Predictive Fiction

A recent anthology of “climate fiction”, Loosed Upon the World, projects climate change forward some years into dystopian scenarios.  The editor, John Joseph Adams, asserts “Fiction is a powerful tool … perhaps [we can] humanize and illuminate the issue in ways that aren’t as easy to to with only science and cold equations.

I have been an advocate of near-term science fiction, which I refer to as predictive fiction, as a tool to explore the “what if” scenarios that may result from technology, hopefully allowing us to avoid the negative impacts. Unfortunately this particular anthology is dealing with a current trajectory that is more an exploration of “when, what then?”

But some of the basic issues that we technologists face enter the spotlight, albeit one we may not like.  In the forward, Paolo Bacigalupi has a painful message for us techies (many of whom fall into his category of “Techno-optimists”): “Engineers don’t grow up thinking about building a healthy soil eco-system, or trying to restore some estuary, … to turn people into better long-term planners, or better educated and informed citizens, or creating better civic societies.”   I don’t fully agree with Paolo — it is more accurate to state that “engineers don’t get paid to …” and perhaps “the project requirements do not address …” And occasionally, we have technologists that resist the corporate momentum and try to get their employer to “do the right thing”.  SSIT seeks to honor such courage with the “Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest” (nominations always welcomed.)

But back to the future, I mean the fiction. Paolo also observes “..imaginative literature is mythic. The kinds of stories we build, the way we encourage people to live into those myths and dream the future — those stories have power. Once we build this myth that the rocket-ship and the techno-fix is the solve for all our plights and problems, that’s when we get ourselves in danger. It’s the one fantasy that almost certainly guarantees our eventual self-destruction.” 

I suspect we need a good dose of reality, perhaps in the guise of predictive fiction.

IEEE SSIT Newsletter – February 2017

SIT Newsletter header
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In this issue: Call for volunteers to support and promote SSIT’s Five Pillars, SSIT volunteer introductions, joint special issue Call for Papers from IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, upcoming conferences, ethics and Green ICT updates

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Paul Cunningham

Message from the President

SSIT’s 45th Anniversary
During 2017, SSIT celebrates its 45th Anniversary as one of the fastest growing IEEE Societies. I welcome your ideas and suggestions for how to celebrate this milestone at Chapter level around the world, as well as through IEEE ISTAS 2017 and Sections Congress in Sydney in August.

SSIT’s Five Pillars – Call for Volunteers
SSIT activities going forward (including our Distinguished Lecturers Program) will now be focused around SSIT’s Five Pillars:

  • Sustainable development and humanitarian technology
  • Ethics, human values and technology
  • Technology benefits for all
  • Future societal impact of technology advances
  • Protecting the planet – sustainable technology

We are currently seeking volunteers to join sub-committees that will be responsible for operationalizing SSIT activities for each of these pillars. Please contact Paul Cunningham at pcunningham@ieee.org with the subject: SSIT Five Pillars – “your pillar of interest” with a little background about your previous activities and track record in this field, your location, and the contribution you believe you can make. A responsible volunteer for your pillar of particular interest will follow up with you.

Please encourage respected peers, including students and young professionals, to also join SSIT and to consider volunteering. If there is no SSIT Chapter or SSIT Student Chapter near you, let us know if you would like support to establish a new Chapter!

2017 SSIT Student membership is only US$4
Please remind peers, friends and family members who can take advantage of this fabulous opportunity to join a vibrant, growing, global community that is truly demonstrating leadership in supporting operationalization of the IEEE tagline, “Advancing Technology for Humanity.”

Paul M Cunningham, 2017-2018 IEEE SSIT President, is President and CEO with IIMC (Ireland), Founder and Coordinator of IST-Africa and Visiting Senior Fellow, Wrexham Glyndwr University.

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Over the next few months, we look forward to introducing you to members of the volunteer leadership team whose hard work makes SSIT a successful organization with wide-ranging impact that extends throughout the IEEE’s global, multi-disciplinary community.

