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Technology & Privacy Issues

Date: 01-31-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Nigel Shadbolt, Nick Sucik

Artificial intelligence expert Nigel Shadbolt discussed the idea of privacy in a technological world. Referring to the title of his book, The Spy in the Coffee Machine, Shadbolt pointed out that "even something as mundane as making a pot of coffee tells you something [about a person]." Our everyday business and especially our electronic interactions leave behind a trail, Shadbolt continued. Information about us persists in online databases, he explained, where it is susceptible to interception. Shadbolt said California has led the way in acknowledging the concept of "digital identity" and in passing online privacy laws.

Shadbolt talked about the trade-offs technology is forcing us to make between our public and private lives. As an example, he mentioned Central London's extensive CCTV system. A person could potentially be tracked up to 500 times a day by the city's cameras, Shadbolt estimated, noting that many are willing to accept such public surveillance for the benefit of the state. Shadbolt also weighed in on the current state of artificial intelligence, Japan's human-like robots, Swedish biobanks, as well as how trust on the Web is evolving as people grow accustomed to online transactions.

Flying Snakes

In the first hour, anthropology student Nick Sucik (email) shared stories he has collected about flying snakes. According to Sucik, the earliest European reference comes from 16th century Italian adventurer Girolamo Benzoni, whose travel companions reportedly killed a winged serpent in what is now Florida.

American newspaper archives from the mid-1800s to early 1900s contain a "surprising frequency of accounts of flying snakes," he said. Flying snakes are also acknowledged by many indigenous cultures, Sucik explained, noting the native people of Moundsville, Alabama engraved images of the creatures on their pottery.

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A 12-year-old student from Bucks County, Pennsylvania noticed a blue light shining through his bedroom window, grabbed his Kodak Easy Share camera, and snapped images of the strange object (pictured). The young man said the light was probably 20 miles away and about 50 feet above the rooftops. It also appeared to be stationary, disappeared within 60 seconds, then reappeared an hour later, the student reported. More details and photos at examiner.com.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Saturday January 31, 2009

  • Moms
    A Tribe Called Quest

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