Critical thoughts on critical thinking

Siv Helen Egelund Gjerstad

What does a porn star and a 13-hour teaching program have in common? They both have the potential of reducing the chance of Trump being re elected as president.

You may be disappointed, but it’s the teaching program and not the porn star that is the star of this show. A Norwegian study has recently managed to show great potential in a teaching program on critical thinking for children. Reflection and understanding of the logical reasoning behind information is important for the choices we make. The trend of false information being widely spread through the internet, and episodes of world leaders openly downgrading scientific research, make these findings highly relevant. We know that humans in general tend to struggle with critical thinking tests, and that the lack of ability to evaluate information may have fatal consequences. This raises the question of how effectively we can learn critical thinking, and what we can do to reduce the impact of illogical reasoning and false information.

Rejecting scientific knowledge
Donald Trump, the president of USA, has been the centre of the fake news debate with his ongoing accusations of his critics as messengers of fake news. Assertions like these, in combination with actual spreading of misleading information, have blurred the lines between fact an fabrication. We have also seen the Trump administration’s tendency to decline science and expert advice in favour of their own ‘common sense’ perceptions in several cases. The repudiation of climate change being may be the most startling. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also reported that the Trump administration prohibited them to use the words ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’. Without comparison in general, we have seen examples of both politicians and other actors in Norwegian public debates declining scientific research in favour of ‘common sense’ perceptions as a basis of arguments. The trend of undermining scientifi facts is indeed alarming.

Detecting false information
Truth versus false information is not an issue exclusive to political discourse. The ordinary citizen’s troubles of steering clear of false information has become an even greater problem as the expanded use of the internet and social media has made spreading of information very easy. It is somewhat paradoxical that the broadened access to the internet that has provided people with nearly limitless access to all kinds of information is also an essential part of the false information problem. An article with false information may be published with the intention of misleading people for financial or political purposes, or simply for gaining click revenue and online sharing numbers. Further sharing by convinced readers will increase the reach even more, and may also contribute to the legitimation of the content. The problem seems also to be related to the increasing choice of channels available for receiving information, making it easy t seek out information consistent with the readers’ own views, and disregard other sources.

Because the things we believe to be true have a great impact on the choices we make in our lives, the ability to make critical evaluations of information we are presented with is of great importance. Choices that influence our health and wellbeing are particularly critical in this regard. ‘Facts’ about our health are among those that are plentiful, especially online. Some health advice is practically harmless, like ‘eating carrots makes your eyesight better’, or ‘face creams with e-vitamins reduce wrinkles’. Other health related claims presented as facts are riskier, like ‘herbs can cure cancer’ or ‘STDs are not contagious if you shower after sex’. One of the more alarming health beliefs are those of antivaccination. In Norway we have seen smaller groups of vaccine opponents contributing to the periodic outbreaks of measles over the last decades. The same has happened in other countries, like Italy and Sweden. Measles are one of the most severe childhood diseases we know,and also one of the most contagious. And yet, there are widespread doubts as to the benefits of the vaccine.

The problem is initially that we struggle, not only to detect a claim made on false premises, but to make individual evaluations of lines of reasoning that are presented to us.

Teaching critical thinking
In 2017 the Norwegian institute of public health (Folkehelseinstituttet) conducted a study on the topic of critical thinking presented in two articles published in The Lancet. The study was a cluster-randomised controlled trial, including primary school children in Uganda aged between ten and twelve. The objective was to teach the children how to critically evaluate health related claims through a 13-hour teaching program conducted over three months. They found that in the schools where the children had been taking part in the program, almost 50 percent more of the children passed the critical thinking test compared to the control group. These are highly significant results with large effect size, showing a strong effect of the critical thinking programs.

Education to the rescue
The results from the study illustrates how even young children can learn critical thinking, and that a relatively short teaching program can be very effective, even in schools with scarce resources and low density of teachers. The fact that teaching programs like this one can have an impact on the ability to make critical evaluations on health information, can suggest that it may also be the case for other types of information. Giving people tools to make independent and critical judgements on the facts they are presented with is important from both a health perspective and a broader political perspective. Discovering the learning mechanisms is an important step in the direction of fighting the impact false claims and fake news have on society.

We know the possible consequences of relying on false information, and thus the benefits of critical evaluation skills. With increased knowledge also on the ability to learn it from an early age, the choice of implementing it as a school subject should not be a very hard one.

Get ready for the VARld Cup!

Helge Helguson Neumann

Technologies and innovations spur out from a need or a problem. In football, one such problem has been the game-deciding human errors of the referees. New and available technology could resolve this problem and make the game more just. So why is it so difficult to embrace for the fans, coaches, and players?

What is football about? Ask any fan and they’ll tell you about the glorious victories, the bitter defeats, the passion of the supporters. What they are really saying is that football is all about emotions. The players are referred to as artists, even Gods, creating what is known as “the beautiful game”. We think of the magnificent goals, the ingenious pass, and the outstanding tackle. But just as often, it is a game of mistakes. The goalkeeper who fumbled the ball, the defender who scored an own goal, or the striker who missed the open goal. Even the referee, the representative of justice and fairness on the field, occasionally make mistakes, calling a wrong penalty that decides the outcome of the match and causing an uproar by disappointed supporters. There is nothing more painful and upsetting for the fans than having the “ref” decide the outcome of the game. Now, recent technological advances have made it possible to reduce these human errors, but at what cost for the art of the sport?

