Tag Archives: ethics

Women looking at security cameras by Matthew Henry

Why 2019 will be the year of ethical tech

For the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing a lot about big data.

“Data is the new oil!” said Clive Humby in 2006, after working on the Tesco Clubcard. And everyone agreed that data was a thing, and set off to find out how to make the most of it.

But the way in which our data is being harvested isn’t good. Because of course, since the early days of Tesco Clubcard, it always was our data that was the raw material: our decisions, our habits, our likes, the type of people we were and who we lived with.

These “insights” are now being used to drive psychological behaviour and we’re no longer talking just about marketing. We’ve moved beyond those clearly defined display ads. And way beyond which type of supermarket deal we might be interested in.

Politics and dark patterns

In her TED talk, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci says we’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads (she’s a great speaker, well worth 20 minutes). Technologist Jaron Larnier refers to the big tech companies as “Siren servers” – they use beautiful things to mask sinister motives. Last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned EU regulators that personal data is being weaponised against users, calling for tougher privacy laws in both Europe and the US.

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Dan meets Kate in The Circle - screenshot from All 4

When the catfish wins, everyone loses

I’m so gutted for Dan! He seemed like the one straight-up, trustworthy guy on Channel 4’s new reality show, The Circle (screenshot above). But Dan got nothing but public humiliation while his fellow contestant, Alex (aka “Kate”) walked off with the £75,000 prize.

In case you missed the show, which ended last night on Channel 4, here’s a summary: 8 contestants are holed up in an apartment block for 3 weeks, only able to communicate with each other via social media (using a specially made platform called The Circle). Every day they “rate” each other: the highest rated contestants become “influencers” and choose another contestant to “block” – or expel.

Fatal attraction

Dan and Kate quickly became friends, but Dan is being fooled. Kate is a catfish: she’s not a girl with a sweet face at all, she’s a “social media comedian” called Alex. At the end of 3 weeks, the highest-rated person wins. That person ended up being “Kate” (in part thanks to Dan’s consistently high ratings).

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Sofia the Robot at Cognition X

Robots, the universe and everything – CogX has it all

“I hope that one day you won’t take my job” says the journalist.

“I might reconsider” says Sophia the Robot.

Sophia’s comment is slightly threatening, but she follows it up with a super-sweet smile, and everyone laughs. [Watch the video]

That’s the thing about robots these days. They’re awkward, off-kilter, likely to come out with non-sequiturs, unpredictable in a cutesy way – but ultimately programmed to please and make us laugh.

Sophia the Robot is firmly in uncanny valley territory. Her skin is made of a flesh-like, nanotech material. She has cameras for eyes and a microprocessor for a brain. Her advanced AI (artificial intelligence) software enables her to have human-like conversations.

“Are you a person or a robot?” she asks the journalist. It seems like genuine curiosity.

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