The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom

When we ponder on the future, scenario-based planning is one of a number of approaches we can employ to consider the “what-might-be” possibilities. These are plausible scenarios that let us peer into the future, not with certainty of what will eventuate but with a spirit of consideration and preparedness.

Recently, Katina was invited to participate in Australia's Prime Minister & Cabinet series of workshops on the state-society relationship. A number of fundamental questions were posed at the workshops relating to futures. Some of these are highly pertinent to the thought-provoking Special Section guest edited in this issue by the studious Associate Editor Jeremy Pitt, Ada Diaconescu, and David Bollier, addressing matters of the digital society, big data, and social awareness. The questions included:

  1. What can governments use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How does government operate in a networked environment?
  3. Can Big Data help government solve problems?
  4. How will government respond to the empowered individual?
  5. How can governments effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?
  6. How will the government communicate with its citizens given instant communications?

To some degree answering one of these questions provides insights into answers for others. For the purposes of this editorial, we'd rather ask:

  1. What can citizens use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How can companies effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?

It should come as no surprise that in the last 12 months, T&S Magazine has published articles on a variety of themes relevant to the above-mentioned questions, relating to smart grids, smart homes, smart meters, energy monitoring, public technical means, public sector information, open government, big data, geosocial intelligence, the veillances (data-, sous- and uber-), future government, crowdsourcing, collective awareness, participatory government, and design science and development.

What binds all of these topical themes together is the emphasis on finite resources available to serve a growing highly mega-urbanized networked glocal population that places immense pressures on the natural environment. Take for example the Beijing-Shanghai corridor fueled with several megacities that are each suffering dire environmental problems. Scientists internationally have especially attempted to raise alarm bells as they report on increases in carbon emissions and air pollution, on rising sea levels (e.g., Jakarta), on changing weather patterns (El-Niño), on dying species of plants and wildlife, on the need for recycling and unacceptable means of waste disposal (especially e-waste), and on the fundamental necessity for clean drinking water.

There is no such thing as the “land of plenty.” Pristine artesian wells are being drilled as a last resort to supplying water to the impoverished. Oil reserves are fast depleting but stockpiles are in the hands of the accumulators. Rich minerals like coal and iron ore are being mined amidst a flurry of research activity into affordable renewable energy sources. Categorically our present actions will have a direct impact on our livelihoods (economic, health, social), and those of our children, and our children's children.

But we are living in the “upgrade generation” fueled by mass production, instantaneous consumption, and enough waste generation to land-fill entire new nations. The core question is whether technology can help solve some of the biggest problems facing our earth or whether the rhetoric that says using technology to correct economic externalities is a misnomer.

PetaJakarta.org team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on.

PetaJakarta.org team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on.

Let us ponder on the affirmative however. What role can big data play in civic infrastructure planning and development? Can citizens contribute data via crowdsourcing technologies to help service providers and government have better visibility of the problems on the ground?

For example, in the Chinese megacities that have emerged, capturing data that indicates where there is a pressing need for cleaner drinking water is imperative for the health and welfare of citizens. Doing this systematically might mean that citizens contribute this knowledge via a text message or through the use of social media, giving municipal and provincial governments and specific agencies in charge of waterways, such as environmental protection authorities, an ability to better plan and respond in a timely manner.

Similarly, if we can monitor zones prone to flooding that affect tens of millions of people, we might be able to lessen the burden on these citizens by informing civil infrastructure planners in the government to respond to the underlying problems perpetuating the flooding during monsoon season. Refer here to the work of Etienne Turpin and Tomas Holderness of the SMART Infrastructure Facility www.petajakarta.org. Here citizens send a text message using Twitter, some with location information and others with photographs attached, allowing partner organizations such as NGOs to get a complete picture of trends and patterns at a dwelling level, and collectively assess areas of major concern affected by banjir (i.e., floods). Is it possible to use this data to drive change?

Socio-technical systems in their purest form are there to fulfill user-centered aims, and not to act against an individual's freedom and human rights. Will we be able to convert the present senseless surveillance fueled by mega-companies and governments to a net-neutral opt-in detection and alert system toward access for basic needs and longer term sustainability for communities far and wide? At what point will citizens be able to donate their mobile and Internet and general utilities data without the risk of potential harm to themselves and their families? Or are we blindly being led down a utopian scenario that will ultimately be used to control or manipulate the masses even further?

Additionally, what will be the repercussions on private enterprise? To date utility companies have been taking advantage of their own inability to offer services that run on efficient energy redistribution to their subscribers. Of course it has never been in their best interest to “rob from the rich to feed the poor,” precisely because by offering this kind of redistribution, utilities companies would negatively be impacting on their bottom line. What will all this big-data achieve? An ever-greater ability to scrutinize the subscriber, based on smart meter data, in order to generate even more revenues for private companies who have taken on once government-based responsibilities.

We must not be myopic – big data can be used for us or against us. This issue presents the positive value of “collective action,” a fundamental ability to commandeer resources together, often self-organized, toward the benefit of our community at large. This is not a new phenomenon but with the aid of technology, both data collection and analysis have become possible at granular levels of detail. It is up to us to anticipate the risks associated with such engineering design principles, and introduce safeguards that will make such an approach work.