Like the rest of society, the age of digitalization has hit football. Within the last couple of years, fans have been introduced to goal-line technology (to settle whether the ball was really over the line), big data statistics (to see whether the players are actually playing well) and video-assisted refereeing, or VAR, as it is abbreviated. VAR gives the referee, or an assistant, the opportunity to look at replays to make critical decisions during a game and is already being introduced in several leagues and tournaments around the world. The intention behind it is naturally to make the game fairer, and the policy-makers has the statistics to back it up. In all three major leagues which has introduced VAR, the MLS (USA), Bundesliga (Germany), and Serie A (Italy), the result has been more correct decisions and less fouls as players know they are being watched. With these promising results, the international football confederation decided in March this year to introduce VAR in the upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia. One month later the biggest VAR-scandal so far happened.

The scandal takes place at Opel Arena, where the home team Mainz welcomes opponents Freiburg. Both teams are struggling to avoid relegations and with a victory Mainz can move ahead of Freiburg on the table and out of the relegation zone. After 45 minutes of play, a shot hits Freiburg defender Marc Oliver Kempf in the arm. The Mainz players are screaming for a penalty, their fans even more. Referee Guido Winkmann waves play on and soon after blows the whistle for half time. Then it happens. VAR has seen a foul. Six minutes into the half-time break, while fans are filling up on drinks and snacks, Winkmann bring the players back onto the pitch to award Mainz the penalty. Mainz score and eventually win the game. The Mainz players are relieved, their fans happy, the Freiburg fans are furious, but the footballing society is most of all confused. What the VAR happened?!

Football and technology doesn’t always go hand in hand, and there are two recurring problems with VAR which both touches upon the emotions of the fans. The first is the time it takes time to review all the decisions. As Juventus-coach Massimiliano Allegri put it: “It’s turning into baseball. You see some action every quarter of an hour”. And there is nothing more frightening for Europeans than having their “beautiful game” turning into an American sport. In Australia’s A league it took four minutes for the referee to award a penalty. Fans are getting bored and they don’t want to wait an extra six minutes into the half-time to see whether the referee will call a penalty. The spontaneity goes away when players and fans must wait a couple of minutes to see if they can celebrate a goal.

The other problem goes deeper. It touches upon the very nature of the sport, why fans are referring to it as “the beautiful game” and to the players as artists or magicians. After a controversial cup-game in England, former captain for Norwegian men’s football team, Brede Hangeland, tweeted that “VAR will destroy football as we know it”. Similarly, one of the most recognized goalkeepers of all time, Gianluigi Buffon worries it makes the game inhuman. The beauty lies in the potential mistakes. By adding chance into the game, anyone can win it. Football is supposed to be spontaneous, dramatic and emotional. It is not supposed to be flawless, and technology challenges this.

As with the rest of society, football will not be unaffected by technology. The game that the pioneers invented in the late 19th century looks miles away from what is being played today. In the end it all comes down to the integration of technology within the game. This summer, VAR will take on its biggest challenge during the World Cup. For one month, the event will gather over 3 billion viewers worldwide. A flawless championship might lead the footballing world to embrace VAR, but a scandal like that of the Bundesliga might set back the integration of VAR. And it doesn’t matter whether the actual decisions are correct or not because the game is about emotions, not rationality.

Universal Basic Income: Into the age of abundance?

Katie Coughlin

Google executive and AI futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted at the 2018 TED conference that ”In the early 2030s, we’ll have universal basic income in the developed world, and worldwide by the end of the 2030s. You’ll be able to live very well on that.”

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is defined as a regular and unconditional payment to every citizen of a country, regardless of other income. With supporters such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,
UBI is gaining interest for its potential to counter the negative economic effects of job displacement and income disparity from workplace automation.

Current studies predict that anywhere from 20-40% of jobs will be lost to automation. Economist John Maynard Keynes termed this displacement technological unemployment already in 1930. Further troubling is the
unclear outlook for job creation. What do we do when, by an unreachable margin, there are not enough jobs to go around? What would this do to today´s already growing income disparity?

Kurzweil believes that UBI would offer a safety net and flexibility that could optimize the labour force, give better working conditions, reduce inequalities and end extreme financial poverty. He envisions an “age of abundance” where workers could opt to reduce their working hours and devote more time to other interests without sacrificing their basic income.

The concept of UBI is not new and the idea can be traced back to the early 16th century in Thomas More´s Utopia (1516) and Johannes Ludovicus Vives´ On assistance to the poor (1526). In his 1930 essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, Keynes envisioned 100 years into the future that we would reach an age of leisure, a “destination of economic bliss”, in which we would have most of our material needs met and could
enjoy 3-hour workdays and more leisure time. In the 2008 book, Revisiting Keynes, however, economists claim that Keynes failed to account for problems of income distribution and inequality. Perhaps UBI could be the
instrument to smooth out income disparity and open the door for Keynes´ predictions to be realized?

