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Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view



UPCOMING EVENTS: Evan Selinger



MULTIMEDIA: Evan Selinger Topics

The Naked Future—A World That Anticipates Your Every Move

Digital Age Etiquette

The End Of Privacy

The Online Funeral




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Evan Selinger Topics




Why Goal Tracking Apps Are So Existentially Provocative

by Evan Selinger

Normally, if you asked me to free associate what comes to mind when I hear words like “productivity app” and “life hack,” you’d be treated an all out vent session—a combination of skepticism and cynicism directed at overly hyped products, overesteem for efficiency, and overblown attempts to delegate responsibility and willpower. But then I read a gushing review of Full, an app for tracking and measuring “what’s important to you.” I actually think it’s a good product and an excellent prompt for thinking about why goal track apps are so existentially provocative.



Outsourcing Your Mind and Intelligence to Computer/Phone Apps

by Evan Selinger

When the Partially Examined Lifediscussion of human enhancement (Episode 91) turned to the topic of digital technology, the philosophical oxygen was sucked out of the room. Sure, folks conceded that philosopher of mind Andy Clark (not mentioned by name, but implicitly referenced) has interesting things to say about how technology upgrades our cognitive abilities and extends the boundaries of where our minds are located. But everything else more or less was dismissed as concerning not terribly deep uses of “appliances”.



Today’s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

by Evan Selinger

While I am far from a Luddite who fetishizes a life without tech, we need to consider the consequences of this latest batch of apps and tools that remind us to contact significant others, boost our willpower,provide us with moral guidance, and encourage us to be civil. Taken together, we’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.



The Outsourced Lover

by Evan Selinger

Why an app that reminds you to text your partner might not be the best idea. If you’re looking to add a digital spark to your relationship this Valentine’s Day, you can download the new app Romantimatic. Romantimatic will send you scheduled reminders to contact your significant other and give you pre-set messages to fire off. The pre-set messages include simple, straightforward classics like “I love you” and “I miss you.”



Why App Developers May Be Selling Their Souls To Apple And Google

by Evan Selinger

The app economy is booming. Back in May, Apple AAPL +1.4% noted customers are downloading “more than 800 apps per second at a rate of over two billion apps per month on the App Store.” While this massive market reflects consumer taste at a time when smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, a dark side also clouds consumer consequences. With respect to games alone, we hear recurring stories of exploited kids, adults being tricked into “doing something against their will,” and questionable privacy practices.



Inside Google’s Mysterious Ethics Board

by Patrick Lin

The technology world was abuzz last week when Google announced it spent nearly half a billion dollars to acquire DeepMind, a UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) lab. With few details available, commentators speculated on the underlying motivation.



5 Ways To Avoid Being Suckered By Unreliable Information

by Evan Selinger

Without “noise makers”—folks spreading rumors, false information, hoaxes, rumor, and hearsay—markets and the blogosphere might grind to a halt. But asVincent Hendricks argues in “When Twitter Storms Cause Financial Panic,” information bubbles can be immensely destructive. They can hurt the economy and damage society.



Why Grandma Shouldn’t Have Posted Instagram Pics On Facebook

by Evan Selinger

A well-intentioned grandmother accidentally hurt her grandkids’ feelings. She took screenshots of their delightful Instagram photos and proudly uploaded them to Facebook for all of her social network friends to see. If the younger generation didn’t set their accounts to private, could Grandma possibly have committed a faux pas? All she did was lovingly pass along publicly available information!



Keep On Tweeting, There’s No Techno-Fix For Incivility Or Injustice

by Evan Selinger

It would be nice to believe that the road to civility could be paved by following simple formulae, like Frank Bruni’s New Year’s exhortation, “Tweet less, read more”. Unfortunately, uncomplicated Op-Ed advice doesn’t translate into effective results in the messy real world.



Why Debating Apple’s ‘Misunderstood’ Ad Is An Amazing Holiday Gift

by Evan Selinger
Apple's AAPL -0.45% latest television ad, “Misunderstood,” is leaving viewers with impassioned and conflicting interpretations. Giving Talmudic treatment to a short commercial might seem like overkill, especially given the Christmas theme. But I think we’re lucky the narrative has become a Rorschach test for discussing the social and ethical impact of technology.



Google’s Creepy Patent to Automate Your Social Media Voice

by Evan Selinger

Who has time anymore to manage their social media feeds? All the status updating, replying, and posting of smart takes on the day’s news is exhausting. Well, Google want to help you out with that: The company recently submitted a patent for software that learns how users respond to social media posts and then automatically recommends updates and replies they can make for future ones. Consider it outsourcing, for your social life—an amped up, next gen blend of automated birthday reminders and computer generated, personalized remarks (more successful Turing Test than random word salad).



What You Don’t Say About Data Can Still Hurt You

by Evan Selinger

Big data generates big myths. To help society set realistic expectations, the right kind of skepticism is needed. Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Visiting Professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media, does a fantastic job of explaining why folks are too optimistic about the promise of what big data can offer. She rightly argues that too much faith in it inclines us to misunderstand what data reflects, overestimate the political efficacy of information, and become insensitive to civil rights concerns.



How Not to Be a Jerk With Your Stupid Smartphone

by Evan Selinger

As technology expands our communicative reach, new opportunities to be rude inevitably arise. Some people overreact to this incivility by turning to uniform and mechanical etiquette rules, hoping to make things better by constraining choices and limiting situational judgment. But for societies that value diversity and autonomy, general mandates—like expecting everyone to turn off their cell phones in theaters—only work in exceptional cases.



