The Governance of Digital Technology, Big Data, and the Internet: New Roles and Responsibilities for Business

Introduction to Special Issue of Business and Society by Dirk Matten, Ronald Deibert & Mikkel Flyverbom: “The importance of digital technologies for social and economic developments and a growing focus on data collection and privacy concerns have made the Internet a salient and visible issue in global politics. Recent developments have increased the awareness that the current approach of governments and business to the governance of the Internet and the adjacent technological spaces raises a host of ethical issues. The significance and challenges of the digital age have been further accentuated by a string of highly exposed cases of surveillance and a growing concern about issues of privacy and the power of this new industry. This special issue explores what some have referred to as the “Internet-industrial complex”—the intersections between business, states, and other actors in the shaping, development, and governance of the Internet…(More)”.

The tools of citizen science: An evaluation of map-based crowdsourcing platforms

Paper by Zachary Lamoureux and Victoria Fast: “There seems to be a persistent yet inaccurate sentiment that collecting vast amounts of data via citizen science is virtually free, especially compared to the cost of privatized scientific endeavors (Bonney et al., 2009; Cooper, Hochachka & Dhondt, 2011). However, performing scientific procedures with the assistance of the public is often far more complex than traditional scientific enquiry (Bonter & Cooper, 2012).

Citizen science promotes the participation of the public in scientific endeavors (Hecker et al., 2018). While citizen science is not synonymous with volunteered geographic information (VGI)— broadly defined as the creation of geographic information by citizens (Goodchild, 2007)—it often produces geographic information. Similar to VGI, citizen science projects tend to follow specific protocols to ensure the crowdsourced geographic data serves as an input for (scientific) research (Haklay, 2013). Also similar to VGI, citizen science projects often require software applications and specialized training to facilitate citizen data collection. Notably, citizen science projects are increasingly requiring a webbased participatory mapping platform—i.e., Geoweb (Leszczynski & Wilson, 2013)—to coordinate the proliferation of citizen contributions. ...

In this research, we investigate publicly available commercial and opensource map-based tools that enable citizen science projects. Building on a comprehensive comparative framework, we conduct a systematic evaluation and overview of five map-based crowdsourcing platforms: Ushahidi, Maptionnaire, Survey123 (ArcGIS Online), Open Data Kit, and GIS Cloud. These tools have additional uses that extend beyond the field of citizen science; however, the scope of the investigation was narrowed to focus on aspects most suitable for citizen science endeavors, such as the collection, management, visualization and dissemination of crowdsourced data. It is our intention to provide information on how these publicly available crowdsourcing platforms suit generic geographic citizen science crowdsourcing needs….(More)”.

The Discrete Charm of the Machine: Why the World Became Digital

Book by Ken Steiglitz: “A few short decades ago, we were informed by the smooth signals of analog television and radio; we communicated using our analog telephones; and we even computed with analog computers. Today our world is digital, built with zeros and ones. Why did this revolution occur? The Discrete Charm of the Machine explains, in an engaging and accessible manner, the varied physical and logical reasons behind this radical transformation.

The spark of individual genius shines through this story of innovation: the stored program of Jacquard’s loom; Charles Babbage’s logical branching; Alan Turing’s brilliant abstraction of the discrete machine; Harry Nyquist’s foundation for digital signal processing; Claude Shannon’s breakthrough insights into the meaning of information and bandwidth; and Richard Feynman’s prescient proposals for nanotechnology and quantum computing. Ken Steiglitz follows the progression of these ideas in the building of our digital world, from the internet and artificial intelligence to the edge of the unknown. Are questions like the famous traveling salesman problem truly beyond the reach of ordinary digital computers? Can quantum computers transcend these barriers? Does a mysterious magical power reside in the analog mechanisms of the brain? Steiglitz concludes by confronting the moral and aesthetic questions raised by the development of artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.

The Discrete Charm of the Machine examines why our information technology, the lifeblood of our civilization, became digital, and challenges us to think about where its future trajectory may lead….(More)”.

Childhood’s End

The 2019 Edge New Year’s Essay by George Dyson: “All revolutions come to an end, whether they succeed or fail.

The digital revolution began when stored-program computers broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Numbers that do things now rule the world. But who rules over the machines?

Once it was simple: programmers wrote the instructions that were supplied to the machines. Since the machines were controlled by these instructions, those who wrote the instructions controlled the machines.

Two things then happened. As computers proliferated, the humans providing instructions could no longer keep up with the insatiable appetite of the machines. Codes became self-replicating, and machines began supplying instructions to other machines. Vast fortunes were made by those who had a hand in this. A small number of people and companies who helped spawn self-replicating codes became some of the richest and most powerful individuals and organizations in the world.

Then something changed. There is now more code than ever, but it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who has their hands on the wheel. Individual agency is on the wane. Most of us, most of the time, are following instructions delivered to us by computers rather than the other way around. The digital revolution has come full circle and the next revolution, an analog revolution, has begun. None dare speak its name.