As of yet, there are no successful implementations of UBI, only speculation
and fragmented trials around the world, such as in Finland, the Netherlands, Kenya and Scotland, with various solutions being tested among various population groups. Finland´s trial was recently cut short after just one year with no published results. One economist I spoke with pointed out that only controlled random trials will give an accurate indication of effectiveness. Finnish participants, on the other hand, were drawn from a select pool of unemployed persons.

Variations of UBI could be geographic as in a rural basic income in which only rural area residents would receive a payment. Other suggestions include negative income tax schemes and basic capital grants.

A 2017 European Social Survey (ESS) found wide support for UBI across Europe, particularly with youth. With so much interest, one may wonder who opposes the idea. Some worry that UBI would lessen the motivation to work. Surprisingly, the country with the lowest support for Universal Basic
Income in the ESS study was… can you guess? Norway! This may be due to the already high level of public support available.

Kurzweil contends that the primary concern under UBI would be to ensure life meaning and purpose. Can the freedom of leisure also be destructive to society? Classic dystopian novels such as Brave New World, Anthem and Fahrenheit 451 give imagined glimpses of post-technology states where authoritarian governments have taken control of populations, because individual freedom in a technology age caused too much disruption.

UBI and an age of abundance can sound too good to be true. What would you do if you had a guaranteed income for life? The question evokes interest but also thoughts of lottery winners who go bankrupt. Could we trust people to put guaranteed income to good use? Predicting the future is anyone’s guess, but for today’s youth who are overwhelmed with messages of despair about their future, UBI gives hope.

What we do when we do things with words

Hannah Monsrud Sandvik


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice,”whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There


A foundational insight STS departs from is that concepts are not innocent. The words, theories and categories we use to describe and organize objects, events and people are, in addition to being tools for communication and science, also affecting the world. Think, for example, of gender and borders. Think also of economics, or laws. These are all cases of societal infrastructures that started to exist as the result of how some people started organizing sexuality and identity, territory and trade, composing new concepts and discourses to go along with them. The point is that concepts structure how we perceive and understand reality. Words are, in a word, performative.

This is important for STS because it shows that while science and technologies explain reality by investigating phenomena and systematizing our knowledge of the world, it also in a certain sense constructs the world by doing so. STSers have used this argument to show that science is not a linear process whereby knowledge is accumulated by confronting the world through a systematic method. Scientists also bring something to the table, and this something is theories, presuppositions, interests and ontologically loaded language.

If language is filled with underlying assumptions about the world, then language itself should be closely examined. How do the words we use come into being?

For a word to be meaningful in conversation, it needs to be used by a significant amount of people over a longer period of time. It also needs to be taken to mean the same thing by the group of people using it. An example is Gretchen in the movie Mean Girls, who tries, futilely, to introduce the term “fetch” to describe things or states of affairs that are “very cool”. As long as she is the only one using it, it’s never going to have any conversational authority and people will probably respond with confusion and ask her what she means.

The point is that words gain meaning through the way in which they are used. While this may sound blatantly obvious, it sent shock waves through the philosophical scene when Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote about it in the 1950s. For Wittgenstein, there is no separate logic to the world independently of observation, rather, the world we see is defined and given a meaning to through the words we use. A concept doesn’t designate something that is already given – it tries to articulate and systematize certain aspects of the world.

Words, then, have the power to shape how a certain issue is understood, and even to make something into an issue in the first place. One place where this comes to fore is in politics. The very purpose of political speech is to shape how people see the world and steer development towards a desired direction. To achieve this, politicians often create concepts to coin and describe new policy approaches. Examples that should be familiar are “responsible innovation”, “green growth”, and “sustainable development”. Such politically vogue words are often referred to as buzzwords. They are used by science policy makers, by scientists in their research proposals, by journalists and by academics. They convey a set of values: the importance of relations between science and the public, responsibility for the environment and avoiding risks, for example. How do these words function, and how to they shape the issues they address?

We can approach this question by considering an example: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a concept that has taken a hold in science policy and governance over the past years. Generally put, the term describes research and innovation that is ethically acceptable and socially desirable. RRI is a politicization of the effort to make science more ethical and responsible. Among other things, this means that in grant applications, researchers will have to include a section that explains how their research engage with the wider public sphere and discuss potential impacts on society and the environment. But what kind of concept is RRI? It is just filled with empty buzz, or can it be a useful tool for reforming modern science policy?

Buzzwords are often dismissed on account of being empty and misleading, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be powerful. In her article “The politics of buzzwords at the interface of technoscience, market and society”, Bensaude Vincent demonstrates how buzzwords shape the technoscientific landscape. The power of these words lies in the fact that they urge towards a desirable future, creating expectations that mobilize the future into the present. RRI is an example of this: by establishing a moral basis for science, innovation can be controlled in order to secure the right kind of impact.

