miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2018

"Lejos del corazón" - Lorenzo Silva

Lejos del corazón (Bevilacqua y Chamorro, #11)Lejos del corazón by Lorenzo Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Como tantos otros, sigo leyendo y devorando cada nuevo relato de un caso de Vila y Chamorro. Y Lorenzo Silva, como ya hizo con la corrupción local en "Los cuerpos extraños" o el estado de la cuestión catalana en "La marca del meridiano", utiliza el trasfondo de las preocupaciones y actualidad como contexto. Toca en esta ocasión el lado alegal de Internet, que combina con los perennes negocios turbios de las mafias del Estrecho.

La novela es, también, un ajuste de cuentas de Lorenzo Silva con la cara oscura de Internet. Pocos novelistas existen más combativos que el autor contra la distribución ilegal de sus obras en la red. Lorenzo Silva relata, deleitándose en el detalle, la estrecha relación entre apps gratuitas que ocultan recopiladores de información personal, mineros escondidos de bitcoin, redes de blanqueo de dinero y webs de enlaces ilegales a contenidos protegidos con derechos de autor. Son páginas profusamente documentadas en sus contactos con los técnicos informáticos de la Guardia Civil, un ejercicio de divulgación que agradecerán muchos de sus lectores.

Una gran novela de la serie de Bevilacqua y Chamorro, aunque no sea la mejor de ellas. La trama tiene la solidez que nos tiene acostumbrados Lorenzo Silva. Retratos perfectos de los delincuentes de turno y su entorno, en este caso tan diversos como frikis informáticos, escenarios de intercambios sexuales con pretendido alejamiento de la sordidez, patrulleras y voladoras que pueblan el Estrecho y barrios sin ley donde la solidaridad la crea el mercado negro.

Al terminar, una queda con el deseo de leer la siguiente entrega, el mejor signo que, tras veinte años de aventuras, nuestra pareja favorita de guardia civiles aún tiene casos por delante y malos a los que derrotar. El deseo de seguir cumpliendo los mismos años que Bevilacqua acompañado por su integridad.

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miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2018

AI and human rights

There´s a race among the different economic areas for a quick and effective deployment of Artificial Intelligence. The promise of a new surge of productivity growth accompany Artificial Intelligence is fueling investments in all the continents. The promise is an increase of 14% on global GNP by 2030, the private investments for reaping AI benefits are expected to reach $232B by 2025.

Nevertheless, besides its economic benefits, AI is carrying fears of a soul-less world where human beings will be subdued to machines. These fears that are captured human imagination would almost be an unavoidable future without a general consensus of the limits to be respected. A well positioned forum to hold this debate are the United Nations, where documents as the report on AI implications for human rights published by the UN Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression are debated.

The report focuses particularly on the impact of AI on rights to freedom of opinion and expression, privacy and non-discrimination. In order to begin from a right starting point, the report includes a definition of AI as a “constellation” of processes and technologies enabling computers to complement or replace specific tasks otherwise performed by humans, such as making decisions and solving problems. Another cornerstone of the report is the human responsibilty as central in AI development. The author highlights the human role in in the design of AI systems (by the definition of its intentions), deployment (through the modellation of algorithms and the procurement of data) and implementation (in the decision of how to apply its outputs).

In order to be effective, the reporter narrow the scope of its task to concrete applications of AI. However, the selection does not mean a reduction of the relevancy of conclusions of the report, as the applications chosen are "Content display and personalization", "Content moderation and removal" and "Profiling, advertising and targeting". It´s not needed to say that the above mentioned applications are present in the daily surfing of internet users.

The reporter raises concerns in several areas related to human rights. Firstly, for its impact on right to freedom of opinion and expression, as AI endangers individuals’ self-determination and autonomy to form and develop personal opinions based on factual and varied information. Secondly, regarding the right to privacy the reporter warns on the mass collection of data that once processes may drive to sensitive information about people. Last but not least, the reporter points to the threat of non-discrimination that poses AI.

