A not-so-flat World – Friedman 2.0

I’m preping a program on the future and pursuing a number of related books that will not doubt result in Technology and Society blog posts in the future.  One recent (2016) book is Tom Friedman’s “Thank You for Being Late”.  Where I’m part way in, but clearly the technology impact considerations are top on his list.  You may recognize Tom with his prior best seller, “The World is Flat” … that pointed out how technology had changed the shape of the world.  Since that book (2005) the world has changed, significantly.  The future is arriving more quickly than he anticipated.  Like some other authors, he sees this window of time, and in particular from 2007 on, as a “dislocation” not just a “disruption”. The short take on this is a disruption just destroys your business (think PC’s and mini computers, Cell phones and land lines, Cars and horses) — it wipes some folks out, but the world keeps puttering along.  Dislocation makes EVERYONE sense that they are no longer able to keep up.  He suggests the last such disruption was the advent of the printing press and subsequent reformation (taking decades to play out, and only affecting the western world.)  Today’s dislocation is global, affecting almost every activity, and requires our serious attention and consideration.

His title results from some of his contacts showing up late for breakfast, and realizing that it gave him a few essential minutes to reflect on the deluge of changes and data he had been assimilating for the last few years.  A break he suggests we all need.

While there will be a few more posts based on this, I will point out a few essential factors he has surfaced so far:

  • Computing has gone past a tipping point with individual and networked power
    tasks that were unimaginable even a decade ago (2007) are propagating now.
  • Communications capacity has exploded (AT&T asserting 100,000 times as much traffic as their pre-iPhone exclusive in 2007) (note that year)
  • The Cloud and Big Data — we can now store everything (and we are), with tools (Hadroop being the leading example) that facilitate analyzing the unimaginable content. (since 2007)
  • Access has gone global – along with collaboration — and many other factors.
  • Sensors are everywhere — it is the “internet of things’ but more than that, “the machine” as he calls it, has ears, eyes, touch, (eventually taste and smell) almost everywhere (including every cell phone, etc.)

And all of the pieces of the equation are advancing at accelerating rates in an event he calls the “SuperNova”.

One key is that the changing of technology has passed our ability to adapt to the changes. A decade ago, we might have considered this a generational issue (us old folks unable to keep up with the younger ones. — “if you need help with your PC ask your grandchild”.) Today this challenge is penetrating every demographic.  It’s not that the world just isn’t flat anymore, it’s that we can no longer grasp sufficient information to identify what shape it is this year, and next year it will be different.

What factors are changing the shape of your world?

Call Me Irresistible (or else)

This new book, Irresistible: the Rise of Addictive Technology, points to a challenge that may be hitting a tipping point.  It is not a surprise that we find various of our tech-toys addictive in various ways.  Nor is it surprising that there is a business incentive to have folks “hooked” on your toy rather than someone else’s.  But … are we moving towards “maximally effective addiction?.”   There is the traditional story of “the wire” that allows rats/people to stimulate brain pleasure centers can result in addictive, potentially fatal activity.  Presumably, to the extent possible from a basis of external sensory input, technology will move towards this point.  With the addition of fairly comprehensive individual analysis, AI driven analysis and expanded virtual reality capabilities will approach the maximally effective endpoint.  The only business constraint may be the loss of a revenue generating consumer as a result.  Is this the direction we are headed? And what might prevent our reaching that point?

 

 

The Boundaries of Ethics

The U.S. government recently announced sanctions targeting Syrian scientists (and no doubt engineers, news papers are not clear on the differences.)  Presumably the individuals targeted are ones involved in engineering chemical weapons, which contravene the International Chemical Weapons Convention.   So here is my question, is the development of these weapons or their precursors (specified in the convention) unethical?

While this is an issue for chemical engineers, it also overlaps with IEEE space in various ways.The IEEE Code of Ethics calls for members to “accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.” We do not specify any nationally or internationally “illegal” activities. It seems  that this class of weapons might endanger the public and environment.  I note IEEE only specified “the public” as a concern, which allows for weapons that might endanger other classes of persons such as criminals and enemy combatants.  And of course many IEEE field professionals are involved in the creation of weapon systems, often working for nation states or their contractors, and this is “business as usual”. Ideally, none of these weapons would be used — presuming the absence of crime or combat (one can hope).  A related question is the context of such development — if an individual is fairly sure the device will not be used, is that different than a situation where they are fairly sure it will be used?