What exactly is meant by the term is hard to pin down, however. There are a variety of definitions of RRI, each putting emphasis on different aspects of the general idea. This is a characteristic of buzzwords: they are fuzzy enough to contain a variety of meanings and are often difficult to use as roadmaps. While they successfully point to a matter of concern, they often fail to suggest how we should deal with it.

The fuzziness of buzzwords can make it easy to conceal conflicts between opposing values. Take, for example, of “sustainable development”. Here, the idea of sustainability is put together with the idea of economic growth. The notions of change and permanence put together seems to imply a contradiction, but, as Bensaude Vincent point out, the performativity of the concept rests on this inconsistency. The promise of the concept is that the conflict between two opposing values can be overcome, but how, exactly?

All of this goes to show that the concepts we use are inherently political and ideological and that we should approach and use them with care and analytical consideration. For STSers, this means that we should pay attention to their context of emergence and investigate the epistemic and societal values that go into creating them. Understanding how a concept comes into being and what forces determines how it’s understood, we can critically engage with its content, and perhaps be a force on our own in the creation of better wor(l)ds.

Travelling the Internet Map

Joar Kvamsås


Mapping the Internet is an unforgiving task. While many attempts exist to map out the complex interconnections of information that makes out the Internet, most of these result in a mishmash of overlapping links in various colours. They give an idea of complexity, but offer little in the way of actually navigating that complexity – essentially, they aren’t very good as maps.

My favorite visualisation of the Internet is Russian data scientist Ruslan Enikeev’s The Internet Map ( from 2012. In this interactive network graph, a set of 350 000 websites are represented as dots, where the sites popularity is given by a dot’s size, and the nation where it is most used is represented by its colour. You can either search for a given website or browse the entire map by scrolling and zooming across its various continents. Just like with a geographical map you can get lost tracing its paths, borders and intersections, going country-by-country or website-by-website.

The first thing you notice when looking at the Internet Map are the major coloured continents. In the centre you find the Anglosphere, a vast continent that takes up a good third of the map itself. It is closely flanked by a rainbow-mix of European websites to the East, while a green India partially overlaps it in the West. Three major continents are isolated from it, existing in spheres of their own: China in yellow in the South-West; purple Japan in the South-East; and the Runet, the Russian language internet, in the North, appropriately coloured red. Smack down in the centre of the map you will see, next to other giants such as Yahoo, Facebook and YouTube.

The centre of most national clusters can be found by looking up the nation-specific google site; for example, the UK, Australian and Nigerian clusters can be located inside the Anglosphere by looking up,, or respectively. This is not true for all, however. The Chinese cluster is dominated by the search engines Baidu and; in the Runet, google is superseded by both the search engine Yandex and the social media site vkontakte; and in Japan, still rules supreme.

Looking at the distributions of the internet clusters can often be an enlightening experience. If you look at the Runet cluster, for example, you will find Belarusian sites clustered in the centre of the Russophone continent, between vkontakte and Yandex.

Ukraine is also central in the Runet, though a bit closer to the western site, while Azerbaijan can be found at the margin of the continent, surrounded by major Russian money transfer sites. Interestingly, certain web services have been adopted by national clusters – livejournal. com can be found on the outskirts of the Runet, with Russians as the most important user base. is surrounded by a massive cluster of Iranian blogging sites; blogging became an important news source in the country after a state crack-down on official media outlets in the early 2000’s.

Meanwhile, the Scandinavian countries all cluster around Wikipedia, together with Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, the popularity of the platform probably due its combination of English and native language content in these largely bilingual countries. is closely flanked by a series of Greek news sites, a testament to Greek online news media’s affinity for the platform.

In the South of the map, you can find a large Anglophone peninsula about the size of the Runet shooting off from the rest of the Anglosphere. This is the pornography continent, surrounded and overlapping with European, South-American and Asian sites of all colours. It is also the only part of the Anglosphere that borders directly with Japan, the border itself populated by a series of Japanese and American porn sites. Meanwhile, the pornography peninsula is separated from the mainstream Anglosphere by a series of video streaming sites of questionable legal status. Border areas can be interesting objects of investigation in their own right – the Runet, for example, is separated from the Anglosphere by a series of English language dictionaries and translation sites. Oftentimes border areas are populated by web hosting services that span several national markets.

In the North-western corner of the map, two major websites are floating freely in the void, in splendid isolation from the rest of the Internet. The larger of the two is wordpress. com, a major provider of website design and management services. The other is, Disney’s official web portal, where children can go to play games and find other Disneyrelated entertainment. What the two sites have in common is that they are both usually accessed directly and in isolation, as opposed to in a surfing session across several sites.

The true value of Ruslan’s Internet Map is that it allows us to explore and discover. Whether we want to look at the particular position and connection of a certain site, or if we are looking to see how different countries and languages interact in cyberspace, a well-designed map such as this can be an invaluable resource to internet ethnographers and big data scientists alike when doing exploratory research. Like when perusing a geographical world map, it lets us discover connections and details that changes our view of the world in an instant. And if nothing else, it certainly is a good way to waste an afternoon.