Laura Edelson hails from Brooklyn, NY, USA, and has been an active SSIT volunteer since 2011. She began as liaison for Women in Engineering, and went on to serve as SSIT President from 2013-2014. More recently, Edelson was a member of the IEEE Technical Activities Board, and she has chaired the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee since 2016.


SSIT’s current Blog Master Jim Isaak is a resident of Bedford, NH, USA. He is a past IEEE Director, has been active in SSIT since 2003, and has served in numerous roles on a variety of IEEE Societies. His work overlaps with the SSIT’s Pillars focused on sustainability, ethics, and impact of emerging technology, and he is also interested in privacy, predictive (science) fiction, and policy.


Kimball Williams is based in Dearborn, MI, USA, and has been volunteering with SSIT since 2001. In addition to his work with the IEEE (where, like Jim, he has served as a Director), Kimball lectures on engineering ethics each year to local university graduating classes. When it comes to SSIT’s Five pillars, he is particularly invested in both ethics and the impact of emerging technology.

We invite you to submit your details to our volunteer directory.


Joint Special Issue-Call for Papers

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine are pleased to announce a Joint Special Issue for March 2018.

Due dates for authors are as follows:
1 May 2017: Submission deadline
1 August 2017: First decision communicated to authors
20 November 2017: Final acceptance decision communicated to authors
10 December 2017: Final manuscripts uploaded by authors

Additional information about each call for papers is available below. For further inquiries, please email Katina Michael at: katina@uow.edu.au.


#1: Robotics and Social Implications in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (M-T&S).


Guest Editors: Ramona Pringle (Ryerson University), Diana Bowman (Arizona State University), Meg Leta Jones (Georgetown University), and Katina Michael (University of Wollongong)

Robots have been used in a variety of applications, everything from healthcare to automation. Robots for repetitive actions exude accuracy and specificity. Robots don’t get tired, although they do require maintenance, they can be on 24×7, although stoppages in process flows can happen frequently due to a variety of external factors. It is a fallacy that robots don’t require human inputs and can literally run on their own without much human intervention. And yet, there is a fear surrounding the application of robots mostly swelled by sensational media reports and the science fiction genre. Anthropomorphic robots have also caused a great deal of concern for consumer advocate groups who take the singularity concept very seriously.

It is the job of technologists to dispel myths about robotics, and to raise awareness and in so doing robot literacy, the reachable limits of artificial intelligence imbued into robots, and the positive benefits that can be gained by future developments in the field. This special will focus on the hopes of robot application in non-traditional areas and the plausible intended and unintended consequences of such a trajectory.

Engineers in sensor development, artificial consciousness, components assemblage, visual and aesthetic artistry are encouraged to engage with colleagues from across disciplines- philosophers, sociologists and anthropologists, humanities scholars, experts in English and creative writing, journalists and communications specialists- to engage in this call. Multidisciplinary teams of researchers are requested to submit papers addressing pressing socio-ethical issues in order to provide inputs on how to build more robust robotics that will address citizen issues. For example:

  • How can self-driving cars make more ethical decisions?
  • How can co-working with robots becoming an acceptable practice to humans?
  • How might there be more fluent interactions between humans and robots?
  • Can drones have privacy-by-design incorporated into their controls?

This issue calls for technical strategic-level and high-level design papers that have a social science feel to them, and are written for a general audience. The issue encourages researchers to ponder on the socio-ethical implications stemming from their developments, and how they might be discussed in the general public.

Visit the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine submission portal.


#2: Socio-ethical Approaches to Robotics Development in IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine


Guest Editors: Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield), Aimee van Wynsberghe (University of Twente), John C. Havens (The Global Initiative for Ethical Concerns in the Design of Autonomous Systems), and Katina Michael (University of Wollongong).

