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August 2018

Message from the Editor
Heather Love, Editor, IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) Newsletter
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This month's brief newsletter presents an update from Greg Adamson, SSIT Past President and Panels Chair for the 2018 International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) regarding the scope of November's conference and a Plenary Panel you won't want to miss. In addition, scroll down to read the details about an upcoming special issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine that is now accepting paper submissions.

As always, I invite submissions for future newsletters. To announce an event, news item, volunteer opportunity, Call for Papers, award notice, or other article, please contact me at my NEW email address: Heather.Love@uwaterloo.ca. Submissions for the September 2018 newsletter are due by 25 August 2018.

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2018 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS)
13-14 November 2018, Washington, DC, USA

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Submitted by Greg Adamson, SSIT Past President and ISTAS Panels Chair

As readers of this newsletter likely know, the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) is both a multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary forum for engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, philosophers, researchers, social scientists, technologists and polymaths to collaborate, exchange experiences, and discuss the social implications of technology. ISTAS 2018 will take place this November at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the George Washington University (800 22nd Street NW, Washington DC, USA), and I sincerely hope you will join us. The Washington DC venue provides an opportunity to connect leading technologists with interested policy experts as well as their peers from all over the globe.

The changes that humanity is facing would be hard to imagine just a few generations back. The world population grew from 6 to 7.6 billion, from 1995 to 2017. It is expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. In this Information Era, advances in computing, information and communications have completely changed our education, health, commerce, finances, privacy, security, national defense, weather forecasting, food production, water, energy, transportation, and all the world's critical Infrastructures.

The conference organizing team has been hard at work setting up an exciting roster of Plenary Panels that will take place throughout the ISTAS meeting, and I am excited to provide the following details regarding the session on Ethics, Human Values, and Technology Societal Impact: A Standards Perspective, currently scheduled for Tuesday, 13 November 2018 as part of the conference program.

Confirmed Speakers:
  • Sara Jordan, Vice-Chair SSIT Standards Committee, Virginia Tech policy faculty
  • Trevor Rudolph, Original Unit Chief of the OMB Cyber and National Security Unit
  • Sarah Spiekermann, Chair of the Institute for Management Information Systems at Vienna University of Economics and Business
  • John Havens, Executive Director, IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (Moderator)
Panel Overview:
Technologies such as Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (A/IS) have entered into a new paradigm in which we see convergence and incorporation of these technologies into consumer electronics, goods and services. They will continue to evolve, converge, expand, and forge new specialization and applications. This trend will continue to have a rapid, quantum growth as technology continues to democratize society.

A/IS are rapidly spreading beyond transportation, into health, social care, manufacturing, enterprise productivity and advanced cyber-defense, to name a few new directions. They hold great promise to benefit society, but they also bring forth social, legal and ethical challenges, as well as the related issues of major systemic risk, diminishing trust, privacy challenges and issues of data transparency, ownership and agency. There is a need for awareness and use of consensus-based global best practices, recommendations and standards in industry for ethically aligned design that recognize and align end-users' and citizen's values when building and deploying these systems.

Developing and promoting standards for technologists and engineers to guide them into better awareness of the issues at stake, the potential of unintended consequences and the need to design them out of their engineering processes, products and services will be critical. Standards, such as those under the purview of the IEEE Society for Social Implications of Technology, will help equip technologists and engineers with the guidance to address risks and opportunities that accompany technology and pre-empt negative impacts on our world.

This panel will discuss the role of standards and standards bodies in addressing ethics, human values and well being, as well as the societal impacts of technologies such as A/IS. It will cover how the functional rules and interoperability underpinnings of standards can expand to include ethics, and how standards can formalize ethical principles into actionable elements of a system and be used to establish or evaluate levels of compliance with those principles.


Call for Papers: March 2019 Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

Technology for Governance, Politics, and Democracy
Guest Editors:
Dr. Tom Kane (School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom)
Nick Novelli (School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

We are starting to see powerful tools of artificial intelligence disrupting governmental activities. How our relationship with the world around us is modified by such tools, and how we can articulate and correct inappropriate activities in such tools become urgent questions. The situation is made more difficult whenever these tools are the intellectual property of a private company and not fully open to being scrutinized.

Innovative Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are already playing a crucial role in the emergence of e-governance and digital democracy, both at national and community levels. Parliaments can be petitioned on a large scale to influence debates in the legislative process. There is, for example, an unprecedented opportunity for community collective choice, whereby those affected by a set of governing rules can actively participate in the selection, modification and application of those rules, in consultation with their local government representatives, and can help select policy options and rank spending priorities.

Although (as always) the technologies themselves are neutral with respect to both "good" or "bad" outcomes, design, and the intentions behind the design, are never neutral. Moreover, digital technologies, unlike other tools, are never neutral with respect to influence and control. Thus, for example, although it is possible to engage communities in broader and more meaningful political participation, it is equally possible to manage, distort or manipulate the dissemination of information through technological and/or economic mastery of the platforms for communication. In electioneering terms, we see the emergence of such tools as Facebook for Politics, which played a significant role in the 2016 Brexit referendum and US presidential elections being lauded, on the one hand for helping campaigns to be more proactive on social media, and being critiqued on the other for enabling distorted political messages to be decisive in important elections.

In a similar vein, although electronic voting systems based on blockchain technology may make it possible to prove that a citizen's vote has not been tampered with, in pursuing ethical use of such technology, we would need to ensure, among other things, that voting rights couldn't be awarded to pre-programmed bots with a particular agenda. More widely, using technology to broaden civic participation in the political process should be accompanied by meaningful civic education: there is no point enfranchising people and making it "easier" for them to vote by using an app on a mobile phone, if at the same time the voter's critical thinking skills are constantly being undermined. A key societal challenge is, where necessary, to perform dialectical engagements with governmental AI tools, and their developers, in a democratic and open fashion.

At the same time as we address these issues in ICT, more widely in society a political fault-line seems to be developing: just at the time when technology should make representative democracy richer than ever before in human history, so there is a breakdown of trust in politicians, loss of faith in the political process, marked polarization in political debate, and an unwillingness to compromise in political discourse. Will ICT be the final straw in this breakdown, or could ICT be used to set things right in the political world?

The aim of this special issue is to evaluate the social impact and social implications of new and emerging technologies on governance, politics, public administration, and policy-making, and to evaluate the future prospects of digital democracy, and its transformative potential for increasing public engagement, community empowerment, and social entrepreneurship.

  • Digital democracy
  • Technology for deliberative assemblies, debate and decision-making
  • Technology for evidence-based policy making, legislation, and political journalism
  • Role and use of technology in election campaigns
  • Social engagement, ethics, empowerment, and entrepreneurship
  • Civic participation, engagement, duty, and dignity
  • Knowledge management: improving the "correctness" and legitimacy of decision-making
  • Algorithmic governance and self-governance
  • Community self-governance using socio-technical systems
  • Bridging the digital divide
  • Technology and education for teaching and understanding political processes
  • Computational political science
  • Case studies: applications of eGovernance in local or national politics
  • Technology, political change, and transformative impact
30 September 2018: Paper submission deadline
15 November 2018: Notification of acceptance (or otherwise)
End December 2018: Final version
March 2019: Special issue published

Papers should be submitted as a standard magazine submission via Manuscript Central but should indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended to be considered as a paper for this special issue. For any inquiries please contact the Guest Editors, Dr. Tom Kane or Nick Novelli.

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