“The Smartness Mandate” with Professor Orit Halpern

Smartness Mandate on Bridging the Gaps podcast

Smartness has permeated our lives in the form of smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and smart cities. It has become a mandate, a pervasive force that governs politics, economics, and the environment. As our world faces increasingly complex challenges, the drive for ubiquitous computing raises important questions. What exactly is this ‘smartness mandate’? How did it emerge, and what does it reveal about our evolving understanding and management of reality? How did we come to view the planet and its inhabitants primarily as instruments for data collection?

In the book ‘The Smartness Mandate,’ co-authored by Professor Orit Halpern, the notion of ‘smartness’ is presented as more than just a technology, it is presented as an epistemology — a way of knowing. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Orit Halpern, where we delve into the concept of smartness. We explore its historical roots and its cultural implications, particularly its emphasis on data-driven technologies and decision-making processes across domains such as urban planning, healthcare, and education.

Orit Halpern is Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at Technische Universität Dresden. She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard. She has held numerous visiting scholar positions including at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, IKKM Weimar, and at Duke University. At present she is working on two projects. The first project is about the history of automation, intelligence, and freedom; and the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering.

Our conversation begins by discussing the idea of “smartness” as presented in the book. To understand it better, we look at a few examples. The book suggests that the smartness paradigm relies a lot on collecting data, analysing it, as well as monitoring people through surveillance. We talk about the possible risks and consequences of this data-focused approach for personal privacy and individual rights. Next, we talk about how the smartness idea connects with the concept of resilience. We also touch on the fact, as presented in the book, that the smartness paradigm often reinforces existing power structures and inequalities. We explore the biases and ethical concerns that may arise with the use of these technologies. Furthermore, we explore the possibility of using the smartness approach to promote fairness and equality. We talk about how it could be applied to create a more just society. We discuss the significance of multidisciplinarity, and the role of higher education institutions and educators to create an enabling environment for an informed discourse to address these questions. Professor Orit Halpren emphasises the importance of exploring these questions and addressing relevant concerns to make sure we create the kind of world we truly want for ourselves.

Complement this discussion with Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and the listen to Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer

By |June 6th, 2023|Computer Science, Future, Information, Knowledge, Technology|

Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta

Cloud Empires on Bridging the Gaps

The rise of the platform economy puts state-like power in the hands of platform owners with little or no accountability. Over the past few decades, the chaotic and lawless early Internet evolved into a digital reality where e-commerce and digital services platform owners dictate decisions that affect millions living in different countries and jurisdictions. In his book “Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control” professor Vili Lehdonvirta explains how tech platforms got to where they are. The book outlines the history and evolution of tech platforms by telling the stories of individuals, the role they played in shaping and reshaping the Internet leading to the present day digital reality. Lehdonvirta emphasises that we can only begin to democratise digital platforms if we recognize them for what they are: institutions as powerful as the state. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta; we discuss the book, the new social order established by the digital platform companies, and how the accumulated power of platforms could be challenged to hold them more accountable and to regain control.

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. His research examines how digital technologies are used to reshape the organisation of economic activities in society. His research focuses on the questions such as what are the implications to workers, entrepreneurs, and states, and how can this digital economy be governed? His research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, political economy, industrial relations, new institutional economics, and science and technology studies.

We begin by discussing the chaotic and lawless days of the early Internet. We explore the emergence of the underlying theme to resist the undue influence of outsiders and to resist government regulations in favour of giving users more control, even in the early days of Usenet. We then discuss the emergence of Bitcoin in the context of a number of historic parallels such as the medieval economy and the Athenian peasant revolt. We explore the possibility, or perhaps the impossibility, of achieving true neutrality and privacy using BitCoin. At this point we start looking at the true nature of state-like powers accumulated by today’s cloud empires. An interesting point we touch upon is that similar to independent states and sovereign countries, are these state-like cloud empires protecting their users. We then look at the legal rights of employees working in these giant organisations. Finally we look at the two questions that emerge from the subtitle of the book “How digital platforms are overtaking the state and how we can regain control”. The first question is why it is important that we take back control, and the second question is, how should we do this. This has been an enlightening and thought provoking discussion.

Complement this discussion with Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration and then listen to Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek.

By |January 8th, 2023|Computer Science, Future, History, Podcasts, Technology|

“Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration” with Professor Thomas Davenport and Professor Steven Miller

Working with AI Reviewed at Bridging the Gaps

There is a widespread view that artificial intelligence is a job destroyer technical endeavour. There is both enthusiasm and doom around automation and the use of artificial intelligence-enabled “smart” solutions at work. In their latest book “Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration”, management and technology experts professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller explain that AI is not primarily a job destroyer, despite popular predictions, prescriptions, and condemnation. Rather, AI alters the way we work by automating specific tasks but not entire careers, and thus freeing people to do more important and difficult work. In the book, they demonstrate that AI in the workplace is not the stuff of science fiction; it is currently happening to many businesses and workers. They provide extensive, real-world case studies of AI-augmented occupations in contexts ranging from finance to the manufacturing floor.

In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller to discuss their fascinating research, and to talk through various case studies and real work use cases that they outline in the book. We discuss the impact of Artificial intelligence technologies on the job market and on the future of work. We also discuss future hybrid working environments where AI and Humans will work side by side.

Professor Thomas Davenport is a Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, a visiting professor at the Oxford University and a Fellow of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Steven Miller is Professor Emeritus of Information Systems at Singapore Management University.

We begin our discussion by looking at various aspects of the environments where AI and human workers work side by side, and then discuss the concept of Hybrid Intelligence. Then we talk about the challenges that organisations are faced with while developing and implementing Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies and solutions in enterprise environments. An important question that I raise during our discussion is, are the organisations ready for large scale deployment of AI solutions. The book is full of real world case studies and covers a wide variety of use cases. We delve into a number of these real world case studies and use cases. This has been a very informative discussion.

Complement this discussion with “The Technology Trap” and the Future of Work” with Dr Carl Frey and then listen to “Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman

By |October 31st, 2022|Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Future, Podcasts, Technology|