Can machines have morals? Should anyone own the internet? Is the consumer software space all but saturated? Are outdated regulations actually making it inconvenient to not be a pirate? Yep, it’s time for another round up of some of the top tech stories we’ve found on the web.
Machine ethics. Well, there’s something you probably haven’t thought about since I, Robot. But with the rapid advancements in technology (self-driving cars were part of sci-fi stories once — now they’re driving around California) it’s becoming an interesting topic: how do you tell a machine what action to take in complicated circumstances?
If it’s told to avoid harming humans, but it has the ability to take out a potential mass murderer, how does it decide what route to follow? Is it fair for human soldiers to fight wars against robots, who don’t show compassion? And what if machines become more self-aware… would it be immoral to treat them like slaves?
Frederic Filloux argues that an old system which stipulates movies and TV shows can’t be released on multiple channels at the same time (a movie can’t appear on DVD while it’s still showing at the cinema, for example) is “forcing” people to pirate. In a world where a TV show can air on local television one day and be on Pirate Bay the next, and quick downloads are becoming just another option users expect to be available to them, is it still in the best interests of the production companies and online stores to continue to make their users wait months to see something legally?
In this piece, Vint Cerf reinforces Google’s objection to the closed-door renegotiation of a communications treaty next week which could see governments placing tight legal restrictions on the internet, increasing censorship and tolling providers who provide access to information across borders.
He explains that if the internet needs global rules, these should be decided in an open and transparent manner — not in a confidential meeting attended only by government officials, many of whom represent countries who censor and cut off their citizens’ access to the web. He also points out how state interference, even when well-intended, could push up costs and delay the roll out of internet access in developing countries.
In response to a number of recent articles about how investors are becoming more interested in business services and shying away from the packed consumer space, founding partner of accelerator/investment fund 500 Startups, David McClure, maintains that there are still opportunities as the number of potential connected consumers continues to grow.
More and more people worldwide are logging on every day — and even if the markets are nearing saturation in developed countries, there is potential in emerging markets, and consumer tech businesses can still find users and grow incredibly quickly. Because it’s becoming so cheap and easy to set up an internet business, McClure argues it is becoming more important for startups to have the expertise of the investors who really know their niche.
Despite the catchy title, this story isn’t sensational: it’s a straightforward look at how the BBC developed its website — starting in the 1990s. There wasn’t a precedent, and there were no content management systems — everything was built from scratch and modified to fit the BBC’s existing channels and suit its staff around the world, in an age where no one really knew what online news would look like or how it would work.