Childhood’s End was Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece, published in 1953, chronicling the arrival of benevolent Overlords who bring many of the same conveniences now delivered by the Keepers of the Internet to Earth. It does not end well…

The genius — sometimes deliberate, sometimes accidental — of the enterprises now on such a steep ascent is that they have found their way through the looking-glass and emerged as something else. Their models are no longer models. The search engine is no longer a model of human knowledge, it is human knowledge. What began as a mapping of human meaning now defines human meaning, and has begun to control, rather than simply catalog or index, human thought. No one is at the controls. If enough drivers subscribe to a real-time map, traffic is controlled, with no central model except the traffic itself. The successful social network is no longer a model of the social graph, it is the social graph. This is why it is a winner-take-all game. Governments, with an allegiance to antiquated models and control systems, are being left behind…(More)”.

A Grand Challenges-Based Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication and Information Science

Report by Micah Altman and Chris Bourg: “…The overarching question these problems pose is how to create a global scholarly knowledge ecosystem that supports participation, ensures agency, equitable access, trustworthiness, integrity, and is legally, economically, institutionally, technically, and socially sustainable. The aim of the Grand Challenges Summit and this report is to identify broad research areas and questions to be explored in order to provide an evidence base from which to answer specific aspects of that broad question.

Reaching this future state requires exploring a set of interrelated anthropological, behavioral, computational, economic, legal, policy, organizational, sociological, and technological areas. The extent of these areas of research is illustrated by the following exemplars:

What is necessary to develop coherent, comprehensive, and empirically testable theories of the value of scholarly knowledge to society? What is the best current evidence of this value, and what does it elide? How should the measures of use and utility of scholarly outputs be adapted for different communities of use, disciplines, theories, and cultures? What methods will improve our predictions of the future value of collections of information, or enable the selection and construction of collections that will be likely to be of value in the future?…

What parts of the scholarly knowledge ecosystem promote the values of transparency, individual agency, participation, accountability, and fairness? How can these values be reflected in the algorithms, information architecture, and technological systems supporting the scholarly knowledge ecosystem? What principles of design and governance would be effective for embedding these values?…

The list above provides a partial outline of research areas that will need to be addressed in order to overcome the major barriers to a better future for scholarly communication and information science. As the field progresses in exploring these areas, and attempting to address the barriers is discussed, new areas are likely to be identified. Even within this initial list of research areas, there are many pressing questions ripe for exploration….

Research on open scholarship solutions is needed to assess the scale and breadth of access,[68] the costs to actors and stakeholders at all levels, and the effects of openness on perceptions of trust and confidence in research and research organizations. Research is also needed in the intersection between open scholarship and participation, new forms of scholarship, information integrity, information durability, and information agency (see section 3.1.). This will require an assessment of the costs and returns of open scholarship at a systemic level, rather than at the level of individual institutions or actors. We also need to assess whether and under what conditions interventions directed at removing reputation and institutional barriers to collaboration promote open scholarship. Research is likewise required to document the conditions under which open scholarship reduces duplication and inefficiency, and promotes equity in the creation and use of knowledge. In addition, research should address the permeability of open scholarship systems to researchers across multiple scientific fields, and whether—and under what conditions—open scholarship enhances interdisciplinary collaboration….(More)”.

The Rise of Knowledge Economics

Cesar Hidalgo at Scientific American: “Nearly 30 years ago, Paul Romer published a paper exploring the economic value of knowledge. In that paper, he argued that, unlike the classical factors of production (capital and labor), knowledge was a “non-rival good.” This meant that it could be shared infinitely, and thus, it was the only thing that could grow in per-capita terms.

Romer’s work was recently recognized with the Nobel Prize, even though it was just the beginning of a longer story. Knowledge could be infinitely shared, but did that mean it could go everywhere? Soon after Romer’s seminal paper, Adam Jaffe, Manuel Trajtenberg and Rebecca Henderson published a paper on the geographic diffusion of knowledge. Using a statistical technique called matching, they identified a “twin” for each patent (that is, a patent filed at the same time and making similar technological claims).

Then, they compared the citations received by each patent and its twin. Compared to their twins, patents received almost four more citations from other patents originating in the same city than those originating elsewhere. Romer was right in that knowledge could be infinitely shared, but also, knowledge had difficulties travelling far….

What will the study of knowledge bring us next? Will we get to a point at which we will measure Gross Domestic Knowledge as accurately as we measure Gross Domestic Product? Will we learn how to engineer knowledge diffusion? Will knowledge continue to concentrate in cities? Or will it finally break the shackles of society and spread to every corner of the world? The only thing we know for sure is that the study of knowledge is an exciting journey. The lowest hanging fruit may have already been picked, but the tree is still filled with fruits and flavors. Let’s climb it and explore….(More)”

The Theory and Practice of Social Machines

Book by Nigel Shadbolt, David De Roure, Kieron O’Hara and Wendy Hall: “Social machines are a type of network connected by interactive digital devices made possible by the ubiquitous adoption of technologies such as the Internet, the smartphone, social media and the read/write World Wide Web, connecting people at scale to document situations, cooperate on tasks, exchange information, or even simply to play. Existing social processes may be scaled up, and new social processes enabled, to solve problems, augment reality, create new sources of value, and disrupt existing practice.

