Humans + Tech - Issue #3

Should Free Internet be a basic human right? We are teaching AI systems biases, India going ahead with facial recognition program, 3D-printed live skin, A world where data privacy exists online.

Should Free Internet be a basic human right? There's a strong case for it

David Nield, writing for Science alert:

You might take it for granted that you can load up Twitter or browse through Reddit whenever you like, but around half of the 7.7 billion people living on the planet right now aren’t yet able to get online.

And that’s a big problem, according to one researcher. Merten Reglitz, a philosopher and global ethics lecturer from the University of Birmingham in the UK says internet access should be established as a basic human right that everyone is entitled to.

“Internet access is no luxury, but instead a moral human right and everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium – provided free of charge for those unable to afford it,” says Reglitz.

“Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold accountable supranational rule-makers and institutions. These individuals simply don’t have a say in the making of the rules they must obey and which shape their life chances.”

Dr. Reglitz makes a valid point. With the internet being such a crucial part of our lives, those who cannot afford it should be able to access it for free. And governments should ensure that all their citizens have access to the internet, even in rural areas.

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We Teach A.I. Systems Everything, Including Our Biases

Cade Metz, writing for The New York Times

Last fall, Google unveiled a breakthrough artificial intelligence technology called BERT that changed the way scientists build systems that learn how people write and talk.

But BERT, which is now being deployed in services like Google’s internet search engine, has a problem: It could be picking up on biases in the way a child mimics the bad behavior of his parents. 

BERT is one of a number of A.I. systems that learn from lots and lots of digitized information, as varied as old books, Wikipedia entries and news articles. Decades and even centuries of biases — along with a few new ones — are probably baked into all that material.

AI, machine learning, and deep learning are all dependent on data to be trained. So it’s inevitable that biases in the data will be picked up by the AI systems too.

Dr. Bohannon said computer scientists must develop the skills of a biologist. Much as a biologist strives to understand how a cell works, software engineers must find ways of understanding systems like BERT.

Here is where explainable AI is going to be critical. Knowing how the system reached its decision is key to understanding where and how it picked up its biases. Otherwise, more and more examples of biases in AI are going to emerge that could have serious repercussions in society.

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India is going ahead with its facial recognition program despite privacy concerns

Ravie Lakshmanan, writing for The Next Web:

The Indian government has played down fears of mass surveillance in response to concerns that its proposed facial recognition system lacks adequate oversight.

Replying to a legal notice filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a Delhi-based non-profit that works on digital liberties, the country’s National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) defended the move, stating it doesn’t interfere with privacy of citizens as it “only automates the existing police procedure of comparing suspects’ photos with those listed in LEA’s [Law Enforcement Agency] databases.”

It also dismissed worries of possible misidentification and discriminatory profiling, and said the project will only be used to identify missing people and unidentified dead bodies.

India still doesn’t have strong data protection laws in place. A draft bill is scheduled to be presented in Parliament over the next few weeks.

However, India is not alone in employing facial recognition on a massive scale.

India is far from the only player looking to deploy facial recognition on an enormous scale. China already has leveraged the technology to establish what’s a sophisticated surveillance network, while law enforcements’ use of facial databases in the US and UK have drawn scrutiny.

In addition, France plans to follow India’s footsteps with an Aadhaar-like biometric citizen ID program called Alicem that employs facial recognition to counter identity theft and “increase confidence in electronic transactions within the European Union for online services.”

Complicating the matter further is the lack of oversight and data protection regulations to prevent exploitation of such sensitive data for dubious purposes.

Every technology can be used for both good and bad. Before deploying technologies like this into society, people need to be protected from wrongful use through adequate data protection and privacy laws.

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Scientists 3D-Printed Living Skin, Complete With Blood Vessels

Victor Tangermann, writing for Futurism:

In a paper published in the journal Tissue Engineering Part A on Monday, the researchers detail how they added cells crucial to the development of blood vessels to animal collagen inside a complex network of 3D-printed tissues, which prompted the cells to form a vascular structure within weeks.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that, once we start approaching [the complexity of recreating biology], biology takes over and starts getting closer and closer to what exists in nature,” Karande said.

It worked on a mouse and the skin even began to connect and communicate with a mouse’s blood vessels. It’s still not ready for humans but that’s just a matter of time as per the article.

This will be especially useful to burn victims to heal faster.

How would you feel about artificial skin blending in with your regular skin? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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Building a World Where Data Privacy Exists Online

Craig S. Smith, writing for The New York Times:

Dawn Song, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s foremost experts in computer security and trustworthy artificial intelligence, envisions a new paradigm in which people control their data and are compensated for its use by corporations. While there have been many proposals for such a system, Professor Song is one actually building the platform to make it a reality.

She recently started a company, Oasis Labs, that is building a platform that can give people the ability to control their data and audit how it is used. She believes that once data is viewed as property, it can propel the global economy in ways unseen before. “New business models can be built on this,” she said.

This sounds very promising and I hope Oasis Labs and Dawn Song are successful in building this platform. Big technology companies are data brokers and they are using our data to pad their balance sheets. It’s about time we regain control of our own data and get paid for sharing it.

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And that brings us to the end of the third issue. I’m always grateful if you made it this far. If you enjoyed this issue, click on the ♥️below.

I came across this quote — “Offline is the new luxury.”

I couldn’t find who wrote it, but I wholeheartedly agree. Go offline right after reading this and treat yourself to some luxury for the rest of the day. You deserve it.

Wishing you a brilliant day as always.