Establish Data Collaboratives To Foster Meaningful Public Involvement

Article by Gwen Ottinger: “Federal agencies are striving to expand the role of the public, including members of marginalized communities, in developing regulatory policy. At the same time, agencies are considering how to mobilize data of increasing size and complexity to ensure that policies are equitable and evidence-based. However, community engagement has rarely been extended to the process of examining and interpreting data. This is a missed opportunity: community members can offer critical context to quantitative data, ground-truth data analyses, and suggest ways of looking at data that could inform policy responses to pressing problems in their lives. Realizing this opportunity requires a structure for public participation in which community members can expect both support from agency staff in accessing and understanding data and genuine openness to new perspectives on quantitative analysis. 

To deepen community involvement in developing evidence-based policy, federal agencies should form Data Collaboratives in which staff and members of the public engage in mutual learning about available datasets and their affordances for clarifying policy problems…(More)”.

Technology and the Transformation of U.S. Foreign Policy

Speech by Antony J. Blinken: “Today’s revolutions in technology are at the heart of our competition with geopolitical rivals. They pose a real test to our security. And they also represent an engine of historic possibility – for our economies, for our democracies, for our people, for our planet.

Put another way: Security, stability, prosperity – they are no longer solely analog matters.

The test before us is whether we can harness the power of this era of disruption and channel it into greater stability, greater prosperity, greater opportunity.

President Biden is determined not just to pass this “tech test,” but to ace it.

Our ability to design, to develop, to deploy technologies will determine our capacity to shape the tech future. And naturally, operating from a position of strength better positions us to set standards and advance norms around the world.

But our advantage comes not just from our domestic strength.

It comes from our solidarity with the majority of the world that shares our vision for a vibrant, open, and secure technological future, and from an unmatched network of allies and partners with whom we can work in common cause to pass the “tech test.”

We’re committed not to “digital sovereignty” but “digital solidarity.

On May 6, the State Department unveiled the U.S. International Cyberspace and Digital Strategy, which treats digital solidarity as our North Star. Solidarity informs our approach not only to digital technologies, but to all key foundational technologies.

So what I’d like to do now is share with you five ways that we’re putting this into practice.

First, we’re harnessing technology for the betterment not just of our people and our friends, but of all humanity.

The United States believes emerging and foundational technologies can and should be used to drive development and prosperity, to promote respect for human rights, to solve shared global challenges.

Some of our strategic rivals are working toward a very different goal. They’re using digital technologies and genomic data collection to surveil their people, to repress human rights.

Pretty much everywhere I go, I hear from government officials and citizens alike about their concerns about these dystopian uses of technology. And I also hear an abiding commitment to our affirmative vision and to the embrace of technology as a pathway to modernization and opportunity.

Our job is to use diplomacy to try to grow this consensus even further – to internationalize and institutionalize our vision of “tech for good.”..(More)”.

Supercharging Research: Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Meet Global Challenges

Report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST): “Broadly speaking, scientific advances have historically proceeded via a combination of three paradigms: empirical studies and experimentation; scientific theory and mathematical analyses; and numerical experiments and modeling. In recent years a fourth paradigm, data-driven discovery, has emerged.

These four paradigms complement and support each other. However, all four scientific modalities experience impediments to progress. Verification of a scientific hypothesis through experimentation, careful observation, or via clinical trial can be slow and expensive. The range of candidate theories to consider can be too vast and complex for human scientists to analyze. Truly innovative new hypotheses might only be discovered by fortuitous chance, or by exceptionally insightful researchers. Numerical models can be inaccurate or require enormous amounts of computational resources. Data sets can be incomplete, biased, heterogeneous, or noisy to analyze using traditional data science methods.

AI tools have obvious applications in data-driven science, but it has also been a long-standing aspiration to use these technologies to remove, or at least reduce, many of the obstacles encountered in the other three paradigms. With the current advances in AI, this dream is on the cusp of becoming a reality: candidate solutions to scientific problems are being rapidly identified, complex simulations are being enriched, and robust new ways of analyzing data are being developed.

