Augmented Intelligence

The Ethics of Algorithms

I opened a discussion on the ethics of algorithms recently, with a small thing about what algorithms are, what can be unethical about them and how we might start mitigating that. I kinda sorta promised a blogpost off that, so here it is. Algorithm? Wassat? Al-Khwarizmi (wikipedia image) Let’s start by demystifying this ‘algorithm’ thing. An algorithm (from Al-Khwārizmī, a 9th-century Persian mathematician, above) is a sequence of steps to solve a problem. Like the algorithm to drink coffee is to get a mug, add coffee to the mug, put the mug to your mouth, and repeat. An algorithm doesn’t have to be run a computer: it might be the processes that you use to run a business, or the set of steps used to catch a train. But the algorithms that the discussion organizers were concerned about aren’t the ones used to not spill coffee all over my face….

Augmented Intelligence

Strata talk on hunchworks technology

I try not to put too much dayjob stuff here, but sometimes I need to leave less-tidy breadcrumbs for myself.  Here’s the 10-minute (ish) talk I gave at Strata New York this year. Intro I’m Sara Farmer, and I’m responsible for technology at Global Pulse. This brings its own special issues.  One thing we’re passionate about is making systems available that help the world. And one thing we’ve learnt is that we can’t do that without cooperation both within and outside the UN.  We’re here to make sure analysts and field staff get the tools that they need, and that’s a) a lot of system that’s needed, and b) something that organisations across the whole humanitarian, development and open data space need too. <Slide 1: picture of codejammers> We’re talking to those other organisations about what’s needed, and how we can best pool our resources to build the things that…

Augmented Intelligence

Autonomy

I live in two worlds – the real and the virtual. To some extent we all do now – moving our personae from physical to virtual connections with barely a thought about what this means. But thinking a little more, it struck me that this might just be a good example of autonomy in action. Autonomy also lives in two worlds. For many people, it means the ability to act independently of controls, to think and act for oneself – for others, especially those used to autonomous systems, it means robots and the subtle grades of control, responsibility and trust that their human operators (or, increasingly, team-mates) share with them. I could get boring about PACT (Pilot Authorisation and Control of Tasks) levels and other grading scales that range from the human having full control of a system’s actions to the system having full control. I could talk about Asimov’s…