Thesis Defence: Wesley Chu

Friday, October 4, 2019 2:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Of the thesis entitled:Data, Debt, and Daemons- Systemic Asymmetries on Spaceship Earth

photo of Geodesic Dome with digital model superimposed

Day by day, the rate at which we create new data increases exponentially. Our capacity to learn cannot keep up. We are tiny members of a vast universal network, incapable of discerning cause and effect. Instead, we develop simplified narratives, leaving ourselves misguided yet complacent.
The information management trade of both physical and intellectual property has become more vital to global economies than ever, replacing physical resources and manufacturing. Through our deepening reliance on specialization, we forfeit agency over our own homes while accruing unprecedented debt. Housing costs have risen dramatically compared to wages, despite reportedly successful economies. Citizens were supposed to be able to participate in financial markets using their property as collateral. This seduced many into the ideologies of unregulated capitalism, but by the 21st century these systems had become unrecognizable mutilations of their intended designs.
We laid the foundation for Western economic dominance with technology, monetary policy, and globalization, but we did so using asymmetric incentive and information structures that exacerbated wealth inequality. These systems now integrate digital technology into both our physical and virtual spaces, bypassing all our senses by operating on invisible planes. The radical novelty of computers has entangled us in niche engineered concepts that few understand. They create a lack of accountability in Big Tech that policy-makers are ill-prepared for. We cannot ensure an equitable distribution of the leverage or stakes when we entrust brokers, politicians, traders, and captains of industry to make complex decisions for us. The momentum we have gathered in the past century has thrust us on an unsustainable trajectory of global capitalism that we have little hope of predicting. Our long-term welfare, including our future habitation on this planet, is not visceral enough to force real reform.
Both our physical and digital spaces are designed, built, evaluated, and monitored on principles that repeatedly cause disasters that future generations and the least fortunate always pay for. How did we normalize this moral hazard? How can digital systems born out of frustration with modern policy combat these issues, without disrupting the benefits of a techno-utopia? How can they promote efficiency, security, and transparency in the spaces we call home?

The examining committee is as follows:


Donald McKay, University of Waterloo

Committee Member:

Robert Jan van Pelt, University of Waterloo
Val Rynnimeri, University of Waterloo

External Reader:

Douglas Birkenshaw

The committee has been approved as authorized by the Graduate Studies Committee.

The Defence Examination will take place:
Friday, October 4, 2019 at 2:00pm in the loft gallery.

A copy of the thesis is available for perusal in ARC 2106A.