Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer

The future of technology is a subject of debate among experts. Some predict a bleak future where robots become dominant, leaving humans behind. Others, known as tech industry boosters, believe that replacing humans with software can lead to a better world. Critics of the tech industry express concern about the negative consequences of surveillance capitalism. Despite these differences, there is a shared belief that machines will eventually surpass humans in most areas. In his recent book “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World: Why Human Intelligence Still Beats Algorithms” professor Gerd Gigerenzer argues against this notion and offers insights on how we can maintain control in a world where algorithms are prevalent. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Gerd Gigerenzer to discuss challenges posed by rapid developments in the tech sector, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence. We discuss different approaches that individuals can adopt to enhance their awareness of the potential hazards that come with using such systems and explore strategies to maintain control in a world where algorithms play a significant role.

Gerd Gigerenzer is a psychologist and researcher who has made significant contributions to the fields of cognitive psychology and decision-making. He is director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and is director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the University of Potsdam. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on how people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and how to improve people’s understanding of risk and probability. He has trained judges, physicians, and managers in decision-making and understanding risk.

Our discussion begins by exploring the limitations of present-day narrow and task-specific artificial intelligence systems in dealing with complex scenarios. Professor Gerd Gigerenzer’s argument that simple heuristics may outperform complex algorithms in solving complex problems is particularly noteworthy. In fact, in some complex scenarios, relying on our intuition or “gut feelings” may result in better decisions than relying on sophisticated technological systems. We then discuss the importance of assessing the risks associated with using seemingly free services that actually collect and exploit users’ data and information to sustain their business models. We delve into the topic of recommender systems that subtly influence users’ choices by nudging them towards certain features, services, or information. Next, we examine various strategies for individuals to become more mindful of the potential risks associated with using such systems, and consider ways to maintain control in a world where algorithms wield considerable influence. This has been an insightful discussion.

Complement this discussion with “Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman and then listen to “Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek”

By |April 1st, 2023|Artificial Intelligence, Future, Technology|

“A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” with Physicist, Author and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson

Reviewed on Bridging the Gaps

The ancient ambition of exploring the cosmos and possibly even inhabiting other planets may one day come true, as we discover more and more exoplanets and intend to develop innovative propulsion techniques suitable for interstellar travel. Projects like 100 Year Starship and Breakthrough Starshot enable us to study the challenges involved with a view to develop solutions, furthering the idea of interstellar travel. In his new book “A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” physicist and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson takes the readers on an exciting journey through the science and innovations that could help us get to the stars.The book gives a thorough account of the next great frontier of human exploration, outlining exclusive inside look at the amazing advances in science and technology that will aid today’s astronauts in setting out for the stars.

Les Johnson is a physicist, author, and NASA technologist. He leads the development of advanced, in-space spacecraft propulsion technologies at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During his career at NASA, Les served as the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project.

We begin by reviewing the impact of discovery of exoplanets on the ambition of travelling to and inhibiting these distant alien worlds. Next we look at the precursors that we must take into consideration before building the ships and embarking on interstellar journeys. We discuss in detail the presently used propulsion technologies and evaluate their shortcomings for interstellar journeys. While discussing the future, we first discuss in detail two rocket technologies of the future: nuclear fusion and antimatter. Then we discuss in detail the innovative and promising propulsion approaches such as solar sails and laser-beamed energy. We discuss in detail how these technologies may one day enable us to embark on interstellar journeys. Les Johnson has written a number of science fiction books; I ask him to expand on his view that science fiction is an effective tool to imagine future technologies. No discussion on the topic of space exploration is complete without discussing the possibility of life out there; we discuss this as I ask Les to give us his views on the possibility of life out there and on the question “are we alone”. This has been a fantastic discussion.

Complement this discussion with “The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” with Professor Christopher Mason and then listen to “The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees”

By |March 13th, 2023|Future, Physics, Podcasts, 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|