May 15, 2016

Technoccult News: You Know Billy Idol Was Supposed to Sing That, Right?

This one might be a bit shorter this week, as I'm trying something a little different with it. No links, except as context. This is partially because there was about a week's worth of gap, again, due to grading (don't get me started), so we've all seen the things by now, right?

We've seen the Georgia Tech AI programming class with the AI TA, yeah? And the law firm that hired at Robot Lawyer? And that Google and DeepMind have apparently been given NHS data to scrape for patterns? Then yeah, we're all up to speed.

777 total opens on the last one of these, and 457 unique, so let's chat.

Hello from the Southwest Corner of the Dominion of Canada.

\/ Bwuaaah?!! \/
That's right, y'all. We're coming at you, this week, from Vancouver, BC, Canada, at the tail end of a full weekend at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 2016 Conference on Ethics.

I spent this weekend meeting a lot of fascinating people, being asked really interesting questions, presenting a paper, and wandering around and eating Vancouver. Had Mongolian Barbecue for the first time, this weekend, and some of the best real Chinese food I have ever had in my entire life.

If you're ever in Vancouver, let me recommend you two things:

1) Brace yourself for the kinds of utterly shocking class and income disparities that can only be shown via homeless men (and only men, it seemed) in mental health crisis, camped out next to, say, a Cartier store or the regional headquarters of HSBC; and

2) Get food, here. There are literally dozens of sushi places, restaurants showcasing several different Asian cultures, coffee as far as the eye can see (Blenz seems to be the local homegrown S*Bux competitor, and they make a fine iced chai), and it's just glorious.

But that's about almost all I have to say about Vancouver for now. Partly because I'll be doing another newsletter this week, where I rundown all the talks I saw, and my notes on them, much like I did with Albuquerque (you all like that, right? Good), and partly because it's 1am west coast time, as I write this, and we have to leave for the airport in 2 hours.


\/ So… What, Then? \/
Instead, I want to kind of set up what we're going to be talking about, later: Ethics. We're still in this stage where a number of people doing most of the most visible work aren't thinking through the ethical implications of the work they're doing, in re privacy, and the kinds of lessons we're teaching to these learning systems, not just through our programming, but though their moment-to-moment interactions with us.

Do you know someone actually had the temerity to ask "What Does Google Having Access to Medical Records Mean For Patient Privacy?" Like…what the fuck do you think it means? Nothing good, you idiot!

Disclosures and knowledges can still make certain populations intensely vulnerable to both predation and to social pressures and judgements, and until that isn't the case, anymore, we need to be very careful about the work we do to try to bring those patients' records into a sphere where they'll be accessed and scrutinized by people who don't have to take an oath to hold that information in confidence. '

I was gratified, this weekend, by how many people doing research seemed to really get this, as well as by how many examples of different lived experiences were there to speak for themselves. Trans researchers on gender issues, disability researchers with disabilities, fantastic. I was one of like, four black people there, but still. More on this later, but I want to bring this back around to something I mentioned elsewhere, in the context of restorative justice projects, and actively engaged representation in all spheres:

The personal is and always has been the political, the practical, and the academic.

When who and what you are has been denigrated, marginalized, or even criminalized to the point of pathologization, then hearing others tell you that your practicing "identity politics" is "damaging to the common struggle," just scans as someone else saying to you, "I know you were singled out and persecuted based on the public perception of your lived experiences, but I am inconvenienced by talking about that, let alone redressing it."

Properly understood, the struggle is unified via complex readings and understandings of identity, not in spite of them.

\/ No Aloha \/
That's going to be it, for this edition. Like I said, keep an eye out for another one this week. Check the Facebook page and the Twitter stream for news stories you want to know about, in the interim, and don't for get about this interview we did with FoolishPeople's John Harrigan. Oh and one last thing:

The archons and secret chiefs are doubling down, so I've made us these pink lasers with which to fight back. They may sound like words, different words, depending, but trust me, they're the only think that can pick the locks and break the bars and show you the truth.

You are better than this. We are better than this. Together we are stronger than this. Separately we think we must become this. Without each other we are subject to this. Subject to each other we understand this. We are better than this. You are better than this.

And if you don't think so, you know where the unsubscribe button is.

Until Next Time.