A matter of control

Jelmer Kingma


It is sunny outside, Lena is heading to the beach with some friends in her self-driving car. She only has to say the address to the dashboard computer and the car does the rest. On their way to the beach they play a game of cards, not paying any attention to the traffic around them at all.

Koen is crossing the street and is paying more attention to his phone than to the traffic around him. Lena’s self-driving car is approaching him at a high speed and collision seems unavoidable. Surprisingly, Koen is not harmed in this situation. The autonomous car spotted him several meters down the road. The safest solution to the situation was calculated by the car within a microsecond and could therefore easily come to a halt, avoiding danger. The scenario with Lena and Koen is just one of many that could be seen in a future where autonomous vehicles are used. It all depends, however, in what form we will see this technology in the future and what pathways we have chosen for the implementation of self-driving cars.

The goal for self-driving cars is to run on a complicated system of cameras, software and sensors. The machine scans its complete surroundings multiple times every second and is always aware of the location of other cars due to a connectivity cloud. Based on the maps constructed by technology in the selfdriving car and the connectivity network, in combination with complex algorithms and carefully calculated protocols, the car can drive in public. Currently, the technological capability allows for semi-autonomous cars, meaning the chauffeur still pays attention to the road at all times, and takes over the wheel when needed. Should we give such a technology with the capacity to harm humans the authority to make its own decisions in public? However, one could also ask: should we give inconsistent, careless and disinterested humans that same control over automobiles in traffic? Currently the answer to the latter is ‘yes’, humans chauffeurs are in control over driving their cars. This fact results in 95% of traffic accidents being caused by human errors. This rate is expected to reduce to almost zero when self-driving cars are implemented in traffic and it could saving many lives.

There are four predicted future scenarios and possibilities of self-driving cars analysed by the Dutch Knowledge Institute for Mobility. The first scenario, called “mobility as a service: any time, any place”, is based on public transport. Self-driving busses can be easily ordered via a smartphone application and show up anytime and anywhere you want it to be. Users of this service would just have to pay for the time they used the service, and that’s it. Less people will own a car since self-driving busses offer the same benefits and take away the disadvantages. The drawbacks of owning a car such as the cost for car maintenance, paying your monthly insurance fee or the need to always find a parking space will be eliminated.

Another scenario is the “fully automated private luxury” option. If you don’t have to drive anymore, everybody in the car has the freedom to do whatever they want during the journey. People`s cars are their own luxurious palaces which can serve them in every need. Therefore, making it highly appealing to own your own car, since it literally offers limitless opportunities for its inner design. Private car ownership is highly valued in society.

In the “Letting go on highways” scenario people still have to drive manually in busy cities because the infrastructure and selfdriving car technology is not advanced enough yet. Furthermore, people are not ready yet to fully let go of driving control. However, only on the highways, they do lift their hands of the steering wheel and let the car take over. They trust the self-driving technology because it’s easier for an automated vehicle to maneuverer on a highway than in a busy city. Owning a car is also still highly valued in society.

Finally, the “Multimodal and shared automation” scenario has the same level of trust towards the automated vehicle and technological advancement as the “letting go on highways” option. Only, instead of owning a car, the sharing of one vehicle with multiple people has become the new value in society. People can divide all car related costs, and with the help of smart cloud scheduling software, can still use the car whenever they want.

All the scenarios mentioned above will make traffic much safer than the current situation on our roads. The “fully automated private luxury”, however, will be the safest since all traffic will be self-driving. Combining this with the new option to create your own pleasure palace inside your car make it sound even better. An almost 100% safe traffic situation were every car is completely customized to the needs of each individual in which one can do whatever he wants. Doesn’t that sound great? Unfortunately, before this can be realized, we need to be ready to outsource driving control to a cold and heartless machine. Currently we have not reached this point yet, but I think eventually the pros of self-driving cars will overcome the cons.

Mobility as a service

Nora Vilde Aagaard


– Do we have to choose between privacy and sustainability?

Imagine you are waking up on a normal Tuesday. You pick up your phone to check the news as usual. A notification is blinking, and you learn that your train to work has been cancelled. You know that you can take the bus, but you also know that the bus takes 30 minutes longer and will make you late. Luckily, your mobility app tells you that a cab is nearby, ready to pick you up. And guess what? The cab is free!

What might sound like a dream is in fact reality. There must be a downside to this free cab, you may think, and not surprisingly, there is. In order to receive the free cab, you must give your mobility app access to your calendar and permission to save information about the trip you are about to take. Perhaps this does not sound alarming to you, but what if you knew that from the second you agreed to the “terms and conditions”, which nobody really reads, that you had actually agreed to let your mobility app collect and sell every piece of data about where you travel.

Our current mobility system, characterized by automobility, has allowed our whereabouts to be anonymous for decades. We get in our cars and drive without anyone having to know where we are going. Now, with the mobility system changing, what changes prevails and how these will affect our everyday lives is still unknown. The current tendency is characterized by a more centralized, shared transport, especially in cities.

