By Mike Shorter and Leonardo Amico

Can we ever really trust technology, and what is the new future of computing?

As the machinations of Cambridge Analytica continue to be exposed, Mark Wieser’s vision – that technologies would “...weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it...” – begins to sound more like a threat than a futuristic ideal.

Can we ever really trust technology, and what is the new future of computing? This is the question FutureEverything decided to explore at the one-day Trust In Invisible Agents conference.  

Of the artists, designers and scientists who gathered, here are the answers that got us thinking about the future, and what it means for our own work on trust with brands:  

Certificate of ethics for IoT

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino talked about her work on an IoT certification mark. Her idea is to give designers and technologists a set of principles for designing “good, secure and ethical products.” Like every reasonable standard, we think this is something start-ups, small businesses and consumers themselves will have to push for before the industry giants and government give it a second thought.

De-privatise social networks

Urban and media technologist Boris van Hoytema advocated for a ‘cyberspace public department’ that would build and offer services like email and social networks currently provided by private enterprises.

Datum is the new atom

First it was electricity, then the atom. The main character in the current science and technology narrative, according to Tobias Revell, is the idea of ‘data’. Nothing quite like the long view to shock us into a more balanced perspective.

Explainable Artificial Intelligence

But it was the latest research on Explainable AI (XAI) and Augmented Intelligence, presented by John Davies, Chief Researcher at BT‘s Future Business, that really seemed to answer the question around trust and the future of computing.

Key to trusting someone, or something, is transparency. According to American Defence Agency DARPA, who is leading the research in XAI, we’ll start to see Intelligences which, “Explain their rationale, characterize their strengths and weaknesses, and convey an understanding of how they will behave in the future.” In other words, XAIs will let us in on their process – moving from esoteric, near magica entities to human-centred tools.

Likewise, thinking of AI as Augmented Intelligence let’s us see the growing ecosystem of algorithms, bots et al not as beings invading our lives, but as what they are – an extension of our own mental processes.

In other words, it seems the answer to trusting ‘invisible agents’ is understanding.

And, ultimately, the future of computing is us.

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