The Chilling Implications Of Democratizing Big Data: Facebook Graph Search Is Only The Beginning

by Evan Selinger

While privacy advocates have expressed concern about the phenomenon of massive data collection and analytics colloquially known as “big data,” most people are more familiar with social media anxiety, like inappropriate Facebook posts leading to embarrassing and reputation ruining incidents. This situation is likely to change, and in the near future society will have to confront a profound question.



Humans Are Already More “Enhanced” by Technology Than We Realize

by Evan Selinger

Time recently ran a cover story titled, “Can Google Solve Death?” The wording was a bit much, as the subject of the piece, Google’s new firm Calico, has more modest ambitions, like using “tools like big data to determine what really extends lives.” But even if there won’t be an app for immortality any time soon, we’re increasingly going to have to make difficult decisions about when human limits should be pushed and how to ensure ethics keeps pace with innovation.



What’s the Right Balance for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Accountability on the Internet?

by Evan Selinger

According to NPR, 300 plus teenagers broke into former NFL player Brian Holloway’s vacation home, causing massive damage and showcasing their exploits on social media. In response, Holloway created a website, helpmesave300.com, that collects the alleged culprits’ social media posts. He claims this repository has enabled teens to be identified, and that the growing list of names is “being turned over to the sheriffs (sic) department to assist them to verify and identify the facts.”



Should Students Use a Laptop in Class?

by Evan Selinger

Is it OK to use a smartphone in class, email an instructor, record a lecture? A professor offers lessons. There’s a widely shared image on the Internet of a teacher’s note that says: “Dear students, I know when you’re texting in class. Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”



Big Data in Small Hands

by Evan Selinger

“Big data” can be defined as a problem-solving philosophy that leverages massive datasets and algorithmic analysis to extract “hidden information and surprising correlations.” Not only does big data pose a threat to traditional notions of privacy, but it also compromises socially shared information. This point remains underappreciated because our so-called public disclosures are not nearly as public as courts and policymakers have argued—at least, not yet. That is subject to change once big data becomes user friendly.



When Nudge Comes to Shove

by Evan Selinger

Do people really not know what’s good for them? Do we expect too much of nudges? Nudges are born of good intentions and clever ideas. Alas, that’s not enough.



Fighting Facebook, a Campaign for a People’s Terms of Service

by Evan Selinger

Social media companies say consumers’ loss of privacy is just the cost of doing business. But what would happen if they actually had to bargain with users on equal footing?



Facebook Home Propaganda Makes Selfishness Contagious

by Evan Selinger

The new ads for Facebook Home are propaganda clips. Transforming vice into virtue, they’re social engineering spectacles that use aesthetic tricks to disguise the profound ethical issues at stake. This isn’t an academic concern: Zuckerberg’s vision (as portrayed by the ads) is being widely embraced — if the very recent milestone of half a million installations is anything to go by.



How We’re Turning Digital Natives Into Etiquette Sociopaths

by Evan Selinger

Let’s face it: Technology and etiquette have been colliding for some time now, and things have finally boiled over if the recent spate of media criticisms is anything to go by. There’s the voicemail, not to be left unless you’re “dying.” There’s the e-mail signoff that we need to “kill.” And then there’s the observation that what was once normal — like asking someone for directions — is now considered “uncivilized.”



Did My Daughter Have to Grow Up Because Selena Gomez Did?

by Evan Selinger

For the past few weeks, my six-year-old daughter has been obsessed with Selena Gomez reprising her role as Alex Russo on the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place. Like many of her friends, Rory has seen every episode of Wizards and religiously listens to Selena's music.



Quitters Never Win: The Costs of Leaving Social Media

by Evan Selinger

Forget Lolcats. If we quit using sites like Facebook, we’ll miss opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange.



What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About the Present and Future of Information

by Evan Selinger

Combine growing attachment to smartphones with advances in cutting-edge goggles (think Google Glass), and what do you get? Acceptance of augmented reality (AR), which supposedly became ready for "prime time" last year. With the technology out of the incubator and in our living rooms, Silicon Valley's mouthpieces are becoming increasingly comfortable generating hype about the exciting new world it will create. Get ready, they say, for a "more information-rich, more navigable, more interesting, more fun" existence.



SIRI RISING: The Inside Story Of Siri’s Origins—And Why She Could Overshadow The iPhone

by Evan Selinger

Yet for all the efficiencies these do engines may provide, they may also carry a significant risk. Evan Selinger, a fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, argues that less friction in our lives may “render us more vulnerable to being automatic,” and eliminate crucial opportunities for moral deliberation. “The digital servant becomes the digital overlord, and we don’t even recognize it.”



Obscurity: A Better Way to Think About Your Data Than ‘Privacy’

by Evan Selinger

Obscurity is a protective state that can further a number of goals, such as autonomy, self-fulfillment, socialization, and relative freedom from the abuse of power.



I Grip the Gun and the Gun Grips Me

by Evan Selinger

“Happiness is a warm gun.” – John Lennon

“You are different with a gun in your hand; the gun is different with you holding it.” – Bruno Latour

Full Story...



Augmented-Reality Racism

by Evan Selinger

The tech world is brimming with optimism for our augmented-reality future. But what will happen when flawed, prejudiced people get their hands on these tools?



The Online Funeral

by Evan Selinger

My grandfather died on Halloween. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, none of the New York family members could attend the funeral in Massachusetts. Fortunately, another option became available: The ceremony was streamed online, and so my wife, daughter and I gathered around a laptop in our living room to watch the live webcast.

Full Story...

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