How do we relate to technology? How does it relate to us? These are important questions, particularly in light of the increasingly ubiquitous and often hidden roles that modern computing technology plays in our lives. We have always relied on different forms of technology, from stone axes to trains and automobiles. But modern computing technology … More A Framework for Understanding Our Ethical Relationships with Technology
You have probably noticed it already. There is a strange logic at the heart of the modern tech industry. The goal of many new tech startups is not to produce products or services for which consumers are willing to pay. Instead, the goal is create a digital platform or hub that will capture information from … More The Logic of Surveillance Capitalism
Artificial intelligence is a classic risk/reward technology. If developed safely and properly, it could be a great boon. If developed recklessly and improperly, it could pose a significant risk. Typically, we try to manage this risk/reward ratio through various regulatory mechanisms. But AI poses significant regulatory challenges. In a previous post, I outlined eight of these … More Is Anyone Competent to Regulate AI?
The halcyon days of the mid-20th century, when researchers at the (in?)famous Dartmouth summer school on AI dreamed of creating the first intelligent machine, seem so far away. Worries about the societal impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) are on the rise. Recent pronouncements from tech gurus like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have taken on a dramatically dystopian edge. … More Is Effective Regulation of AI Possible? Eight Potential Problems
Algorithms are important. They lie at the heart of modern data-gathering and analysing networks, and they are fueling advances in AI and robotics. On a conceptual level, algorithms are straightforward and easy to understand — they are step-by-step instructions for taking an input and converting it into an output — but on a practical level … More How to Study Algorithms: Challenges and Methods
In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson…and our lives will be better for it. (Ginni Rometty commenting on IBM’s Watson) I’ve written a few posts now about the social and ethical implications of algorithmic governance (algocracy). Today, I want to take a slightly … More The Philosophical Importance of Algorithms
From the days of the Acheulean hand-axe on, humans have always had a symbiotic relationship with technology. How far will that relationship go? One haunting vision of the future is provided by the Borg — one of the main villains of the Star Trek universe. The Borg are a technologically advanced civilisation in which organic … More Is resistance futile? Are we already Borg?
Tal Zarsky is an expert in the legal aspects of big data and algorithmic decision-making. He recently published a paper entitled “The Trouble with Algorithmic Decision-Making” in which he tries to identify, categorise and respond to some of the leading objections to the use of algorithmic decision-making processes. This is a topic that interests me … More A Taxonomy of Fairness and Efficiency-Related Objections to Algorithmic Governance
Blockchain technology is at the heart of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Most people have heard of Bitcoin and some are excited by the prospect it raises of a decentralised, stateless currency/payment system. But this is not the most interesting thing about Bitcoin. It is the blockchain technology itself that is the real breakthrough. It not only … More Blockchains, Smart Contracts and Smart Property
I think metaphors are important. They can help to organise the way we think about something, highlighting its unappreciated features, and allowing us to identify possibilities that were previously hidden from view. They can also be problematic, biasing our thought in unproductive ways, and obscuring things that should be in plain view. Good metaphors are … More Five Metaphors for the Internet of Things