Infrastructure decisions and the ‘Reverse Turing’ Test

In July, I went to Bali on holiday.  I took my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad, admittedly, a  trifle excessive, especially for a holiday.  The airline then lost my luggage containing the charger cables for these devices and I was effectively ‘offline’  – for 3 days.  Did I just kick back and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, the water, the massages and the respite from my inbox?  After all, I was on holiday.  Or did I fret?

Does the thought of being ‘unconnected’ fill you with dread?  I thought of this experience whilst catching up with an article in the Guardian (from August 11, 2015) by one of my favourite authors, Brett Frischmann (“Infrastructure: the social value of shared resources”) He was suggesting that with the ‘internet of things’ it may soon become physically impossible for us to go ‘offline’. For many of us, I reflected, it may already be emotionally impossible. I was intrigued by the term ‘digital gerrymandering’ to reflect the way that Facebook, Google and others ‘influence’ us.  But I was especially taken with the following proposition by Frischmann and his co-author, Evan Selinger:

“The internet of things is envisioned to be a “programmable world” where the scale, scope, and power of these tools is amplified as we become increasingly predictable: more data about us, more data about our neighbours, and thus more ways to shape our collective beliefs, preferences, attitudes and outlooks. Alan Turing wondered if machines could be human-like, and recently that topic’s been getting a lot of attention. But perhaps a more important question is a reverse Turing test: can humans become machine-like and pervasively programmable.”

Brett speaks to this idea in a  short interview on YouTube

The question that this raises for me is:  in this programmable world, how valid are our ‘community consultations’? Is there any role left for us, as  citizens, as community, to impact infrastructure decisions?

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