Human enhancement requires technological citizenship, Living without mobile phones / Humans + Tech - Issue #11

+ Apps as personal trainers, All YouTube, not just the algorithm, is a far-right propaganda machine, and A billion medical images are exposed online.


I’ve been thinking about Ukraine Flight 572 that was accidentally shot down by Iran. Despite all the technology they have these days, they were unable to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft. Innocent lives lost due to unnecessary acts of war by both the USA and Iran. Unfortunate.

Have you wondered why no country has a Department of Peace? is collecting one billion signatures for a Global Resolution for the Establishment of Infrastructures to Support the Culture of Peace, calling for the Creation of Ministries & Departments of Peace Worldwide. Please add your name.

They also have a wonderful free 20-minute movie called Admissions, which I highly recommend that you watch.

Here are the articles for this week:

  1. 🏋️‍♂️Do you need a personal trainer? [BBC] (hat tip to Tushar for forwarding this)

  2.  📺All YouTube, not just the algorithm, is a far-right propaganda machine [Medium]

  3. 📱I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them [MIT Technology Review]

  4. 👩‍🔬Why human enhancement requires technological citizenship [Next Nature]

  5. 🖼A billion medical images are exposed online, as doctors ignore warnings [TechCrunch]

… and links to 10 more interesting articles further below.

1. Do you need a personal trainer?

Chris Fox, reporting for the BBC:

Apps that use a mixture of machine learning, image recognition and motion tracking to correct your form during a workout are about to be released.

The BBC’s Chris Fox tried Vay Sports, GymFitty and Yoganotch to see whether they could be as motivational as a human personal trainer.

Watch the video at the link as he takes these apps through their paces.

Would you be comfortable taking instructions from an app versus a human personal trainer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Go to article

2. All YouTube, not just the algorithm, is a far-right propaganda machine

Becca Lewis, writing on Medium:

In recent years, the media has sounded a constant drumbeat about YouTube: Its recommendation algorithm is radicalizing people.

Becca, however, says that her research shows that the algorithm is only one of the pieces of the puzzle.

I have been researching far-right propaganda on YouTube since 2017, and I have consistently argued that we cannot understand radicalization on the platform by focusing solely on the algorithm. I have also come to find that we don’t actually need to understand the recommendation algorithm to still know that YouTube is an effective source of far-right propaganda. In fact, I will go even further: according to my research, YouTube could remove its recommendation algorithm entirely tomorrow and it would still be one of the largest sources of far-right propaganda and radicalization online.

The actual dynamics of propaganda on the platform are messier and more complicated than a single headline or technological feature can convey — and show how the problems are baked deeply into YouTube’s entire platform and business model. Specifically, when we focus only on the algorithm, we miss two incredibly important aspects of YouTube that play a critical role in far-right propaganda: celebrity culture and community.

This article is a thoroughly fascinating read, and far more insightful than other articles in the media that only focus on the algorithm.

Go to article

3. I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them

Ron Srigley, writing for MIT Technology Review:

A few years ago, I performed an experiment in a philosophy class I was teaching. A few years ago, I performed an experiment in a philosophy class I was teaching. My students had failed a midterm test rather badly. I had a hunch that their pervasive use of cell phones and laptops in class was partly responsible.

I extemporized a solution: I offered them extra credit if they would give me their phones for nine days and write about living without them. Twelve students—about a third of the class—took me up on the offer. What they wrote was remarkable, and remarkably consistent. These university students, given the chance to say what they felt, didn’t gracefully submit to the tech industry and its devices.

Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world. Here is some of what they said.

Reading the students’ feedback, it’s evident how much technology is overriding our experience of life.

Go to article

4. Why human enhancement requires technological citizenship

Ira van Keulen and Rinie van Est, writing for Next Nature:

New technologies – from artificial intelligence to synthetic biology – are set to alter the world, the human condition, and our very being in ways that are hard to imagine. The discussion of these developments limits itself as a rule to individual values. But it is also crucial to talk about the collective human values that we wish to guarantee in our intimate technological society. That brings an important political question at the table. How to develop and implement human enhancement technologies in a socially responsible way?

At their turn insights from the life sciences inspire the design of new types of devices: think of DNA computers and self-repairing materials. Simulation of the workings of the brain in hardware and software is, for instance, an important goal of the largescale European Human Brain Project, into which the European Commission has been investing a billion euros for ten years. This leads to the statement that “technology is increasingly becoming biology.” Engineers increasingly attempt to build qualities typical of living creatures, such as self-healing, reproduction, and intelligence, into technology. Examples of this second trend are artificial intelligence and android social robots.

The trends “biology becomes technology” and “technology becomes biology,” when applied to the human being, ensure that humans and technology are increasingly merging with each other. The Rathenau Insituut, therefore, speaks of an intimate technological revolution.

Ira and Rinie bring up the question, “What does it mean to be human in the 21st century?”—this is a similar question to the article we linked to a few days back.

They discuss many situations in which the blending of humans with technology, both internal and external, requires what they’ve termed technological citizenship, which they define as follows:

Technological citizenship is the collection of rights and duties that makes it possible for citizens to profit from the blessings of technology and protects them against the attendant risks.

It’s an eye-opening article and they bring up various scenarios which never occurred to me. I highly recommend reading it.

Go to article

5. A billion medical images are exposed online, as doctors ignore warnings

Zack Whittaker, writing for TechCrunch:

Every day, millions of new medical images containing the personal health information of patients are spilling out onto the internet.

Hundreds of hospitals, medical offices and imaging centers are running insecure storage systems, allowing anyone with an internet connection and free-to-download software to access over 1 billion medical images of patients across the world.

Yet despite warnings from security researchers who have spent weeks alerting hospitals and doctors’ offices to the problem, many have ignored their warnings and continue to expose their patients’ private health information.

The exposed data has implications for patients’ privacy, insurance, and can even lead to identity theft. This is pure negligence, as this has been brought to their awareness frequently by security researchers over the last year.

Go to article

More links to other interesting articles:

  1. Why you should take a close look at what tracks you [The New York Times]

  2. Machines are learning to write poems [The New Yorker]

  3. India’s top court rules indefinite internet shutdown in Kashmir unwarranted and amounts to abuse of power [TechCrunch]

  4. A drone’s-eye view of the quick and the dead [Scientific American]

  5. 23andMe has sold the rights to develop a drug based on its users’ DNA [New Scientist]

  6. Inside the Amazon warehouse where humans and machines become one [Wired]

  7. The top biotech trends we’ll be watching in 2020 [Singularity Hub]

  8. A NASA astronaut got a blod clot in space [Futurism]

  9. Microsoft outsourced Skype Cortana voice analysis to China with virtually no security in place [Gizmodo]

  10. Airbnb claims its AI can predict whether guests are psychopaths [Futurism]

Quote of the week

Technology gives us power, but it does not and cannot tell us how to use that power. Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world, but it still doesn't help us know what to say.

—Jonathan Sacks

I wish you a peaceful and brilliant day!