Citation: Katina Michael, Xi Chen, 2014, "The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 3, Fall 2014, pp. 7-8. DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2349572

Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics

Editor's Introduction

In our last issue, i wrote about how we'd planned to expand the scope and audience of IEEE Consumer Electronics (CE) Magazine. After all, CE is not just about the design and manufacture of electronic systems and products. These devices and their ecosystems have been changing and altering our lives since the introduction of the TV set in the 1950s and 1960s.

But in today's Internet age, we are so interconnected that society and the economy respond at a much accelerated pace. Changes and disruption that would have taken years, or even decades, back in the 1960s and 1970s can now spread in months or even weeks. And today, their impacts are felt on a global scale, and not just in the developed world, but increasingly among those in the developing world.

As engineers, we are the electronic architects of tomorrow, but the scope and scale of impact that our designs and architectures can have on society and on the economy place significant responsibility on our shoulders. We are all responsible for broadening our perspectives and considering how our work might impact the lives of others. There is much for us to learn beyond the realms of pure science and engineering.

This section of our magazine, aptly titled “Impacts,” is being introduced to help facilitate a broadening of our perspective on the world of CE and to learn more of the various impacts of CE on society. It is introduced in partnership with the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT). Starting with this issue, SSIT members will also be receiving a copy of IEEE CE Magazine, increasing our distribution to IEEE Members in other Societies.

I would like to express a big thank you first to Stefan Mozar, president of the IEEE CE Society, for initiating this collaboration with SSIT and second to Katina Michael, the editor-in-chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, for working with me to put together this first “Impacts ” section.

This is a first attempt, but I think it is a pretty good start—at the same time, I'd much rather hear what some of you think. So please feel free to contact either me or Katina to give your feedback. And we'd welcome suggestions for topics or subject areas that should be addressed in future editions of “Impacts.”

Now a short introduction to our partners on “Impacts ”—the SSIT.

—Peter Corcoran

 

Introduction to the IEEE SSIT (Katina Michael)

CE has revolutionized the way we live and work. Most students that I know would rather forgo expensive clothing labels than do without their branded smartphone. In fact, some of them would forgo food altogether if it meant their phone could always be on and always with them, clipped onto their belt buckles, strapped into their pants or jacket sleeves, or held in the open palm of their hand. Something happens when our basic needs as humans are overtaken by some other need that was once a distant want at best—plainly, confusion in our ability to rightly determine what our priorities are as humans in any given context.

I have been around people who have lost or had their iPad or iPhone stolen. It is not a pretty sight to see a grown man or woman become frantic and then be reduced to tears over the loss of what is seemingly an inanimate object but in reality has become seamlessly integrated to every aspect of one's life. And lest I look all high and mighty, I had my own laptop stolen with invaluable unbacked Ph.D. research onboard, while working for Nortel Networks and visiting company headquarters in 1999. It took me months to recover from the ordeal, professionally, academically, and even mentally.

The SSIT, with its flagship magazine, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, explores not only the obvious trends toward CE but those aspects that are not given enough attention on the externality spectrum of potential issues—the threat of ever-increasing screen time for children at school and at home, the use of violent video games, and exposure to different types of online media to everyday consumers, consider even the wide ranging topics that go into supporting the development of such an innovation, tracking its existence from conception to the end of its product lifetime.

Taking the smartphone analogy further, as a typical CE device that affects the global population and that has now saturated the consumer market, SSIT would consider everything from the sustainable design of mobile phones to further investigation of the smartphone's posited harmful effects through the emission of electromagneticfields or the potential to do damage to the wearer's inner ear if played on a high volume daily. The Society would also be interested in submissions on the manner of operational health and safety obligations and conditions of companies during the assemblage of the CE components into the finished product in developing nations. The privacy and security of the data on the smartphone would be an area of interest, as would the ability to dispose of the device without producing ever-increasing e-waste mobile phone dumping grounds with hazardous materials thrown into a landfill.

But that is not all. SSIT's greatest focus is perhaps the economic, institutional, and organization infrastructure surrounding CE products. Aspects of this include how developing countries are adopting CE and their impact on equity and access to information toward international development out of the poverty cycle, the ability to offer remote health care and better access to health information services, the importance of public policy surrounding telecommunications in general, and the laws, standards, and regulations in existence to facilitate use, at the same time protecting the consumer. Herein, it is important to weigh the benefits of CE such as the smartphone—on the one hand, providing life-saving capabilities such as access to emergency services, as opposed to the potential to cyberstalk a stranger using mobile social media or even gather location data from a friend's phone to be used surreptitiously at a later date. Equally, we are interested in articles addressing functionality, such as the ability for human activity and condition monitoring from the dozen or so sensors in the smartphone, as well as the basic traditional applications of call patterns, texting, and usage patterns, with respect to communities of practice online. How might these communities be changing the dynamics between state and society both now and into the future?

