Thursday, November 29, 2018

Oracle Open World 2018 - Day 2

On day 2 of Oracle Open World 2018, I listened in on the keynote about privacy and security in the modern era, which was a panel moderated by Oracle CEO Mark Hurd. I also attended workshops about using Oracle cloud technologies and AI capabilities. I also toured around the Exchange hall for a bit, where I got the chance to play around with some VR equipment that the Oracle team was working with.

Here's a vlog I filmed of the day:


Day 2's keynote was incredibly interesting. Panel speakers included: Edward Screven, CCA at Oracle; Mark Hurd, CEO at Oracle; General Michael Hayden, former Director of CIA and NSA; Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security; and Sir John Scarlett, KCMG OBE Former Chief of British Secret Intelligence Service. This loaded and highly expert panel discussed what artificial intelligence and the migration towards the cloud means for the tech industry, but largely what it means for society as a whole.

One of the most interesting concepts that was discussed was the movement of traditional war towards a cyber battle, and what role AI plays in that battle. This is a huge issue and one that must be addressed by tech firms and governments alike, because in cyber wars, there are no civilians. General Hayden posed an interesting question in that regard: whether AI would be used best as an offense or defense. When you first think of artificial intelligence, videos like the one below might make you immediately think of super strong and intelligent robots.


However, one of the best uses of AI is actually detecting breaches in security. Having a running program that relies on AI to detect and alert potentially dangerous activities in your network or service is a huge selling point of Oracle’s cloud infrastructure, the “Autonomous Database”. With this in mind, Screven says that he believes AI’s strongest capabilities actually lie in defense. This is definitely a milder view of artificial intelligence than the one that people have come to fear -- the one that creates languages humans don’t understand and probably starts plotting to murder us all. But I think it’s a much more realistic look at artificial intelligence and its use cases, specifically in the area of security and privacy. However, Johnson and Hayden, who are seasoned veterans in topics of national security still expressed doubts, Hayden saying, “I lack the confidence to judge what artificial intelligence will do in battle.”

Johnson further said, “We have to recognize the shortcomings of AI” and that “there are overuses of it”. I think this is a very interesting point and it definitely has some credence. AI in its current state is in the infancy of its projected eternity of use. Currently, AI is a separate tool people access rather than an easy, embedded part of applications. It goes without saying that as research and knowledge improves and increases in coming years, our relationship with AI as both developers and consumers will become more fluid and secure. But one think that AI relies on, and perhaps the aspect of it that makes people the most nervous, is data collection and secure storage, and that is precisely what the cloud represents.

Screven said in his opening remarks that Oracle “built an impenetrable cloud”, a seemingly over-confident stance. But that hub of data must be absolutely secure, and it needs to be impenetrable. It’s difficult for consumers to trust tech firms with data in light of recent news specifically in regards to Facebook. But data collection, analysis, and use is one of the most important aspects of modern technology, so to gain trust in any product, utmost importance must be given to security. The panel, while discussing importance of having absolutely guarded against attackers, landed on the topic of London’s CCTV cameras and their effect. London is the most surveilled city, and the U.K. has about 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras, but the terrorism threats in London are not decreasing. Despite constant data collection at every corner and alley, and even leaks of CCTV footage, Londoners are no less trusting of the technology. This is in contrast to a culture of distrust of the government in the United States. Sir Scarlett commented on this difference saying, “In the U.K., people don’t look at the state in a way that it will represent a fundamental threat to [the citizens’] freedom and privacy.” (This distrust of government in the U.S. ironically has quite a bit to do with the U.K., historically speaking.) London serves as an interesting use-case of both a massive amount of data collection and of consumer trust.

General Hayden ended his closing remarks by saying, “This issue is dependent on a balance of privacy and security, and freedom and liberty.” It is a truly complicated issue to judge how to ethically collect, store, analyze, and use data from people in a way that benefits them and their society rather than detriment either. This issue is not only dependent on the actual technology behind security, which is an incredibly complicated field of study, but it also depends on the ethics of organizations.

It’s okay to be a little scared of what the future of technology will look like; no one knows what the face of innovation will look like in even a decade’s time; Sir John Scarlett even said, “Leadership, innovation, and technology doesn’t automatically find itself in the United States anymore,” which is very interesting but not at all surprising. With digital communication becoming a better experience every single day, the globe is truly becoming equalized in the tech industry.

My main takeaway from this amazing keynote, though, is that tech firms have to constantly evolve to showcase a genuine concern for security and demonstrate that privacy is a top priority, because moving forward that will be perhaps the biggest challenge facing organizations and individual consumers.

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