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Tech CEOs are known for their strong opinions on politics and for taking a stand on issues that go beyond corporate matters. Louise Matsakis thinks we should call a spade a spade. She argues that if tech CEOs behave more and more like politicians, using their power to shape global society, it is reasonable to judge their behaviour in the same way. We may be thinking about regulating the platforms, but should we be keeping an eye on the leadership too?
Machines learn from their creator and the data fed to them. We all too easily forget that hardware and software reflect their designer(s) – including his or her biases. When MIT researcher Joy Boulamwini discovered that the facial recognition software she worked with did not recognise her because she was black, she had to do something. She found out that the programme was only trained with white faces, so she started the Algorithmic Justice League. While machine learning is an essential part of tech’s future, we must be aware of how machines learn and tackle biases head on.
At Facebook’s F8 conference in San Jose, the company revealed it’s developing a brain to computer interface. Its first human task: typing. The project will use optical imaging to scan your brain (no implant required), detecting the silent words you speak to yourself and translating brain activity into words. Yes, you read correctly. R&D head Regina Dugan told TechCrunch that Facebook is planning to set up an independent Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) panel to oversee its work. As AI and machine learning evolve at a rapid pace and humans become part of the digital network, companies and policymakers alike need to address ethical concerns and get a head start on minimising malicious use.
Former “pure” e-commerce retailers, such as Amazon and Made.com, are beginning to open brick-and-mortar shops. Why? First, to please shoppers. Second, to reduce returns which are among the biggest costs for online retailers. The European Commission’s competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector revealed the same trend: consumers do not distinguish between online and offline shopping. They combine both in an omni-channel approach. Should policies and regulation still focus on promoting cross-border e-commerce then? Maybe. Making it easier to open retail outlets – both online and offline – might better address the needs of customers and retailers.
Start-ups are disrupting the banking sector, revolutionising how we make payments and opening up possibilities like peer-to-peer lending. Some say traditional banking is coming to an end. Not so fast. One of the main advantages of traditional banks is that they have vast amounts of data on millions of customers. Applications for data analytics in banking are endless. Combining browsing history and credit scores with beacon technology could allow for personalised products in real time. Imagine an instant credit card offer to make one-off purchases. Food for thought for stakeholders submitting replies to the Commission’s public consultation on the data economy.
Dow Jones CEO William Lewis pits himself against the two internet giants in an interview with the French business daily. He accuses both companies of being “deliberately biased against professional journalism” as they use algorithms to showcase free content instead of “qualitative” – but paid – content. Does this spell the end of the collaboration between Murdoch’s media empire and the tech firms? Not necessarily. Lewis wants to work with them to develop a more even playing field and urges them to stop pushing for free content. Instead of criticising the two GAFAs, should media companies adjust their business strategy?
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