One thing for certain is that IEEE SSIT shares some fundamental qualities with the IEEE CE Society—that it is one of the most interdisciplinary Societies within the IEEE, and membership spans across disciplines, with a wide spectrum of interests represented. We are actively seeking papers that tackle the social, environmental, economic, political, and ethical impacts of CE on households, businesses, and governments and how the application of such technology can improve the world around us but also how it may adversely affect the very users it was created to aid.

IEEE SSIT hosts the annual conference, the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), and, in 2013, the focus was wearable technologies, while in 2014, the focus will be on ethics and technology. The Society also supports and recognizes engineering ethics, presenting the Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest. With active international Chapters all over the world, IEEE SSIT provides a voice for topics that would otherwise not be addressed from all sides of the debate. It is this open discussion that makes IEEE SSIT and IEEE CE such vital Societies as we continue with the explosion of emerging technologies in all aspects of our home and work life. CE affects everybody—from the newborn baby, to the employee, to the elderly. Viewpoints and cutting-edge pieces on all these perspectives are not only welcome but highly valued.

IEEE Keywords: Social factors, Consumer electronics, Sociology, Economics, Media, Mobile handsets, Ethics, Design manufacturing

Citation: Peter Corcoran and Katina Michael, "Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Volume: 3, Issue: 3, July 2014, pp. 57 - 58, Date of Publication: 26 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2014.2317897

 

Drones Humanus

Some years ago, a sweet grandma in my (Christine's) neighborhood was convinced that one of her neighbors was involved in illegal activity. Although my husband and I tried to assuage her overactive mind, she insisted we purchase and deliver binoculars to enable her to perform her civic duty as a self-appointed sleuthhound.

If it had been this year, she could have placed an order on-line and a drone could deliver the packaged binoculars to her front door [1]. Perhaps next year, she can trade in the binoculars for a perching air drone that will not only fly, but also perform a controlled stall with actuators allowing the feet to grip the branch of the tree in her neighbor's yard. The bird-like drone, with motors that can shut down to avoid energy depletion, can sit for long periods of time, recording lots and lots of data [2].

The current environment in which these technologies are emerging causes even the more open-minded members of society to face considerable misunderstandings, exploitation, abuse, and even physical danger as was evidenced during The Burning Man festival this past year [3]. Not surprisingly, a plethora of issues arose at the festival pertaining to drones; many of which related to privacy. It is apparent, there are still fragmented, few, or no regulations. Yet advances in technology allow for more easily concealed devices [4], revolutionary capabilities of remote sensing and capture technology (e.g., LIDAR chip) [5], and decreasing costs to acquire devices [6].

What will we become? We can now buy devices to wear 24/7, logging everything we see, and sending data to our lifelog storage device in the cloud. Perhaps we are now the bird-like drone, but we move from the sky, to the branch, to the inside of people's homes, into their workspaces, and alongside them on roads, trains, and planes. We can capture their interactions, their facial expressions, and the intimate aspects of their everyday experiences [7]. There are seemingly no limits [8].

Much like peer-to-peer security that has proven to be effective in society to reduce disorderly conduct in crowds [9], perhaps people will be paid for drone-like behavior [10]. Perhaps, the sweet, civic-minded grandma in the neighborhood, who lifelogs to pass on a heritage to her progeny, will utilize the same device to capture peer-to-peer data and thereby subsidize her pension. What is the trajectory for society?

If the digital realm plays an ever-increasing role in developing and transmitting social norms, we must consider the many values at stake [11]. The older as well as the younger generations may perceive this as an opportunity to become as fearless as the desert explorers who traversed unknown lands. Only today, the point-of-view #explorers are demonstrating their mean feats to a global theatre using social media in real time to their legions of online followers [12]. Suppose lifelogs lead to an environment in which we are fact-checked against the recorded medium [13]. Your interpretation of an event could be refuted; you would be told, “You were never into jazz.” or “That wasn't such a good time, was it?” [14]. Can synthesized data, capture the spirit behind the poetic license one takes when telling a story to achieve a desired effect? Can an algorithm discern the varied contexts within which our behaviors were recorded? We often have different personae that change over time; and it is often necessary for an individual to have one personae for work, one for family, and yet another for the Internet [15].

The human experience cannot be captured and interpreted easily; we are highly complex and astoundingly dynamic beings. This is the great stuff of humanity. We are ever-changing. We embellish to affect laughter. We create what didn't exist. We make stuff up. We make up rules so we can play games. We make up institutions so we can coordinate problem-solving collective action. Data, especially when so abundant and extensive, can easily undermine such invention. One only needs to ask siblings to describe their shared childhood experiences; one could compare their stories and be exceedingly perplexed. Each sibling has created his or her own narrative; each may have invented a slightly different back story. Can algorithms or a fallible human who chooses how to personally interpret the synthesis of data, appropriately process reality [16]? Moreover, if it can be said that “history belongs to the winners,” then while there exists lifelogging asymmetry (some do, some don't), perhaps it could also be said, equally cynically, that “personal history belongs to the lifeloggers”? Issues arise with this historical record because a lifelogger could easily omit, misrepresent, or even distort and deceive; he or she can willfully create inaccurate narratives which could go unchecked and unchallenged.