But the crux of the issue is what is expected of an ethical engineer in a case such as that of Syria? Going to “management” to present the concern that the work might endanger the public or environment would be a career (or life) limiting action.  Going to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that is responsible for related inspections/determinations could be difficult, treasonous, and life threatening. Should the IEEE Code of Ethics specifically include illegal or treaty violations as a designated consideration?  And what might IEEE do about identified violations?

IEEE SSIT Newsletter – April 2017

SIT Newsletter header
april
In this issue: Committees-Introductions and Volunteer Opportunities, Imminent Deadlines for Journal and Conference Call for Papers, Remembering Virginia Mary Edgertonannouncements header

Message from the President


Six SSIT Committees have now started work on preparing Position Statements, which will be used to focus implementation of SSIT activities in the 65 countries where we currently have members. I would like to acknowledge those volunteers who have agreed to take responsibility for the effectiveness and impact of the following committees:

  • Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Technology (Satish Babu, Region 10)
  • Ethics, Human Values and Technology (Keith Miller, Region 5)
  • Societal Impact of Technology (Tamara Bonaci, Region 6)
  • Protecting the Planet – Sustainable Technology (Mike Cardinale, Region 3)
  • Young Professionals and Students (Almedin Kavaz, Region 8)
  • Women in Engineering (Ramalatha Marimuthu, Region 10)

Call for Volunteers
We still need more student, young professional, member, senior member, fellow and life member volunteers to ensure strong global representation for:

  • Sustainable development and humanitarian technology
  • Ethics, human values and technology
  • Societal impact of technology
  • Universal access to technology
  • Protecting the planet – sustainable technology
  • Young Professionals and students
  • Women in Engineering

We are also looking for nominations to chair the SSIT Pillar on Universal Access to Technology.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact me at pcunningham@ieee.org, Subject: SSIT 5 Pillars “your pillar of interest.” You can help me point you in the right direction by briefly describing your previous activities and track record in this field, your location (city, chapter, section), two sub-committees of interest, and some insight into the contribution you believe you can make. A responsible volunteer will follow up with you.


Submission Deadlines
In this month’s newsletter, there are a number of imminent submission deadlines that you may find of interest, including:

  • IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in San Jose, CA, USA, 19-22 October 2017. Call for Papers deadline 23 April 2017
  • IEEE SusTech 2017 in Phoenix, AZ, USA, 12-14 November 2017. Call for Papers deadline 28 April 2017
  • IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Sydney, Australia, 9-11 August 2017. Call for Papers deadline 30 April 2017
  • March 2018 Joint Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine. Call for Submissions deadline 1 May 2017

Membership Reminder
Please encourage respected peers (including Students and Young Professionals) to join SSIT and consider volunteering. Now is a perfect time for them to join with half-year membership rates (US$16.50 or US$2 for Student members). This is a fabulous opportunity to join our vibrant, growing, global community!

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.

volunteers header

We are pleased to continue our series of introductions to members of the volunteer leadership team whose hard work makes SSIT a successful organization with wide-ranging influence that extends throughout the IEEE’s global, multi-disciplinary community.

John Impagliazzo is an IEEE Fellow and Life Member, a director on the IEEE Foundation, and a member of the Long Island Section of Region 1, hailing from Fort Salonga, New York (USA). He has served SSIT since 2013 in roles focused on constitution and bylaws issues, and is our current chair of publications. His current interests include engineering and computing curricula and accreditation, computing history and ethics, and the effects of emerging technologies on society.