Converging approaches adopted by engineers, computer scientists and software developers have brought together niche skillsets in robotics for the purposes of a complete product, prototype or application. Some robotics developments have been met with criticism, especially those of an anthropomorphic nature or in a collaborative task with humans. Due to the emerging role of robotics in our society and economy, there is an increasing need to engage social scientists and more broadly humanities scholars in the field. In this manner we can furthermore ensure that robots are developed and implemented considering the socio-ethical implications that they raise.

This call for papers, supposes that more recently, projects have brought on board personnel with a multidisciplinary background to ask those all important questions about “what if” or “what might be” at a time that the initial idea generation is occurring to achieve a human-centered design. The ability to draw these approaches into the “design” process, means that areas of concern to the general public are addresses. These might include issues surrounding consumer privacy, citizen security, individual trust, acceptance, control, safety, fear of job loss and more.

In introducing participatory practices into the design process, preliminary results can be reached to inform the developers of the way in which they should consider a particular course of action. This is not to halt the freedom of the designer, but rather to consider the value-laden responsibility that designers have in creating things for the good of humankind, independent of their application.

This call seeks to include novel research results demonstrated on working systems that incorporate in a multidisciplinary approach technological solutions which respond to socio-ethical issues. Ideally this RAM paper is complemented by a paper submitted in parallel to T&SM that investigates the application from a socio-ethical viewpoint.

Visit The IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine submission portal.

The following upcoming conferences will be of interest to SSIT members:

IST-Africa Week 2017
8-11 May 2017, Windhoek, Namibia

Hosted by the government of Namibia through the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission, and technically co-sponsored by IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), IEEE Region 8 and IEEE South Africa Section, IST-Africa Week 2017 is the twelfth in an annual series of ministerial-level technology research and innovation conferences.

Core thematic areas for IST-Africa 2017 include:

  • mHealth, eHealth and health information systems
  • Technology-enhanced learning and eskills
  • mAgriculture/eAgriculture and environmental sustainability
  • eInfrastructures and National Research and Education Networks (NREN)
  • Next generation computing: big data, cloud computing, future internet, Internet of Things
  • eGovernment-services to citizens and business
  • Content technologies: languages; digital preservation
  • Cyber security, privacy and trust
  • Collaborative open innovation and ICT-enabled entrepreneurship (including social entrepreneurship)
  • Sustainable development including ICT4D
  • Societal implications of technology

For more information, please visit our website.

Follow IST-Africa on Twitter to get regular updates.

For further information, please email Secretariat@IST-Africa.org.


IEEE 2017 International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS 2017)
From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions

9-11 August 2017, Sydney, Australia


The SSIT Board of Governors is pleased to announce that ISTAS 2017 will be held in Sydney, Australia. The date and location of ISTAS 2017 have been chosen to coincide with the annual IEEE Panel of Conference Organizers (IEEE POCO) event, which will be held in Sydney from 7-9 August, and the biennial IEEE Sections Congress, which will also be held in Sydney 11-13 August 2017.

The theme for ISTAS 2017 is “From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions,” and is designed to focus on how we can identify a good technological idea and transition it into a practical solution that delivers real benefits to society. It will bring together scientists, engineers, technologists and scholars from multiple disciplines to hold a dialogue on many technological and societal issues, and collaborate on the co-creation of ideas to develop and utilize innovative solutions to address them.

The main conference will be supported by several workshops and special sessions, including the 17th Workshop on Social Implications of National Security, hosted by Prof. Katina Michael (University of Wollongong), as well as a Doctoral Mentoring Workshop for PhD Students, hosted by the University of New South Wales.

Key Dates:

  • 28 February 2017-Submission deadline for paper abstracts
  • 13 March 2017-Notification of acceptance
  • 15 May 2017-Final manuscript submission deadline

Call for Papers
The ISTAS 2017 program structure provides for six keynote speakers, 72 oral and paper presentations, and 12 panels across three parallel tracks.