The most delightful aspect of visiting that grandma wasn't the amusing humor derived from her comedic idiosyncrasies, but rather it was her rich storytelling. Her husband often had a different take on events. She admitted she chose to forget the painful aspects of the depression era. Yet, she wonderfully verbalized a narrative of her life and times from her perspective. Just as forgetting is an essential part of the human psyche (without which we cannot begin to function), so is the ability to create narratives [17]. In the event of universal lifelogging, could this be lost and replaced with machine-perfected recollections? Without narrative, we have no mythos, and so we have no more explanation for the human condition than logos. We would have much less ability to create a shared sense of community through a commonly told story, and may be stuck instead with a single unalterable personae deterministically crushed by the unbearable tyranny of mundane facts captured through devices.

There are negative ramifications when we allow technology to commodify social concepts, and diminish social relations like privacy, friendship, and loyalty. The resultant consequences, such as the fragmentation of communities, the dissolution of trust, and the diminution of our ability to solve collective action problems, are serious enough. However, such invasive technologies as wearables and bearables are doing something else: they could deprive us of the ability to create personae and narratives [18]. We may discover the obsessive literalism is an axe being taken to the very essence of what it means to be human.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Drones, Privacy, Behavioral science, Security, Information processing,Wearable computers, Surveillance

Citation: Jeremy Pitt, Christine Perakslis, Katina Michael, "Drones Humanus", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 2, Summer 2014, pp. 38 - 39, Date of Publication: 02 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2319951

The land of milk and money

Banking at the supermarket might seem convenient, but you should think twice before putting so much of your information into the hands of a single corporation, writes Katina Michael.

Read More

Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia

With almost four billion people, Asia comprises about 55% of the world's population and 45% of the world's Internet users [1]. Internet penetration in Asia is estimated at almost 28% compared with the rest of the world at 43% [2]. The number of mobile users in Asia at the end of 2012 was estimated at about 3.2 billion subscribers. Eighteen countries in Asia have saturated mobile markets exceeding 100% penetration, while Macau and Hong Kong have mobile penetration levels of more than 200% [3]. India and China account for over 60% of the telecommunications market in Asia which is why so many companies are vying to be there.

But all of this needs to be factored against some humbling statistics. For example, 66.7% of people living in South Asia in 2010 earned less than$2 a day compared with 30% in East Asia and the Pacific [4]. According to the World Bank, more than a third of these people did not earn more than$1.25 a day, placing them below the poverty line. An estimated 80–90% of this population is rural, with rural poverty especially endemic in Southern Asia [5]. However, between 1990 and 2008 the number of people living in poverty in the world halved [6]. One question to ponder is how much of this reduction in poverty was as a direct result of technology?

When I worked for Nortel in Asia I had the opportunity to study voice and data teletraffic flow maps published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). I was always intrigued by the fact that thick arrows representing large volumes showed information flowing in and out of developed nations [7]. Poorer nations in Asia and Africa especially had very thin flows. Sometimes this signified that a market was predominantly “closed” and had not yet formally deregulated, or that internal conflict caused it to remain troubled instead of outward looking and global. The poverty cycle, also known as a spiral, is difficult to break. Initiatives like one laptop per child (OLPC) surely provide hope [8], as do open data initiatives to give access to information to anyone who has an Internet connection of any type [9]. However when there is no one to pay the electricity bill or to even guarantee the underlying infrastructure, even these promising ventures will fall short.

There are numerous ways to consider technology within a framework of progress. For example, some point to genetically modified (GM) crops that can provide food for those in need [10]; enabling technologies in the manufacturing industry giving workers a chance to earn a living; transportation technology like containers on ships and rail that enable global supply chain processes; sophisticated private and public exchange banking systems that allow for electronic commerce from anywhere in the world; and a high tech industry that is continually reinventing itself with new innovations to keep the retail sector moving.

Nonetheless, resources are limited as populations continue to rise at an increasing rate in developing nations, placing pressure on fossil fuel reserves. On the one hand these limited resources have meant that we are continually seeking to harness new alternative means of energy such as solar and wind, but on the other hand, we may be quickly approaching a crisis far greater than that of the 1973 oil embargo and subsequent stock market crash, if we do not back renewable resource initiatives with serious and ongoing research funding.

The externalities of technology are not only felt on a global scale with respect to climate change as a direct result of carbon emissions, but are vividly obvious in other activities from the exportation of e-waste disposal to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and in the contamination of waterways through industrial chemical waste within organizations situated within Asia and Africa [11].

In other cases, technology change has equated to business process optimization so harsh on employees that inhumane practices have been discovered in sweat shops and white good manufacturing lines. We might be paying significantly reduced prices for our computers, toasters, and clothes, but somewhere up the “chain” someone has had to get the component parts to a finished good. We have a responsibility to ensure that child workers are not being exploited on cocoa farms to bring us our favorite chocolate bars, and that pregnant female workers are not bound to their sewing machines from dawn to dusk, among a great many other worker issues.

