A not-so-flat World – Friedman 2.0

I’m prepping a program on the future and pursuing a number of related books that will no doubt result in Technology and Society blog posts in the future. One recent (2016) book is Tom Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late.  I’m only part way in, but clearly technology impact considerations are top on his list.  You may recognize Tom from 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, in particular from 2007 on, as a “dislocation” not just a “disruption.” The short take on this is that 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.  Friedman 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.

The title Thank You for Being Late results from some of Friedman 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) 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 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 surpassed 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?

“Remaining Human”

CLICK HERE for the must-watch short film:

produced with a small IEEE grant on the work of Norbert Wiener.
Launched October 21, 2016, at the IEEE ISTAS 2016 conference in Kerala, India. EXCLUSIVE. #norbert#wiener #cybernetics #communications #ethics #feedback #brain#machines #automation

For more see www.norbertwiener.org and www.norbertwiener.com


To GO or Not to GO?

Pokemon Go has become a delightful and disturbing experiment in the social impact of technology. This new “Free” software for smart phones implements an augmented reality, overlaying the popular game on the real world. Fans wander the streets, byways, public, and in some cases private spaces following the illusive characters on their smart phone to capture them, or “in world”, or to collect virtual items.  The uptake has been amazing, approaching Twitter in terms of user-hours in just days after introduction. It has also added $12 billion to Nintendo’s stock value (almost double).

Let’s start with “Free”, and $12 billion dollars. The trick is having a no-holds barred privacy policy. Not surprising, the game knows who you are and where you are. It also can access/use your camera, storage, email/phone contacts, and potentially your full Google account (email contents, Drive contents, etc.)  Them money comes because all of this is for sale, in real time. (“While you track Pokemon, Pokemon Go tracks you”, USA Today, 12 July 16) Minimally you can expect to see “Luremodules” (a game component) used to bring well vetted (via browser history, email, call history, disk content, etc.) customers into stores that then combine ad-promotions with in-store characters. Perhaps offering your favorite flavor ice cream, or draw you into a lawyer’s office that specializes in the issues you have been discussing on email, or a medical office that …well you get the picture, and those are just the legitimate businesses.  Your emails from your bank may encourage less honest folks to lure you into a back alley near an ATM machine .. a genre of crime that has only been rumored so far.

The July 13th issue of USA Today outlines an additional set of considerations. Users are being warned by police, property owners, and various web sites for various reasons. The potential for wandering into traffic is non-trivial while pursuing an illusive virtual target, or a sidewalk obstruction, or over the edge of the cliff (is there a murder plot hiding in here?) Needless to say playing while driving creates a desperate need for self-driving cars. Since the targets change with time of day, folks are out at all hours, in all places, doing suspicious things. This triggers calls to police. Some memorial sites, such as Auschwitz and the Washington DC Holocaust Memorial Museum have asked to be exluded from the play-map. There are clearly educational opportunities that could be built into the game — tracing Boston’s “freedom trail”, and requiring player engagement with related topics is a possible example. However, lacking the explicit consideration of the educational context, there are areas where gaming is inappropriate. Also, some public areas are closed after dark, and the game may result in players trespassing in ways not envisioned by the creators, which may create unhealthy interactions with the owners, residents, etc. of the area.

One USA Today article surfaces a concern that very likely was missed by Nintendo, and is exacerbated by the recent deaths of black men in US cities, and the shooting of police in Dallas. “For the most part, Pokemon is all fun and games. Yet for many African Americans, expecially men, their enjoyment is undercut by fears they may raise suspicion with potentially lethal consequences.”  Change the countries and communities involved and similar concerns may emerge in other countries as well. This particular piece ends with an instance of a black youth approaching a policeman who was also playing the game, with a positive moment of interaction as they helped each other pursue in-game objectives.

It is said every technology cuts both ways.  We can hope that experience, and consideration will lead both players and Nintendo to evolve the positive potential for augmented reality, and perhaps with a bit greater respect for user privacy.

