This article was originally written for the RE•WORK guest blog. This week YouTheData.com founder, Fiona McEvoy, will speak on a panel at the San Francisco Summit.
The world is changing, and that change is being driven by new and emerging technologies. They are evolving the way we behave in our homes, work spaces, public places, vehicles, and with respect to our bodies, pastimes, and associates. All the time we are creating new dependencies, and placing increasing amounts of faith in the engineers, programmers and designers responsible for these systems and platforms.
As we slowly begin to delegate tasks that have until now been the sole purview of human judgment, there is understandable trepidation amongst some factions. Will creators build artificially intelligent machines that act in accordance with our core human values? Do they know what these moral imperatives are and when they are relevant? Are makers thoroughly stress-testing deep learning systems to ensure ethical decision-making? Are they trying to understand how AI can challenge key principles, like dignity and respect?
YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a guest post by John Gray, the co-founder of MentionMapp Analytics. John is a media researcher and entrepreneur exploring how issues like the spread of misinformation, and the exploitation of personal privacy are eroding trust in our social institutions and discourse. He’s written numerous case studies and has co-authored “The Ecosystem of Fake: Bots, Information and Distorted Realities.”
“It’s the bad people with bad intent that’s causing the problem, not technology” – Shane Luke, Sr. Director of Digital Innovation, Nike
We exude data, like the sweat that streams off our skin. It’s the norm. Just as another new normal is the news of the latest PR tour by data breach apologists full like empty promises of “we’ll do better”. Like the soles of an ultra-marathoners shoes, the cliched technocratic mind-set of “moving fast, breaking things” and “asking for forgiveness rather than permission”, is beginning to wear thin.
We accept the devices in our pockets, and on our wrists, feet, and even our faces are communicating data. Yet the data they produce becomes a target for bad-actors. As technology weaves deeper into what we wear, there’s more to our fashion statements than meets the eye.
Cathy O’Neil’s now infamous book, Weapons of Math Destruction, talks about the pernicious feedback loop that can result from contentious “predictive policing” AI. She warns that the models at the heart of this technology can sometimes reflect damaging historical biases learned from police records that are used as training data.
For example, it is perfectly possible for a neighborhood to have a higher number of recorded arrests due to past aggressive or racist policing policies, rather than a particularly high instance of crime. But the unthinking algorithm doesn’t recognize this untold story and will blindly forge ahead, predicting the future will mirror the past and recommending the deployment more police to these “hotspot” areas.
Naturally, the police then make more arrests on these sites, and the net result is that the algorithm receives data that makes its association to grow even stronger.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still reverberating in the media, garnering almost as much daily coverage as when the story broke in The New York Times on March 17. Facebook’s mishandling of user data has catalyzed a collective public reaction of disgust and indignation, and perhaps the most prominent public manifestation of this is the #DeleteFacebook movement. This vocal campaign is urging us to do exactly what it says: To vote with our feet. To boycott. To not just deactivate our Facebook accounts, but to eliminate them entirely. Continue reading
Predictive, data-driven software is becoming ubiquitous, and as such our reliance upon it is steadily intensifying. The locus of knowledge is becoming external to us again for the first time since the onset of humanism in the 18th century, and we increasingly prefer the forecasts of artificially intelligent systems to our own experience or intuition.
Of all the arenas in which these predictions fascinate and compel our decision-making, perhaps the most prevalent are those that see algorithms foretell the behaviors of our fellow human beings. What they prefer, what they react to, where they go, who they’ll flirt with, whether they’re likely pay back a loan, or even commit a crime.
Quite simply, we are coming to believe that machines know us better than we can know ourselves. Continue reading
The rise and rise of tech, and the popularity of shows like Altered Carbon, is placing the idea of augmented humanity front-and-center. So-called “body hacking” is already popular enough to have its own annual convention, and well-respected AI pioneers like Siri inventor Tom Gruber have been evangelizing about technology that can, and will, be used to help humans achieve superhuman levels of cognitive function. Giving a TED Talk last year, Gruber asked: Continue reading
YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a guest post by John Gray, the co-founder of MentionMapp Analytics.
Love them or can’t stand them, cats and memes have clawed their way into our cultures. Undoubtedly there’s a hieroglyphic cat meme etched on a wall somewhere in the historical ruins of Egypt. Believing otherwise, is to suggest that ancient peoples were humorless. Amusement, cats and memes aren’t new cultural considerations, just like today’s misinformation problem – popularized as “fake news” – isn’t either.
As William Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We can’t escape the history of information and communication technologies, but we can choose to blithely ignore it’s evolution and the subsequent cultural, social, and political impact. Continue reading
It’s difficult to read, or even talk about technology at the moment without that word “ethics” creeping in. How will AI products affect users down-the-line? Can algorithmic decisions factor in the good of society? How might we reduce the number of fatal road collisions? What tools can we employ to prevent or solve all crime?
Now, let’s just make it clear from the off: these are all entirely honorable motives, and their proponents should be lauded. But sometimes even the drive toward an admiral aim – the prevention bad consequences – can ignore critical tensions that have been vexing thinkers for years.
Even if we agree that the consequences of an act are of real import, there are still other human values that can – and should – compete with them when we’re assimilating the best course of action. Continue reading
Remember VHS? Or downloading music onto your iPod? If you do, the chances are it doesn’t seem too long ago – and that’s because it wasn’t. At least not in the scheme of things.
Think about it.
Our ancestors were stuck with pen and ink for a good long while before those clacky, qwerty typewriters came along. Similarly, it took millennia for us to eventually switch our stirrups for steering wheels (and, alas, lose those well-honed riding skills!). In more recent history, video did indeed kill the radio star, and smartphones killed-off just about every other mode of communication…
But technological evolution does not end here. As we speak, AI innovators are dreaming up new ways to automate the daily processes we currently take for granted. So, as we forge ahead into a new(ish) world of bots and blockchain, which fundamental parts of our lives will soon seem as charming as carrying a handkerchief…?
(And what kinds of opportunities might emerge?) Continue reading
Jenny Morris – a disabled feminist and scholar – has argued that the term “disability” shouldn’t refer directly to a person’s impairment. Rather, it should be used to identify someone who is disadvantaged by the disabling external factors of a world designed by and for those without disabilities.
Her examples: “My impairment is the fact I can’t walk; my disability is the fact that the bus company only purchases inaccessible buses” or “My impairment is the fact that I can’t speak; my disability is the fact that you won’t take the time and trouble to learn how to communicate with me.”
According to Morris, any denial of opportunity is not simply a result of bodily limitations. It is also down to the attitudinal, social, and environmental barriers facing disabled people. Continue reading