In this talk we will explore a fundamental limitation of human intelligence which, we argue, makes privacy absolutely critical. We will relate this to our machine intelligences and speculate about how there may be challenges at the interace. Finally we propose Data Trusts as a solution for these challenges.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the autobiography of Jean Dominique Bauby. Jean Dominique was the editor of the French Elle magazine, in 1995 at the age of 43, he suffered a major stroke. The stroke paralyzed him and rendered him speechless. He was only able to blink his left eyelid, he became a sufferer of locked in syndrome.
Incredibly, Jean Dominique wrote his book after he became locked in. It took him 10 months of four hours a day to write the book. Each word took two minutes to write.
The idea behind embodiment factors is that we are all in that situation. While not as extreme as for Bauby, we all have somewhat of a locked in intelligence.
Embodiment Factors 
|~100||a billion||a billion|
|embodiment||20 minutes||5 billion years||15 trillion years|
Let me explain what I mean. Claude Shannon introduced a mathematical concept of information for the purposes of understanding telephone exchanges.
Information has many meanings, but mathematically, Shannon defined a bit of information to be the amount of information you get from tossing a coin.
If I toss a coin, and look at it, I know the answer. You don’t. But if I now tell you the answer I communicate to you 1 bit of information. Shannon defined this as the fundamental unit of information.
If I toss the coin twice, and tell you the result of both tosses, I give you two bits of information. Information is additive.
Shannon also estimated the average information associated with the English language. He estimated that the average information in any word is 12 bits, equivalent to twelve coin tosses.
So every two minutes Bauby was able to communicate 12 bits, or six bits per minute.
This is the information transfer rate he was limited to, the rate at which he could communicate.
Compare this to me, talking now. The average speaker for TEDX speaks around 160 words per minute. That’s 320 times faster than Bauby or around a 2000 bits per minute. 2000 coin tosses per minute.
But, just think how much thought Bauby was putting into every sentence. Imagine how carefully chosen each of his words was. Because he was communication constrained he could put more thought into each of his words. Into thinking about his audience.
So, his intelligence became locked in. He thinks as fast as any of us, but can communicate slower. Like the tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it, his intelligence is embedded inside him.
Two thousand coin tosses per minute sounds pretty impressive, but this talk is not just about us, it’s about our computers, and the type of intelligence we are creating within them.
So how does two thousand compare to our digital companions? When computers talk to each other, they do so with billions of coin tosses per minute.
Let’s imagine for a moment, that instead of talking about communication of information, we are actually talking about money. Bauby would have 6 dollars. I would have 2000 dollars, and my computer has billions of dollars.
The internet has interconnected computers and equipped them with extremely high transfer rates.
However, by our very best estimates, computers actually think slower than us.
How can that be? You might ask, computers calculate much faster than me. That’s true, but underlying your conscious thoughts there are a lot of calculations going on.
Each thought involves many thousands, millions or billions of calculations. How many exactly, we don’t know yet, because we don’t know how the brain turns calculations into thoughts.
Our best estimates suggest that to simulate your brain a computer would have to be as large as the UK Met Office machine here in Exeter. That’s a 250 million pound machine, the fastest in the UK. It can do 16 billion billon calculations per second.
It simulates the weather across the word every day, that’s how much power we think we need to simulate our brains.
So, in terms of our computational power we are extraordinary, but in terms of our ability to explain ourselves, just like Bauby, we are locked in.
For a typical computer, to communicate everything it computes in one second, it would only take it a couple of minutes. For us to do the same would take 15 billion years.
If intelligence is fundamentally about processing and sharing of information. This gives us a fundamental constraint on human intelligence that dictates its nature.
I call this ratio between the time it takes to compute something, and the time it takes to say it, the embodiment factor (Lawrence 2017). Because it reflects how embodied our cognition is.
If it takes you two minutes to say the thing you have thought in a second, then you are a computer. If it takes you 15 billion years, then you are a human.
So when it comes to our ability to compute we are extraordinary, not compute in our conscious mind, but the underlying neuron firings that underpin both our consciousness, our subconsciousness as well as our motor control etc.
If we think of ourselves as vehicles, then we are massively overpowered. Our ability to generate derived information from raw fuel is extraordinary. Intellectually we have formula one engines.
But in terms of our ability to deploy that computation in actual use, to share the results of what we have inferred, we are very limited. So when you imagine the F1 car that represents a psyche, think of an F1 car with bicycle wheels.
