Voting

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This week’s seminar was all about voting. We talked about how voting can be facilitated by the internet, what consequences this and facebook might have on the bahaviour of the voters and how the security of voting will be influence in contrast to todays voting system.

There is a lot of scepticism towards voting electronically. People argue that the data could be manipulated by various people or that they will have no chance to recount the votes if something went wrong. On the other hand, voting electronically could also save a lot of time, workforce and resources because there will be much less paperwork to in order to count and analyse votes and determine the outcome of elections. Voting electronically can also make it a lot easier to anylayse the data.

Another question which was frequently brought up in todays seminar was if everybody should be forced to vote. I don’t think so. Everybody should have the right the vote, but everybody should also have the same right not to vote. Everybody should be able to decide for themselves if they are informed and educated enough to vote and if they feel they don’t, people should be free not to vote.

A big topic was also how facebook can and does influence and alters elections and its outcomes. The readings for this week showed that in fact facebook is able to do alter elections, for example through just showing the user specific content on their news feed or the “I voted” – button. To be honest, I was not really surprised to hear that facebook not only alters the way we spend our time and our communication with friends and family, but also has the power to influence the voting process and the outcome of elections. The risk here is that people believe that facebook is neutral and just delivers information, whereas facebook is actually analysing, choosing and altering what you see, thus is far away from neutral. I really think the danger here is not the fact that facebook conciously alters the user experience, but that people are not aware of the fact that facebook is doing this and think that facebook is neutral.

To conclude, I think that voting electronically has both advantages and disadvantages. Everybody should keep in mind that all systems made up by humans can be hacked by humans, thus no system will ever be safe, neither the traditional paper voting system nor the electronical voting system. If people want to betray the system, they can do it anyways.And we also should be aware of the fact that everything that happens around us is influencing us in what we do and thus also how we vote. There is just a general bad feeling if we get influenced by other people in certain ways without us even noticing it.

 

Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity

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The topic of this weeks seminar was even discussed in the white house recently: we talked about the threats and chances of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and singularity

Singularity describes the state when humans create some kind of superhuman intelligence, that again creates an even more sophisticated intelligence and again and again. The positive feedback loop explodes, and shortly after we  humans are in a new era, where we are not the most intelligent species on the world anymore. We do not know what happens then and that is what makes the singularity exciting for some and scary for others. Exciting because it could evolve a development of a new level of human-machine-fusion which could make humans immortal and superintelligent. Scary because we are not in control anymore, governments could decide that they do not need citizens anymore or we could become degraded to pets or even ants.

Nobody knows anything for sure, it is all about finding some kind of evidence and then derive some wild guesses from it – and this is what makes singularity so fascinating. We do not even know if the singularity is going to happen or if it just a contruct of mind that will never become reality.

To create a superhuman intelligence, one needs both the hardware and the software. Hardware means all the computer chips and wiring, whereas the software has the knowledge of the functionality and connection of the hardware.

In our brain, the cells would equal the hardware of the computer. We think that we already know quite much about cells and acoording to Moore’s law (computing power doubles each period of time) we will be able the build computer chips with in the computing power of our brain in 2045. So will singularity arrive in 2045?

Probably not. We do not also need approbiate hardware but also the matching software which equals the  chemical reactions and connections and so many more things we do not even have an idea that they exist in our brains. That is the point where it becomes complicated and where scientists start making all kind of assumptions and predictions. Some say singularity will never arrive because the software of our brain is chemical and the software of machines is technical, so it is simply impossible to translate one into the other. Other scientists say singularity may happen but not soon. They believe that the scientic progress and discoveries necessary to build an artificial brain happens in uncalculable steps impossible to predict, so we can also not predict anything about singularity. The “third species of scientists” believe that progress can be graphed on a curve. This curve called the “accelerated law of returns” says that the slope of progress gets steeper, the more time passes the faster the slope gets steeper, so our knowledge will explode at some point. And we already passed the edge, so it will not take so much time anymore until we know enough to build an complete artifical intellgince with hardware and (!) software. These scientists even believe that singularity is already starting, that it is already part of our lives without that we even recognize it. Think of all the technical devices which surround us, our smartphones (the name says it all – it is smart implying some kimd of intelligence), our computers and all kinds of little sensors which help the machines to determine what they have to do to make our lifes easier, more convenient, more safe more comfortable – in general improve our lifes.

However, it is not improving the lifes of the machines. What  does that mean when sigularity arrives if it ever arrives.? We don’t know. What will change? We don’ know? When will it change? We don’t know. How will it change? We don’t know. We don’t know a whole lot about singularity, but we make of lot predictions and that is what made this weeks this discussion so interesting for me.

Thanks for reading and see you again next week!

Internet of things

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Hi everybody,

 

todays seminar was mostly about the Internet of Things and I loved it. The concepts we learn each Monday are getting more and more applicable and related to our daily life.

 

We followed our weekly routine of talking about an interesting article we read last week. Amd todays article really opened my eyes of how less control I actually have. I was not aware of the fact that by the way engineers design software and hardware, they do decosions for us – but this statement is so true. Todays technical opportunities just give us the illusion to be able to make our own decisions, but in realitiy we give away our free and concious ability decide away to others, whose might decide different than we would.

 

An example for the limitation of our decisions in daily life are self-driving cars: the illusion here is that we are able to steer and intervene whenever we want, it is the illusion of having the complete control about whatever the car does, even when an accident happens. In reality however, the car is controlled by a software, which calculates according to the programming of an anymous engineer. And if this not not-by-you controlled software decides it will be better to kill you instead of five other people in an accident, then there is nothing you can do against it – although you would probably decided to stay alife if it were the one in control.

 

From that, we went on to exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet of things. On the surface it seems as if the internet of things offers awesome opportuntinies to improve your life and make everything easier – you can have a personal camera in your house to watch your dog, a fridge that orders food indepently, a self-regulating thermostat, or watch your dad without being physically being there. Clear advantage of all of this: Convenience. The internet of things helps to make our daily life easier, since we do not have to take care of all the mundane daily tasks our life gets automated. This enables us to choose more freely with which activities we want to spend our time.

 

In addition, the internet of things helps us to be more sustainable since it allows us to use our resources much more efficiently. One example for this are water sprinklers in agriculture. They can control the amount of water which will be distributed to the soil according to weather forecasts and the amount of water right now. All of this is done automatically – and less water will be wasted than on traditional ways.

 

However, there are also a few disadvantages connected with the internet of things. First of all your privacy and security is constantly threatened. There is always the chance that of somebody hacks your network or your camera and gets access to your personal data. For example, if somebody gets access to your nest account, anynymous people would know when you were at home and when not, they could make you pay enormous amounts ofmoney by manipulating you thermostat and so on.

 

However, one always needs to keep the motivation of the cyberattack in mind and adjust the protection according to that. The motivation to manipulate the feeding machine of your cat is relativly low, so you do not need to put in a lot of effort to protect it against other peoples attack. Compared to that knowing the information of your bank account could be way more useful and therefore motivating to capture, thus you should put in considerably more effort into preotecting these data. Thinking forward and trying to act according to this can be really useful in these cases.

 

In the end, it always come back to weighing safety and privacy against convenience. At some point we have no ther choice we need to trust our devices. We need to trust that our money is safe in our virtual bank account, we need to trust that the camera of our phone is not recording right now. There will never be a guarantee that your private life is safe, and there is always a chance that you presonal information can be used in threatening ways.

 

This are this weeks reflections, thanks for reading 🙂

 

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