- Moral Machines — it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems. Your car is speeding along a bridge at fifty miles per hour when errant school bus carrying forty innocent children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, possibly risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going, putting all forty kids at risk? If the decision must be made in milliseconds, the computer will have to make the call. (via BoingBoing)
- Hystrix — a latency and fault tolerance library designed to isolate points of access to remote systems, services and 3rd party libraries, stop cascading failure and enable resilience in complex distributed systems where failure is inevitable. More information. (via Tom Loosemore)
- Offline First: A Better HTML5 Experience — can’t emphasize how important it is to have offline functionality for the parts of the world that don’t have blanket 3G/LTE/etc coverage. (280 south from SF, for example).
- Disaster of Biblical Proportions (Business Insider) — impressive collection of graphs and data showing commodity prices indicate our species is living beyond its means.
ENTRIES TAGGED "ethics"
What to do when facing the stoic expressions that pop up during ethics discussions.
The other day I clicked on a message posted to the O’Reilly editors’ email list and the message text filled up almost the entire monitor screen. I must admit that I thought “Am I going to require another caffeine hit to read through this?”
I decided to take a chance, not take another break just then, and read the lengthy note. I didn’t need that caffeine hit after all. Apparently, neither did half a dozen other editors.
The note was about ethics.
In a previous life, I worked in the competitive intelligence field. I remember participating in a friendly confab at an industry event and then someone mentioned the word “e-t-h-i-c-s”. It was rather fascinating to see how that word elicited stoic faces. No one wanted to be the first person to say anything on that topic. Now when working at ORM, mention the word “ethics!” and folks are not shy about saying exactly what they think. Not. At. All.
During the discussion, Ethics of Big Data by Kord Davis, came up. While I was not the editor on this book, I did read it when I was in New York. It made my list of recommended books for people looking to jump into the world of big data. Why? Because I remembered the stoic poker faces from my previous life in competitive intelligence. Read more…
Ethical Machines, Fault Tolerance, Offline HTML5, and Doomy Data
Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.
Presidential candidates are mining your data
Data is playing an unprecedented role in the US presidential election this year. The two presidential campaigns have access to personal voter data “at a scale never before imagined,” reports Charles Duhigg at the New York Times. The candidate camps are using personal data in polling calls, accessing such details as “whether voters may have visited pornography Web sites, have homes in foreclosure, are more prone to drink Michelob Ultra than Corona or have gay friends or enjoy expensive vacations,” Duhigg writes. He reports that both campaigns emphasized they were committed to protecting voter privacy, but notes:
“Officials for both campaigns acknowledge that many of their consultants and vendors draw data from an array of sources — including some the campaigns themselves have not fully scrutinized.”
A Romney campaign official told Duhigg: “You don’t want your analytical efforts to be obvious because voters get creeped out. A lot of what we’re doing is behind the scenes.”
The “behind the scenes” may be enough in itself to creep people out. These sorts of situations are starting to tarnish the image of the consumer data-mining industry, and a Manhattan trade group, the Direct Marketing Association, is launching a public relations campaign — the “Data-Driven Marketing Institute” — to smooth things over before government regulators get involved. Natasha Singer reports at the New York Times:
“According to a statement, the trade group intends to promote such targeted marketing to lawmakers and the public ‘with the goal of preventing needless regulation or enforcement that could severely hamper consumer marketing and stifle innovation’ as well as ‘tamping down unfavorable media attention.’ As part of the campaign, the group plans to finance academic research into the industry’s economic impact, said Linda A. Woolley, the acting chief executive of the Direct Marketing Association.”
One of the biggest issues, Singer notes, is that people want control over their data. Chuck Teller, founder of Catalog Choice, told Singer that in a recent survey conducted by his company, 67% of people responded that they wanted to see the data collected about them by data brokers and 78% said they wanted the ability to opt out of the sale and distribution of that data.
How businesses can confront the ethical issues tied to massive aggregation and data analysis.
"Ethics of Big Data" authors Kord Davis and Doug Patterson explore ownership, anonymization, privacy, and ways to evaluate and establish ethical data practices within an organization.
The Quantified Professor, Bus Monitor, Arduino Confessor, and Ethics of Deceit
- Examining His Own Body (Science Now) — Stanford prof. has sequenced his DNA and is now getting massively Quantified Self on his metabolism, infections, etc. This caught my eye: George Church, who has pioneered DNA sequencing technology and runs the Personal Genome Project* at Harvard Medical School in Boston that enrolls people willing to share genomic and medical information similar to what’s presented in the Cell report, says some might critique Snyder’s self-exam as merely anecdotal. “But one response is that it is the perfect counterpoint to correlative studies which lump together thousands of cases versus controls with relatively much less attention to individual idiosyncrasies,” Church says. “I think that N=1 causal analyses will be increasingly important.”
- Bus Arrival Monitor (John Graham-Cumming) — hacked a toy doubledecker bus with LED display feeding bus arrival info from the Transport for London API via a modded Linksys WRT router.
