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08 January 2019

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Andy McNabb

I have a contact in ASIO (call sign Cornflakes). We meet regularly at the breakfast cereal aisle at Coles. We check behind the Kelloggs boxes for microphones.

He is the top man in Conspiracies and he is investigating a line that Kelloggs have been putting certain substances into Cornflakes which make men lose hair after middle age and in some cases become completely bald.

He penetrated deeply to find Kelloggs have shares in the Miracle Hair Replacement organisation.

Thank heavens we have ASIO to detect these conspiracies and we can keep our hair.

Bernard Corden

Neil Postman, Andrew Keen, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend are essential reading.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think we have to be mindful that with the development of any system, technological or otherwise, there will always be people prepared to subvert that system to their own advantage and there is not a lot we can do to prevent them.

One of the earliest users of the internet, for instance, were pornographers and pornography makes up a huge part of internet use. Whether that is a useful thing or not is a moot point.

I think you are right about the ethics issue but how can you impose and enforce ethical standards on something like the internet? At best you can only hope that individual internet companies enforce their own codes of conduct.

That said, and as recently demonstrated, some of these companies, like Facebook, cannot control what their users do no matter what standards they set.

Peter Quodling

Let me just prefix this with some credentials - I have worked in the IT industry for around 40 years. One of my mentors was the person at Google who developed “Predictive Caching” in their search engine (the bit that seems to second guess you).

He and I have discussed at length, the failings of the technical model of most search engines - they are based on the numerical instances of any particular datum, not the qualitative aspects of the information gathering.

That said, the assumptions by the likes of Donald Trump and others, that search engines innately have a bias are demonstrably wrong.

But the issue is not the technology - it is the implementation and utilisation of that technology without the consideration of the ethics of that use.

A case in point is the Australian Health care records system. As we age, this makes more sense, but a) the government has a track record of data breaches. And b) they have offered nothing in the way of assurances that personal information won’t be unsold to insurance companies or the like, who may then use it against the interests of the individual.

Technologically, there are ways to counter these aspects of compromising privacy, but they themselves need better understanding and commitment to deliver. I am currently considering a doctoral thesis on the subject.

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