Incompleteness, Inconsistency and Those Pesky Words!

With the exception of an image demonstrating an argument so utterly and awfully illogical, it deserves public shaming, this post largely works with abstract cases as examples in the hope of not upsetting quite as many people as it otherwise might.

We start with the background stuff …

Kurt Gödel, in 1931, dropped a bit of a bombshell on a mathematical and logical world (that was quietly believing the opposite) by showing that there are things that can’t be proven or disproven.  In other words, in all ‘vaguely normal’ systems, there are propositions that can be either true or false and it doesn’t really matter.  ‘Mathematics is incomplete‘.  In 1936, Alan Turing proved that there are problems that can’t be computed/solved and the rest of the computer science research community spent the next few decades realising that these were kind of the same thing.

Pretty disastrous, huh?

Well, no, not really.  The mathematical and computer logic world dusted itself off and got on with it.  And anyway, other branches of science – and beyond – had similar problems.  In physics, for example, there’s a limit to how closely you can measure something before you change what you’re trying to measure.  Turns out, in one form or another, ‘incompleteness’ is pretty normal in life.

So, no, incompleteness, isn’t that much of an issue.  (it just means we don’t know everything – in fact, can’t know everything: there’s some bits of science, philosophy, etc., we can’t do from our little three-and-a-half-dimensions backwater of the universe; or we’re not God, if you like.)

However, rather than ‘incompleteness’, something called ‘inconsistency’ would be a problem.  Why?  And what does that look like?

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Alan Turing is the ‘Greatest Icon of the 20th Century’

The UK/BBC voting public’s votes are in and Alan Turing has been voted the greatest person of the 20th Century,

which is rather wonderful,

and not much else to say

So now how about the £50 note!


You’re Not My Dad! (The Kettle Said So)

So what are the chances of a global, on-demand, real-time, publicly-accessible DNA database?  (Or what are the chances of stopping it?)

The increasing simplicity and speed with which DNA testing can now be performed has already changed lives.  Not only can simple issues of parenthood be resolved (sometimes disproved) quickly – often causing great distress, the gradual expansion and combination of DNA databases has exposed relationships previously unrealised and even potentially compromising in private and working lives.

How far could this go?

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Call for Papers: ‘The End of Privacy?’

I’m editing a special edition of the journal, Information, with the title, ‘The End of Privacy?’

https://www.mdpi.com/journal/information/special_issues/End_of_Privacy

Contributions welcome!

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 December 2019

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We all know how hard technological forecasting can be. The technology itself, even in isolation, can be difficult to predict a few years into the future, but taking into account the wider social, legal, political, economic, environmental and demographic fallout, and throwing in some ethics and morality too, it becomes next to impossible. There’s too much to think about. Whilst some of us might have an idea of where, for example, the Internet of Things might be in five years’ time or, separately, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, big data analytics, network connectivity, etc., putting it all together into a vision of this fully-automated, AI/big-data-driven, always-on/always-connected world is probably beyond most of us.

Thus the plan here is to focus on one issue that all these factors impact upon, personal privacy, and to pose a fairly simple question: Will it be possible to have personal data (secrets) in the world that future technology will bring us into? What possibilities (benefits and threats) will new technology open us up to? From individuals up to governments and corporations, how easily will information be shared and (how) can it be secured? To what extent can we realistically be protected by legislation? Where will politics and economics be brought to bear? Ultimately, what control will we have? Continue reading