As a researcher who has spent some time working on AI and Robotics I naturally tend to notice when AI gets discussed in the news. Over the last couple of years, social media and software companies have all started to invest heavily in AI research such as Google’s purchase of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, Facebook, as well as Microsoft, Apple and IBM’s Watson and Deep Blue of course. Partially in response to this, research institutes (e.g. Future of Life institute, Future of Humanity institute, Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI)) and well known scientists and industrialists (e.g. Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark, Elon Musk and Bill Gates) have launched various campaigns and given media interviews to raise their concerns about the possible extinction level threat posed by the possible rise of Superintelligent AI.
As social media relentlessly works to establish itself as a mainstay in all aspects of our communication, three consequences become increasingly evident: the constant remapping of social media to serve new purposes threatens to make digital competencies a requirement even for those who currently consider themselves safe from it; the more social media develops in complexity and utility, the more it reveals new associated dangers; there are tremendous intellectual and economic opportunities stemming from the need to address both these issues.
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A mere 25 and a half years have past since the birth of the World Wide Web, currently being celebrated at the Web We Want festival in London. Based on the tone of discussions at the festival today one could certainly be forgiven for coming away with the impression that in this short time the Internet, and the web it supports, has transitioned from a lawless virtual Wild West inhabited primarily by free-spirited, slightly anarchistic, computer geeks into a feudalistic patchwork of fiefdoms, each controlled by a multinational corporation that is rapidly building ever larger walls to shield its user/inhabitants from the dangers of the free and wild internet beyond their control.
This week saw the launch of the Apple Watch, one more product in a growing number of “smart” sensor rich devices that promise to make life easier and better by monitoring user behaviour. Will the Apple Watch be a game changer among these devices? Technologically, the only really new sensor included in the watch that wasn’t already in smart phones appears to be the LED based heart rate sensor, which for some reason is receiving relatively little attention in the popular tech magazines. The Apple marketing machine, however, may prove to be a game changer in terms of popularity of such devices. What might the consequences be if wearable, sensorized, tech truly does become the next big consumer trend?
Over the last couple of years concerns about privacy and control of personal data have increasingly moved from the fringes of the hacker community (e.g. Chaos Computer Club) to the mainstream, driven there by seemingly endless reports of ethically questionable treatment of personal data by (social media) companies, the introduction of increasingly powerful ‘smart’ devices that capable of deep intrusions into people’s private lives, and seemingly never ending reports of privacy invasive behaviour by spy agencies.
The EU regulatory framework for protection of personal data is undergoing major reform in order to tackle persisting differences between national data protection regimes across the EU. Additional objectives of the reform include strengthening data protection in line with its status as a fundamental right in the EU constitutional order, increasing public trust in online services, and minimising data controllers’ compliance burdens. As part of this reform the European Commission issued a proposal in 2012 for a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is to replace the current Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC).
As part of the continuing theme on Data Driven Innovation, Nesta published an article on their blog with the title “Striking a balance: Data protection vs. Data Driven Innovation”. In it they call for a debate for establishing the right balance between data protection and data driven innovation, to ensure that the UK economy does not suffer but also that personal data is not misused.