For the Greater Good ~ ‘You are not a Special Snowflake’

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Session Topic: For the ‘Greater Good’ ~ ‘There are no Spcecial Snowflakes’

Tuesday 4A

Convener: Justin Richer

Notes-taker: Matt Berry

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

I arrived a bit late to this discussion. The discussion focused around the topic of “do we allow massively distributed algorithms to control aspects of our life. Assuming we allow this, do we allow them to optimize for the general case at the expense of some individuals”.

The scenario that was presented was a futuristic world where cars drive themselves via a distributed algorithm. The question that was asked was “do we allow the algorithm to make you 3 hours late to work once a month so that the majority of people can be 10 minutes early?”.

There were lots of tangents and talking past one another, but there were some statements that stuck. Specifically, that Technology changes Society, Society reacts to aversions causing Government to act, Government impose laws upon the Technology.

Technology -> changes -> Society -> reacts -> Government -> laws -> Technology

An example is the recent Facebook experiment where a distributed algorithm plighted some users while delighting others. The technology changed, causing society to react.

There are no laws around this sort of behavior, but such laws are now being drafted. Another major point was about the detection of such anomalies and who is responsible for addressing them. How do we detect localized issues in a distributed algorithm, and who is responsible for owning that infrastructure. Once a localized issue is detected, who complains about it and to whom?

Some of these questions have been actualized today, for example when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie closed the George Washington Bridge on his opponent. The detection of the traffic anomaly was immediate and widespread, however we won’t know the response until after the elections. Transparency into this process is also a must.

Finally, someone raised a point that none of these problems exist in isolation. Often the localized issues are not a problem because, for example, not driving means you can now work-from-car ©®TM. Non-individualistic societies also would have drastically different reactions than many western societies.