Tag: TED

TEDMED has forgotten Elizabeth Holmes

Sunday, 7 April, 2019

They say the internet never forgets and the maxim has proved costly to lots of people who thought those old tweets or videos had been cobwebbed forever. TEDMED seems to be an exception to the rule, though. It has forgotten Elizabeth Holmes. Let’s back up here for a moment. TEDMED is “the independent health and medicine edition of the world-famous TED conference, dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”

And Elizabeth Holmes? She’s the Silicon Valley scam artist who founded a company, Theranos, at the age of 19, dropping out of Stanford University and raising hundreds of millions of VC dollars to create a device she claimed would change health care with a fingerprick of blood. From bedrooms to battlefields to laboratories, it would make medical information more affordable. In her brief career, Holmes became a feminist icon, rejoicing in her own triumph over the bro-dominated world of tech. She once ended a Theranos film by declaring, “I always say that next to every glass ceiling there’s an iron lady.” Inevitably, the media elevated her a superwoman fighting for human rights, and the huge wealth she temporarily generated was celebrated as a deserved byproduct of her brilliant mind.

Search the TEDMED site today and you’ll find no mention of Elizabeth Holmes, though. She’s been erased from its history. Still, YouTube has a clip of the talk she delivered at TEDMED in 2014. “I believe. The individual. Is the answer. To the challenges of healthcare.” No wonder TEDMED deleted it.


Swarms of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters

Tuesday, 1 March, 2016 1 Comment

The impossibly gifted Raffaello D’Andrea is a Canadian/Italian/Swiss engineer, artist, entrepreneur and professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich. He’s taking the concept of autonomous flight and propelling it beyond the popular perception of drones into areas where no one has gone before. What could one do with a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters? It’s hard to say at the moment, but we can now begin to think about the use of such technologies.

Raffaello D’Andrea spoke at TED2016: Dream, a week-long conference about ideas that took place from February 15 to 19 in Vancouver.


Who is the master and who the slave?

Tuesday, 13 January, 2015 0 Comments

Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned of the dangers that AI (Artificial Intelligence) could pose to humanity, and during the past 24 hours scientists have been signing an open letter urging that a portion of AI research should be dedicated to “aligning with human interests.” Eh?

At the beginning of this century, Bill Joy, co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, warned in Wired: “What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions.”

AI is now here and here’s Jeremy Howard talking about the amazing and frightening outlines of the “rough beast, its hour come round at last.”


Drop the Glass, Google

Friday, 1 March, 2013 0 Comments

“Don’t be evil.” Heard that one before? Let’s have a quick look now at that famous corporate Code of Conduct: “Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But ‘Don’t be evil’ is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally — following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.”

Google cofounder Sergey Brin spoke at the TED 2013 Conference this week and showed off Google Glass, a hands-free, voice-activated augmented-reality headset developed by the search engine. Brin used the presentation to take a swipe at the phone. “We get information by disconnecting from other people, looking down into our smartphone,” he said. “Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people? Is the future of connection just people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass? It’s kind of emasculating. Is this what you’re meant to do with your body?”

That made headlines and his use of “emasculating” provoked intense reaction, but Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, ignored the frenzy and focused instead on “The Google Glass feature no one is talking about.” And what have we all missed in our gadgetry excitement? Snippet:

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device — every single day, everywhere they go — on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

And that, my friends, is the experience that Google Glass creates. That is the experience we should be thinking about. The most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience — it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.

Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you. Let me paint a picture. Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening, or just includes a mention of a certain word or phrase they find interesting. A single search query within Google’s cloud — whether initiated by a publicly available search, or a federal subpoena, or anything in between — will instantly bring up documentation of every word you’ve ever spoken within earshot of a Google Glass device.

If the Google Code of Conduct is “about doing the right thing”, the company should drop the Glass device right now. It has the potential for evil.

Google Glass