Just think of the control a driver would have to have to deploy such power through such a narrow channel of traction. That is the beauty and the skill of the human mind.
In contrast, our computers are more like go-karts. Underpowered, but with well-matched tires. They can communicate far more fluidly. They are more efficient, but somehow less extraordinary, less beautiful.
Human Communication 
For human conversation to work, we require an internal model of who we are speaking to. We model each other, and combine our sense of who they are, who they think we are, and what has been said. This is our approach to dealing with the limited bandwidth connection we have. Empathy and understanding of intent. Mental dispositional concepts are used to augment our limited communication bandwidth.
Fritz Heider referred to the important point of a conversation as being that they are happenings that are “psychologically represented in each of the participants” (his emphasis) (Heider 1958)
Bandwidth Constrained Conversations
Embodiment factors imply that, in our communication between humans, what is not said is, perhaps, more important than what is said. To communicate with each other we need to have a model of who each of us are.
To aid this, in society, we are required to perform roles. Whether as a parent, a teacher, an employee or a boss. Each of these roles requires that we conform to certain standards of behaviour to facilitate communication between ourselves.
Control of self is vitally important to these communications.
The high availability of data available to humans undermines human-to-human communication channels by providing new routes to undermining our control of self.
A Six Word Novel 
But this is a very different kind of intelligence than ours. A computer cannot understand the depth of the Ernest Hemingway’s apocryphal six word novel: “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never worn”, because it isn’t equipped with that ability to model the complexity of humanity that underlies that statement.
Evolved Relationship with Information 
The high bandwidth of computers has resulted in a close relationship between the computer and data. Large amounts of information can flow between the two. The degree to which the computer is mediating our relationship with data means that we should consider it an intermediary.
Originaly our low bandwith relationship with data was affected by two characteristics. Firstly, our tendency to over-interpret driven by our need to extract as much knowledge from our low bandwidth information channel as possible. Secondly, by our improved understanding of the domain of mathematical statistics and how our cognitive biases can mislead us.
With this new set up there is a potential for assimilating far more information via the computer, but the computer can present this to us in various ways. If it’s motives are not aligned with ours then it can misrepresent the information. This needn’t be nefarious it can be simply as a result of the computer pursuing a different objective from us. For example, if the computer is aiming to maximize our interaction time that may be a different objective from ours which may be to summarize information in a representative manner in the shortest possible length of time.
For example, for me, it was a common experience to pick up my telephone with the intention of checking when my next appointment was, but to soon find myself distracted by another application on the phone, and end up reading something on the internet. By the time I’d finished reading, I would often have forgotten the reason I picked up my phone in the first place.
There are great benefits to be had from the huge amount of information we can unlock from this evolved relationship between us and data. In biology, large scale data sharing has been driven by a revolution in genomic, transcriptomic and epigenomic measurement. The improved inferences that that can be drawn through summarizing data by computer have fundamentally changed the nature of biological science, now this phenomenon is also infuencing us in our daily lives as data measured by happenstance is increasingly used to characterize us.
Better mediation of this flow actually requires a better understanding of human-computer interaction. This in turn involves understanding our own intelligence better, what its cognitive biases are and how these might mislead us.
For further thoughts see Guardian article on marketing in the internet era from 2015.
You can also check my blog post on System Zero..
Rapid Diagnosis and Consulting 
The Assault on Privacy 
The Circle 
The Invisible Man 
Internet of People
Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (1981/1/28)
Computer Conversations 
Similarly, we find it difficult to comprehend how computers are making decisions. Because they do so with more data than we can possibly imagine.
In many respects, this is not a problem, it’s a good thing. Computers and us are good at different things. But when we interact with a computer, when it acts in a different way to us, we need to remember why.
Just as the first step to getting along with other humans is understanding other humans, so it needs to be with getting along with our computers.
Embodiment factors explain why, at the same time, computers are so impressive in simulating our weather, but so poor at predicting our moods. Our complexity is greater than that of our weather, and each of us is tuned to read and respond to one another.
Their intelligence is different. It is based on very large quantities of data that we cannot absorb. Our computers don’t have a complex internal model of who we are. They don’t understand the human condition. They are not tuned to respond to us as we are to each other.