Paper proposals are solicited for oral presentations from industry, government and academia (including students) covering relevant research, technologies, methodologies, tools and case studies relevant to the conference theme and tracks. Papers on policy implications are also welcome. Full papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings. Papers accepted in the conference proceedings and presented during the conference will be submitted for inclusion in IEEE Xplore.

ISTAS 2017 Tracks:

  • Smart materials, smart buildings and smart cities
  • Climate, environment and sustainable technologies
  • Communications, security and privacy
  • Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems
  • e-Health, age care and assisted living
  • Internet of things and consumer electronics
  • Digital senses, virtual reality and augmentation
  • Web science and big data
  • Green ICT
  • Defense technologies for public good
  • Humanitarian and emergency management
  • Ethics, law and policy

For details including information for authors, please visit the conference website. General inquiries should be addressed to the ISTAS 2017 General Chair, Philip Hall at philip.hall@ieee.org.


2017 IEEE Conference on Technologies for Sustainability – Engineering and the Environment (SusTech 2017)

The 5th IEEE Conference on Technologies for Sustainability – Engineering and the Environment (SusTech 2017) will be held 12-14 November 2017 in Phoenix, AZ, USA

SusTech 2017 is sponsored by the IEEE Oregon Section, IEEE Region 6, IEEE Phoenix Section and IEEE-USA. SSIT is a technical co-sponsor long term supporter of the SusTech conference series and host of the Social Implications/Quality of Life Track.

For further details, please visit the conference website. Sign up for the conference newsletter and watch for the Call for Papers to be issued soon.


IEEE ETHICS 2017
The 3rd IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science, and Technology (ETHICS 2017) will be held 12-14 November 2017 in Ann Arbor, MI, USA with the theme Ethical Innovations in AI/AS.

Financial co-sponsors include SSIT, IEEE-USA, IEEE Standards Association and the Southeastern Michigan Section. Technical co-sponsors include the TA/TechEthics Initiative.

For further information, please contact the General Chair, Philip Hall at philip.hall@ieee.org.

Ethics Update from Dr. Greg Adamson

IEEE Board of Directors sets ethics as a priority in 2017
IEEE has had a Code of Ethics for more than 100 years. Throughout its 45 year history, SSIT has devoted significant effort to giving that code real meaning for practicing technologists. On occasion that was a challenge. In recent years, however, we have seen a significant growth in the public’s understanding of the need for ethical approaches, both our professional activities and in the way we create and build new technologies.

Today ethics is receiving more attention by technologists than ever before. Reasons include:

  • The financial impact of deliberate unethical activity, particularly Volkswagen’s (VW) US$15bn fine and reparations after evidence of falsification in code, and a recent FBI arrest of a VW executive.
  • The impact of accidental unethical activity, particularly the US$44bn fines and repa rations for BP following Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
  • A rise of ethical considerations in autonomous design, including cars and weapons.
  • The White House October 2016 report on AI, with a focus on ethics.
  • A call on IEEE and other professional organizations (ACM, AAAI) from a White House sponsored workshop to review or create Codes of Ethics reflecting the advent of AI.

Today there are more than two dozen initiatives, activities or events run by IEEE that include a significant ethics component. These include the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. The IEEE Standards Association has established the P7000 standard series on the inclusion of ethical considerations in design. The Technical Activities Board (which includes SSIT) has established an Ad Hoc Committee on Design for Ethics to meet the need to incorporate ethical considerations in technology design, something relevant across the Technical Societies and Councils. SSIT supports several ethics initiatives including the IEEE Ethics conference.

To coordinate this range of activities the IEEE Board of Directors has created the IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on IEEE Ethics Programs. This will focus on creating a roadmap for linking all the various activities as a part of making IEEE a global focus for ethics in technology.

If you are interested in getting involved in any of these activities, contact Greg Adamson at g.adamson@ieee.org.


Green ICT Community Update

Green ICT Brings Benefits to Society Information and communications technology (ICT) is a crucial driver of sustainable development, with the potential to reconcile socioeconomic benefits with positive environmental impacts throughout various ICT application sectors, while also improving the energy efficiency, carbon footprint and technology life cycle of ICT itself.

