What Are You Afraid of? (Part 2) –  When Tech Claims Clash with Government Requests for Information

February 9th, 2017

Privacy is not a simple concept, as we discussed in our previous post.  The moral implications of privacy are complicated — “it depends.”  In a spiritual context, privacy, or the illusion of privacy, is an invitation to the temptations to lie, cheat or steal!  So how are we to decide between the claims of law enforcement and the claims of the tech industry when it comes to the Bentonville and San Bernadino cases?   The answer boils down to a simple question – what do you fear most?   (more…)

What Are You Afraid of? — When Public Interest Clashes With Personal Privacy (Part 1)

February 2nd, 2017

In 2016, two high profile police investigations triggered major fights over privacy with two of the world’s biggest tech companies, Apple and Amazon.  In both cases, one a terrorist attack, the other a murder, investigators requested access to data from digital devices potentially relevant to the investigation.  The Tech companies refused the court orders secured by investigators on grounds that this was an undue intrusion into personal privacy.  There’s a lot going on here, and it’s worth taking a closer look. ​​ (more…)

Why Big Data Can’t be Trusted (Part Two) – the Inscrutability of Deep Learning

November 1st, 2016

Human beings are often credited with intuition, the capacity of knowing something without being able to explain where the knowledge comes from. Intuitions are inherently inscrutable, even to ourselves. Interestingly, as Artificial Intelligence researchers have tackled the challenges of interrogating big data with “deep learning” algorithms, they are finding the algorithms great at scouring through masses of data to make good predictions, but programmers can’t explain how the algorithms reach their conclusions. Like their human creators, algorithms are becoming inscrutable. <MORE>

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What does your conscience say about human gene editing?

January 25th, 2016

I recently read a series of articles dealing with conscience and culture posted under the Questions for a Resilient Future project of the Center for Humans and Nature. At about the same time, I also read a briefing in The Week on the CRISPR technique that has vastly simplified gene editing – the headline is titled “Editing the human race.”  (See also the post in this forum: “Engineering Better Babies” November 20, 2015.)   CRISPR is one among many technologies that, by their very existence, test our collective conscience. (more…)

Postscript: Tech Company Manipulation of the Human – Technology Interface

January 5th, 2015

This week (January 3, 2015) the Economist magazine posted a review of a new book by Nyr Eyal called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (2014) that documents the way online companies seek to manipulate our minds in the effort to build users and ad revenues. Remarkably, it is estimated that 4/5ths of smartphone users check their device within 15 minutes of waking up – and check it as much as 150 times a day.   (more…)

Epilogue: Technology and the Art of War

December 31st, 2014

In the eight weeks since I gave the presentation on The Human Race and The Technology Race at the Wayland Great Presenter Series, the issues of artificial intelligence and computers vs. humans have been prominently featured in a variety of public media. (more…)

Chapter IV: Practical Advice – Responding to Technological Change

December 17th, 2014


This is the final Chapter in the series on The Human Race and The Technology Race.  The previous Chapters include:

Chapter I: The Human – Technology Interface

Chapter II: What is The Human Race?

Chapter III: The Technology Race – to Super-intelligence?

1.   Introduction

The last three Chapters have taken us on a journey from our use of digital technology in the present moment, to the deep question of human qualities and aspirations, to the far frontiers of digital technology and potential super-intelligence. This journey has left the question – how should we, as humans, respond to the digital transformation? (more…)

Chapter III – The Technology Race – to Super-intelligence?

December 10th, 2014

This is the third installment of a four-part series on the Human Race and The Technology Race. Chapter I and Chapter II have been published.   Chapter IV will follow.  This link –  Chapter III The Technology Race – provides a PDF copy of Chapter III.



Chapter II: What is the Human Race?

December 5th, 2014

This is the second installment of a four-part series on the Human Race and The Technology Race.  Chapter I has been published:  The Human – Technology Interface.   Chapter III and Chapter IV will follow.

This link provides a full PDF copy of Chapter II (which in my opinion is much easier to read).

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Chapter I:  The Human –  Technology Interface 

November 25th, 2014

This is the first installment of a four-part series on the Human Race and The Technology Race.  Most of the material was covered in the November 4th, 2014, presentation in the Wayland Great Presenters Series at the Wayland, MA Town Library.  I am grateful to all those who were able to attend the presentation.  The written presentation benefitted from the participation and comments from that very polite and attentive audience.

The full series will include four Chapters:

Chapter I:  The Human Technology Interface

Chapter II: What is the Human Race?

Chapter III: Will Digital Technology Produce Super-intelligence?

Chapter IV: Practical Advice for Responding to Technological Change

For a full PDF copy of Chapter I (which in my opinion is much easier to read), please click here:  Chapter I PDF.


Busted: Three 21st Century Technology-Driven Myths

November 7th, 2013

As the digital age has matured, new technologies have emerged that change the way we do things.  Some of these changes have been hyped as vastly more powerful and more efficient than the old-fashioned way of doing things.  Three prominent examples:  multi-tasking, reading digital books, and social networking have been touted as superior – as the way of the future.  In all three cases, I found my own capabilities limited, leading me to conclude that as child of the pre-digital age I would inevitably be left behind in the great transformation.  Recent scientific studies, however, have shown that the hype is off the mark and the myths are untrue.  Human bodies, brains and social behaviors are incredibly complex and interdependent and they do not always fit with the technological infrastructure we are creating.  Instead of blindly accepting these myths, we need to make informed choices about our use of technology – or we risk losing the very best of what makes us human. (more…)