Algorithms and ethics

I’ve noticed amongst some digital scholars and critics a renewed interest in algorithms, e.g. people worry that Facebook’s “algorithm” skews what we read online towards the controversial and hence colours people’s politics. The concern is mainly over algorithms that “learn” from large amounts of data about us — in other words machine learning algorithms. A…More

Bulk data collection and privacy

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said that when crossing a busy road he instinctively looked away from oncoming traffic for fear of having his image captured on a dashcam. People are more easily recognised face-on than in profile. That short observation from his book Permanent Record delineates some salient themes in the so-called smart city: risk,…More

Getting what he deserves

Gamification draws on a narrow understanding of game play: keeping score, leaderboards, rewards, competition, incentives of various kinds. In fact, stripped of ludic graphics and quirky interactions, gamification typically follows processes derived mostly from accounting: the technology of the ledger, or bookkeeping, more specifically double-entry bookkeeping. Gamification through the ages By most historical accounts this…More

Executive secrets

Who doesn’t want some unstructured time, especially at work! The gaps in the US President’s daily schedule surfaced again this week. 60% of his time is labelled “Executive Time.” Like many others, I’m content to attribute his work patterns to sloth, contrarianism, disorganisation, and tv addiction. (See Axios article.) The main defence from his PR…More

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other…More

Families and crime: Kompromat 102

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” said convicted felon Michael Cohen, “I put family and country first” (ABC article). This is clearly no legal defence, but an attempt at public sympathy at least. He loves his wife and kids. How bad can he be? Loyalty to family…More

Millennials and Morals

In the opinion of most people, millennials are tech-savvy, materialistic, selfish, lazy and arrogant — according to a 2016 Ipsos global trends survey. By way of contrast the same survey showed how the previous, baby boomer generation identifies itself as respectful, work-centric, community-oriented, well-educated and ethical. The Ipsos report provides some global evidence to correct…More

Least commitment principle

The least commitment principle is one of several strategies people use when they make plans, such as preparing for a day’s outing. The principle gained currency in the 1980s in the early days of artificial intelligence research. It simply means to prioritise tasks in such a way that you keep certain decisions about resources and…More

Cracks and flaws

I enjoy Keith Olbermann’s weekly YouTube tirades against the US presidential incumbent, who he describes as “f*cking crazy.” See The Resistance with Keith Olbermann. Crazy is what you say about old ships “Full of cracks or flaws; damaged, impaired, unsound; liable to break or fall to pieces; frail, ‘shaky’” (OED). The metaphor translates to a state…More

Pointlessness

“What is the average weight of residents of Vienna with telephone numbers ending in ‘3’?” In arguing for clear logic, the prominent philosopher and logician Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) cited the question above as pointless (p.61). Who cares, and who really wants to know anyway! Of course, with the data deluge of the digital age, even…More