The “Greening through ICT” (GtICT) Summit is being launched in Paris, France 25 May 2017, in parallel with the IEEE International Conference on Communications ICC’17: Bridging People, Communities, and Cultures, 21-25 May 2017. The Summit’s objective will be to identify key technological, commercial and public policy challenges that must be overcome to achieve sustainability in our increasingly connected world.

As such, the event will stimulate a multidisciplinary discussion and bring together the research community, ICT practitioners, equipment, technology and vertical application providers, the ICT standardization community, as well as public policy influencers and decision makers. Interactive sessions are planned to foster exchanges between these stakeholder communities.

The mission of the IEEE Green ICT initiative is to develop a holistic approach to sustainability by incorporating green metrics in various IEEE technical domains. In addition to this new event, the initiative has resulted in the creation of new publications, training activities and standards working groups on the Green ICT theme.

Stay Up-to-Date with IEEE SSIT Happenings

Visit the SSIT Blog for news items and the latest Society updates.


Newsletter Submission Guidelines

If you would like to submit a news item, SSIT-related update, volunteer opportunity, Call For Papers, award notice, or idea for a “Feature Article” for a future issue of the SSIT newsletter, please contact the editor Dr. Heather Love at Heather.Love@usd.edu.

Submissions for the March 2017 newsletter are due 24 February 2017.

Your TV might be Binge watching you!

VIZIO is reportedly paying fines for using users TVs to track their viewing patterns in significant detail as well as associating this with  IP address data including age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and home values.

Presumably this might have been avoided if VIZIO had presented the users with a “privacy statement” or “terms of use” when they installed their TV.  But failure to have obtained the appearance of consent put them in this situation.

It has been clear that all “free” media (and many paid channels), for TV, Cable, Radio, Internet streaming, etc. all want to track this information.  On one hand they can use it to provide “a better user experience” (show you the ads/suggested programs that match your demographics) … and of course the flip side is also true, selling your data to 3rd parties (a.k.a. ‘trusted business partners’)  so they can be more effective at interacting with you is part of the game.

Now lets step it up a notch.  Your TV (or remote controller) may use voice recognition, often using the “mother ship’ resources for the AI analysis if what you have requested. That is, your voice is sent back to servers that interpret and respond.  This leads to another level of monitoring … some of your characteristics might be infered from your voice, and others from background sounds or voices, and even more if the recording device just happens to track you all the time.  “Seri are you listening in again?” — and then add a camera … now the fun can really start.

IST-Africa Week 2017

IST-Africa Week 2017
8-11 May 2017, Windhoek, Namibia

Hosted by the government of Namibia through the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission, and technically co-sponsored by IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), IEEE Region 8 and IEEE South Africa Section, IST-Africa Week 2017 is the twelfth in an annual series of ministerial level technology research and innovation conferences.

Core thematic areas for IST-Africa 2017 include:

  • mHealth, eHealth and health information systems
  • Technology-enhanced learning and eskills
  • mAgriculture/eAgriculture and environmental sustainability
  • eInfrastructures and National Research and Education Networks (NREN)
  • Next generation computing: big data, cloud computing, future internet, Internet of Things
  • eGovernment-services to citizens and business
  • Content technologies: languages; digital preservation
  • Cyber security, privacy and trust
  • Collaborative open innovation and ICT-enabled entrepreneurship (including social entrepreneurship)
  • Sustainable development including ICT4D
  • Societal implications of technology

For more information, please visit our website.

Follow IST-Africa on Twitter to get regular updates.

For further information, please email Secretariat@IST-Africa.org.

IEEE SSIT Newsletter – January 2017

SIT Newsletter header
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In this issue: SSIT Board of Governors election results, awards and publications notices, and conference reminders.announcements header

Happy New Year!