T&S Magazine September 2015 Contents

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Volume 34, Number 3, September 2015

4 President’s Message
Coping with Machines
Greg Adamson
Book Reviews
5 Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Mission
7 Alan Turing: The Enigma
10 Editorial
Resistance is Not Futile, nil desperandum
MG Michael and Katina Michael
13 Letter to the Editor
Technology and Change
Kevin Hu
14 Opinion
Privacy Nightmare: When Baby Monitors Go Bad
Katherine Albrecht and Liz Mcintyre
15 From the Editor’s Desk
Robots Don’t Pray
Eugenio Guglielmelli
17 Leading Edge
Unmanned Aircraft: The Rising Risk of Hostile Takeover
Donna A. Dulo
20 Opinion
Automatic Tyranny, Re-Theism, and the Rise of the Reals
Sand Sheff
23 Creating “The Norbert Wiener Media Project”
J. Mitchell Johnson
25 Interview
A Conversation with Lazar Puhalo
88 Last Word
Technological Expeditions and Cognitive Indolence
Christine Perakslis

SPECIAL ISSUE: Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century

33_ Guest Editorial
Philip Hall, Heather A. Love and Shiro Uesugi
35_ Norbert Wiener: Odd Man Ahead
Mary Catherine Bateson
37_ The Next Macy Conference: A New Interdisciplinary Synthesis
Andrew Pickering
39_ Ubiquitous Surveillance and Security
Bruce Schneier
41_ Reintroducing Wiener: Channeling Norbert in the 21st Century
Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman
44_ Securing the Exocortex*
Tamara Bonaci, Jeffrey Herron, Charles Matlack, and Howard Jay Chizeck
52_ Wiener’s Prefiguring of a Cybernetic Design Theory*
Thomas Fischer
60_ Norbert Wiener and the Counter-Tradition to the Dream of Mastery
D. Hill
64_ Down the Rabbit Hole*
Laura Moorhead


74_ Opening Pandora’s 3D Printed Box
Phillip Olla
81_ Application Areas of Additive Manufacturing
N.J.R. Venekamp and H.Th. Le Fever

*Refereed article.

T&S Magazine June 2015 Contents

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Volume 34, Number 2, June 2015

3 ISTAS 2015 – Dublin
4 President’s Message
Deterministic and Statistical Worlds
Greg Adamson
5 Editorial
Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects
Katina Michael
8 Book Reviews
Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
Stealing Cars: Technology & Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino
13 Leading Edge
“Ich liebe Dich UBER alles in der Welt” (I love you more than anything else in the world)
Sally Applin
16 Tools for the Vision Impaired
Molly Hartman
18 Learning from Delusions
Brian Martin
21 Commentary
Nanoelectronics Research Gaps and Recommendations*
Kosmas Galatsis, Paolo Gargini, Toshiro Hiramoto, Dirk Beernaert, Roger DeKeersmaecker, Joachim Pelka, and Lothar Pfitzner
80 Last Word
Father’s Day Algorithms or Malgorithms?
Christine Perakslis

SPECIAL ISSUE—Ethics 2014/ISTAS 2014

31_ Guest Editorial
Keith Miller and Joe Herkert
32_ App Stores for the Brain: Privacy and Security in Brain-Computer Interfaces*
Tamara Bonaci, Ryan Calo, and Howard Jay Chizeck
40_ The Internet Census 2012 Dataset: An Ethical Examination*
David Dittrich, Katherine Carpenter, and Manish Karir
47_ Technology as Moral Proxy: Autonomy and Paternalism by Design*
Jason Millar
56_ Teaching Engineering Ethics: A Phenomenological Approach*
Valorie Troesch
64_ Informed Consent for Deep Brain Stimulation: Increasing Transparency for Psychiatric Neurosurgery Patients*
Andrew Koivuniemi
71_ Robotic Prosthetics: Moving Beyond Technical Performance*
N. Jarrassé, M. Maestrutti, G. Morel, and A. Roby-Brami

*Refereed Articles


T&S Magazine March 2015 Contents

LOW RES T&S March 2015 cover 1

Volume 34, Number 1, March 2015

Special Section on Social and Economic Sustainability

18 GUEST EDITORIAL Jason Sargent, Khanjan Mehta, and Katina Michael

20 Long-Distance Telecommunication in Remote, Poor Areas* Martin J. Murillo, Juan A. Paco, and David Wright

31 Integrated Energy Resources Planning for the Electricity Sector: Targeting Sustainable Development Miguel Edgar Morales Udaeta, Flavio Minoru Maruyama, Andre Luiz Veiga Gimenes, and Luiz Cláudio Ribeiro Galvão