- Arduino Tool That Connects Each Board to Its Own Source (Ideo) — If you create something with Arduino and put it out into the world, there is no well-established link to the source. If you personally made the device, the source can get lost over time. If you didn’t create it, you could have a tough time tracking the source down. You have the physical device, why can’t it tell you where it’s code lives? I made a tool for Arduino called “Upload-And-Retrieve-Source” that for the most part solves this problem. (via Chris Spurgeon)
- Mike Daisey is a Liar and So Am I — I linked to the original This American Life story, so now I’m linking to the best commentary on their retraction of the story. This is an excellent piece on the ubiquity and ethics of Daiseyesque means-justifies-the-end for-a-good-cause deceit.
Nondeterministic Multicore, Cloning UI, jQuery Secrets, and MapReduce Alternative
- Many Core Processors — not the first time I’ve heard nondeterministic computing discussed as a solution to some of our parallel-programming travails. Can’t imagine what a pleasure it is to debug.
- Pinterest Cloned — it’s not the pilfering of the idea that offends my sensibilities, it’s the blatant clone of every aspect of the UI. I never thought much of the old Apple look’n’feel lawsuit but this really rubs me the wrong way.
- Spark — Scala-implemented alternative framework to the model of parallelism in MapReduce. (via Pete Warden)
Ben Huh on the responsibilities attached to other people's failures.
The content you see on Cheezburger, Inc.’s Fail Blog often mixes humor and pain — but not always in equal proportions. Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh discusses the boundaries of a fail.
Solon Barocas on data mining's reputation and the ethics of data collection.
Solon Barocas, a doctoral student at New York University, discusses consumer perceptions of data mining and how companies and data scientists can shape data mining's reputation.
Bitcoin Banks, Journo Ethics, Android and iOS, and Clever Algorithms
- Dan Kaminsky on Bitcoin (Slideshare) — short version: banks are an emergent property as it scales.
- Unethical Ventures (All Things D) — astonishing slam on the new venture fund that Michael Arrington (founder of TechCrunch) will be running while still writing for TechCrunch. This could have been a lot cleaner, of course, by Arrington simply resigning from TechCrunch, becoming a VC and perhaps starting a new blog where his agenda is much clearer, from which he could huff and puff away as he does with much entertaining gusto at real and (mostly) imagined slights. There is certainly precedent for VCs blogging, including Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Ben Horowitz. And, despite my criticisms about ethics, it is clear that Arrington is a talented writer whose unique voice would be even stronger if it was truly seen as separate from what has become a news organization. But because of his obvious need to be the center of attention — requiring the ermine kingmaker mantle and foisting his patented I’m-here-to-tell-it-like-it-is attitude on us all — that appears to be impossible.
- An iOS Developer Takes on Android — a very easy to follow comparison of the two platforms from a developer who worked on both and who is carefully not partisan. I hadn’t realized before what an advantage OpenGL confers to the iOS devices. It’s not just for 3D games any more (he says, catching up with 2008).
- Clever Algorithms — book of 45 nature-inspired algorithms, code in Ruby.
China Snaffling Facebook Stock, DNS Douchebaggery, Corporate Whores, and Comic Relief
- China Wants to Buy Facebook (Forbes) — Beijing approached a fund that buys stock from former Facebook employees to see if it could assemble a stake large enough “to matter.” This has implications for Facebook entering China. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly “wary about the compromises Facebook would have to make to do business there.” If she loses her argument with Zuckerberg and Facebook enters China, the company will eventually be subject to demands to censor its sites, those both inside and outside China. That’s apparently why the Chinese want to own a big stake in Facebook. They are, in short, looking for control in the long run. No other explanation is consistent with the Party’s other media and “educational” initiatives. Again the world’s most desirable emerging market is fraught for those who would enter it.
- Cisco Helping China Build Surveillance (WSJ, subscription probably needed) — Western companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are poised to help build an ambitious new surveillance project in China—a citywide network of as many as 500,000 cameras that officials say will prevent crime but that human-rights advocates warn could target political dissent. Check out the mealy-mouthed weasel from HP: “We take them at their word as to the usage.” He added, “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for. Our job is to respond to the bid that they’ve made.” (a) buyers don’t bid, vendors bid; (b) you’re a piss-poor vendor if you don’t understand what the client hopes to achieve; (c) really, maintaining plausible denial is the best way to preserve your brand’s integrity? Hewlett and Packard are turning in their graves, the heat given off from which could be detected by sensors, routed through Cisco boxes and displayed on HP terminals.
- US Claims .net and .com In Their Jurisdiction — The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) wants to take down web sites that use the .com and .net top level domains (TLD) regardless of whether their servers are based in the US. Not only do DNS interventions like this not stop the copying, they’re the thin end of the political wedge into yet another piece of critical Internet infrastructure. Who woke up this morning and thought, “I want a copyright rentacop to decide which websites I can see”? The generative power of the Internet is eroded with every misguided meddling such as this.
- SVK Launches — BERG London finally launch their excellent comic. “Comic?” you ask. Noted science future awesome Warren Ellis wrote it, and it features some clever augmented reality hardware. I have one, and I am happy. You can be too, for only ten pounds plus shipping.