Some Catching Up To Do On Data, AI and Robotics Policy Readings…

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or the fact I try to kill the laptop after 9pm, but I feel as if time for tinkering and reading and playing with tech is beyond me at the moment…

So for example, the stuff I’m linking to here are things I haven’t read (but should…) and that I hope to come back to… (You may also notice a new blog tag for this post: TO DO :-(

  • From last month, Royal Society policy report on Machine Learning [PDF]; (incl. how data is collected and processed – i.e. why you should care about it); by the by, I suspect this post from Dale Lane will complement the Royal Society report nicely: Introducing Machine Learning to kids; it’s a lovely blend of policy ideas and accessibly explained tech principles.
  • And another recent report, from the Responsible Robotics lobbying group, on Our Sexual Future with Robots [PDF]. One comment I saw around this was the notion of regarding “sex robots as pornography”; it’d be quite interesting to spin round an appropriate part of something like Pimp State, critiquing the various transfers that arise from treating people as objects vs. objects as people, and how that might in turn influence social relationships, in the context of robots.
  • I’ve completely slipped behind in reports on data brokers (often these are of interest from the way they pick up on – and get quoted in – other reports; seeing which lobbying groups and consulting forms are involved in producing the reports can also be illuminating…) So for example, from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations we have Data Brokers in an Open Society [PDF. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have a couple of reports I don’t recall reading before: Data Brokers: A Call For Transparency and Accountability (May 2014) [PDF] and Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Understanding the Issues (January, 2016) [PDF]. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also had a related consultation report from 2015 on the Commercial use of Consumer Data [PDF];
  • I don’t tend to follow security topics much, but as I try to tell OU students in the rolling general interest robotics talk I tend to give at residential school, following codes of conduct, upcoming legislation and Health and Safety Exec announcements can often provide indicators about emerging technologies based on any legislative changes required to enable their widespread adoption and roll-out. So from the HSE’s New operational guidance page, I discovered this report on Cyber Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) [PDF]. The HSE Foresight Report (2016) [PDF] is probably also worth a read.

By the by, the only way I’m going to get to read these is probably to pop them into a physical reader… I don’t tend to print stuff out on a printer much any more, but I do use Lulu… So here are a couple of possible useful tricks: Joining PDF files in OS X from the command line (which refers you to /System/Library/Automator/Combine\ PDF\ Pages.action/Contents/Resources/; or maybe this python package? PyPDF2 [docs].

Here’s a recipe for downloading and bundling the docs into a single PDF:


!mkdir -p toread

for pdf in pdfs:
    !wget {pdf} -P toread/ 

!pip3 install pypdf2
!rm bigRead.pdf

from PyPDF2 import PdfFileMerger, PdfFileReader
merger = PdfFileMerger()
for pdf in pdfs:


I guess I could have also bookmarked the PDF URLs and then pulled down the corresponding bookmark feed to access the PDF URLs.

Having got a single monolithic PDF, I can now upload it to Lulu as a private/preview book and get a copy of all the docs in a handy paperback book reader…