Interview with Dave Buckley

Github: @dbckz

Where are you based?

I’m in London, UK

What do you do (i.e. studying, working, etc.)?

“Mum, can you pick me up? I’m at the intersection of technology and society”. That is to say, I work on tech policy, and am part of the policy team here at OpenMined. By night, I moonlight as Johnny Marr / Andy Rourke in the UK’s premier tribute band to The Smiths - The Joneses.

What are your specialties (i.e. Python development, Javascript development, community organization, etc.)?

My career to date has been a mix of software engineering and public policy, which I like to think helps me be effective in communicating technical or complex topics to different audiences. Tech policy discussions can suffer from a lack of sufficient technical grounding, whilst purely technical discussions can miss the “bigger picture” perspective of how tech interacts with the political, social, and regulatory environments. I enjoy trying to bridge these gaps, which feels increasingly
important as countries act to legislate on data and AI.
On   the   technical   side,   my   early   career   was   spent   in   various   backend   and   infrastructure engineering roles, and more recently I’ve worked on a few ‘social data science’ projects usingPython + social media data. Though I’m primarily working on policy at OpenMined, I’m hoping to sneak in a pull request or two to PySyft before the year’s out!

How and when did you originally come across OpenMined?

I previously worked at the UK government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, where I was fortunate enough to work on some cool projects on privacy technologies and data access. At some point during my research I came across PySyft, completed the Our Privacy Opportunity course, and met some of the folks here at OpenMined - the rest is history.

What was the first thing you started working on within OpenMined?

The first project I worked on was the Christchurch Call Initiative on Algorithmic Outcomes. I acted as an external researcher, carrying out privacy-preserving research on production platform data via PySyft.

And what are you working on now?

A bunch of things! We have lots of super cool projects with partners such as the UK’s AI Safety Institute, the United Nations PET Lab and the US National Science Foundation. It’s a busy but exciting time to be on the team!

What would you say to someone who wants to start contributing?

Join the Slack! In particular, if you’re interested in the policy side of things join the #policy channel where we’ll be sharing updates about OpenMined’s work in this space. My DMs are open if you’re curious about our work!

Please   recommend   one   interesting   book,   podcast   or   resource   to   the OpenMined community.

A slightly random selection from the top of my head:
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Incredibly prescient commentary on the impact of global communication technologies on society. Inspired some of the lyrics on Arctic Monkeys’ fifth (and, I would controversially say, best) album, 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino.
Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford. There’s been a host of great data/tech/AI ethics books in the past 10 years or so that take a more critical perspective on tech development, but I’m reading Atlas of AI at the moment and have been pretty blown away by the depth and quality of the research that Kate has put into it.
● Any special relativity textbook. Special relativity is nuts and the maths is pretty easy - I’m still reeling from the first time I learned about time dilation and length contraction (approx. 15 years ago).