The Finnish company, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), got the brilliant idea to combine different modes of mobility in the Whim app. Citizens of Helsinki now only need one app to use city bikes, public transport and carsharing services. MaaS´ goal is to become a global mobility provider, starting by expanding to the UK. By first glance, the Whim app appears genius. One single app to get access to public transport, city bikes, cabs and carsharing services. Also, the monthly price of the Whim services are lower than buying a monthly bus pass from the municipal public transport provider in Helsinki, HSL. This is possible due to the investors of MaaS, Toyota among them.

In order to use the Whim app, you need to give up a lot of your personal information. For the app to work properly, you have to allow the app access to your phone calendar and your current position (which also stores GPS information when the app is not in use). Also, Whim stores all information about your trips, ranging from mode of transport to where you are travelling from and where you are travelling to, and what date and what time of day you are travelling. Whim uses this information not only to plan your next trip, but also to target advertisements based on your whereabouts. Most of us have been accustomed to targeted advertisements and location storage from using other apps such as Facebook and searching Google. However, how and where we travel have up to now been our own business.

Putting the privacy issues a side for a moment, services such as MaaS can be seen as positive from a sustainability perspective. There is a broad consensus that our current modes of mobility are unsustainable. According to the Norwegian Environmental Agency, the transport sector is accountable for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. In Norway, the numbers are significantly higher. The transport sector is the largest emission source nationally, accountable for over 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Road transport, with carbon based private car use as the spearhead, is mostly to blame. One way to reduce emission levels from the mobility sector is to decentralize our system, thus reducing automobility and relying more on other modes of transport, such as biking, public transport and car sharing. Apps such as Whim who combine several modes of transport, planning our trips for us can make it easier to leave the car at home when we are going somewhere. But is what we have to give up worth it? In Norway, local companies are in charge of the public transport, owned by the local authority. In Oslo, Ruter, who I suppose most people in Oslo and Akershus are familiar with, are in charge of public transport. One solution could be to give them responsibility for other modes of transportation as well, such as the city bikes.

Are we located at a crossroad, where we have to choose between a sustainable transport sector and our privacy? Does a decentralized mobility system necessarily imply giving up our freedom to move anonymous? It is too early to tell. While our policymakers discuss who should be in charge of our future travels, MaaS continue to grow. Who gets hold of our mobility data in the future is too early to say, but the decisions are being made now.

Three from TIK

Emilie Margrethe Skogvang
Masters program: TIK
Graduation year: 2018


What was your thesis about?
I conducted a case study of the UN Women Blockchain Project to Empower Women and Girls in Humanitarian Settings. The thesis focuses on how the collaborative relationship between UN Women and blockchain companies evolves in a radical, high-tech innovation process, and what factors supports and constrains collaboration between the UN and the private sector in innovation.

What is your current occupation, and how do you use your background from TIK?
During the course of my masters I worked part time at Innovation Norway in a unit called NOREPS, which works with humanitarian innovation. After submitting my thesis I will start working full time in the Innovation Norway communications department. I will use my TIK background to communicate how
Innovation Norway can assist Norwegian start-ups and growth companies in innovation and development.

What is your best advice for new of
prospective students at TIK?
Apply for relevant internships and part-time jobs! I had an internship in the environmental foundation ZERO, and a part time job at Innovation Norway, which made the theories we learned much more applicable and understandable for me. The work experiences also helped me decide what I wanted to write about in my thesis. Writing for Teknovatøren is also valuable to get more writing experience. Oh, and also.. enjoy the ride!


Gard Nordby
Masters program: ESST
Graduation year: 1999


What was your thesis about?
I wrote about Innovation practices within the Norwegian Cluster for Oil and Gas. Basically, all innovation theory and literature on innovation at the time focused on product and technological innovation. I applied acknowledged innovation theory on three different cases within the Oil & Gas cluster: A pure helicopter service provider to the industry, a public regulator on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) and a leading technology solution/product provider. Even though the innovation process differed a lot, the theories were still quite applicable.

What is your current occupation, and how do you use your background from TIK?
I work as a management consultant within strategy and restructuring for Capgemini Consulting. My background from TIK/ESST is more of a foundation and perspective than being empirical know-how I can use on a daily basis. I do however work a bit in the interface between politics, public management and business performance, and the background from TIK and UiO proves valuable.

What is your best advice for new and prospective students at TIK?
Be curious and open. Raise critical questions and challenge conventional thinking. I sense that many students today (generally speaking) are too oriented of absorbing information, information that they believe will be useful know-how on the day of the exam. I would like to see more critical thinking, challenge of beliefs and creation of discourse. TIK/ESST should provide the set up for it – and it will improve learning and understanding for you and others.


Ingrid Paaske Gulbrandsen
Masters program: TIK
Graduation year: 2018


What was your thesis about?
In my thesis I used a combination of two theories/methodologies from the field of impact studies to examine the process where scientific knowledge is made applicable (and therefore enable social impact). My twist to the methodologies was to relocate focus from the interactions between researchers and stakeholders, onto investigating the importance of interactions between different
stakeholders in applying scientific knowledge to their practices. In my thesis I identified communication structures and tools for spreading knowledge effectively used by stakeholders to enable the usage of new knowledge. My case was the implementation of Individual Placement and Support in NAV, a scientific methodology for supported employment for people with severe mental illness.

