• By Sin Mei C
  • November 28, 2014

Intelligent Living, Privacy & Wit (#WIC)

Meet us next week at GE Garage’s After Hours, thinking about intelligent living and privacy, and Wit.

This Week in Context

Your Weekly Update on All Things Context, November 28 2014

“Startups think at the edge, experimenting with both technology and business models,” reads the invite for GE’s Garage After Hours Startup Showcase. Grab your free ticket here, and enjoy learning about ‘the Robot Soul’ by Jan De Coster and hear our our founder speak at what promises to be exciting evening on software, hardware, start-ups and the lean way, moderated by Robin Wauters. 

We are looking forward to seeing you there!


” The major challenge that humanity faces today is not that we lack ideas for what to do. No, the major challenge, the mother of all problems, is to convert these ideas into courses of action. We fail to act in the face of global problems because we do not have an intuitive grasp on the consequences of collective human behavior, are prone to cognitive biases, and easily overwhelmed by data. …
To steer the future, information about our dynamical and multi-layered networks has to become cheap and almost effortless to use. Only then, when we can make informed decisions by feeling rather than thinking, will we be able to act and respond to the challenges we face.

Sabine Hossenfelder, How to save the world (in five simple steps)
First Prize Winner of the FQX &  Future of Life Insitute’s Future Essay

Five Must-Reads

1. Intelligent Living

“After a After years of false starts, the smart home is gaining momentum,” the ACM writes. That smart home will be all about anticipating its inhabitants behaviour and needs.

Smart homes are expected to evolve from a suite of appliances that await control to data-collecting machines that respond intelligently and provide feedback.

2. We’re more concerned about privacy (but less so in Europe)

Nearly two-thirds of the participants in the Centre for International Governance Innovation-sponsored poll said they’re more worried about their privacy today than they were 12 months ago, with half of those saying they’re “much more” concerned. The worry rate in developing countries increased the most, according to the report. Users in Europe were the least concerned. The U.S. came in two percentage points below the global average at 62 percent.

However, we are remaining optimistic about the future of the web in general, and are seeing its possibilities. “Over 90 percent of the respondents said the Internet is important for their education while 83 percent expect it to play a key role in ensuring their freedom of speech and 81 percent predict the digital universe will have an impact on their economic outlook,” the Silicon Angle writes. “If they had a choice, most users would have a diverse body of technology company, engineers and institutions govern that future.”

3. The new breed of user data is rich, sexy, and tantalising

With Uber’s Rival Lyft Quietly Limits Employee Access to User Data, Elizabeth Dwoskin looks at privacy, corporate culture, policies, operations – and Uber.

In 2012, Uber analyzed aggregated rider data with the aim of tallying customers’ overnight liaisons. The company discovered a spike in rides between 10pm and 4am on Friday and Saturday nights that were followed four to six hours later by a second ride from the previous drop-off.

The article ends with some strong best practise advice:

“Best practices in the industry are two-tiered,” said David Willner, who manages content policy for Secret and previously filled the same role at Facebook. On handling user data, he said, “You make it inaccessible. That’s the best thing. If you have legitimate controls over who can access it, you want to have ways to monitor that access.”

4. Tell me where you’re App 

Francois Mauriac said “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” It’s somewhat like that with mobile apps as well.  Knowing which apps you have installed tells a bit, knowing which ones you frequently use says much more about the type of person you are, and the best way to reach you.

Twitter is now collecting information about the apps installed on users’ devices in order to better target and tailor advertising and other content to them. The company informed users of the change today via a notice that appeared in its iOS and Google Android apps. By default, the tracking is switched on, but users can choose to opt out of having the information collected. 

5. Wit – natural language for the internet of things

Wit.ai, according to their website, turns speech into actionable data. This means they’ll make implementing voice-control way more easier for you. Wit is free as long as you allow other members to reuse your intents and expressions. Now, whilst we believe machines should anticipate what you need, having a voice-control backup is a good idea regardless. Especially as people nowadays are talking to their watch (watch MARA).

“It’s kind of like training a dog to understand commands. The more language it gets to hear, the more positive reinforcement it receives, the smarter it will get.” (NPR.org)

A work of Art vs Tech: DATA-MASKS

Sterling Crispin understands that out of ‘necessity and efficiency for computational reasons’, our human identities are brought back to 3D models and statistical features by facial recognition systems such as DeepFace, but he does not have to like it. DATA-MASKS is a great reflection on both society and fallibility of technology.



Images: Sterlin Crispin, Data Masks – SterlingCrispin.com

For his Masters of Science degree, Crispin reverse engineered facial detection and recognition algorithms and produces 3D printed masks that – to computers, at least – look like perfectly human. To me, more like something only HR Giger could dream up.

This research has resulted in the production of a series of 3D printed face masks which were algorithmically evolved to satisfy facial recognition algorithms. It is important to understand the the goal of creating these masks isn’t to defeat facial recognition or provide something undetectable, simply covering your face with your hand will do that.

Rather, my goal is to show the machine what it’s looking for, to hold a mirror up to the all-seeing eye of the digital-panopticon we live in and let it stare back into its own mind. These masks are shadows of human beings as seen by the minds-eye of the machine-organism. 

(via the ever-brilliant FlowingData)

Papers, Talks & Research

  • The Strength of Friendship Ties in Proximity Sensor Data (bluetooth, social, sensors, mobile, paper)
  • Real-time magnet position detection using smartphone on iPhone (smartphone, sensors, magnetometer, video)
  • Review of Transportation Mode Detection Techniques (smartphone, sensors, accelerometer, mobility, paper)
  • The Affect-Aware City (smart city, sensors, affective computing, emotion, paper)

Enjoy the reads, and have a great weekend!
And if you haven’t done so yet, kindly consider subscribing to the Week in Context here.


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