Carlos E. Jimenez-Gomez, an IEEE Senior member in the Schenectady Section of Region 1, is based in Niskayuna, New York (USA). He has been an SSIT volunteer since 2014, and is both an IEEE SSIT Distinguished Lecturer and co-founder of the joint IEEE Cyber Ethics and Cyber Peace initiative, which started in 2015. His interests extend to all five of SSIT’s central pillars, and his work focuses on digital government as well as modernization of justice within our “information society,” and championing the importance of openness and transparency in government. To learn more about his interests, visit his website.


Luis Kun, IEEE Fellow and Life member in NoVA, Washington (the National Capital Area Section of Region 2) lives in Vienna, VA, USA, and has volunteered with the SSIT since 2005. He has held numerous leadership roles with the organization, including several years on the Board of Governors, stints as chair of membership and conferences, and-his current title-Distinguished Lecturer and Chair. In 2016, he was a panelist at the Organization for Economic Co-operation (OECD) ministerial meeting, where he was also a Hackathon judge, and he has served as Life Sciences Technical Committee (LSTC) representative from 2016 through to the present. Like Jimenez-Gomez, his interests encompass the SSIT’s 5 Pillars, and his work has extended beyond the SSIT to broader IEEE engagement as a member of the IEEE Technical Activities Board and Publications/Editorial boards.

We encourage all SSIT members to submit your details to our volunteer directory.

Joint Special Issue-Call for Papers

Remember that the submission deadline for the March 2018 Joint Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine is fast approaching!

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 at the links below below. For further inquiries, please email Katina Michael at: katina@uow.edu.au.


#1: Robotics and Social Implications in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine


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

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).

Visit The IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine submission portal.


General Call for Papers: IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine
Dr. Katina Michael, senior editor of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, invites contributions to the publication’s Socio-economic Impacts section. For more information, visit the CE Magazine webpage or contact Katina at katina@uow.edu.au.


Publish your Ethical Dilemma in the SSIT and Life Members Committee (LMC) Newsletter As we mentioned last month, the SSIT and LMC have approved an initiative to publish brief articles (300-500 words) detailing society members’ experiences grappling with ethical dilemmas in professional contexts. Beginning in June 2017, contributions of this sort will be published simultaneously in both newsletters after authors work with the editors of the two publications. If you have a story to tell, please contact the SSIT newsletter editor, Dr. Heather Love at Heather.Love@usd.edu.

The following upcoming conferences should be of interest to many SSIT members:

IST-Africa Week 2017
30 May -2 June 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 focused on Sustainable Development and International Research Cooperation.

IST-Africa is a unique community that brings together cross-disciplinary stakeholders from the public, private, education and research, societal sectors with end-user communities focused on ICT and STI Research and Innovation and their contribution to sustainable development.

IST-Africa is cooperating with IEEE to organise the first IEEE Experts in Technology and Policy (ETAP) Forum on Internet Governance, Cybersecurity and Privacy to take place in Africa as the pre-conference event on Tuesday 30 May.

The IST-Africa Week 2017 Advance Program featuring over 190 presentations from 35 countries can be downloaded at their 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 ISTAS 2017 conference in Sydney has been scheduled to coincide with the annual IEEE Panel of Conference Organizers (IEEE POCO) event from 7-9 August 2017, and the biennial IEEE Sections Congress from 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:

  • Submission deadline for paper abstracts: 30 April 2017
  • Notification of acceptance: 8 May 2017
  • Final manuscript submission deadline: 5 June 2017

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


IEEE Global Humanitarian Conference (GHTC)
19-22 October 2017, San Jose, CA, USA

GHTC focuses on innovation, deployment and adaptation of technology for humanitarian goals and sustainable development. The conference invites presenters to showcase innovation and progress in technology and methodology addressing the socio-cultural and socio-economic needs of vulnerable and resource-constrained end-user communities in developing and developed countries, as well as confronting the challenges of both natural and man-made disasters.

Key focus areas that are particularly relevant include (but are not limited to):

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Quality education
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Connectivity and communication
  • Humanitarian challenges and opportunities
  • Disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery
  • Other United Nations sustainable development goals

For more information, visit our website.


5th IEEE Conference on Technologies for Sustainability – Engineering and the Environment (SusTech 2017)
12-14 November 2017, 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.