What is your current occupation, and how do you use your background from
I work as a consultant at Rambøll Management Consulting in the department of Social and Economic impact. My background from TIK combined with my former education has provided me with interdisciplinary perspectives and tools as well as a deeper understanding of innovation processes.

What is your best advice for new of prospective students at TIK?
Find a relevant job while studying. Remember that relevance in this case could be more important than salary in the long run. Other than that; build your CV – engage in Teknovatøren!

Black Mirror Trickery

Jørgen Tresse


Charlie Brooker’s often dystopian and technology-driven thriller series Black Mirror is a must-watch for anyone interested in technology and society, not least because we might already be living it.

Black Mirror, which airs on Netflix, is one of the most talked about shows the past couple of years. This is not just because it’s a well-written and well-directed show, but because it raises questions about our use of technology and where we are headed in a remarkably prescient and timely way. It shows us different, often dystopian futures where plausible technologies have gone wrong, and how it can augment the worst parts of the human psyche. If you watch the series, you might enjoy the entertainment, but ultimately write it off as just that, and that’s why this article exists. I aim to show exactly where we currently stand on some of the so-called Black Mirror-tech, and to which extent our world already is Black Mirror.

Technology: Creating or uploading a digital copy of your mind

As seen in: “White Christmas”, “San Junipero”, “USS Callister”, “Hang the DJ”, “Black Museum”

What it does: Variants on technology that creates digital copies of the mind are some of the most pervasive in the series, and so are lumped together. The copy has all the memories of the owner and is often under the impression that it is the original mind, and not a copy. In the series this opens up for ethically ambiguous and otherwise horrible scenarios involving torture, inhumane interrogation methods and enslavement of the copy.

Real-life comparison: While not at the point where we can copy our minds to a digital computer, or live a happy afterlife through our uploaded selves, attempts at finding ways to integrate our minds with computers are well underway. Perhaps the most prominent example is Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which aims at implanting a brainwave-reading mesh that will connect our minds to computers. But if this succeeds, will an eventual digital copy of us have the same rights as our physical selves? This is a technology that begs us to find an answer to the age-old question of what makes you you.

Technology: Killer robots

As seen in: “Hated in the Nation”, “Metalhead”

What it does: In “Hated in the Nation”, small robotic bees are weaponized and used to kill whomever is deemed necessary through online voting polls. In “Metalhead”, normal civilization has broken down as robotic “dogs” roam around and kill any people they encounter.

Real-life comparison: Autonomous warfare has been described as the third great revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear weapons. It’s easy to imagine that once warfare becomes effortless and for all intents and purposes free, we will see a lot more of it. So, look no further than the new videos from Boston Dynamics to welcome the ancestors of our future robot overlords. With robots that can do back flips or that look eerily like the killer dogs in Black Mirror, it’s hard to believe any argument that these will never be weaponized. It may be true for the time being, but remember that the U.S. military drones used in the Middle East were also initially simply surveillance drones.

Technology: Simulating the dead by analysing their social media profiles

As seen in: “Be Right Back”

What it does: An AI built to simulate the dead which the bereaved can talk to. It’s also possible to get an android that looks and acts like the deceased person.

Real-life comparison: While we don’t have androids to implant them in (yet), there have been several attempts at making chatbots which act like those who have passed. Eugenia Kuyda made a bot called Replika, which mimicked her best friend, while James Vlahos made a “dadbot” of his dying father. Furthermore, services such as Eter9 and Eterni.mi creates a digital counterpart of you either by scraping your social media profiles or through your interactions with them, so be aware that what you post on social media might determine “your” personality forever.

Technology: Surveillance of children

As seen in: “Arkangel”

What it does: Another implant, this one allows a parent to look through the eyes of their child and follow their every move from a tablet. Furthermore, the parent can censor sounds and images, so that they appear just as a blur to the child.

Real-life comparison: Again, the implant technology is missing from our life, but there are several quite comprehensive parental control apps that will do much of the same work, such as PhoneSheriff or Norton. These apps, in addition to giving real-time location updates, can control which apps are usable on the child’s phone, and for how long. Seeing as how much of young people’s lives are lived through their phone, this is probably the closest thing we have to Arkangel for the time being.

Technology: People rating

As seen in: “Nosedive”

What it does: Like rating restaurants on Yelp or movies on Netflix, people have a contact lens which allows them to real-time review others, and in turn be reviewed themselves. Rated on a scale up to five, your social score determines which reservations you can make, bank loans you can get, and modes of transportation you can take.

Real-life comparison: While there have been attempts at making apps for people rating, such as Peeple, the by far largest and most disconcerting instance of this technology is underway in China. Launched in 2016, and until 2020 voluntary to be a part of, the Social Credit System gives every citizen a score not unlike modern credit scores. Your score decides anything from whether you will receive a visa for travelling abroad to which schools you (or your children) can attend to where you will be allowed to live. While the algorithms it uses are not public, it’s reasoned that one of the factors which affect your score is not just what you say online and in public, but what your contacts say. Just imagine what Erich Mielke would have given for this technology. All the same, if you can accept that this happens in China – a country with a history of oppression and control – you would reflect on how many things we do now that were unacceptable just five years ago. The pressing question is not if China’s system can be implemented here as well – it’s when?

