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The Special Issue 2017 is dedicated to the tensions between science, technology, policy and inequality. Inside we have articles by four wonderful authors covering gender, income inequality, solar panels, universal basic income, network technologies and much more. Look no further for a glimpse into the ongoing negotiation between society and science.  

The Special Issue contains:

Women and Solar Home Systems in Rural Bihar, India by Shivi Chandna
A Look at the Attrition of Women in STEM by Sumana Sharma
Book Review: Utopia for Realists by Karen Stroobants
Income Inequality and the Internet of Things by Nicolás Valenzuela-Levi

With Editor’s Note by Victoria Plutshack

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Electricity meter

[ Image Credit: Niel Lall ]

The broad question looming over these recommendations is this: will this new intervention – which is essentially a negation of the previous one – bring about positive outcomes for the consumers?

by Paul Monroe

Ensuring sufficient competition in the energy market is a key role of the regulator. One of the most popular measures for measuring competition has been in the analysis of customers switching between tariff plans. Unfortunately, switching rates are comparatively low and the market remains dominated (85%) by the six largest energy companies. Many regulatory interventions have been made, but one of the most significant was a cap on the total number of tariff plans on offer by suppliers.

Earlier in 2016, this decision was reversed and the cap was eliminated. The primary reasoning was that the cap now inhibited competition because, alongside other measures, it prevented the creation of innovative offerings, like reward plans paired with other services, discounted “smart home” packages, and more.

The broad question looming over this decision is whether the cap removal will promote innovation or simply represent at return to the previous state of affairs. Furthermore, the implications for vulnerable customers – who benefit greatly from regular switching but may be dissuaded from doing so in this scenario – require exploration. This paper will detail the potential effects of this policy intervention in depth.

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The proliferation of commercial remote sensing satellites has increased the availability of satellite images. This new technology will have positive and negative effects on society due to the dual nature of satellite imagery.

by James Kilroe

The proliferation of commercial remote sensing satellites has increased the availability of satellite images. These images are predicted to increase in spatial and temporal resolution (clarity and frequency) until satellite imagery becomes near real-time. This new technology will have positive and negative effects on society due to the dual nature of satellite imagery. This paper highlights some of the potential consequences of ubiquitous satellite imagery. Furthermore, it examines current regulations and illustrates how these regulations will be unsuitable in the future. Finally, it examines UN regulations surrounding satellite imagery and if international treaties could be used to regulate this technology.

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Current technology is still a long way from human-level general intelligence, but with high stakes involved we cannot afford to proceed via trial and error and must begin to engage with these issues now.

by Beth Barnes

AI technology has the potential to bring huge benefits to society. It is also possible that advanced Artificial General Intelligence – AI capable of performing at or above human level on a wide range of tasks – could be highly destructive, as discussed by an increasing number of experts in the field. There are many misconceptions about the field of AI and its potential dangers. The problem is not that an AI system will suddenly develop human-like emotions of anger or resentment and ‘rebel’. Rather the issues are more subtle. How can we reliably predict the behaviour of an AI system? How can we specify the goals of a system such that we avoid unanticipated side-effects? How do we ensure that those developing advanced AI are paying sufficient attention to ensuring safety, and avoid arms-race dynamics? Current technology is still a long way from human-level general intelligence, but with high stakes involved we cannot afford to proceed via trial and error and must begin to engage with these issues now. Actions that can be taken immediately include: increasing research in relevant areas of policy and computer science; setting up structures such as regular conferences to improve information flow between policymakers, academia and industry on this topic; mapping possible future scenarios and planning appropriate responses; and investing in technologies that improve our ability to forecast future events such as prediction markets.

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by Dr. Sobia Hamid

Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being applied in healthcare and medicine, with the greatest impact being achieved thus far in medical imaging. These are technologies that are capable of performing a task that usually requires human perception and judgement, which can make them controversial in a healthcare setting. In this article we will explore some of the opportunities and risks in using AI in healthcare, as well as policy recommendations for improving their use and acceptance.

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