January 8, 2014

Entanglement of Technology

It’s complicated  Human ingenuity has created a world that the mind cannot master. Have we finally reached our limits?

We are now living with the unintended consequences: a world we have created for ourselves that is too complicated for our humble human brains to handle….a world where nearly self-contained technological ecosystems operate outside of human knowledge and understanding. As a scientific paper in Nature in September 2013 put it, there is a complete ‘machine ecology beyond human response time’ in the financial world, where stocks are traded in an eyeblink, and mini-crashes and spikes can occur on the order of a second or less. When we try to push our financial trades to the limits of the speed of light, it is time to recognize that machines are interacting with each other in rich ways, essentially as algorithms trading among themselves, with humans on the sidelines.
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ever since the Enlightenment, we have moved steadily toward the ‘Entanglement’, a term coined by the American computer scientist Danny Hillis. The Entanglement is the trend towards more interconnected and less comprehensible technological surroundings. Hillis argues that our machines, while subject to rational rules, are now too complicated to understand. Whether it’s the entirety of the internet or other large pieces of our infrastructure, understanding the whole — keeping it in your head — is no longer even close to possible.
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Intellectual surrender in the face of increasing complexity seems too extreme and even a bit cowardly, but what should we replace it with if we can’t understand our creations any more?

The examples Samuel Arbesman uses include:  the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), financial trading, software, our legal system which includes the tax code and Obamacare and  evolutionary programming.

In Wired, How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the other tech titans have had to fight for their lives against their own government. An exclusive look inside their year from hell—and why the Internet will never be the same.
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The hard-earned trust that the tech giants had spent years building was in danger of evaporating—and they seemed powerless to do anything about it. Legally gagged, they weren’t free to provide the full context of their cooperation or resistance. Even the most emphatic denial—a blog post by Google CEO Larry Page and chief legal officer David Drummond headlined, “What the …”—did not quell suspicions. How could it, when an NSA slide indicated that anyone’s personal information was just one click away? When Drummond took questions on the Guardian website later in the month, his interlocutors were hostile:

“Isn’t this whole show not just a face-saving exercise … after you have been found to be in cahoots with the NSA?”

“How can we tell if Google is lying to us?”

“We lost a decade-long trust in you, Google.”

“I will cease using Google mail.”
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“The fact is, the government can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” says Face­book’s global communications head, Michael Buckley. “We can put out any statement or statistics, but in the wake of what feels like weekly disclosures of other government activity, the question is, will anyone believe us?”
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At an appearance at a tech conference last September, Facebook’s Zuckerberg expressed his disgust. “The government blew it,” he said. But the consequences of the government’s actions—and the spectacular leak that informed the world about it—was now plopped into the problem set of Zuckerberg, Page, Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer, Steve Ballmer, and anyone else who worked for or invested in a company that held customer data on its servers.
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“At first we were in an arms race with sophisticated criminals,” says Eric Grosse, Google’s head of security. “Then we found ourselves in an arms race with certain nation-state actors [with a reputation for cyberattacks]. And now we’re in an arms race with the best nation-state actors.” Primarily, the US government.
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Research estimates that as much as $180 billion could be lost due in large part to overseas companies choosing not to patronize the American-based cloud. “American companies are feeling shellacked by overeager surveillance,” says US senator Wyden. “It reduces our competitiveness in a tough global economy.”
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“I was naive,” says Ray Ozzie, who as the inventor of Lotus Notes was an early industry advocate of strong encryption. “I always felt that the US was a little more pure. Our processes of getting information were upfront. There were requests, and they were narrow. But then came the awakening,” he says. “We’re just like everybody else.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at January 8, 2014 10:15 AM | Permalink