Governments are pointed by the author as the main responsible for pushing towards a human-centric development of AI. But he also identified several tools that could help to enable a right regulatory framework for AI:
  • human rights impact assessments performed prior, during and after the use of AI systems;
  • external audits and consultations with human rights organisations;
  • enabled individual choice thanks to notice and consent;
  • effective remedy processes to end human rights violations.

To sum up, AI development should not only fulfill the principle of ethic-by-design, there is also a human right framework to take care of  and tools for its enforcement that governments could use.

martes, 13 de noviembre de 2018

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" - Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have also fallen to read "Sapiens", one of those books that everybody has read or plan to read, one of those books that plays the role of the perfect gift for your brother or sister, one of those books that pops up time and again in family dinners. It´s not a perfect book, sometimes it is quite superficial and orther extremely presumptuous. However it is written in a highly readable style and it is a light manner to extend your knowledge on the human race.

For some people, the book will be expendable, but I have the feeling that for many more it should be a must read. Otherwise, the later would not have a panoramic landscape of what has made the humankind the master and commander of the earth. That is the great value of the book. For the majority of its readers it is their first (and probably last) meeting with how an once weak and vulnerable animal has been capable to overcome its limitations once and again through multiple revolutions of its lifestyle.

Five hundred pages (footnotes and references included) is a short space to tell a story that spans across several hundred thousands of years, but in a well structured narrative in four stages, the author achieves his objective. By the end of the book, the reader have a basic knowledge (from the author perspective) of our first steps on earth as one of the many human species, the evolution from nomadism to sedentarism through the discovery of agriculture, how the humankind get connected thanks to imperialism and, finally, the unfinished era of an unended stream of scientific discoveries that may lead in the medium term to the definitive step of a self-designed race.

Of course the narrative has many gaps, from my point of view the most important is not paying enough attention to the Greco-Roman culture and the supposedly dark period of the Medium Age in Europe, and sometimes the author gives conclusions not based enough on evidences but on his own personal ideas. Nevertheless, that are the usual limits and downs of this kind of books that you should know before you invest in the effort of reading them.

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miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2018

Zero rating for social good

It looks that debate around net neutrality has been opened again. To begin with, net neutrality deabate has entered in the mid-term elections debate in USA. It is expected also that that net neutrality will be one of the thorny regulatory issues when network slicing features will be deployed in 5G networks. Beside these new debates, it is the still open debate on zero rating services and their fulfillment of net neutrality principle.

One of the many faces of zero rating is the focus of this post. But let´s start with a brief reminder of the zero rating concept. Zero-rating is the practice of providing Internet access without financial cost under certain conditions, such as by only permitting access to certain websites or by subsidizing the service with advertising. As fixed internet services are based in flat rate, zero rating services are commercialised within the scope of mobile (broadband) data services. 

Obviously, there are uses of zero rating services that would violate net neutrality principle. Let´s say for instance the case of a vertical integrated mobile ISPs that offers its own VOD service including in its Internet service under a zero rating model and the rest VOD service under a normal tariff based on the usage. 

But there could be also cases where zero rating maybe used for social good that have not yet been fully exploited, particularly as a government tool for digital inclusion. A first possibiliy is applying zero rating for subsidising the access to digital government services. Although on a general basis could  be a complex kind of filtering due to the multiplicity of government web sites, a simplification for an specific kind of services as health services or to fulfill the yearly tax return it is feasible and it would mean relevant savings for the Treasure.

Neither has been explored the application of zero rating within the scope of the universal service, perhaps because mobile internet has not yet been saw as part of the universal service. And it may be so in the short term because the substitution of fixed connections by mobile access is a reality. A public subsidy for vulnerable people of a mail service or messaging service of their choice would probably be also within the respect of net neutrality spirit.

A last example of the usage of zero rating for social good is for promoting digital entrepreunership, connected with awards for solving social challenges. For instance, a government may sponsored the access to private services developed by start up companies presented within a call for projects. This model could help digital SMEs to be known among the general public and promote a level playing field between them and the digital giants. 

Almost any tool has a dual usage, one for good and one for evil. Zero rating is not an exception. Beside its usage by private companies to crowd out competition, governament should explore its usage as a tool for digital inclusion, both for citizens and companies.

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