This is a moment to ask as we make the planet digital, as we totally envelop ourselves in the computing environment that we’ve been building for the last hundred years, what kind of digital planet do we want? Because we are at a point where there is no turning back, and getting to ethical decisions, values decisions, decisions about democracy, is not something we have talked about enough nor in a way that has had impact.
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I’m Elizabeth Feinler, usually known as “Jake.” That’s my nickname. And I ran the contract for the Network Information Center on both the ARPANET and the Defense Data Network back in the 70s and 80s.
What does it mean for human rights protection that we have large corporate interests—the Googles, the Facebooks of our time—that control and govern a large part of the online infrastructure?
Are there any limits to the connected workplace? Are there any concerns about the connected workplace? Is there any way in which you wouldn’t want either yourself or an employee to be connected? Are there any limits to the kinds of information we can gather in order to make our workforces more productive? In order to make our overall society more productive?
The Tyranny of Algorithms is obviously a polemical title to start a conversation around computation and culture. But I think that it helps us get into the cultural, the political, the legal, the ethical dimensions of code. Because we so often think of code, and code is so often constructed, in a purely technical framework, by people who see themselves as solving technical problems.
We know very little about complex financial systems and how systemic risk, as it’s called, is computed and how you would manage policies. And if you look back at the financial crisis, you can either say, as many economists do, “It all had to do with badly-designed rules,” which may be part of the story; it’s certainly part of the story. Or it may have to do with the interaction of those rules and human nature, like mortgage broker greed, optimism… And you see it not just in individuals who now have houses and foreclosure, but at the highest levels.
We all see the benefits of active safety systems in cars. But that same safety technology, if attacked, can actually allow you to immobilize a vehicle or even disable breaks while driving.