mstem's blog

Thinking ethically about our relationships with social robots

Liveblog of Kate Darling's Berkman Center lunch, A discussion of near-term ethical, legal, and societal issues in robotics.

Kate begins with the observation that there aren't nearly enough experts in robotic law. Those that are interested in the emergent field need to become more expert, and many more need to join them in the pursuit.

Here are some of the emerging issues:

Clay Shirky: Planning Shan't Trump Reality

Clay Shirky's on stage with Ginny Hunt at Harvard's Institute of Politics discussing the lessons we can take away from the Healthcare.gov boondoggle (#netrevolution).

Clay's first point is that of all the criticism of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act, no one has argued that it's a bad idea to rely on the web as the central component of citizen interaction with a government program. All of the other communications options, from phone to fax, have been considered second-rate fallback options.

This change has happened almost imperceptibly, but it is nevertheless a marker of where we are.


There's a lesson to be learned from the website's poor performance, especially given Obama for America's campaign success with technology.

Internet technology and politics have hooked up every 2-4 years since 1992, when Clinton hosted an internal campaign listserv on MIT servers. Now, the internet and politics have gotten married.

Introducing the Participatory Aid Marketplace

A summary of my Media Lab Master's thesis, cross-posted from my personal site, because, well, there are a lot more people over here.

Unlike my thesis readers, who may or may not have made it through all 244 pages, you get to experience the condensed version. The full PDF is here, if you're into reading and citations.

Participatory Aid

People are using information and communication technologies (like the internet) to help each other in times of crisis (natural or man-made). This trend is the evolution of a concept known as "mutual aid", introduced by Russian polymath Peter Kropotkin in 1902 in his argument that our natural sociable inclinations towards cooperation and mutual support are underserved by capitalism's exclusive focus on the self-interested individual. My own reaction is to the bureaucracy's underserving of informal and public-led solutions.

Killing People Still Morally Wrong

These are the moments that make the other moments of attempted unity more difficult, more hollow, for many among us. Before giving into the polarized reactions that the Trayvon Martin story has elicited from its onset, we might practice a little empathy for those for whom the case represented a great deal more than George Zimmerman's fate.

My thoughts race tonight to the family of Trayvon Martin, who fought so hard through personal emotions and the initially indifferent public reaction to deliver attention (and by extension, they hoped, justice) to their loss. But tonight especially, my feelings go out to everyone for whom this judgement is just vindication of the existing fear and trepidation we force them to feel for simply existing as they were born.

Kickstopper: When crowdfunding pipes money to projects you abhor

Like Facebook and other corporate social platforms, Kickstarter has been asked to further refine its policies governing which speech it will and will not accept on its platform.

Kickstopper

The catalyst for the conversation is a DoSomething.org petition with over 50,068 signatures (in just over a day) against Ken Hoinsky's successfully completed Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Hoinsky's initial $2,000 goal was surpassed, reaching $16,639 before the campaign ended.

6 productive responses to PRISM

new PRISM logoAlong with the other free peoples of the internet, we've been discussing our reactions to PRISM, and whether and how US (and global) citizens might be able to organize against this unprecedented domestic spying. There are more questions than answers at the moment, and the enormous challenge of confronting an extra-legal entity like the NSA with people-power is strongly felt. But here are 5 things you can do that could prove more productive than petitioning the White House to respond. Thanks primarily to Sasha Costanza-Chock for the roundup:

1. Encrypt yourself
See The Guardian Project's Android apps, Security in a Box, and Tor. If you have the skills, go further: build tools / better UI / How To Guides / visibility to encourage more people to encrypt themselves, too.

Robin Chase and Nick Grossman’s hopes for the sharing economy

Photo by @brianquinn

Robin Chase (@rmchase), founder of ZipCar and BuzzCar, started the first company WAY back in 2000. It made renting a car as convenient as owning car, and "right-sized the asset", meaning you only pay for what you use. In addition to huge savings and new freedoms for consumers, this meant fewer cars sitting around unused in cities.

But less obviously, Zipcar stretched the definitions of "consumers" and "producers" in an economy. Robin prefers 'collaborators' as a more modern term. The company's success hinged on the assumption that most people are good. That trust, and bond with their customers, was key to creating the company.

Skype, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia, et al do the same thing: take excess capacity (sharing) and combine it with a platform for participation. Robin's slept in all kinds of beds, from hotels to a teenager's bedroom.

Are you creating change? Ask harder.

A post from Personal Democracy Forum in NYC, where I'm live-Tumblring on the official Civic Tumblr.

"This work is hard. If it were easy, it would be done already."
-Micah Sifry, asking the PdF community to take care of one another

Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman runs SumofUs.org, and is Aaron Swartz's bereaved partner.

image

You know nothing, Jon Snow campaigners

How do you know when you're changing the world (a component of how DO you change the world?)

Taren says that organizers empower other people to create change, while campaigners set their sites on a specific change and go about creating that change, whether that involves empowering other communities, or drinks with a Senator's nephew.

This is a room full of campaigners. Taren challenges us to temporarily suspendthe assumption that we're accomplishing anything

#FBrape campaign scores quick victory against Facebook hate speech

How many major brands need to pull their advertising from Facebook to affect its policies governing speech?

One, apparently.

Last week I wrote up the #FBrape campaign's strategy: to hold Facebook accountable for the misogynistic content of its users by pressuring advertisers. Only seven days after the open letter was published, Marne Levine, Facebook's VP of Global Publicy Policy, published a response agreeing to the campaign's demands to better train the company's moderators, improve reporting processes, and hold offending users more accountable for the content they publish.

Women (and the people who love them) Go After Facebook's Advertisers

Strong social campaigns are based on a strong theory of change: how is my action (x) actually going to lead to desired change in the world (y)? Is that strategy sound? Is it effective?

Earlier tussles with Facebook, over issues like the site's distribution of user data (News Feed), or the site's removal of innocent breastfeeding photos, have appealed to the company directly, often on the platform itself. But a company with a billion users can find it difficult to respond to a tiny percentage of those users, even assuming good intentions. What they might respond to more rapidly, though, is a threat to their advertising revenue.

Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) has launched a campaign (#FBrape) to get Facebook to restrict user content that promotes violence against women. What WAM! is trying to do here is start a series of conversations. By telling the public that Facebook "promotes rape" (a declaration I have some trouble with, versus "fails to adequately censor offensive speech"), WAM! hopes to drive enough consumers to express their disappointment to some of Facebook's advertisers. Here's how it could work:

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