I observe around my neighborhood during rubbish collection days, electrical appliances such as printers, abandoned on the roadside because it is cheaper to purchase a brand new one than to take the effort in purchasing color toner and installing it for use. Little by little we have become the throw-away generation, and the side effects from this thoughtless consumerism will cost us heavily in years to come. How much more prevalent this behavior might become with the onset of 3D printers and downloadable computer-aided designs (CAD) is anyone's guess.

While I do not wish to cast any shadow on this significant special issue dedicated to “Technology and Society in Asia” for which I thank the tremendous efforts of ISTAS12 organizers Greg Adamson, Michael Arnold, Sophie McKenzie, and guest editors Martin Gibbs, Philip Hall, and Shiro Uesugi, a counter-balance is necessary to place the special issue in perspective [12]. Yes, technology is the answer to so many of our problems today, but it can also be the source of our woes. That which has had such a positive impact on the production functions of so many processes, i.e., technology, can also carry with it negative intangible and hidden costs to the individual, the household, the factory, and society at large. We need to think past the first ripple effect, to far-reaching consequences, ensuring that we take the longer-term view, before that which immediately benefits profit margins.

References

1. United Nations Population Information Network, 2009, [online] Available: http://www.un.org/popin/data.html.

2. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, 2013, [online] Available: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm.

3. P. Evans, P. Budde, "Asia-Mobile broadband and digital economy overview", BuddeComm, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Asia-Mobile-Broadband-and-Digital-Economy-Overview.html.

4. "Poverty and equity data", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty.

5. "Rural Poverty Portal: Asia", International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2009, [online] Available: http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/region/home/tags/asia.

6. M. Tuck, "Poverty Reduction and Equity", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/.

7. "Measuring the Information Society" in International Telecommunications Union, 2012.

8. one.laptop.org, OLPC Foundation.

9. Interaction Design Foundation.

10. S.K. Moore, E. Strickland, "GM foods grow up", IEEE Spectrum, 2013, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/gm-foods-grow-up.

11. StEP Solving the e-waste problem, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.step-initiative.org/.

12. ISTAS12 Technology and Society in Asia IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, 2012.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 32, Issue: 3, Fall 2013, pp. 5 - 6, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2276662

Risk, complexity and sustainability

This special section is dedicated to risk as understood within our society, in which we depend upon increasingly complex and interconnected technologies for even our most basic needs-water, food, shelter, electricity, gas, sewage, communications, and banking.

Natural disasters and their impact on vital services has been a research area that has flourished, especially since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in South Asia. This research has yielded a plethora of strategies for addressing short-term and geographically defined disasters. While such disaster preparedness systems are vital to minimize the loss of life during a natural disaster, we turn to consider what some would call of even greater value to society at large. That is, how to reduce the vulnerability of everyday citizens by understanding better how their essential supply lines interconnect, which supply chains are intertwined and, how this might impact the individual, regardless of whether they are living in a crowded city or remote village.

By developing a clear understanding of what makes us all vulnerable in our particular context, we can be better prepared to reduce these exposures, and build a more resilient society in the process. As one example, “survival” literature suggests that one of the most problematic repercussions of a serious “incident” is disruption to food supply. Y et during the Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand in February 2011, food supply was much less problematic than sewage disposal. In another example, residents of a rural town threatened by earthquake were unconcerned at the possible disruption of landline phone services - but were disturbed to learn that ATM and banking communications, cell-phone data, emergency calls (as well as landline phone services) were all carried on a single fiber-optic link!

Classically, we have built models that calculate the probability of an event occurring and measure its theoretical impact if the event does indeed occur - but these models are limited. They might reveal to us a ranking of probable incidence, and the estimated loss in dollar figures as a result, but they do not provide insight into how interdependencies in various supply chains play out during an incident (whether caused by natural or human-made mischief).

For instance, we know that in a simplistic scenario, if water supply is disrupted, then our electricity system will not operate effectively, and if our electricity system does not work then all additional services that require power, such as the crucial ATM network also does not work, and people are left without the ability to purchase fuel, food, etc. The financial sector will certainly consider the effect of ATM systems failure, but (as with most supply chain managers) their assessments of brand damage and corporate losses are likely to receive higher weighting than end-user problems.

A very strong argument exists that we need to be building vulnerability models so that we can at least know where the weakest points in an operational community (of individuals) lie. By identifying the weakest points, we can overcome them with strategies well in advance of a major incident. This does not mean that we can eradicate vulnerability completely from our communities, but we can minimize the level of exposure - both to anticipated and unanticipated threats.

Technology is a double edged sword - on the one hand it offers advanced, efficient, and economical services, but on the other it exposes us to both technological and also ethical risks. Therefore a crucial role exists for engineering ethics and social responsibility in higher education curricula. Additionally, we need better mechanisms with which to comprehend the full dimensions of risk and exposure - and a desire to move towards a future that offers real (individual) people both security and service.