39 The Role of ICT in a Low Carbon Society Michael Koenigsmayr and Thomas Neubauer

45 RFID Individual Tracking and Records Management – Solutions for Slum Communities* Ali Zalzala, Vivienne Strettle, Stanley Chia, and Laura Zalzala


56 An Anticipatory Social Assessment of Factory-Grown Meat* Carolyn S. Mattick, Jameson M. Wetmore, and Braden R. Allenby

65 Resolving Multiplexed Automotive Communications: Applied Agency and the Social Car* Sally A. Applin and Michael D. Fischer

74 Mobile Technology for Socio-Religious Events – A Case Study of NFC Technology* Mohamed Ahmed Mohandes  


Inside Front Cover ISTAS 2015 – Culture, Ethics, and the Knowledge Society Call for Papers

4 President’s Message SSIT Past and Future Greg Adamson

5 Book Review The Circle


7 Ruminations on the “IQ2 Debate: We Are Becoming Enslaved by Our Technology” Jeff Robbins

9 Are Social Media Making Us Stupid? Liz Stillwaggon Swan and Louis J. Goldberg

11 Commentary Considering Social Implications of Biometric Registration – A Database Intended for Every Citizen in India Usha Ramanathan

80 Last Word Lessons from the Sea Christine Perakslis

*Refereed article.

Cover Image: ISTOCK.

T&S Magazine Winter 2014 Contents

T&S Winter 2014 cover low res

VOL. 33, NO. 4, WINTER 2014

Dear SSIT Members…
Laura Jacob

Katina Michael

Enslavement by Technology? Reflections on the IQ2 Debate on Big Ideas

Are we Enslaved by Technology?
Michael Eldred

Excessive Conference Fees

Lonely Ideas: Can Russia Compete?
Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
User Unfriendly

Remotely Piloted Airborne Vehicles
Philip Hall

Recommendations for Future Development of Artificial Agents
Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman

Channeling Digital Convergence in Education for Societal Benefit
Arturo Serrano-Santoyo and Mayer R. Cabrera-Flores

Influential Engineers: Where Do They Come From and Where Do They Go?
J. Panaretos and C.C. Malesios

Videoconferencing for Civil Commitment: Preserving Dignity
Muaid Ithman, Ganesh Gopalakrishna, Bruce Harry, and Deepti Bahl

Snowden’s Lessons for Whistleblowers
Brian Martin

How and Why to Keep the NSA Out of Your Private Stuff – Even If You’ve “Got Nothing to Hide”
Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre

Using Data to Combat Human Rights Abuses
Felicity Gerry


44 Leaning on the Ethical Crutch: A Critique of Codes of Ethics*
Jathan Sadowski

48 User Understanding of Privacy in Emerging Mobile Markets*
Cormac Callanan and Borka Jerman-Blazic

57 Questioning Professional Autonomy in Qualitative Inquiry*
R. Varma

65 Cell Phone Use While Driving: Risk Implications for Organizations*
S. Yang and R. Parry

73 Building Trust in the Human—Internet of Things Relationship*
Ioannis Kounelis, Gianmarco Baldini, Ricardo Neisse, Gary Steri, Mariachiara Tallacchini, and Ângela Guimarães Pereira

*Refereed articles.

Cover Image: ISTOCK.

Human Germ-line Modification Hiatus Proposed (too late?)

Nobel laureates David Baltimore and Paul Berg have recommended pausing active modification of the human germ-line cells until experts can convene a conference to consider the implications of this activity.  (WSJ 4/9/2015 “Let’s Hit Pause Before Altering Humankind”)   They point out that this parallel’s a similar action in 1975 when the emergence of recombinant DNA technology triggered a conference on that topic.

This is a bit afield from IEEE’s domain of affairs, but quite relevant to the Society on Social Implications of Technology dialogs. Let me outline key concepts they put forward to help build a common vocabulary, and then focus on parallel’s in IEEE’s areas of work.

