Friday, June 20, 2014

35 years of irresponsible research

Yesterday, I went to the very cool science museum london future room to attend the very cool Responsible Innovation project's flagship event showing off their rather good ideas on how we in the tech sector (the hated ICT term unfortunately due to funding agency's presence) should include some sort of notions of responsibility (e.g. to people, e.g. ethics and society) into our work in innovating (i.e. don't just do it because you can, but choose what to do because you should and what not to do because you should not:)

being a grumpy old git yesterday, I had to intervene in various curmudgeonly ways, but on the whole, I thought the proceedings were constructive, optimistic and helpful, and surprisingly, a lot of people in the audience seemed positive too:)

So here's some comments on the event

Marina Jirotka (University of Oxford) introduced the project - a few things I didn't like
1/ they were filming and we were told if we didn't want to be filmed, not to ask questions - that's a bit of a technology fail up front:)
2/ the noise level fro mkids running around in the science museum would have made life difficult for anyone with significant hearing loss (e.g. me, which is why i was sitting in the front row being annoying)

Marina showed a REALLY cool video showing affective robots as a use case example of hat can be good, but then bad - i didn't say it at the time, but Robots have been done to death in the Sci Fi (our ethical storifiers) community - not just going back to the Golem of Prague, but Asimov's Zeroth law, and then things like Aliens Synths (good and bad in Alien 1 and 2) and BLade Runner's Replicants (and Philip K Dick's dissection of what makes us human and them not (empathy!). and even humans falling in love with robots (see one of the original I Robot stories - or for a more oblique version, see John Wyndham's story abotu smart monkeys painting and revealing adultery in a family) see also Sladek's Roderick & Roderick at Random for a lot of discussions of robots in society
Indeed, one distinguishing feature of the Geek/Tech (ICT) sector is the addiction of many practitioners to the morality tales that we get from 100 years of Sci Fi (HG Wells, Jules Vern to Star Trek and Dr Who - many featuring techno ideas 50 years before they are realized, with a full exploratory discussion of their pros and cons - for more recent stuff, look at Pat Cadigan's  work, e.g. Synners or Charlie Stross's Accelerando....for other areas of concern including mixed reality and new economic forms...or even Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
 Sir Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton)
Sir Nige is ever the optimist - I asked him about being forgotten - why do we need to save everything personal - he bought up the difference between Commons and Public goods and private goods (see question later about 17th century models:) which was a good answer - I asked why we just talk about data and not just processing - for example, why can't I direct th digital camera stream to my phone (which knows where I am in the room and has enough processing to remove the pixels with video of me and send back to the net without me, for example - many other examples, given the copious amount of CPU cycles out there where we could personalize and filter the interweb in ways that reflect our preferences for what is seen by who about stuff that concerns US! we could even build Social Machines (e.g. for democratic or dictatorial households or meetings) to determine what rules for processing and storage apply:)
Note, Technicolor routinely customies digital movies for over 30 different locales in europe (e.g. substitute for a coke can, Orangina in France, or IrnBru in Scotland) - so substituting for my image in known location in a (fixed) camera view is really quite trivial:)
 Artist display - Barbara Gorayska - quite a cool performance/installation in the break
PANEL: How do we innovate responsibly in a digital world?
Lizzie Coles Kemp (Royal Holloway, University of London) - great synthesizing chair person!
  • Daniel Stauffacher  (ICT4Peace) - very cool stuff - like the IRTF's GAIA group (see research group which will meet soon )
  • Derek MacAulay  (Horizon Institute, University of Nottingham) -- Gave a nice chat about Horizon model of personal cloud etc 
  • John Hand  (EPSRC) - the funders viewpoint - I mentioned the NSF as an Ethics for STEM programme that's more general that EPSRC should look at...
  • Anthony House  (Google) quoted Tim O'reilly "Create more value than you capture" and also got asked a great question about breaking concrete that cements us to 17th century values:)
  • Judy Wajcman (London School of Economics) - a GREAT talk about women and about time (why should everything that's faster be better:)

Q&A:  Questions to the panel
I asked "since many areas like banks/finance, government/war, pharma/medical, energy/global warming, as well as cloud/privacy, don't take ONE BLIND BIT OF NOTICE of what would be socially responsible, why should we in the tech (ICT) community bother?
Several questions followed, which were a bit less blunt....

The gist of the answers was that we could lead/set an example, but also that businesses if large need to keep their brand clean so theres is mileage (economic) in being ethical, plus small outfits would like help ("tell us what to do")

of course, not just being motivated by profit (Pikketty got namechecked) was good - i'd have love to have heard Precariat views too:)
 WRAP UP: Tristram Riley-Smith (University of Cambridge) wrapped up with the Science/Evidence-> Policy story which was good stuff

I'd have like to have heard about making the law responsibile too (GCHQ said "we don't break the law" - not on paper, bt in a moral sense they do:)
[shout out here to PIs Campaign to test this in European Court

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Duty Cycles Finished

We depend more and more on Solid State Storage, and more and more devices use rechargeable batteries.

What if one day, everything went wrong at the same time?

Why this is not unlikely?

Simple - the devices are made and sold in batches. They have a duty cycle limit (there are a maximum number of write cycles you can apply to Flash memory and there are maximum number of discharge/recharge cycles you can run a battery through). The chances are likely because of the law of large numbers - most people buy things at xmas or other holidays, so manufacturing and usage are synchronised.

Devices (like cars) are built so that components fail on the guarantee lifetime boundary (or just after).

The law of large numbers (central limit theorem) says that this is something that will apply to lots of stuff....

So picture this (cue Blondie music) a day in december, 2024, all the electric cars and phones and networks and power systems and internet of things die. And cannot be rebooted. Ever. Again.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home