This special section addresses some of these issues, including fundamental definitions of technique vs. technology, complex systems of systems, and planning for future technologies and policy repercussions well in advance.

IEEE Keywords: Sustainable development, Strategic planning, Risk management, Complex networks, Disasters

Citation: Lindsay Robertson, Katina Michael, 2013, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Vol. 32, Issue: 2, Summer, p. 12, 05 June 2013, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2265145

High-Tech Lust

Are you in love with your Android or Apple device? Do you have a deep affection and suffer from separation anxiety [1] when your smartphone is not within arm's length of your bed at night?

Don't worry, you're not alone. Rossiter [1] differentiates between “brand love” and “brand liking” which is significant. When it comes to our high-tech gadgetry people are likely to be able to cope better with being separated from a partner or child than being separated from a vital piece of technology which goes with them everywhere.

I have been thinking much about what it means to be “in love” with an inanimate object - with a device that, lacking electrical pulses, would be completely “dead” and without function. At least a block of wood that serves as a dinner table facilitates the joy of a family meal, and is more visually appealing than a computer that is not plugged in. Well, at least to me anyway…

One reason why I believe some people are “in love” with their Android or Apple devices is because their contents reflect so much of who they are. Without these devices, they cannot be contacted instantly. Stored on these devices are montages, pictures and video snippets, favorites, lists, and contacts. They are in love therefore with aspects of the self, and this is not entirely negative. It is only that the high-tech device, e.g., the smartphone, is often misunderstood as being an extension of the body, when in fact it is the other way around [2].1 Meaning it is the smartphone that drives us because without the human it would not have any intrinsic value.

When we couple lust with technology it becomes an overwhelming desire or craving to be “with” our device, all the time.

These days we are so habituated to getting that instant message, whatever form it takes, that it has become a welcome distraction from the everyday and mundane. I see many mothers at parks on smartphones welcoming the relief from baby talk, even if only for a few minutes. But at the same time, at home, it can be used as an excuse to be taken away from household responsibilities. Who wouldn't prefer to talk to a friend or write on someone's wall instead of cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing floors, or vacuuming?

Some months ago I came across an article on Lew Terman, current IEEE SSIT Secretary, and former President of IEEE. In this article [3], Lew reflects on his late father Fred Terman, who many people consider to be the “father of Silicon Valley.” Of his father, Lew reflects on childhood memories: “He would drop what he was doing, answer the question, make sure I understood the answer, whatever it was. I would leave, and he would go right back to work … He never said, ‘Wait a minute, I am in the middle of writing this thing, could you come back when I've finished the page?’ or, 'don't bother me now, but I'll talk to you later.'”

I was convicted by this paragraph. I recollect the number of times I have told my own young children that I am busy with “work,” and that I will be with them as soon as I finish this email or that call, while they are hanging off my legs. They tell me at these times that “I am not listening.” I retort that I can hear them, and that I am listening, it is only that my actions fall short. I know it is time to stop, when they come over to me and place their hand in front of my computer screen or hit the keys randomly on the keyboard so as to bring my activity to an abrupt halt.

So I go back to thinking about “high-tech love.” And I reckon we have it wrong with our premise. Today, I think we shouldn't be thinking brand liking or brand love, but be defining “high-tech lust.” Lust can be defined as: “an overwhelming desire or craving.” When we couple it with technology it is an overwhelming desire or craving to be “with” our device, all the time.

I have seen first-hand and on numerous occasions, people become strongly agitated or extremely fidg-ety, emotionally fall apart, and constantly crave to be reunited with their high-tech device when they have left it behind or it is misplaced. I cannot describe it in any other way than there every thought is obsessed by its absence. It is an acute attack, and it can go on for hours until the device is found and they are holding it in their hands again. Most of us, whether we like to admit it or not, have experienced something of this “separation anxiety.”

Corporations know this they see it in our daily smartphone activity monitoring logs which tell them about our behaviors. If you think no one is watching, every time you pick up your handset, let alone press a button on it, then think again. We are being sold the idea that we can now wear this technology so it is always with us and we cannot forget it behind accidentally. Soon, we will be told we can have a corporal union with it, and be one with these utilities, and have it reside inside of us too! We will indeed become bearers of technology, not just wearers of technology.

We are moving too quickly. Desires and cravings if not tempered can work to have negative consequences. We are being locked into a life of electronic chains. We might not yet be wearing GPS monitoring bracelets like parolees, but that too will come even if in the guise of a pair of digital glasses.

The folly is in that we are willingly beckoning in these times without thinking about the social implications for us and for future generations. Rather than lusting for our high-tech gadgetry we should be lusting for life - there is a difference.

We once complained of the working conditions in large factories or even underground mines. Today we have excellent lighting, the most advanced ergonomic furniture, and yet we have become enslaved to the mobile office. Just before day breaks we are working on our computer or smartphone; night comes and we are still there pounding out messages. The darkness can resemble being underground.

The discerning Rafael Capurro has written of this information overload in a keynote speech [4]. He uses words like: “burnout,” “surmenage” (i.e., “excessive work”), and being “completely exhausted.”