2016 was an exciting year for IEEE SSIT, with especially impressive membership growth stats. In fact, the November IEEE Membership Report confirmed that SSIT maintains its status as the IEEE Society with the fastest membership growth rate. Its 5.3% growth is more than seven times higher than the overall IEEE (which comes in at 0.7%).

The Board of Governors looks forward to continuing recruitment efforts in 2017!


SSIT Board of Governors Election Results

The results are in, so please join us in welcoming the following three newly elected members to the SSIT Board of Governors:

Michael Cardinale Ramalatha Marimuthu Howard Wolfman

The Board of Governors would like to warmly acknowledge the contributions of John Impagliazzo, Ken Foster and Brad Kjell, whose terms as BoG members ended in 2016. In addition, the BoG would like to extend a special thanks to Laura Edelson and Greg Adamson for their dedication and contribution to SSIT. Laura has now completed her term as Past President, the role Greg will take over this year.

Several key SSIT leadership roles are changing hands in 2017, so stay tuned for additional updates about and introductions to the new roster in upcoming newsletters.

New issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

The December 2016 issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine is now available! Be sure to check out the special section on the “Unintended Consequences of Technology.” This is the second of two “installments” focused on “The Paradox of Technological Potential.” Part one of this subject is in the September/October 2016 issue of IEEE Potentials.


Prof. Pradeep Kumar Ray has been recognized as a Shanghai 1000 Talent Plan “Distinguished Professor.” He is one of four long-term international professors at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) to receive this award.

Congratulations!

The following upcoming conferences will be of interest to SSIT members:

IST-Africa Week 2017
8-11 May 2017, Windhoek, Namibia

Hosted by the government of Namibia through the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission, and technically co-sponsored by IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), IEEE Region 8 and IEEE South Africa Section, IST-Africa Week 2017 is the twelfth in an annual series of ministerial level technology research and innovation conferences.

Core thematic areas for IST-Africa 2017 include:

  • mHealth, eHealth and health information systems
  • Technology-enhanced learning and eskills
  • mAgriculture/eAgriculture and environmental sustainability
  • eInfrastructures and National Research and Education Networks (NREN)
  • Next generation computing: big data, cloud computing, future internet, Internet of Things
  • eGovernment-services to citizens and business
  • Content technologies: languages; digital preservation
  • Cyber security, privacy and trust
  • Collaborative open innovation and ICT-enabled entrepreneurship (including social entrepreneurship)
  • Sustainable development including ICT4D
  • Societal implications of technology

For more information, please visit our website.

Follow IST-Africa on Twitter to get regular updates.

For further information, please email Secretariat@IST-Africa.org.


IEEE 2017 International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS 2017)
From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions

9-11 August, 2017, Sydney, Australia


The SSIT Board of Governors is pleased to announce that ISTAS 2017 will be held in Sydney, Australia. The date and location of ISTAS 2017 has been chosen to coincide with the annual IEEE Panel of Conference Organizers (IEEE POCO) event, which will be held in Sydney from 7-9 August, and the biennial IEEE Sections Congress, which will also be held in Sydney 11-13 August, 2017.

The theme for ISTAS 2017 is “From Good Ideas to Practical Solutions”, and is designed to focus on how we can identify a good technological idea and transition it into a practical solution that delivers real benefits to society. It will bring together scientists, engineers, technologists and scholars from multiple disciplines to hold a dialogue on many technological and societal issues, and collaborate on the co-creation of ideas to develop and utilize innovative solutions to address them.

Call for Papers
The ISTAS 2017 program structure provides for six keynote speakers, 72 oral and paper presentations, and 12 panels across three parallel tracks.

Paper proposals are solicited for oral presentations from industry, government and academia (including students) covering relevant research, technologies, methodologies, tools and case studies relevant to the conference theme and tracks. Papers on policy implications are also welcome. Full papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings. Papers accepted in the conference proceedings and presented during the conference will be submitted for inclusion in IEEE Xplore.