3rd IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science, and Technology (ETHICS 2017)
12-14 November 2017, Ann Arbor, MI, USA


The theme for IEEE ETHICS 2017 is Ethical Innovations in AI/AS. Financial co-sponsors for the conference include SSIT, IEEE-USA, IEEE Standards Association and the Southeastern Michigan Section (SEM). Technical co-sponsors include the TA/TechEthics Initiative.

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


Virginia Mary Edgerton
27 May 1933 – 28 February 2017
Submitted by Walter L. Elden

On 28 February 2017, IEEE Mmmber Virginia Mary Edgerton passed away in a nursing home in Sweden. Virginia was the first IEEE Member and woman to request and receive ethical support from the then brand new Member Conduct Committee (MCC) in 1978. The MCC issued its report in June 1978 supporting her actions. She was also the second recipient of the IEEE SSIT Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest.

I never met Virginia Edgerton personally but I did play a part in her getting IEEE support for her ethics conflict with a former employer in New York City. One day in 1977, about the time I, Dr. Stephen H. Unger and others on the IEEE-USA Activities Board Ethics Task Force (USAB), developed the USAB procedures to discipline members and provide them ethical support, I received a telephone call from Virginia Edgerton asking for IEEE ethical support of her actions taken in a police dispatch system she was working on, which led to her being terminated for elevating her concerns above her unsympathetic Supervisor. I referred her to Steve Unger, who took it from there, as the story is told next.

The following is the summary report published by the then IEEE Committee on the Social Implication of Technology (CSIT), in its 1978 #22 issue of its CSIT Newsletter:

Reports on IEEE’S First Ethics Case

The two reports in this issue of Technology and Society are outgrowths of a case involving Ms. Virginia Edgerton, a senior information scientist with the Circle Project of the New York City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, who was discharged after raising questions concering the efficacy of a computerized police emergency dispatch system-first to her supervisor and finally to the members of the Circle Committee. Ms. Edgerton contacted CSIT in June 1977, requesting assistance. At that time no formal mechanism existed within IEEE for evaluation potential ethics cases.

After a subcommittee of CSIT’s Working Group Ethics and Employment Pracices (chaired by Stephan Unger) completed its investigation of the case reported on here. IEEE instituted formal procedures for handling such situations. These were placed under the jurisdiction of the Member Conduct Committee (MCC). When the CSIT report was presented to the Executive Committee of the IEEE Board of Directors 21 May 1978, that body referred the matter to the MCC for consideration under the new procedures. Both the report and the complete file on which it was based, were then turned over to the MCC.

That group, chaired by James Fairman, reviewed the file, obtained a notarized statement from Ms. Edgerton, the individual seeking support, and then drafted its own report. Following the precedent set by the CSIT subcommittee, this draft was sent to the managers involved for their comments, and was subsequently presented to the IEEE Executive Committee with the recommendation that both the MCC and CSIT reports be published and that certain other steps be taken in support of Ms. Edgerton.

The Executive Committee then directed General Manager Richard Emberson to seek the opinion of IEEE’s attorney, James Wiener, concerning the legal aspects of publication. After discussion and some correspondence involving Dr. Emberson, Mr. Wiener, Mr. Fairman and Dr. Under, a consensus was reached that full publication was appropriate. This view was conveyed to the Executive Committee which, at its October meeting, approved such publication.

An article summarizing the Edgerton case appeared in the December 1978 issue of The Institute. Both committee reports are reprinted in their entirety here.

Subsequent to this, the new IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), awarded Virginia the second Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest. Below is the photograph of Dr. Stephen H. Unger presenting Virginia Edgerton her Barus Award.

On a more personal side of Virginia, here is a first-hand account by Robert Osband, of the interaction he had with Virginia in the 1970s when both resided in the New York Area.

“I am very saddened to learn of the death of my old friend Virginia Edgerton.

