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Dr. Adam Hart

Jan 23 · 7 min read

Erica © Hiroshi Ishiguro Labs, ATR

“When tech’s overlords can’t protect themselves from their own creations, we’re all in trouble.” — Business Insider

Following the consumer press these days may give one the impression there is an endless array of creepy tech that is out for blood: anonymous hackers that compromise my privacy and steal my data; robots to take my job; phones that track my location; code that predicts and preempts my actions to influence me to make that impulse purchase.

That’s apart from the emerging presence of digital humans with their synthetic faces, driverless vehicles with no steering wheel, facial recognition powered surveillance and identification, robotic dogs that cost ~$30K a year to lease that could walk amongst us, DeepFakes impersonating political leaders or really anyone, and the worlds leading AI scientists banding together to make the first industrial cognitive engine, a next step towards an artificial general intelligence.

Take the much cited recent privacy invading example of ClearView AI who have coupled a ~3B image database with superior facial recognition pattern matching that is now being used by 600 police departments in the US and potentially Australia . The founder more or less said he’s illegally scraped these images off social media, but hey, everyone’s doing it so that’s OK. And his backers are well connected politically, so that’s really very OK.

The police departments don’t care because it makes their job easier, more convenient and the product is cheap. And they are solving crimes, meeting their KPIs at the expense of population’s privacy. [1]

It’s not only the specialist tech press who reports this way, but mainstream press as well that indulges in provoking a response to meet their circulation and readership KPIs.

Admittedly, there are also real reports of actual misuse of Telecommunications devices that are salient lessons for all of us in how technologically accidental or purposeful enabled data breaches can be used for illegal and manipulative purposes.

Yet, in light of all of this information, we mostly continue to use consumer technology for its convenience, especially smart devices and social media, and we continue to go to work, and life seems normal while we engage mostly safely with the ubiquitous channels where we may be potentially exposed.

What’s interesting and disturbing about this state of affairs is that most of this reportage is forward speculation based on the tech companies own share market speculation intermixed with some real milestones. That’s why the NASDAQ is so volatile. And the only other immediate root sources of what is happening are in infrequent annual reports or abstruce pre-peer reviewed academic papers on arxiv.org.[2]


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