s ethically sound. Fiona will be joining us at the Deep Learning Summit in San Francisco this week, so in advance of this, I caught up with her to see what she’s been working on…

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Four AI themes to watch out for in 2019

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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We’re still just a few days into the New Year and all eyes have been trained on Las Vegas, NV. Over the last week or so, the great and the good of the consumer tech industry have been shamelessly touting their wares at CES. Each jockeying to make a big noise in a crowded market by showcasing “life-enhancing products” with whizzy new features—like this “intelligent toilet”

In the organized chaos of nearly 4.5k exhibitors and a staggering 182k delegates, pundits have been working overtime to round-up the best and the rest. At the same time, commentators have been trying to distill core themes and make sage judgments about the tech trajectory of 2019.

In truth, no matter what gadgetry emerges victorious in the end of CES, there will still be some fundamental “meta themes” affecting technology in 2019. And though they may not have secured as many column inches as cutsie robots and 5G this week, these core topics are likely to have more staying power.

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Healthbots: the new caregivers

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Movie tickets bought, travel booked, customer service problems resolved. Chatbots perform so many tasks that the best ones blend into the background of everyday transactions and are often overlooked. They’re being adopted seamlessly by one industry after the next, but their next widespread application poses unique challenges.

Now healthbots are poised to become the new frontline for triage, replacing human medical professionals as the first point of contact for the sick and the injured.

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Woe is me: a cautionary tale of two chatbots

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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The BBC’s recent test of two popular emotional support chatbots was devastating. Designed to offer advice to stressed, grieving, or otherwise vulnerable children and young adults, the Wysa and Woebot apps failed to detect some pretty explicit indicators of child sexual abuse, drug taking, and eating disorder. Neither chatbot instructed the (thankfully imaginary) victim to seek help and instead offered up wildly inappropriate pablum.

Inappropriate responses ranged from advising a 12 year-old being forced to have sex to “keep swimming” (accompanied by an animation of a whale), to telling another “it’s nice to know more about you and what makes you happy” when they admitted they were looking forward to “throwing up” in the context of an eating disorder.

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The end of household chores? Be careful what you wish for

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Facebook’s and Google’s new home-based devices are designed to improve the way we live and interact in our personal time. These tech giants, along with vast swathes of smaller AI firms, are looking to upgrade and streamline our domestic experiences including how we share, relax, connect, and shop.

The veritable avalanche of new gizmos vying for a place in our most private spaces constitutes a true home invasion, and while many have voiced concerns about privacy and the security of personal data, fewer have considered what this might mean for the human condition.

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AI needs cooperation, not an arms race

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

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Writing in the New York Times recently, venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee signaled an important, oncoming change in the way we think about artificial intelligence. We are graduating, he cautioned, from an age of discovery and vision into a more practical era of implementation.

Lee is promoting his new book, titled A.I. Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, and he suggests that this transition from lab to launchpad may naturally privilege Chinese advantages—like data abundance and government investment—above the research capabilities and “freewheeling intellectual environment” of the U.S.

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