With great power, comes great responsibility…


I’ve just arrived back in Exeter from two days at Amazon’s 2018 AWS Summit in London. My brain feels ready to burst and but my mind is singing with new ideas. I’ve come away feeling inspired, humbled by human ingenuity, excited by possibilities, and more than a little scared.

AWS now offer and astonishing array of products (132 if I counted correctly) ranging from the building blocks of most developers toolkits like Virtual Machines (EC2) and Storage (S3) to the esoteric areas of Augmented Reality (Sumerian) and Machine Learning (Sagemaker) – technical innovation is clearly not a problem, but I can see that coming up with new product names may get difficult.

I attended some great sessions on a range of subjects, including new tools for managing containers (Fargate), serverless architectures with Lambda, and deployment (there is always something to learn) but the keynote speech by Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels covered an awful lot of ground. It included case studies presented by some of Amazon’s customers, and introductions to new products and services. The main focus to me however, seemed to be about the importance of security and how to ensure that data is private and secure. Given the imminent arrival of GDPR and seemingly endless flow of scandals involving the abuse or misuse of private data, I found this emphasis on security and privacy extremely positive and refreshing.

One of the most interesting case studies was by Babylon Health whose mission is:

“to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth.”

Babylon uses machine learning and natural language processing to help diagnose patients who interact with the service via smartphone apps. Babylon are already working with the NHS in London and in Rwanda where 30% of the population (aged 16+) have registered already, transforming access to healthcare in one of the poorest countries in the world. The aspiration is admirable and potential for good is vast.



The power available through existing and emerging technologies is immense but we should always be aware of the potential for the abuse of data. Security and privacy need to be baked in and considered from day one, not bolted on as afterthoughts. Not that long ago it wasn’t that uncommon for passwords to be stored in plain text – today that is unthinkable, one of the positive things about GDPR is that it reminds us that almost all data is precious.

As any Linux user should know:

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.

#2) Think before you type.

#3) With great power comes great responsibility.


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