Black Mirror plays with a myriad of different technological possibilities, but the show is ultimately about human relations, actions and desires that are made possible – and worse – by technology. As all good dystopian fiction, it warns us of what may happen if we are not careful and aware of both the direction of technology and our own psyche. If we are able to do that, we may still stand a chance to avoid some of the worst possible scenarios painted in Black Mirror.

Spotify: The Story of a Limping Unicorn

Santiago Rufas Ripol


Spotify went public on April 3rd, 2018. Wall Street greeted the newcomer by mistakenly raising a Swiss flag to welcome the Swedish giant. More than a giant, Spotify has been referred to as a unicorn. In the financial world, a “unicorn” is a start-up valued at over a billion dollars and denotes a oncein-a-generation firm that has the potential to change the landscape of one or many industries.

However, change has been difficult for the music industry as it struggles to cope with disruptive technologies. After fighting piracy for over a decade, the focus has now shifted to streaming as the most viable path. That does not mean that there are no tensions going on between the music industry and streaming services such as Spotify. In its first ten years, Spotify’s achievements fall nothing short of mystical, but how well is the unicorn really doing?

Spotify may have saved the music industry by offering a valid alternative to piracy. To this date, Spotify has over 170M users and grosses $5Bn in revenues. In Norway alone, streaming accounted for 77% of music sales. But at what cost? In 2017, Spotify’s bottom line revealed a staggering $1.5Bn loss. To add injury to insult, a bunch of lawyers have decided to sue the company for $1.6Bn over a copyright dispute. Why is Spotify losing so much money? It seems that the unicorn is carrying the burden of pricey licensing deals that ultimately provide us with our favourite tunes whenever we want, wherever we want.

Spotify has continued to rock the world since entering one of the most brutal industries in the world in 2008. The unicorn is limping because the game is still on and as long as it runs, it will remain bloody expensive. Spotify has achieved step one: to offer a valid alternative to piracy. Not so long ago, piracy had made the music industry sleepless for almost a decade. One thing we learned is that the industry did not, does not and will not accept “free” access to music. After all, there are too many resources pooled into the production of music content. In 2018, the record industry is growing for the fourth year in a row, a clear sign that things are moving in a positive direction. While streaming gets credit for this surge, the foundations for its success were laid down in the turbulent age of piracy.

In order to better understand today’s context, we first need to look at yesterday’s events. While Spotify is one of the latest examples of how technology can disrupt an industry’s landscape, others have tried before. Only that most of them are not limping – they are dead. Chances are you have heard about Napster, a revolutionary peer-to-peer network that allowed users to share their favourite tunes online for free. Artists, labels and everyone except the users were horrified as they saw their music wandering freely on the net beyond the confines of copyright law. As revenues plummeted, the music industry engaged in a crusade against piracy, ultimately drowning Napster in a midst of lawsuits over copyright infringement. Hero or villain, Napster was made an example of. A precautionary tale to whoever dared to engage in piracy.

Today, many see Napster as a pioneer, a firm that existed before its time and for which the world was not yet ready. As most pioneers, Napster was slaughtered, but the idea of enjoying music whenever and wherever remained in people’s minds. Just like a restless ghost, piracy continued to haunt the music industry long after Napster’s death… until its reincarnation in 2008. Spotify can be seen as Napster 2.0, only that it has established collaborative stances vis-à-vis the music industry and remunerates creators. The unicorn appeals to both industry and consumers with its innovative business model and user-friendly platform. While streaming stopped the bleeding by providing a valid alternative to piracy, there are still many questions to be answered.

Today, we have more access to music than ever before. Digital technologies have opened Pandora’s Box and there are some disturbing signs moving forward. Increasing consumption has not yet fully translated into a “healthier” industry. Through 2017 Spotify said it has paid $9.8Bn to musicians, but the money does not seem to get there. Therefore, the question remains: where is all the money going? How can the music industry better adapt to disruptive technologies? While Spotify has managed to convert previous pirates – such as myself – into paying users, the issue of monetising streaming remains an urgent matter.

Today, the path towards a fairer, more sustainable music industry seems more viable than it ever. Users, technology and industry finally seem to be moving in the same direction. Unlike piracy, streaming allows us to enjoy our favourite tunes at our fingertips without undermining creators. After all, it is only fair that artists see the fruits of their labour. With the help of a unicorn, shouldn’t this be feasible? Spotify is certainly up for the challenge, but it cannot do so on one leg. The music industry remains reluctant to change, still unfit for the digital age and Spotify seems to be at the forefront of this tension between industry and technology. Things are getting better and if the unicorn continues on its journey, it should be able to heal its wounds and start leading the way full throttle towards a fairer, more sustainable music industry.