I am really looking forward to Frank Pasquale’s new book The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information. The book looks to examine and critique the ways in which big data is being used to analyse, predict and control our behaviour. Unfortunately, it is not out until January 2015. In the meantime, I’m trying to distract myself with some of Pasquale’s previously published material.
On August 31 of this year, nearly 200 celebrities had their private images hacked and released for the entire world to see. These images ranged from the normal day-to-day activities, to their utmost private moments – from nudity to sex. This event hit both mainstream and social media airwaves, flooding the online sphere under the hashtags #Celebgate and the #Fappening.
What kind of society are we creating? With the advent of the internet-of-things, advanced data-mining and predictive analytics, and improvements in artificial intelligence and automation, we are the verge of creating a global “neural network”: a constantly-updated, massively interconnected, control system for the world. Imagine what it will be like when every “thing” in your home, place of work, school, city, state and country is connected to a smart device?
Law generally falls into two incongruent categories: the natural law and the positive law. While the natural law encompasses universally accepted moral principles and social sense of justice, reflecting the zeitgeist or the spirit of time, the positive law ignores these premises, focusing instead on human-mad laws, such as statutory and common law.
Google Inc.’s 2013 book The New Digital Age, authored by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, was showered with praise by many, but attacked in a review by Julian Assange for the New York Times, where it is described as a “love song” from Google to the US state. Also addressed in Assange’s subsequent book When Google Met WikiLeaks, Google’s book makes an unconvincing effort to depict the internet as a double-edged sword, both empowering (p. 6) and threatening our lives (p. 7).
In a powerful article at the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel lined up facts and figures showing that much of the recent gain in human lifespan is about stretching out the process of decline and death rather than living well for longer. Most of us would love to live to 100 and beyond with our minds sharp and our senses clear, able to take pleasure in the world around us while contributing at least modestly to the happiness and wellbeing of others. But clear-eyed analysis shows that is not how most elderly Americans experience their final years.
Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon is the classic symbol of authoritarianism. Bentham, a revolutionary philosopher and social theorist, adapted the idea from his brother Samuel. The panopticon was a design for a prison. It would be a single watchtower, surrounded by a circumference of cells. From the watchtower a guard could surveil every prisoner, whilst at the same time being concealed from their view. The guard could be on duty or not.
Don’t believe the hype. You’re the customer, whether you pay directly or by seeing ads. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “On the internet, if you’re not paying for something, then you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”
A movement is afoot to cover some of the largest and most populated cities in the world with a sophisticated array of interconnected sensors, cameras, and recording devices, able to track and respond to every crime or traffic jam ,every crisis or pandemic, as if it were an artificial immune system spread out over hundreds of densely packed kilometers filled with millions of human beings.
The police response to protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri were filled with images that have become commonplace all over the world in the last decade. Police dressed in once futuristic military gear confronting civilian protesters as if they were a rival army. The uniforms themselves put me in mind of nothing so much as the storm-troopers from Star Wars. I guess that would make the rest of us the rebels.
Continuing our series on co-veillance, sousveillance and general citizen empowerment, on our streets… last time we discussed our right and ability to use new instrumentalities to expand our ability to view, record and hold others accountable, with the cameras in our pockets.
Last week, I published a guest post at Wired UK called It's Time to Consider Restricting Human Breeding. It was an opinion article that generated many commentary stories, over a thousand comments across the web, and even a few death threats for me.
If you push long and hard enough for something that is logical and needed, a time may come when it finally happens! At which point – pretty often – you may have no idea whether your efforts made a difference. Perhaps other, influential people saw the same facts and drew similar, logical conclusions!
On August 9, at around 12 in the afternoon, Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were attacked by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. With his hands in the air, telling Officer Wilson that he was unarmed, the officer shot Brown several times, killing him as a result. This was the eyewitness account told by Brown’s friend Dorian.
No one birth control method fits everyone, but today young women have better options than ever before. Across the United States, from New York to South Carolina to Texas to Oregon, health advocates and providers are scrambling to get the word out about long-acting yet easily reversible contraceptive methods that are now approved for use by teenagers and well liked by most who use them. (See this earlier Sightline series, Twenty Times Better Than the Pill.)
