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Too Big to Kill?

While the idea of artificial intelligence is nothing new, it was still surprising to see the article, “MEPs vote on robots’ legal status” addressing the possibility of granting legal rights to robots with artificial intelligence or electronic persons. While this in itself seems like a mind-boggling thought, it is also being debated if these electronic people should come with kill switches, which would shut down the robot if the situation were required.  Beyond the disturbing thought that robots would have legal status the same as their human counterparts, the thought of a kill switch brings up a more disturbing question.

The idea of what has legal rights also extends to a corporation, legally they can spend money in candidate elections, and that some for-profit corporations may, on religious grounds, refuse to comply with a federal mandate to cover birth control in their employee health plans. Would we extend these rights to an electronic person? Could their rights be covered under the bill of rights? While it may seem absurd, 40 years ago the idea of an electronic entity with the rights of a  person would have been seemed absurd too.

And what of the question of a kill switch? Having just come through a time when corporations were considered too big to fail, why would we not deem our electronic persons too important to shut down or too large to kill?

Electronic persons, too big to kill

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Give me Broadband- or give me Death

When FDR spoke of the four basic freedoms in January of 1941, he made the speech on a new media radio. Nearly 75 years later I was surprised to see the scope of what we think of as a “basic unalienable right” is the right to internet access. It seems odd that while at one time wars were fought for religious freedom or for the right to free speech that now we should give access to electronic communication the same level of importance. The argument is that denying internet access keeps people from an education and denies economic and social opportunity by reducing options. At a point where we seem to find dispute in what constitutes an appropriate education or even finding a way to make it available to everyone, it seems curious that we should focus on sending out a message that no one would be able to read. That is not to say that broadband access is not important, is it something that we would be willing to die for as we did for similar basic human rights?

How badly do we want our MTV?

broadband, basic human right

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Truth is singular. Its “versions” are mistruths

 

In rehearsals for “La Traviata,” I remember thinking as a character walked in and began to sing an impassioned plea on behalf of his son, “Is he telling the truth?” How often do we assume that people are speaking the truth just because they say it is? This has never been more apparent than recent situations around our incumbent president and the manner in which the constant repetition of a statement seems to give it an air of truth no matter how insane it may seem. The frightening thing is that we seem to be able to find some corroborating evidence for whatever we believe on the internet. In a time when 44% of adults get their news from Facebook, these media effects go back to the age dreadfuls and even to the advent of print media itself. So while we should be rightfully concerned about this trend for our current politics, we should also know that it is not the first time this has happened. One could argue that this transubstantiation of truth and what is real is a large part of called the Reformation. In this age of disruptive innovation, we must be vigilant with what we hear and accept as truth, as Ronald Reagan famously quoted a Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify”. Seeking truth does not allow an immersion onto a reality of one’s own making but confronting the reality we share, a difficult task it seems in our ever personalized reality.

With a nod to David Mitchell, whos, the quote provided the title for this blog.

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A war about nothing

Having never seen “Seinfeld” it was explained once as “a show about nothing”. In a time when we can spend hours looking at Facebook or Twitter and accomplish nothing, it seems understandable how nothing can go on for nine seasons. Oddly enough I thought about this when listening to The Art of (Cyber) War on NPR. Whereas the question as to whether or not to go to war used to be based on what someone did to us, Pearl Harbor for example, now we seem to be making that judgment on the need for a preemptive strike, get them before they can get us. This gets rather complicated in the realm of cyber war as how can one prove the intent to do harm before it has been done? What constitutes “something” in intent in a cyber attack. What would be the threshold to constitute the attack and which possible attack would require retribution? Sony Pictures was hacked, something not judged to be worthy of retaliation but while the evidence mounts that the elections were tampered with, if not in actual votes but in the perception of the candidates, do we not find a response to be in our national interests? While I am not suggesting that we should rain down an electronic firestorm at the least provocation, it does seem that now is the time that we need to begin to look at these questions and set some guidelines as to how to respond. We have an idea of what would constitute an attack, isn’t it time we gave serious thought to our response or will we wait and find ourselves responding to something that could be about nothing.

Cyberwar,

When will we decide how to respond to cyber attack?

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