When high-tech lust turns ugly it becomes high-tech disdain. We can develop a dislike, and even disgust for technological apparatus. We may even seek in-part or total separation away from it. It becomes the opposite of brand love; it becomes brand hate.

Some parents regret the day they handed their child an Internet-enabled computer, registered an e-mail address or bought a smartphone for them. But we should never be surprised at the usage patterns of the younger generation. They are only mimicking our behaviors and at even greater speeds.

References

1. J. R. Rossiter, "A new C-OAR-SE-based content-valid and predictively valid measure that distinguishes brand love from brand liking", Marketing Letts., vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 905-916, 2012.

2. E. Kac, Time Capsule, 1997, [online] Available: http://www.ekac.org/timec.html.

3. "First a technologist then a leader among them a Terman seeks to spur humanitarian engineering", Stanford Engineering: Meet our Alumni, Apr. 2010, [online] Available: http://engineering.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/terman_lew.pdf.

 4. R. Capurro, "Medicine in the information and knowledge society" in Eur. Summit for Clinical Nanomedicine and Targeted Medicine (CLINAM), pp. 23-26, June 2013.

Citation: Katina Michael, 2013, "High-tech Lust", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (Volume: 32, Issue: 2, Summer 2013 ), pp. 4 - 5, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2259652

TrackingPoint bolt-action rifles are game-changers, not a game

The new series of three TrackingPoint bolt-action rifles was developed with sport in mind – rather than combat or law enforcement...

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IEEE T&S Magazine: Undergoing Transformation

Our magazine is in a transformative period, not only because we are “Going Green” in 2013 but because we are experiencing tremendous growth in quality international submissions. This means that we are increasingly appealing to an international audience with transdisciplinary interests. This has not gone unnoticed by the media, nor by our SSIT readership or wider engineering community.

To those who have sent me personal messages of support, or have noted papers they have enjoyed reading, I thank you. The downside to the success we are experiencing means we have ended up with a slight backlog of papers awaiting publication. We also need more people to put up their hand to review papers from diverse areas of expertise, we have had to increase our overall rejection rate, sporadically increase our page count, and reduce the word count of some papers that have been accepted. We are looking into various ways that we can overcome some of these issues as we go online next year, especially by using the power Web 2.0 can offer to integrate various facets of our outreach activities. For instance, we are seeking the ability to use a single portal for SSIT news and events, ISTAS conferences, T&S Magazine (with full manuscript registration), SSIT-related social media, and an SSIT blog.

In this Winter (December) 2012 issue we also say thank you to our outgoing Associate Editors, Professor Ming Ivory of James Madison University and Professor Reza Djavanshir of Johns Hopkins University for their contribution to the Magazine over the years. Professor Ivory is now the Director of the Graduate Integrated Science and Technology program at JMU and Professor Djavanshir continues his work in the Innovation for Humanity course at JHU taking students to do research and help with underprivileged societies in Kenya, Rwanda, Peru, and India. I know their link to the Magazine will remain an important one.

Professor Jeremy Pitt

Professor Jeremy Pitt

It is my pleasure to announce that our incoming Associate Editors beginning January 1, 2013, are Professor Steve Mann of the University of Toronto, Canada, and Dr Jeremy Pitt of Imperial College London, England. Recruiting both Steve and Jeremy was a strategic decision for several reasons.

Professor Steve Mann

Professor Steve Mann

The first and foremost reason for their election has to do with their international standing in the engineering community. Steve who was an instrumental force at the M.I.T. Media Labs at the time that Nicholas Negroponte was director, has had an awesome impact on the field of wearable computing internationally, and Jeremy has been instrumental in key EU-wide activities on pervasive adaptation responsible for bringing thought leaders together from across the world. As a prolific inventor, Steve, has integrated his science, technology, engineering, and mathematics work with that of design and art (DASTEM), and has never shied away from speaking of the social implications of emerging technologies, especially those stemming from his own inventions. Jeremy’s current research focuses on the logical representation of computational justice in self-organizing networks and infrastructures, and the impact of ubiquitous and adaptive computing on society, commerce, and culture. In his latest edited book, This Pervasive Day (2012), he demonstrates the importance of continually asking the right questions in our quest for advancing humanity.

The second reason for getting Steve and Jeremy on board has to do with their physical locations and online presence. Steve is based in Toronto, Canada, and is well-known in the United States (in fact globally) for his work in DASTEM. Jeremy is based in the U.K. and has a large network into the EU in particular. We need to cultivate and encourage our global presence more broadly commensurate to the submissions we are receiving from authors residing internationally.  Another growth market is in India, China and Japan and I look forward to introducing one more Associate Editor from one of these countries into the future. For now, please join me in welcoming both Steve and Jeremy to T&S Magazine. I know they will have a tremendous impact on the Magazine by their ongoing support and counsel.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Terri Bookman for being such a tireless Managing Editor for many years. While SSIT has been around for 40 years, Terri has been Managing Editor of the Magazine for 22 years! She has remained our single constant throughout. I feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such a great team, past and present, as I head into my second year as Editor.