By combining AI with the other three research modes, the rate of scientific progress will be greatly accelerated, and researchers will be positioned to meet urgent global challenges in a timely manner. Like most technologies, AI is dual use: AI technology can facilitate both beneficial and harmful applications and can cause unintended negative consequences if deployed irresponsibly or without expert and ethical human supervision. Nevertheless, PCAST sees great potential for advances in AI to accelerate science and technology for the benefit of society and the planet. In this report, we provide a high-level vision for how AI, if used responsibly, can transform the way that science is done, expand the boundaries of human knowledge, and enable researchers to find solutions to some of society’s most pressing problems…(More)”

Disfactory Project: How to Detect Illegal Factories by Open Source Technology and Crowdsourcing

Article by Peii Lai: “…building illegal factories on farmlands is still a profitable business, because the factory owners thus obtain the means of production at a lower price and can easily get away with penalties by simply ignoring their legal responsibility. Such conduct simply shifts the cost of production onto the environment in an irresponsible way. As we can imagine, such violations has been increasing year by year. On average, Taiwan loses 1,500 hectares of farmland each year due to illegal use, which demonstrates that illegal factories are an ongoing and escalating problem that people cannot ignore.

It’s clearly that the problem of illegal factories are caused by dysfunction of the previous land management regulations. In response to that, Citizens of Earth Taiwan (CET) started seeking solutions to tackle the illegal factories. CET soon realized that the biggest obstacle they faced was that no one saw the violations as a big deal. Local governments avoided standing on the opposite side of the illegal factories. For local governments, imposing penalties is an arduous and thankless task…

Through the collaboration of CET and g0v-zero, the Disfactory project combines the knowledge they have accumulated through advocacy and the diverse techniques brought by the passionate civic contributors. In 2020, the Disfactory project team delivered its first product: They built a website with geographic information that whistle blowers can operate on the ground by themselves. Through a few simple steps: identifying the location of the target illegal factory, taking a picture of it, uploading the photos, any citizen can easily register the information on Disfactory’s website….(More)”

Potential competition impacts from the data asymmetry between Big Tech firms and firms in financial services

Report by the UK Financial Conduct Authority: “Big Tech firms in the UK and around the world have been, and continue to be, under active scrutiny by competition and regulatory authorities. This is because some of these large technology firms may have both the ability and the incentive to shape digital markets by protecting existing market power and extending it into new markets.
Concentration in some digital markets, and Big Tech firms’ key role, has been widely discussed, including in our DP22/05. This reflects both the characteristics of digital markets and the characteristics and behaviours of Big Tech firms themselves. Although Big Tech firms have different business models, common characteristics include their global scale and access to a large installed user base, rich data about their users, advanced data analytics and technology, influence over decision making and defaults, ecosystems of complementary products and strategic behaviours, including acquisition strategies.
Through our work, we aim to mitigate the risk of competition in retail financial markets evolving in a way that results in some Big Tech firms gaining entrenched market power, as seen in other sectors and jurisdictions, while enabling the potential competition benefits that come from Big Tech firms providing challenge to incumbent financial services firms…(More)”.

How do you accidentally run for President of Iceland?

Blog by Anna Andersen: “Content design can have real consequences — for democracy, even…

To run for President of Iceland, you need to be an Icelandic citizen, at least 35 years old, and have 1,500 endorsements.

For the first time in Icelandic history, this endorsement process is digital. Instead of collecting all their signatures on paper the old-fashioned way, candidates can now send people to to submit their endorsement.

This change has, also for the first time in Icelandic history, given the nation a clear window into who is trying to run — and it’s a remarkably large number. To date, 82 people are collecting endorsements, including a comedian, a model, the world’s first double-arm transplant receiver, and my aunt Helga.

Many of these people are seriously vying for president (yep, my aunt Helga), some of them have undoubtedly signed up as a joke (nope, not the comedian), and at least 11 of them accidentally registered and had no idea that they were collecting endorsements for their candidacy.

“I’m definitely not about to run for president, this was just an accident,” one person told a reporter after having a good laugh about it.

“That’s hilarious!” another person said, thanking the reporter for letting them know that they were in the running.

As a content designer, I was intrigued. How could so many people accidentally start a campaign for President of Iceland?

It turns out, the answer largely has to do with content design.Presidential hopefuls were sending people a link to a page where they could be endorsed, but instead of endorsing the candidate, some people accidentally registered to be a candidate…(More)”.