She was a customer in the mid 1970s when I worked at The Computer Store of New York on 39th St near 6th Ave. When I moved across town to The Computer Mart on 30th St and Madison, she found me there, and became a “regular” in the Books section of the shop. We became friends and would occasionally chat over a beer at a little “British pub” near her apartment house on Park Ave South. On 17 December 1978, we stopped for coffee at a restaurant called “Kitty Hawk” in Manhattan we happened to be passing on the 75th Anniversary of the Wright Brother’s First Flight.

Virginia’s odyssey with the whistle blowing she did took years to get her recognition, but I was happy that she asked me to accompany her when she got her award from the IEEE, and naturally, I was very proud of her for receiving it.

One day, she came into the Computer Mart and pleaded with me to take over a class she was giving as an Adjunct Instructor at Baruch College on “Introduction to Teleprocessing.” She needed to find someone to take over the class before the school would let her out of her contract so she could take a job in Ohio. I agreed, and taught the class for a couple of years, but that was the last contact I had with Virginia. I’m sorry I have no further information to help you with, though I now recall a conversation we had that she had also attend the “Convocation on Communications honoring the 100th anniversary of the Telephone” at MIT in 1976. I was living in Cambridge, MA at the time with a group of science fiction fans, and was a bit of a “phone freak” even then. The highlight of that event was getting to meet Arthur C. Clark the science fiction author who had first calculated the Geostationary Orbit published in Wireless World magazine in 1945. When Clark remarked in his speech at that time that an “Infomaniac” was someone who needed to be where the information was anytime he could get there, it was all I could do to keep my seat, and NOT jump up and yell, “That’s Right! That’s why I’m here!” I always think of that whenever I attend a trade show exhibit hall.

Over the years I’ve wondered why Virginia was there, and never had the chance to ask if maybe she was the daughter of THAT Edgerton of MIT which would have gained her admittance. At the commemorative banquet dinner put on by AT&T, a book was placed on every seat, “The Telephone” by John Brooks which was a history of the device’s invention. Virginia claimed she left hers behind after the dinner, and I had picked one up that was left behind after I came out from the back of the room after the talk to look around. Years later, as a call center agent for Store.Palm.Com I got a call from a John Brooks who needed an accessory for his Palm Pilot. I asked if he was the author of “The Telephone,” and sure enough, he was! A pleasant conversation ensued, and his order got Extra Special service!”

This feature was compiled by Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret), IEEE and SSIT Life Senior member.

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 May 2017 newsletter are due 24 April 2017.

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Algorithm Problem

United Airlines has been having it’s problems since recently ejecting a passenger to facilitate crew members getting to their next flight.  As the Wall St. Journal article points out this is a result (in part) of employees following a fairly strict rule book — i.e. an algorithm.  In many areas from safety to passenger relations United has rules to follow, and employee (i.e. human) discretion  is reduced or eliminated.   It is somewhat ironic that the employees who made the decisions that lead up to this debacle could have been fired for not taking this course of action.  But how does this relate to Technology and Society?

There are two immediate technology considerations that become apparent.  First is the automated reporting systems.  No doubt the disposition of every seat, passenger and ticket is tracked, along with who made what decisions.  This means that employees not following the algorithm will be recorded, ,may be detected/reported.  In the good old days a supervisor could give a wink and smile to an employee who broke the ‘rules’ but did the right thing.  Now-a-days, the technology is watching and increasingly, the technology is comparing the data with history, rule books and other data.

The second aspect of this is “gate attendant 2.0” — when we automate these humans out of their jobs, or into less responsible “face-keepers”. (i.e. persons present only to provide a human face to the customer while all of the actual work/decisions are automated, akin to the term “place-keeper”.)  Obviously if there is a “rule book”, this will be asserted in the requirements for the system, and exact execution of the rules can be accomplished. It is possible that passengers will respond differently if a computerized voice/system is informing them of their potential removal — realizing there is no “appeal”. However it is also possible that an AI system spanning all of an airlines operations, aware of all flight situations, and past debacles like this one may have more informed responses.  The airline might go beyond the simple check-in, frequent flyer and TSA passenger profile to their Facebook, credit-score and other data in making the decisions on who to “bump”.  One can envision bumping passengers with lower credit ratings, or who’s Facebook psychological profiles indicate that they are mild-mannered reporters, or shall we say “meek”.

