Bull Session

Hacking Infrastructure

April 13, 2017          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss our vulnerable infrastructure, in light of the recent hacking attack on the Dallas emergency sirens. Our real world infrastructure — from power plants to airports to dams — is increasingly subject to both online and offline security breaches, which represents a significant problem in a world where the Internet of Things (IoT) is just beginning to take hold.

While the Dallas hack was accomplished via a radio or telephone signal — not an online breach — it nonetheless provides a prime example of how such attacks disrupt municipal emergency response. Over 4,000 calls flooded the city’s 911 system, forcing real emergencies to wait. Unfortunately, the spectrum of these attacks runs from malicious prank to terrorism and it’s hard to know what kind of attack is happening as it occurs.

Potential outcomes, including the difficulties brought on by service disruptions for electricity, water, transportation, etc., not to mention increased skepticism of emergency systems, could potentially be life threatening. What are the solutions for such hacks on critical infrastructure? And how should we view these types of events and react to them in a resilient fashion in the future?

Resources:
Hacking Attack Woke Up Dallas With Emergency Sirens, Officials Say
Sirens in Dallas, Texas Maybe Civil Defense Tests? Hackers?
Culprit broadcast signal that triggered Dallas’ emergency sirens Friday night
Someone hacked every tornado siren in Dallas. It was loud.

Bull Session

Privacy Overturned

April 6, 2017          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life, in light of Congress overturning online privacy rules created by the FCC, we discuss the potential consequences of corporations tracking people’s online activities and selling their data. Last week, House Republicans overturned privacy rules — slated to go into effect later this year — that required broadband providers to receive consumers’ permission before collecting data on their online activities. Because consumers often don’t have many options for high-speed internet providers, and because ISPs can monitor nearly everything about consumers’ digital lives — from the sites they visit to the applications they use — these rules were seen as a privacy backstop, giving people the power to prevent companies from profiting from their personal information.

Resources:
Congress Moves to Overturn Obama-Era Online Privacy Rules

Bull Session

Celebrating 200

March 30, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we celebrate our 200th episode with a look back at some of the themes and guests that shaped the show over the past 7 years, including those at the top of their game in design, science, and technology like Kelly Goto, Phillip Hunter, and George Church. From episode 24, Kelly Goto talks about her pioneering research on emotional design. From episode 51, Phillip Hunter delves into “making things people want, not making people want things”. And from episode 169, geneticist and molecular engineer George Church discusses brain augmentation to fight cognitive decline.

Resources:
Episode 24: Emotion and Design
Episode 51: Making Things People Want, Not Making People Want Things
Episode 169: Genomics and Life Extension
An Interview with George Church of the Personal Genome Project

Bull Session

Ethics and Bias in AI

March 24, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss ethics and bias in AI, with guest Tomer Perry, research associate at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. What do we mean by bias when it comes to AI? And how do we avoid including biases we’re not even aware of?

If AI software for processing and analyzing data begins providing decision-making for core elements critical to our society we’ll need to address these issues. For instance, risk assessments used in the correctional system have been shown to incorporate bias against minorities. And, when it comes to self-driving cars, people want to be protected, but also want the vehicle, in principle to “do the right thing” when encountering situations where the lives of both the driver and others, like pedestrians, are at risk. How we should deal with it? What are the ground rule sets for ethics and morality in AI, and where do they come from? Join us as we discuss.

Resources
Inside the Artificial Intelligence Revolution: A Special Report, Pt. 1
Atlas, The Next Generation
Stanford One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100)
Barack Obama, Neural Nets, Self-Driving Cars, and the Future of the World
How can we address real concerns over artificial intelligence?
Moral Machine

Bull Session

Bioprinting

March 16, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss bioprinting, its various applications, from 3D printing bones to organs, and the implications for design and science. There are, of course, many uses for 3D printing in healthcare — for instance, the creation of prosthetic limbs. Bioprinting, in contrast, involves the construction of living tissue via the output of multiple layers of living cells. While bioprinting is still very much at its nascent stages, the various techniques for creating 3D organic objects have had some early triumphs, including the construction of functional blood vessels. While reproducing cells in the lab has been done for many years — skin tissue, blood vessels, etc — bioprinting, which leverages natural processes, offers the opportunity to create more complex tissue, and perhaps even complete organs. Join us as we discuss the future of bioprinting.

Resources

Synthetic Future: Revolutionary Center Will 3D-Print Human Tissues and Organs