Reflections: Part 3

We looked at Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s history, development and future. AI is basically the activity of making machines intelligent. I find it interesting because it’s putting humanity in a ‘God’ role – we are creating intelligent beings. Elon Musk, a successful entrepreneur with strong views on AI, warns us to be careful what we wish for. Humanity’s destruction might be brought about by the very thing we created (think I, Robot and The Terminator). Do we truly understand what it means to give intelligence to machines? Do we understand the power of intelligent beings? It was our intelligence that made us Homosapiens the top of the food chain. We have one of  the weakest bodies in the animal kingdom, yet we have become the most dangerous species because of the power of our intelligence.

True AI is not logically impossible, but it is utterly implausible, Floridi argues. We know little about how our own brains and intelligence works. Turin, presented the Turing Test: can a machine convince a human that it is a human, designed to test if AI is getting closer.

In March 2016 Microsoft introduced Tay bot to Twitter. They had to remove it only 16 hours later. It was supposed to become increasingly smarter as it interacted with humans. Instead, it quickly became an evil chatterbox. This was no surprise however because it was simple absorbing and learning from the rude, filthy, hate-mongering tweets it was receiving.

Singularitarians are people who believe that AI poses a real threat to humanity. They believe in three main principles:

  • the creation of some form of artificial ultraintelligence is likely in the foreseeable future
  • humanity runs a major risk of being dominated by such ultraintelligence
  • a primary responsibility of the current generation is to ensure that the Singularity either does not happen or, if it does, that it is benign and will benefit humanity

Reflections: Part 2

This is the second post of my three-part series on my reflections of the INM348  DITA module.

We looked at metadata and its importance in LIS. Metadata is essentially data about data but it is more than that,  that’s not enough to give a clear understanding of the term. Metadata is constructed information, that is, information created by humans and not found in nature. An example of constructed information would be the use of longitude and latitude to describe how the Earth moves and the various points rherein. It’s purpose is to aid our understanding and we know that the actual planet does not have these lines. Metadata is developed by people for a specific purpose or function it is not the object itself that determines the metadata  but the needs and purposes of the people who create it and those who it will serve.

We also looked at linked data. Linked data are data encoded and published on the web where HTTP name (e.g. URIs)  are used to identify people, places and others things, information is expressed in terms of simple relationships between pairs of things, and information is encoded in a simple format. We use semantic web standards to achieve this, particularly the RDF format which was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium

Principles of Linked Data

  • Any conceptual thing can now have a name (URL) on the web
  • Those URIs return important information back in a standard format
  • This information includes explicit relationships to other things with URIs

Why is Linked Data important to libraries?

  • people can more easily find library resources on the web
  • More creative applications based on library metadata
  • opportunities for cataloguing efficiency and innovation

Reflections: Part 1

This blog post is the first of a short series on my reflections on the INM348 Digital Information Technologies and Architecture module at #citylis.

The first session was called ‘Finding the ‘I’ in Data’ and focused on data, the nature of data, and its relationship to information. The ‘I’ here referring to individual as well as information. It is important to consider the implications of data and what it says about us as individuals.

According to IBM 2.5 exabytes of data was generated in 2012 alone.That’s 2.5 billion gigabytes (GB)! And given that it is estimated that less than 1 zettabyte (1 zettabyte = 1000 exabytes) of data was generated since the existence of humanity up until 2009, it seems we are biting more than we can chew.

Luciano Floridi, a philosopher of information, states that the distinction between reality and virtuality is being blurred more and more as the transformation from information scarcity to information abundance occurs from the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT). Our profiles, Facebook updates, tweets, YouTube videos and recommendations, and Google searches have created individuals that tell surprisingly more about us than we know.

In today’s digital society where this plethora of data about everyone exists online, it makes you wonder who has access to this data? How is it used and most importantly who really owns it? We are in the fourth revolution, the information revolution,  as Floridi says.

In the second session, ‘You will be Assimilated”, we looked closely at the digital technologies used to create, access, store, structure, manage and visualise data in a modern digital environment. We looked at the origins of the internet. Its humble beginning as ARPANET to the explosion of the the dot-com bubble in 2001 and Web 2.0; the phenomenon where the web has moved from static ‘web sites’ to ‘web apps’, short for ‘web applications’. Almost every site on the web now is a web app, that is, applications that allow the user to interact with the site. Whether that is a person searching on Google, a reader writing a comment on a blog, a customer doing his banking or shopping online on Amazon.

The internet is the biggest advancement in human history since the printing press. It is a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction.

The world wide web, or web for short, is the content that is served up on the internet. This content takes the form of HTML files which along with CSS tell the browser how to display the content. As I said previously, the web is now more dynamic , allowing  users to engage with the site, so it is very rare now to see a site completely written in just HTML and CSS. Instead new technologies are used such as PHP and JavaScript and new ones are popping up almost every day now.


what does all this data mean?

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Whatsapp, they’ve all got it and we are all too happy to give it to them. Data. Our data is very precious and businesses are becoming more aware of the need to collect and exploit these asset. But who owns this data? Is it okay for businesses to use our data without our consent?

I think it’s quite scary. Can you imagine all the businesses and organisations that hold data about you. The information they glean  from all this data.

And what about ‘Big Data’? Well, we have always had large amounts of data but it’s the velocity, volume and variety of data that has coined the term. Back in the day, data was structured and neatly stored in databases but then the internet came along and made life hard. Today we have data being generated from our digital interactions such as tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos and text messages.

In Floridi’s article, ‘The self-fulfilling prophecy’, he says that there are two main ways in which digital technology identify us: what we search for and what we share. For example, every query tells a story of a need, a worry, a desire etc and this story becomes a unique individual. Also what we share is revealing. We mostly use social media to broadcast not to communicate.

The reason we give away our identities so easily is that we are not used to seeing ourselves as clusters of missing information. We do not realise that search engines are actually distracting us by making us believe that we are simply finding something we need when really we are uncovering ourselves as the kind of individuals who have such needs.

Digital technologies are moving from merely identifying us to defining us and making sure that we are who they say we are.

Floridi argues that we are entering a fourth revolution: the information revolution. That is, a world in which we are interacting with information. Knowledge, science and technology have two ways of changing our thinking: the extroverted way, that is, telling us about the world, how it works and what we can do. The other is introverted, that is, about ourselves.

The information revolution is so important because it is deeply affecting our understanding of ourselves as agents. We are interconnected, informational organisms sharing an informational environment, the infosphere.