Lately, I’ve been enjoying reruns of the relatively new BBC series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which imagines Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective in our 21st century world. The thing I really enjoy about the show is that it’s the first time I can recall that anyone has managed to make Sherlock Holmes funny without at the same time undermining the whole premise of a character whose purely logical style of thinking make him seem more a robot than a human being.
If you get just old enough, one of the lessons living through history throws you is that dreams take a long time to die. Depending on how you date it, communism took anywhere from 74 to 143 years to pass into the dustbin of history, though some might say it is still kicking. The Ptolemaic model of the universe lasted from 100 AD into the 1600′s. Perhaps even more dreams than not simply refuse to die, they hang on like ghost, or ghouls, zombies or vampires, or whatever freakish version of the undead suits your fancy. Naming them would take up more room than I can post, and would no doubt start one too many arguments, all of our lists being different. Here, I just want to make an argument for the inclusion of one dream on our list of zombies knowing full well the dream I’ll declare dead will have its defenders.
We asked “If a gene therapy that added fifty years of life was safe and effective, should parents be legally required to give it to their children?” Only a third of the 182 respondents thought mandatory gene therapy for longevity for kids was a good idea.
As expected, the last case ruled on before the Supreme Court of the United States adjourned until October was the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga case. For those unaware, this case is based on the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, classifying contraceptives as preventive healthcare required under all insurance plans without a co-pay. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood both objected to this, saying that covering some forms of birth control, like the IUD/IUS or Plan B, violated their religious beliefs by requiring them to fund abortive medications.1
Last post we observed the dynamics of the collective in the terms of a small tribe, and indicated that at this size, things worked pretty well. That is not to say that error modes were not possible, but that when error modes arose, there were mechanisms in place to deal with those errors. Essentially, at this scale, the ability of individuals to veil their actions in a wall of secrecy did not exist. While it is certainly possible for the individual to lie, cheat, steal and deceive, such actions could only be carried out to a limited extent, and carried repercussions that were deleterious to that individuals long term well being.
Big data is cell phone users having an average of 100 interactions with their phone per day, all of which generate computerized records (100s of trillions of records). Big data is every financial market transaction, every passenger on every airplane flight, every shipped container, every transportation conveyance, every tweet, and every Internet post (all in the 100s of billions or trillions of records). Every transaction for all time.
The digital age version of the proverbial tree falling in the woods question is: Does something exist if it hasn’t been liked, favorited, linked to, or re-tweeted? According to many tech critics, the tragic answer is no. Like Lady Gaga, we live for the applause. But if constantly chasing other people’s approval is a shallow way to live that leads to time and energy being wasted over pleasing others and recurring feelings of insecurity and emptiness, how can we course correct?
Tyler Cowen points to this great Marc Andreessen interview in the Washington Post that features him saying the following about net neutrality: So, I think the net neutrality issue is very difficult. I think it’s a lose-lose. It’s a good idea in theory because it basically appeals to this very powerful idea of permissionless innovation. But at the same time, I think that a pure net neutrality view is difficult to sustain if you also want to have continued investment in broadband networks.
Most of us in the west were raised with legends, myths and movies that taught Suspicion of Authority (SoA). Thanks to the great science fiction author, George Orwell, we share a compelling metaphor— Big Brother —propelling our fears about a future that may be dominated by tyrants.
Commonly described as a “Yelp for men”, Lulu is a relatively new dating app designed to help women seeking men research potential new romances in a similar fashion to looking up products on Amazon. Its founders claim that already a quarter of college women use it.1
Picture this: A group of abortion opponents stand outside a women’s clinic holding pictures of fetal remains. As they stand there, calling and offering pamphlets to people entering the clinic, a trickle of pro-choice activists also arrive…
I am sure you have heard it constantly. "Google is (insert fear term here.)" They want to take over the internet, they are building skynet, they are invading our privacy, they are trying to become big brother, etc, etc, ad nausem. Be it Glass, or their recent acquisition of numerous robotics firms, to even hiring Ray Kurzweil, Google has recently been in the news a lot, usually as the big bad boogieman of whatever news story you are reading.