The ethics programmed into gate-attendant 2.0 are fairly important.  They will reflect the personality of the company, the prejudices of the developers, the wisdom of the deep-learning processes, and the cultural narratives of all of the above.

AI Apocalypse (not)

Presumably we will reach a tipping point when Intelligent Devices surpass humans in many key areas, quite possibly without our ability to understand what has just happened, a variation of this is called “the singularity” (coined by Vernor Vinge, and heralded by Ray Kurzweil)  How would we know we have reached such a point?  One indicator might be an increased awareness, concern and discussion about the social impact of AI’s.  There has been a significant increase in this activity in the last year, and even in the last few months.  Here are some examples for those trying to track the trend (of course Watson, Siri, Google Home, Alexa, Cortana and their colleagues already know this.)

A significant point made by Harari is that Artificial Intelligence does not require Artificial Consciousness. A range of purpose built AI systems can individually have significant impact on society without reflecting what the IEEE Ethics project recognizes to as “Artificial Generalized Intelligence”.  This means that jobs, elections, advertising, online/phone service centers, weapons systems, vehicles, book/movie recommendations, news feeds, search results, online dating connections, and so much more will be (or are being) influenced or directed by combinations of big data, personalization and AI.

What concerns/opportunities do you see in this, ‘brave new world’?

 

IEEE SSIT Newsletter – March 2017

SIT Newsletter header
march
In this issue: New Student Branch, Volunteer Opportunities and Introductions, Ethical Dilemma Publication Opportunity, CFPs, Conferences, IEEE Foundation Grant for Smart Agriculture in India, the Promise of Predictive Fictionannouncements header

New Student Branch in Region 7


We are delighted to announce that a new Student Branch of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology has been formed at the Universidade de Brasilia, which is located in the Centro-Norte Brasil Section. We wish you the very best with your activities going forward – we know you will work together to make a positive difference in your community!


Membership Reminder
Please encourage respected peers (including Students and Young Professionals) to join SSIT and consider volunteering.

SSIT Student Membership for the remainder of 2017 is only US$2. Be sure to reach out to people who can take advantage of this fabulous opportunity to join our vibrant, growing, global community!

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.


Opportunity to Publish your Ethical Dilemma

The SSIT Board of Governors is pleased to announce that the following motion to facilitate the multi-platform publication and discussion of ethical dilemmas has passed.

The joint Life Members Committee (LMC) – Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) ad hoc committee proposes the following motion.

WHEREAS:

  • Experiences of IEEE Life Members would be of interest to other IEEE members that could be reported as stories in the IEEE SSIT Newsletter and the IEEE Life Members Newsletter under its existing category of “Tales from the Vault” column as descriptions of events in their careers.
  • Stories that posed “ethical dilemma” could continue to be submitted to the IEEE Life Members Newsletter but they could be separated from the other stories under “Tales from the Vault” because they are of interest in their own right.
  • Articles on “ethical dilemma” could be published under a new column in the IEEE Life Members Newsletter as well as the SSIT Newsletter
  • Both SSIT and LMC newsletter editors could place similar/identical calls for participation in each of their respective newsletters.
  • Articles received should be brief – between 300 and 500 words – just as the other articles in the newsletters.
  • Authors of articles shall avoid mention of names of any colleagues, products, or organizations that might be affected negatively by the articles, just as by any other articles.
  • The newsletter editor receiving the initial submission could copyedit the submission, including removal of names of individuals, products, or companies should that occur.
  • Articles received by one newsletter could be shared with the other newsletter.
  • Articles could receive dual publication exposure. That is, both SSIT and LMC newsletters could publish the same article.
  • The cost to each organization for undertaking this joint endeavor is estimated to be zero.

THEREFORE:
It is moved that the LMC and the SSIT Board of Governors approve the reporting of life experience ethical dilemma as indicated above and that such a column commence in June, 2017 of the IEEE Life Members Newsletter and the SSIT Newsletter.

We invite members to submit accounts of their experiences grappling with ethical dilemmas to SSIT newsletter editor, Dr. Heather Love at Heather.Love@usd.edu.