ISTAS 2017 Tracks:

  • Smart materials, smart buildings and smart cities
  • Climate, environment and sustainable technologies
  • Communications, security and privacy
  • Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems
  • e-Health, age care and assisted living
  • Internet of things and consumer electronics
  • Digital senses, virtual reality and augmentation
  • Web science and big data
  • Green ICT
  • Defense technologies for public good
  • Humanitarian and emergency management
  • Ethics, law and policy

Key Dates:

28 February 2017 – Submission deadline for paper abstracts
13 March 2017 – Notification of acceptance
15 May 2017 – Final manuscript submission deadline

For details including information for authors, please visit the conference website. General inquiries should be addressed to the ISTAS 2017 General Chair, Philip Hall at philip.hall@ieee.org.

SSIT complements the thematic focus of all other IEEE Societies and Technical Councils and is making a clear contribution in a variety of educational and policy contexts aligned with SSIT priority areas. SSIT would like to recruit volunteers to help scale and lead activities in the following areas:

  • Global development and humanitarian technology
  • Ethics, human values and technology
  • Technology benefits for all
  • Future societal impact of technology advances
  • Protecting the planet – sustainable technology

SSIT has also been invited to contribute to the work of two TAB Adhoc Committees during 2017:

    • 2017 IEEE TAB Ad-hoc Committee on Dig Once
      This Adhoc will focus on how IEEE can participate in and augment this policy initiative to couple the addition of broadband infrastructure with existing infrastructure improvements. This may include aspects such as technology (best practices), education (informing governments and utilities) and more. Previous relevant experience and/or civil engineering background are desirable.
  • 2017 IEEE TAB Adhoc Committee on North and South Poles
    The main focus of this adhoc Committee is to seek in which ways IEEE can efficiently contribute to the different ongoing and planned initiatives to study and address the changes that the North and South poles are experiencing from the environmental, communications, transportation, educational and outreach points of view.

If you believe you or a respected colleague can make a substantial contribution in any of these areas, please contact Paul Cunningham, 2017 SSIT President, at pcunningham@ieee.org by 31 January 2017, describing the contribution the nominee can make and provide a short supporting CV highlighting previous relevant experience.

Stay Up-to-Date with IEEE SSIT Happenings

Visit the SSIT Blog for news items and the latest Society updates.


Newsletter Submission Guidelines

If you would like to submit a news item, SSIT-related update, volunteer opportunity, Call For Papers, award notice, or idea for a “Feature Article” for a future issue of the SSIT newsletter, please contact the editor Dr. Heather Love at Heather.Love@usd.edu.

Submissions for the February 2017 newsletter are due 26 January 2017.

Tele-Kiss … hmmm

London haptic researchers have developed a device to add to a cell phone that will allow remote persons kiss. As described in an IEEE Spectrum article. And since “a picture is worth a thousand words”:

A woman kisses a plastic pad attached to her smartphone to send a virtual kiss to the person she's video chatting with.

No doubt a wider range of haptic appliances will follow. A major US phone company used to have the slogan “reach out and touch someone”, perhaps our mobile devices are headed that way.

Online physical attack

It should be noted that an early, if not first, instance of a physical attack on a person has been carried out by the use of online means, in particular social media used to trigger an epileptic seizure.  This concept has surfaced in science fiction, notably in Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash (which also inspired the creation of Google Earth).  In that case, persons are exposed to an attack while in virtual reality that causes them to become comatose.

With the Internet of Things, and the potential for projecting “force” (or at least damage causing light/sound ) over the network a new level of abuse and need for protection is emerging.  One key in this particular case, and into the future, might be to have true identity disclosed, or as a criteria for accepting content over the net.

2017 Board of Governors

President Paul Cunningham

Secretary   Michael Cardinale

Treasurer Howard Wolfman  

  • Lumispec Consulting
  • Adjunct Professor University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Northbrook, IL, USA
  • h.wolfman@ieee.org
Director, Division VI Rob Reilly

(Dir. Elect:  John Y. Hung)

Past President

 

Continue reading

Alexa called as witness?