Citation: Katina Michael, IEEE T&S Magazine: Undergoing Transformation [Editorial], IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Year: 2012, Volume: 31, Issue: 4, pp. 5 - 6, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2012.2230072

Privacy - The times they are a-changin'

Introduction

This special section is dedicated to privacy in the information age. In particular, since the rise of mobile social media and the advent of cloud computing, few can dispute that the times have indeed changed. Privacy is now understood “in context” and within a framework that is completely different from what it once was. The right to be let alone physically seems to have been up turned by the right to give away virtually as much information as we like.

What kind of inherent safeguards can be introduced into the data driven society? We cannot argue for privacy as a natural right if we ourselves do not respect the laws that govern the use of personal information - except for those instances when we become the victims of our own folly (or otherwise through security breaches). We cannot ask for the application of law only on those occasions when we find ourselves on the wrong side of the new openness, so as to escape the consequences of being defrauded or having our identity stolen, or when we are the subjects of blackmail or cyber bullying.

Police services must also be held accountable when there are surveillance laws that are not being enforced as a consequence of new technologies. These laws do not suit the new range of high-tech policing capabilities - everything from body worn video recorders for “always on” surveillance of the citizenry to the use of opinion net monitors on social media such as Facebook. For the most part we are struggling with out-of-date and outmoded listening and surveillance device acts, privacy acts, telecommunications acts and interception acts, and we are moving toward data retention legislation that will make audit and compliance of every transaction mandatory in business and government. And if the laws are not outdated then they will often contradict one another or overwrite each other, providing those chartered with authority the continued ability to engage in mass surveillance.

Commercial entities create privacy policies that are seldom read - more a shortcoming of the trust and indifference of some subscribers and complete ignorance of others about the collection and use of personal information. Internet search giants are now joining numerous product-focused policies into a single policy, and in so doing limiting their liability while increasing that of their subscribers. It is evident enough that consumers cannot win, they go with the flow to keep au courant of the constant change, never quite being in control even if they believe themselves to be. The network increases in stealth and size as more and more personal data is fed into it.

We are told there are a number of solutions to the current privacy problems - 1) build in privacy to the design of new technologies at the engineering and commercialization stages, 2) ensure that appropriate crimes legislation and provisions are in place so that there are harsher penalties for people who breach the privacy rights of others, and/or 3) leave it to commerce itself to deal with using a number of ways to protect consumer privacy through technical standards and industry codes of conduct.

Some of the articles in this special section address these issues from a variety of stakeholder perspectives including government, non-government organizations, industry, and consumers. If we have privacy problems then we remain hopeful there must be solutions. But clearly the solutions are limited, if only because of the insatiable nature of the beast.

There is also a discernible movement between what was once considered a brave new world, to the open innovation model that is heralding an even “braver new world.” We are correspondingly doing away with the familiar George Orwell motifs and sentiments, and moving toward that of the Big Data “all you can eat and stomach” model. This new practice is supposed to give rise to a collective intelligence never before seen, a global brain of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate discoveries and increase productivity. Anyone still stuck on the existential and privacy concerns raised by 1984 might as well give up on the debate. at least this is what we are being pushed to believe by the transnationalist capitalist class which has globalized at unprecedented speeds. Recently G.T. Marx has again reminded us of the technique of normalization. And so for those gloomy students of Thomas Hobbes, for their numbers have also been increasing, Leviathan will take on newer and more sinister connotations.

There is for sure much to be gained from Big Data, from open innovation, from sharing our knowledge as one global community. Yet sharing openly might be the utilitarian approach that serves the greater good at the expense of the individual. In terms of consumerism, this is and will in all probability forever remain one of the great paradoxes of our post-industrial society. Making certain individual claims about health and disease for example will inevitably help communities overcome or become more resilient to them, but they will also impact the individual asymmetrically by lending them to even more detailed forms of scrutiny such as social sorting and potential insurance typecasting. Our online searches reveal more about us than what we might like to think - we could to some large degree be determining our own destiny by what we enter into that little space we call the search box.

So what are we supposed to do then? We cannot simply give up the battle for maintaining our right to privacy. This special section is not about giving it up without a good fight. It is about finding inspiration in how we can offer something that works for all parties - but mostly for citizens if we are to embrace user-centered engineering approaches that are secure and long lasting. There is indeed much to gain from new and imaginative online business models if they are used for the right purposes and in the right way. Conversely, we are headed for dangerous waters if these models are abused and mismanaged by those who are in charge.

We have endeavoured here to offer an international Special Section with a wide range of perspectives. Some articles digress on viewpoints, but all of our expert authors are willing to have open dialogue and to seriously engage in the public forum. We must capture these and other consonant opportunities to speak now while we can, that we might together come up with a global approach to arrest alarming developments that threaten to turn privacy into a thing of the past. Privacy does matter. It is both the stuff of dreams and of identity.

IEEE Keywords: Privacy, Data privacy, Security, Social network services

Citation: Katina Michael, 2012, Privacy- the times are a changin', IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 31(4),