Russia Clones Wikipedia, Censors It, Bans Original

Article by Jules Roscoe: “Russia has replaced Wikipedia with a state-sponsored encyclopedia that is a clone of the original Russian Wikipedia but which conveniently has been edited to omit things that could cast the Russian government in poor light. Real Russian Wikipedia editors used to refer to the real Wikipedia as Ruwiki; the new one is called Ruviki, has “ruwiki” in its url, and has copied all Russian-language Wikipedia articles and strictly edited them to comply with Russian laws. 

The new articles exclude mentions of “foreign agents,” the Russian government’s designation for any person or entity which expresses opinions about the government and is supported, financially or otherwise, by an outside nation. Prominent “foreign agents” have included a foundation created by Alexei Navalny, a famed Russian opposition leader who died in prison in February, and Memorial, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of Soviet terror victims, which was liquidated in 2022. The news was first reported by Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian news outlet that relocated to Latvia after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. It was also picked up by Signpost, a publication that follows Wikimedia goings-on.

Both Ruviki articles about these agents include disclaimers about their status as foreign agents. Navalny’s article states he is a “video blogger” known for “involvement in extremist activity or terrorism.” It is worth mentioning that his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, firmly believes he was killed. …(More)”.

The Crime Data Handbook

Book edited by Laura Huey and David Buil-Gil: “Crime research has grown substantially over the past decade, with a rise in evidence-informed approaches to criminal justice, statistics-driven decision-making and predictive analytics. The fuel that has driven this growth is data – and one of its most pressing challenges is the lack of research on the use and interpretation of data sources.

This accessible, engaging book closes that gap for researchers, practitioners and students. International researchers and crime analysts discuss the strengths, perils and opportunities of the data sources and tools now available and their best use in informing sound public policy and criminal justice practice…(More)”.

Debugging Tech Journalism

Essay by Timothy B. Lee: “A huge proportion of tech journalism is characterized by scandals, sensationalism, and shoddy research. Can we fix it?

In November, a few days after Sam Altman was fired — and then rehired — as CEO of OpenAI, Reuters reported on a letter that may have played a role in Altman’s ouster. Several staffers reportedly wrote to the board of directors warning about “a powerful artificial intelligence discovery that they said could threaten humanity.”

The discovery: an AI system called Q* that can solve grade-school math problems.

“Researchers consider math to be a frontier of generative AI development,” the Reuters journalists wrote. Large language models are “good at writing and language translation,” but “conquering the ability to do math — where there is only one right answer — implies AI would have greater reasoning capabilities resembling human intelligence.”

This was a bit of a head-scratcher. Computers have been able to perform arithmetic at superhuman levels for decades. The Q* project was reportedly focused on word problems, which have historically been harder than arithmetic for computers to solve. Still, it’s not obvious that solving them would unlock human-level intelligence.

The Reuters article left readers with a vague impression that Q could be a huge breakthrough in AI — one that might even “threaten humanity.” But it didn’t provide readers with the context to understand what Q actually was — or to evaluate whether feverish speculation about it was justified.

For example, the Reuters article didn’t mention research OpenAI published last May describing a technique for solving math problems by breaking them down into small steps. In a December article, I dug into this and other recent research to help to illuminate what OpenAI is likely working on: a framework that would enable AI systems to search through a large space of possible solutions to a problem…(More)”.

AI chatbots refuse to produce ‘controversial’ output − why that’s a free speech problem

Article by Jordi Calvet-Bademunt and Jacob Mchangama: “Google recently made headlines globally because its chatbot Gemini generated images of people of color instead of white people in historical settings that featured white people. Adobe Firefly’s image creation tool saw similar issues. This led some commentators to complain that AI had gone “woke.” Others suggested these issues resulted from faulty efforts to fight AI bias and better serve a global audience.

The discussions over AI’s political leanings and efforts to fight bias are important. Still, the conversation on AI ignores another crucial issue: What is the AI industry’s approach to free speech, and does it embrace international free speech standards?…In a recent report, we found that generative AI has important shortcomings regarding freedom of expression and access to information.

Generative AI is a type of AI that creates content, like text or images, based on the data it has been trained with. In particular, we found that the use policies of major chatbots do not meet United Nations standards. In practice, this means that AI chatbots often censor output when dealing with issues the companies deem controversial. Without a solid culture of free speech, the companies producing generative AI tools are likely to continue to face backlash in these increasingly polarized times…(More)”.