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SSIT’s Five Pillars
We have already appointed a number of students, young professionals and members who responded to the Call for Volunteers last month to relevant subcommittees.

We are still looking for Students, Young Professionals, Members, Senior Members, Fellows and Life Member volunteers from all Regions to serve on the Young Professional and Student Subcommittee and Women in Engineering Subcommittee, as well as the thematic subcommittees focused around SSIT’s 5 Pillars:

  1. Sustainable development & humanitarian technology
  2. Ethics, human values and technology
  3. Universal access to technology
  4. Societal impact of technology
  5. Protecting the planet-sustainable technology

Over the coming months, we will introduce the SSIT subcommittee chairs, who will share with you what we aim to achieve going forward. They need your assistance in operationalizing SSIT activities in your Section and Region.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact SSIT president Paul Cunningham at pcunningham@ieee.org, with the subject: SSIT 5 Pillars – “your pillar of interest.” Please help him point you in the right direction by briefly describing your previous activities and track record in this field, your location (city, Chapter, Section), two subcommittees of interest, and some insight into the contribution you believe you can make. A responsible volunteer will follow up with you.


Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative
This year, the IEEE Future Directions Committee (FDC) is launching a new initiative, Symbiotic Autonomous Systems, and SSIT has been invited to be part of this project.

This particular area of technology has been selected as an area of focus due to:

  • its promises in the coming years
  • the potential to leverage the know-how and activities going on in several of our Societies
  • the fact that its connections with other FDC initiatives provides a solid foundation

SSIT is now looking for suitable volunteers to be part of our engagement with this initiative. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity to get involved, please contact Dr. Greg Adamson at g.adamson@ieee.org, by 20 March 2017.

Additional background information is available at the following links:

volunteers header

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

Bozenna Pasik-Duncan is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, USA. She has been a volunteer with SSIT since 2013, when she began her role as Liaison Representative for the IEEE Control Systems Society, and she has served on the Board of Governors since 2016. She has held numerous IEEE positions, in areas ranging from technical, geographical, and educational activities (she currently works on attracting high school students to control education) to conferences and publications. Her areas of interest include the SSIT’s 5 Pillars of humanitarian development, sustainability, technology access, ethics, and the impact of emerging technology. As Chair of the IEEE WIE Committee, one of her goals is to increase the visibility of women in control.


Dr. Priya Mishra, an IEEE Senior Member in the Bangalore, India Section of Region 10, has also been an SSIT volunteer since 2013. He was a founding member of the IEEE SSIT ES joint Bangalore chapter, and has conducted more than 15 events since its inception in 2013 (including the creation of a student chapter). He has served the IEEE on conference committees and with educational activities, and he is invested in SSIT’s Pillars of sustainability and the impact of emerging technology.


Terri Bookman lives in Princeton, NJ, USA, and has been the Managing Editor of SSIT’s IEEE Technology and Society Magazine since 1990. Like Prof. Pasik-Duncan, she is interested in all five of the SSIT Pillars. You can learn more about her professional specialties at http://www.terribookman.com/.

We invite you to submit your details to our volunteer directory by completing the form on our website.

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 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 addressed. 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 IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine paper is complemented by a paper submitted in parallel to IEEE Technology and Society Magazine that investigates the application from a socio-ethical viewpoint.

Visit The IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine submission portal.


General Call for Papers: IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine
Dr. Katina Michael, senior editor of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, invites contributions to the publication’s Socio-economic Impacts section. For more information, visit the Magazine webpage or contact Katina at katina@uow.edu.au.


Brave Conversations 2017 Web Science Conference
10-11 April 2017, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia

As the Brave Conversations website explains, this event is “a challenging two day conference bringing the global conversation about the changing relationship between humans and technology to Australia” and “a space where participants need to be brave, to say the things that they know need to be said, and be prepared to apply intellectual rigour to challenging ideas that might take us to uncomfortable places.”

For more information, visit the website.


IST-Africa Week 2017
31 May-2 June 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 focused on sustainable development.

