Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surveillance for preschoolers; when algos takes over

Two tidbits today.

(1) An editorial in today's New York Times, Keeping Track of the Kids, expresses a "worry that we are all becoming a little too blasé about our scrutinized lives" in which we accept security cameras, mobile telephones that allow us to be tracked minute-by-minute, and RFID chips on preschool children. The editorial's final sentence: "Though it may seem innocuous to attach a chip to our preschoolers’ clothes, do we really want to raise a generation of kids that are accustomed to being tracked, like cattle or warehouse inventory?"

It's a nicely phrased question. There are, of course, other ways to put it, like, "do we really want to raise a generation of kids who are accustomed to being protected from predation, not to mention simply being lost?"

What, indeed, would be lost - or gained - by this generation's getting accustomed to being tracked? Their elders apparently became so accustomed with very little fanfare.

(2) Colin Allen, to whom my thanks, brought this ABC program, The flash crash (August 29), to my attention. The program is summarized as follows:
A few months ago the US share market plunged l000 points in a few minutes, and trillions were traded both up and down. What caused it, and can it happen again? Tiny high frequency computer algorithms - or algos - roam the markets, buying and selling in a parallel universe more or less uncontrolled by anyone. Did they go feral, or was it the fat finger of a coked out trader? In September US regulators bring out their findings.
One has to be more interested in stock markets than I am to listen to the entire program, or read the entire transcript, but you can find the good stuff easily enough at the very end - about the last 2 minutes in the audio. That's when Colin Allen himself sums up the underlying problems. Enjoy.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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