“Alexa, tell me, in your own words, what happened on the night in question.” … actually the request is more like “Alexa, please replay the dialog that was recorded at 9:05PM for the jury”.  The case is in Bentonville Arkansas, and the charge is murder. Since an Echo unit was present, Amazon has been asked to disclose whatever information might have been captured at the time of the crime.

Amazon indicates that “Echo” keeps less than sixty seconds of recorded sound, it may not have that level of details, but presumably a larger database exists of requests and responses for the night in question as well.  Amazon has provided some data about purchase history, but is waiting for a formal court document to release any additional information.

Which begs the issue of how they might respond to apparent sounds of a crime in progress. “Alexa call 911!” is pretty clear, but “Don’t Shoot!” (or other phrases that might be ‘real’ or ‘overheard’ from a movie in the background …)  An interesting future awaits us.

Big Brother/Data 2016

The power of big data, AI/analytics, and subtle data collection are converging to a future only hinted at in Orwell’s 1984.  With the rapid developments on many fronts, it is not surprising that those of us who are only moderately paranoid have not been tracking it all. So here’s an update on some of the recent information on who is watching you and why:

Facebook (no surprise here) has been running personality quizzes that evaluate how your OCEAN score lines up.  That is Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.  These “Free” evaluations are provided by Cambridge Analytica. The applications of this data to political election influence is documented by the NY Times (subscription required) and quoted in part by others.  The short take is that your Facebook profile (name, etc.) is combined with your personality data, and “onboarding” data from other sources such as age, income, debt, purchases, health concerns, car, gun  and home ownership and more.  Cambridge Analytica is reported to have records with 3 to 5 thousand data points on each of 230 million adult Americans. — which is most of us.

How to they use this data?  Psycho-graphic micro-targeted advertising is the recent target, seeking to influence voting in the U.S. Election.  They only support Republican candidates, so other parties will have to develop their own doomsday books.  There is no requirement that the use of the quizzes be disclosed, nor that the “ads” be identified as political or approved by any candidate.  The ads might not appear to have any specific political agenda, they might just point out news (or fake news) stories that play to your specific personality and have been test-marketed to validate the influence they will have on the targeted voter(s).  This may inspire you to get out and vote, or to stay-home and not bother — depending on what candidate(s) you support (based on social media streams, or more generalize characteristics if you personally have not declared your preferences.)  — Impact — quite possibly the U.S. Presidency.

But wait, that’s not all.

The U.K is expanding their surveillance powers, requiring Internet Companies to retain interactions/transactions for a year, including every web site you have accessed. This apparently is partially in response to the assertions by France that similar powers had foiled an ISIS attack in France. The range of use (abuse) that might be applied by the UK government and their allies remains to be seen (or more likely will remain hidden.)

But, consider what China is doing to encourage residents to be “sincere”. [Here is a serious limitation of my linguistic and cultural skills — no doubt there is a Mandarin word that is being used and translated to “sincere”, and that it carries cultural implications that may not be evident in translation.]  Data collected to determine your “social credibility rating”. includes: tax, loan, bill, and other payments (on time?), adherence to traffic rules, family planning limits, academic record, purchasing, online interactions, nature of information you post online, volunteer activity, and even “filial piety” (respect for elders/ancestors). And the applications of such data?  So far 4.9 million airline tickets have been refused. Your promotion, or even job opportunities can be limited with “sensitive” jobs being subject to review — judges, teachers, accountants, etc. A high score will open doors — possible faster access to government services.  By letting citizens see their score, they can be encouraged to ‘behave themselves better’.  By not disclosing all of the data collected, nor all of the implications the state can bully citizens into far greater sincerity than they might adopt if they were just trying to not break the law.

Your comments, thoughts and responses are encouraged, but remember — they are being recorded by others for reasons you may never know.  … Sincerely yours, Jim