They point out the advent of a bio-tech (CRISPER/Cas9) that simplifies the modification of germ-line DNA alterations that are “quite precise with no undesired changes in the genome.” They point out that modifications can be within an individual without inheritability (somatic cell alteration.) They can be applied to germ-cells, affecting all future generations from that line either to eliminate a defect (therapeutic germ-line alteration.) Although they point out that similar benefits for the next generation may be attainable via embryo-selection methodology.  Finally there is the potential for “voluntary germ-line alteration”, to increase traits parents currently consider desirable. They point out that “we often do not know well enough the total range of consequences of a given gene alteration, potentially creating unexpected physiological alterations that would extend down through generations to come.” (A.k.a. the law of unintended consequences.)  Ergo they recommend a moratorium and conference to address the implications involved.

This is an excellent example parallel to IEEE’s Code of Ethics which includes “to improve the understanding of technology; its appropriate application, and potential consequences.” Actually, it goes one step further in taking action to manage potential consequences before they are fully realized.

If we look at the fields where IEEE’s technologists are engaged (with computing, robotics and bio-medical systems included, there are few areas we don’t touch), there are some interesting examples.  There is some discussion (although no suggested moratoriums) in areas like self-driving or remotely controllable cars, some of these fields are outgrowths of simple ‘improvements’, such as automatic breaking systems or parallel parking.  Others are unintended consequences of remote monitoring services.

Observation #1: we (technologists, our employers, and indirectly stockholders and customers) may not be applying sufficient diligence in considering potential consequences.  In part we may not be providing the time and incentives for quality engineering of quality products. A quality product should not be subject to hacking that can affect public safety and health for example.

Observation #2: The bio-genetics world is miles ahead of our technology in their limited understanding of what may result from their work.  For example, the concept of emerging artificial intelligence and it’s impact is getting coverage in science fiction, and even some awareness in research and industry, but we have very little insight on the potential consequences of passing over some nebulous lines in paths that lead towards intelligent and./or conscious systems.

What other areas do you see that might warrant some serious consideration before we proceed?

[April 24th, Chinese researchers indicate they have completed a trial of this concept, with some ‘off target’ effects.]

Technologists who Give a Damn?

I’ve been using Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in classes for a while now.  One key message of the book is that professionals (well everybody) needs to care about their work.  Perhaps more in Zen terms, to be mindful while they work.  The author asserts that one of the reasons technology is so alienating now-a-days is that the lack of care is evident in the workmanship, robustness, etc. I’ve also been working on an update of the SSIT Strategic Plan, and one element of that discussion has been what catchphrase should we use?… Like on business cards.  IEEE’s is “Advancing technology for humanity” which is a good one.  Currently we are using “Where Technology and Society Talk” … but it is tempting to use: “Technologists that Give a Damn” … a bit demeaning to imply that some (many?) don’t, but unfortunately this is at least occasionally true. There are at least two levels of caring.  The obvious one for SSIT is paying attention to the social impact of inventions and products (the “should we make it” as opposed to the “how we make it“).  There is a lower level that is also critical, in software we might ask “is this code elegant?”  Oddly, there seems to be a relationship between underlying elegance and quality.  Clean, simple design often works better than a ‘hack’, and it takes both a level of mastery, and a level of mindfulness to accomplish.  Some number of cyber security holes are a result of code where folks didn’t care enough to do it right. No doubt many “blue screen of death” displays and other failures and frustrations emerge from this same source.  Often management is under pressure, or lack of awareness, and is satisfied with shipping the product rather than making sure it is done well.  I’m not aware of any equivalent in most development facilities of the Japanese “line stop buttons” that make quality a ubiquitous responsibility.  The reality is we need technologists who invent and produce products that are right socially, done right technically — technologists who embrace “care” at all levels. A retired career counselor from the engineering school at one of our ivy league schools in my Zen class observed that we were more focused on ‘career skills’ than ‘quality’ in our education, and may be suppressing student’s sense of care.  We then observed that this apparent lack of care, evidenced in so many consumer products, might be a factor in why girls are choosing to not enter STEM education and careers. I suppose the question  that remains is “do we care?”

ISTAS 2015 – Nov 11, 12; Dublin Ireland

The International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), held annually.

Papers (5,000 – 6,000 words) using the ISTAS2015 Template must be registered on the conference portal by the deadline of 31 May 2015.  Workshop proposals have a 8 June 2015 deadline (see site for details)