IST-Africa is a unique community that brings together cross-disciplinary stakeholders from the public, private, education and research, societal sectors with end-user communities focused on ICT and STI Research and Innovation and their contribution to sustainable development.

The Advance Program for IST-Africa Week 2017 features 190 presenters from 35 countries. A number of plenary speakers including the Minister of Education have already confirmed their participation.

Early Bird Registration is now open. A limited number of oral presentation slots are available for practitioners to share experiences, please contact us if this is of interest.

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 the 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 IEEE Sections Congress, which will 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:

  • 31 March-Submission deadline for paper abstracts
  • 14 April-Notification of acceptance
  • 26 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
  • eHealth, 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.


IEEE Global Humanitarian Conference (GHTC)
19-22 October 2017 in San Jose, CA, USA

GHTC focuses on innovation, deployment and adaptation of technology for humanitarian goals and sustainable development. The conference invites presenters to showcase innovation and progress in technology and methodology addressing the socio-cultural and socio-economic needs of vulnerable and resource-constrained end-user communities in developing and developed countries, as well as confronting the challenges of both natural and man-made disasters. SSIT is a financial co-sponsor of GHTC.

Key focus areas that are particularly relevant include (but are not limited to):

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Quality education
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Connectivity and communication
  • Humanitarian challenges and opportunities
  • Disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery
  • Other United Nations sustainable development goals

The Call for Papers is now available online. Please note the following deadlines:

  • 7 April-Submission of paper and session abstracts
  • 2 June-Submission of final draft paper
  • 21 July-Submission of accepted final papers

For more information, visit our website.


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.

IEEE Foundation Grants US$18,000 for developing Smart Agriculture Platform in India

The SSIT congratulates Dr. Ramalatha Marimuthu, one of ICT 2017 Board of Governors, who has received an US$18,263 grant to develop an Information Communication Platform for introducing Smart Agriculture in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu, India.

Coimbatore is earmarked as one of the places to be developed into a smart city in India, so this project marks an auspicious start to the broader aim of enhancing the facilities in ways that are necessary to achieving this goal. Though information systems on agriculture are available in India, the technology lacks popularity among the farmers. Therefore, the Indian Government (as part of its larger project of valorizing and modernizing agriculture) seeks to create awareness among farmers at the grass root level. IEEE is taking the first step to create this awareness by connecting the ICT with farmers.

This is a social immersion project which will encompass three disciplines: data mining, IoT and agriculture. Utilising technology to provide solutions and methods to equate the supply and demand and guide production decisions is the key objective. The project addresses smart village development using geomapping based land identification, smart farming technology or smart agriculture. It includes ICT solutions for determining the fertility of the soil, predicting yields, identifying best farming practices to increase yield with less resources and so on. The project will raise awareness among the educated farmers about the technology of smart farming and marketing using informed decision making process.

A small area called Keeranatham village in Coimbatore North Taluk is the first to be identified for this project. By conducting a survey to assess the details of the village, farm lands will be identified along with the status of the farming (whether live or not). This information will be compared with the data available in the Agricultural University while augmenting the data with other details like ground water level and rain fall during the decade and the yield per year, if available.

The outcome of the project is to create an easy-to-access tool for farmers who want to engage in an informed decision making process. In simple words, if a farmer in one of the villages in Coimbatore district would like to know what crop will be suitable for his land, or any other advice regarding the yield or marketing, it will be available on his mobile without his need to run around.

Collaborating with the agricultural universities and Government, a website will be created which will provide information on the workshops, contacts, themes of the workshops and information to the researchers on the ongoing activities of the group. Awareness Workshops will be conducted for the farmers to educate them on the ICT solutions and enhance the network.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year and the website and the mobile app will serve as a model for other regions. The dire situation regarding the farmers in Tamil Nadu has been reported in media often enough. This has led the team to create a portal to help the small scale farmers in one district which can be scaled to the other districts.


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 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.
-Jim Isaak

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


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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 April 2017 newsletter are due 24 March 2017.


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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
month
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

announcements header

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.

volunteers header

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.

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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.