Governance in the Age of Algorithms, Cognitive Computing, & Systems of Systems

by | Jan 3, 2017

This white paper was written by Kevin C. Desouza, Foundation Professor at the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. It was sponsored by SAFEbuilt and originally published by the Alliance for Innovation as part of their 2016 BIG Ideas conference.

From the intro:

As we think about the future of governance and systems of governance, one thing is clear – technological advancements will render our current methods and approaches obsolete. Algorithms will have much to say when it comes to deciding how public services are delivered. Today, all social platforms (e.g., Facebook) have evolved from being purely ‘social’ to being arbitrators of how citizens consume news. Cognitive computing systems that learn are being deployed in almost all sectors of our society from healthcare to law enforcement and education. These systems are on track to outperform humans on many tasks, resulting in a whole slew of both intended and unintended consequences that will reshape how we think of organizations, service delivery, and communities. We are no longer living in an age of isolated systems. Today, systems are connected at multiple levels and across multiple environments resulting in an ecosystem of systems – systems of systems (SoSs). The challenge of governing SoSs is intensified by the fact that right now, these systems exist entirely in the private domain. These systems are rarely subject to a discussion of how public values are accounted for and who is to be held accountable in the case of failures. Our level of dependency on SoSs to perform is rarely matched with an adequate level of curiosity into how these artifacts are designed, managed, and cared for. We need a thoughtful conversation about algorithms, the next- generation systems and SoSs they will create and propagate if we have any chance of ensuring that these technologies are deployed responsibly and in a manner that will benefit our communities. Having a thoughtful conversation will require us to unpack technology as a concept and examine its finer components (e.g., algorithms) along with the underlying mechanisms and outcomes they generate.

Download the white paper to read more.

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