This book considers what talents one would need to understand or build a social machine, describes the state of the art, and speculates on the future, from the perspective of the EPSRC project SOCIAM – The Theory and Practice of Social Machines. The aim is to develop a set of tools and techniques for investigating, constructing and facilitating social machines, to enable us to narrow down pragmatically what is becoming a wide space, by asking ‘when will it be valuable to use these methods on a sociotechnical system?’ The systems for which the use of these methods adds value are social machines in which there is rich person-to-person communication, and where a large proportion of the machine’s behaviour is constituted by human interaction….(More)”.

Library of Congress Launches Crowdsourcing Platform

Matt Enis at the Library Journal: “The Library of Congress (LC) last month launched, a new crowdsourcing platform that will improve discovery and access to the Library’s digital collections with the help of volunteer transcription and tagging. The project kicked off with the “Letters to Lincoln Challenge,” a campaign encouraging volunteers to transcribe 10,000 digitized versions of documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln, which will make these materials full-text searchable for the first time….

The new project is the earliest example of LC’s new Digital Strategy, which complements the library’s new 2019–23 strategic plan. Announced in October, the strategic plan, “Enriching the User Experience,” outlines four high-level goals—expanding access, enhancing services, optimizing resources, and measuring results—while the digital strategy outlines how LC plans to accomplish these goals with its digital resources, described as “throwing open the treasure chest, connecting, and investing in our future”…

LC aims to use crowdsourcing to enrich the user experience in two key ways, Zwaard said.

“First, it helps with the legibility of our collections,” she explained. “The Library of Congress is home to so many historic treasures, but the handwriting can be hard to read…. For example, we have this amazing letter from Abraham Lincoln to his first fiancée. It’s really quite lovely, but at a glance, if you’re not familiar with historic handwriting, it’s hard to read.”…

Second, crowdsourcing “invites people into the collections,” she added. “The library is very optimized around answering specific research questions. One of the things we’re thinking about is how to serve users who don’t have a specific research question—who just want to see all of the cool stuff. We have so much cool stuff! But it can be hard for people to find purchase when they are just browsing and don’t have anything specific in mind. One of the ways we can [showcase interesting content] is by offering them a window into the collections by asking for their help.”…

To facilitate ongoing engagement with these varied projects, LC has set up an online forum on History Hub, a site hosted by the National Archives, to encourage participants to ask questions, discuss projects, and meet other volunteers. … is not LC’s first crowdsourcing project. Followers of the library’s official Flickr account have added tens of thousands of descriptive tags to digitized historical photos since the account debuted in 2007. And last year, the debut of—which aims to encourage creative use of LOC’s digital collections—included the Beyond Words crowdsourcing project developed by LC software developer Tong Wang….(More)”

A Hippocratic Oath for Technologists

Chapter by Ali Abbas, Max Senges and Ronald A. Howard in “Next Generation Ethics: Engineering a Better Society” (2018): “…presents an ethical creed, which we refer to as the Hippocratic Oath for Technologists. The creed is built on three fundamental pillars: proactively understanding the ethical implications of technology for all stakeholders, telling the truth about the capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of a technology, and acting responsibly in situations you find morally challenging.

The oath may be taken by students at Universities after understanding its basic definitions and implications, and it may also be discussed with technology firms and human resources departments to provide the necessary support and understanding for their employees who wish to abide by the norms of this oath. This work lays the foundations for the arguments and requirements of a unified movement, as well as a forum for signing up for the oath to enable its wide-spread dissemination….(More)”.

Quantum Information Science: Applications, Global Research and Development, and Policy Considerations

Report from the Congressional Research Service: “Quantum information science (QIS) combines elements of mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physical sciences, and has the potential to provide capabilities far beyond what is possible with the most advanced technologies available today.
Although much of the press coverage of QIS has been devoted to quantum computing, there is more to QIS. Many experts divide QIS technologies into three application areas:

  • Sensing and metrology,
  • Communications, and
  • Computing and simulation.

… Today, QIS is a component of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (Presidential Executive Order 13702), which was established in 2015. Most recently, in September 2018, the National Science and Technology Council issued the National Strategic Overview for Quantum Information Science. The policy opportunities identified in this strategic overview include:

  • choosing a science-first approach to QIS,
  • creating a “quantum-smart” workforce,
  • deepening engagement with the quantum industry,
  • providing critical infrastructure,
  • maintaining national security and economic growth, and
  • advancing international cooperation.

This report provides an overview of QIS technologies: sensing and metrology, communications, and computing and simulation. It also includes examples of existing and potential future applications; brief summaries of funding and selected R&D initiatives in the United States and elsewhere around the world; a description of U.S. congressional activity; and a discussion of related policy considerations….(More)”.