Embodiment factors encapsulate a profound thing about the nature of humans. Our locked in intelligence means that we are striving to communicate, so we put a lot of thought into what we’re communicating with. And if we’re communicating with something complex, we naturally anthropomorphize them.
We give our dogs, our cats and our cars human motivations. We do the same with our computers. We anthropomorphize them. We assume that they have the same objectives as us and the same constraints. They don’t.
This means, that when we worry about artificial intelligence, we worry about the wrong things. We fear computers that behave like more powerful versions of ourselves that will struggle to outcompete us.
In reality, the challenge is that our computers cannot be human enough. They cannot understand us with the depth we understand one another. They drop below our cognitive radar and operate outside our mental models.
The real danger is that computers don’t anthropomorphize. They’ll make decisions in isolation from us without our supervision, because they can’t communicate truly and deeply with us.
Data Science Africa 
Data Science Africa is a bottom up initiative for capacity building in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence on the African continent.
As of 2019 there have been five workshops and five schools, located in Nyeri, Kenya (twice); Kampala, Uganda; Arusha, Tanzania; Abuja, Nigeria; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Accra, Ghana. The next event is scheduled for June 2020 in Kampala, Uganda.
The main notion is end-to-end data science. For example, going from data collection in the farmer’s field to decision making in the Ministry of Agriculture. Or going from malaria disease counts in health centers to medicine distribution.
The philosophy is laid out in (Lawrence 2015). The key idea is that the modern information infrastructure presents new solutions to old problems. Modes of development change because less capital investment is required to take advantage of this infrastructure. The philosophy is that local capacity building is the right way to leverage these challenges in addressing data science problems in the African context.
Data Science Africa is now a non-govermental organization registered in Kenya. The organising board of the meeting is entirely made up of scientists and academics based on the African continent.
Thinking Fast and Slow 
The Righteous Mind 
The Elephant and its Rider 
Deep Learning 
The DeepFace architecture (Taigman et al. 2014) consists of layers that deal with translation and rotational invariances. These layers are followed by three locally-connected layers and two fully-connected layers. Color illustrates feature maps produced at each layer. The neural network includes more than 120 million parameters, where more than 95% come from the local and fully connected layers.
Deep Learning as Pinball 
Sometimes deep learning models are described as being like the brain, or too complex to understand, but one analogy I find useful to help the gist of these models is to think of them as being similar to early pin ball machines.
In a deep neural network, we input a number (or numbers), whereas in pinball, we input a ball.
Think of the location of the ball on the left-right axis as a single number. Our simple pinball machine can only take one number at a time. As the ball falls through the machine, each layer of pins can be thought of as a different layer of ‘neurons’. Each layer acts to move the ball from left to right.
In a pinball machine, when the ball gets to the bottom it might fall into a hole defining a score, in a neural network, that is equivalent to the decision: a classification of the input object.
An image has more than one number associated with it, so it is like playing pinball in a hyper-space.
Learning involves moving all the pins to be in the correct position, so that the ball ends up in the right place when it’s fallen through the machine. But moving all these pins in hyperspace can be difficult.
In a hyper-space you have to put a lot of data through the machine for to explore the positions of all the pins. Even when you feed many millions of data points through the machine, there are likely to be regions in the hyper-space where no ball has passed. When future test data passes through the machine in a new route unusual things can happen.
Adversarial examples exploit this high dimensional space. If you have access to the pinball machine, you can use gradient methods to find a position for the ball in the hyper space where the image looks like one thing, but will be classified as another.
Probabilistic methods explore more of the space by considering a range of possible paths for the ball through the machine. This helps to make them more data efficient and gives some robustness to adversarial examples.
The Mechanical Elephant 
The Hindoo Earth 
User Centric Data 
Heider, Fritz. 1958. The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. John Wiley.
Hilbert, Martin, and Priscila López. 2011. “The World’s Technological Capcity to Store, Communicate and Compute Information.” Science 332 (6025): 60–65. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1200970.
Lawrence, Neil D. 2015. “How Africa Can Benefit from the Data Revolution.” The Guardian Media & Tech Network. https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/aug/25/africa-benefit-data-science-information.
———. 2017. “Living Together: Mind and Machine Intelligence.” arXiv. https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.07996.
Taigman, Yaniv, Ming Yang, Marc’Aurelio Ranzato, and Lior Wolf. 2014. “DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification.” In Proceedings of the IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. https://doi.org/10.1109/CVPR.2014.220.