Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

AI Ethics: Determined by committee or crowdsourced?


Anne says: If you follow our Friday Faves weekly, you’ll know that we all write about AI – Artificial Intelligence – and the impact, both positive and negative, that is predicted to lie ahead as AI becomes ubiquitous. Personally, I’ve been concerned about the effects of bias in AI – can we ever achieve a level of objectivity? Bias embedded in algorithms is just about unavoidable – my post in November 2018 addressed some of the issues – so here’s a bit of follow-up.

Google announced last week, the creation of an independent council – the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) – to guide the ethics of its AI projects. Sounds great, right? Maybe…. but wait… there are only 8 members and although the diversity sounds impressive. However, within a week nearly 1,000 people (855 Google employees and 143 other people, including a number of prominent academics) had signed a letter of protest against the council. 

What’s going on? Surely an independent council is a good thing? The issue, in this case, is related to independence. One member is CEO of a company that develops defence industry systems. As the article points out:

“…a contentious choice given that thousands of Google employees protested the company’s decision to supply the US Air Force with AI for drone imaging.

And another is president of “… a think tank that opposes regulating carbon emissions, takes a hard line on immigration, and has argued against the protection of LGBTQ rights.”

But if diversity of ideas is necessary to avoid bias in algorithms, then do these choices pose a threat? Yes – they do! And hence the reason so many people involved in the projects have protested against the council membership. Algorithms can (and do) reinforce biases that exist in society. In addition, while there’s a bias that can shape our views, there is also bias that prioritises commercial profit. 

The article recommends including representatives from vulnerable communities to ensure bias. But, will that not then skew the bias towards these groups? 

The problem has another way to consider avoiding bias – use a crowdsourced model. The second article, although written in 2017, presents another way to look at the ethics of AI. This model presented people with a number of choices regarding autonomous cars. There’s a number of videos that outline the research and demonstrate the challenges. However, although the researchers acknowledge the potential for biases in these sample groups, their early findings suggest a democratic approach to the ethics of AI may provide a moral framework. 

There can be no doubt the problem of ethics and bias in AI is going to be one of society’s biggest challenges over the next decade. This is not something we should leave to the “independent councils” but something we all need to be aware of in an attempt to contribute to more ethical and moral use of AI. 


Less pizza, more yoga: esports embraces traditional training methods


Helen says: The question of whether esports is actually a sport is not new, in fact early last year this was a topic for one of my Friday Faves. If you are sitting on the fence about this, read on. Esports is big business, millions of dollars are up for grabs in prize money and sponsorship. As this business grows it seems to be drawing greater parallels with traditional sports. Rfresh Entertainment, a European esports company has changed their approach with one of their teams, Origen. This team has undergone a transformation by adopting the more traditional approaches of elite sporting teams. It’s out with group housing, grunge, fast food and hours of gaming, and in with team bonding, nutrition, exercise, health and general well-being. Sports trainers, psychologists and doctors have been hired to support the team and its individual gamers and not surprisingly the results have been outstanding. Their success has not gone unnoticed by other esports companies who are looking to do the same.

I found it interesting to note that one of the biggest challenges facing these trainers is to get their gamers to see themselves as elite athletes. Lars Robi, a sports psychologist who works with gamers said, “They have the same DNA, they’re just not aware of it yet.” Is the gamer’s perception of themselves a reflection of past public opinion? If it is, I think it is set to change.


Spider silk could be used to make robotic muscles


Joel says: All throughout my childhood and even to this day one of my favourite entertainment franchises was Spider-Man. He was a great grounded hero whose character was relatable not only to myself but for many young people that were into superheroes. But the reason I think I liked it the most was because although the stories were full of superhero and supernatural tropes, many aspects of the story, especially it’s villains came to be because of experiments (often failed ones) involving mixing human and animal characteristics or DNA. 

Because of that headlines like this always get me excited. Seeing that blend of the human/technology side getting inspired by attributes of natural creatures has me eager to see what the future has in store for us. 

This piece from Science Focus talks about a recent study conducted on spider silk that found that the strong fibres that make up the web would strengthen and contract when exposed to humid air. And when the environment became humid enough the web would begin to twist. The researchers believe that the force generated by the twisting motion would be enough to move robotic components if used on a larger scale. 

The team then identified the molecule within the web that caused the twisting to occur and are now attempting to reproduce it using synthetic materials. Thankfully this means we won’t need spider farms set up around the world just to harvest silk. 

If these types of stories also interest you, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about animal characteristics inspiring technology design. You can check out how mosquitoes have led to developing stealthier drones here and read about how lizards are improving robotic design here.


A comprehensive (and honest) list of UX clichés


Jakkii says: I’ve been so deeply immersed in pulling together social media links this week – and you’ll notice it’s a ‘bumper’ issue this week – that I wanted to keep my contributions relatively light-hearted this week. Enter: this list of obvious UX clichés! 😉

If you’re a UXer, have worked in web (or other fields of) design, or even worked with someone in UX/design, you’ve probably heard some of these too – heck, you might even have used some of them, even if you’re not, by job title at least, the designer in the room.  The first two are, for mine, the most obvious and, I think, the most likely to have been heard by many of you. Some of the others are a little more specific and may not jump out at you as much – so I’m also helpfully including a list of client design clichés most often delivered to those working in or on visual design.

AND, finally, just so it’s not all completely fluff from me this week, there’s an interesting read from 2011 on clichés in design: Examining the design process: clichés and idea generation.


This week in social media


Federal election

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Society and culture

Cybersecurity and safety

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, advertising and PR


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: a lot of #AppleNews, platforms and piracy. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week. 

The stories this week: 

Apple’s not building a Netflix killer. It’s got something bigger in mind 

The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’  

Online piracy is upping its game to compete with Netflix  

Other stories we bring up: 

The real choice you make when you subscribe to Apple services  

Our previous discussions of #breakupbigtech here and here   

Apple Card will make credit card fraud a lot more difficult  

We previously discussed subscription services in Australia and China  

If you get the Apple Card you may never leave the iPhone 


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