If we look back to the early days when the Internet was first exploding into public consciousness, in the 1980’s, and even more so in the boom years of the 90’s, what we often find is a kind of utopian sentiment around this new form of “space”. It wasn’t only that a whole new plane of human interaction seemed to be unfolding into existence almost overnight, it was that “cyberspace” seemed poised to swallow the real world- a prospect which some viewed with hopeful anticipation and others with doom.
What kind of privacy will be left for humans in a future world of ubiquitous computing, with sensors everywhere, and with algorithms that draw alarmingly reliable inferences about our intentions and plans?
Communications technology use is growing at a near exponential rate on a global scale.1 A recent United Nations study shows that more people have access to cell phones than toilets, as 6 billion of the world’s 7 billion people (85 percent) have access to mobile phones, while only 4.5 billion (64 percent) have access to working toilets.2
I believe Google is making a huge mistake in completely banning facial recognition systems for its Glass product. In my opinion, such a system could be used to help save thousands of lives. But then, we’re too damn caught up on absolute privacy that we’re willing to sacrifice actual, physical lives to ensure our privacy remains untainted. Such individualist dogma is deadly.
There’s a new “viral” video making the rounds. It’s a 15-minute pro gay-marriage film that interviews children about the concepts of prejudice, fairness and gay marriage. All the children in the video except one seem to think that basic principles of fairness should apply to men marrying men and women marrying women. However, throughout the video, one kid insists gay marriage “is just wrong.” When pressed for why this is so, the boy (who appears to be a five- or six-year-old) can provide no reason for his assertion.
As we learn more and more details regarding government spying, it seems more and more foolhardy to trust our security to third party businesses.The state requires information on its subjects to be effective. From the first census in Egypt more than 5000 years ago, states have sought personal information on their citizens, especially in tyrannical states, where informants and secret police gather information on any and all potentially subversive activities.
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.
Healthcare providers are establishing electronic health record (EHR) systems at an astonishing rate, due in part to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH Act was created as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
For Google* there was Innocence of Muslims. For Twitter, there were, and still are, rape threats. For Facebook, now there are decapitations. Facebook’s controversy is the newest in a long line of quagmires that make companies—or at least their customers—question American platitudes about free speech. It comes after Facebook briefly decided not to ban one video of the brutal decapitation of a woman in Mexico to go viral.
Picture a series of copper beads on a fine titanium alloy wire curved in a graceful sphere. It looks like an earring, but you won’t find it in a jewelry store. It’s made to go in your uterus. Intrauterine contraceptives are the fastest growing method of birth control in the U.S.One study showed that use doubled in just two years. Why are IUD’s suddenly hot among young women? And what should you tell your friend or daughter when she says she wants one?
The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for whistleblowers of all kinds to talk with journalists without being spotted. To do this reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.
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.
Joel Garreau, in Radical Evolution, lays out three possibilities, all stemming from Ray Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns.” Garreau focuses on the so-called GRIN technologies: Genetics, Robotics, Information, and Nano-Technology. He sees a world where the understanding of our biological programming (genetics), allows us to build tiny robots (nano-technology, robotics) as an artificial immune system that can be updated wirelessly no matter where you are (information). In other words, he feels all four of these technologies will converge to change the rules of the human condition—for better or for worse.
A new study spearheaded at Columbia University aims to provide parents with more information about their unborn children—including potential abnormalities and genetic defects. Spread across 10 different research hospitals that plan to secure 1,000 women each to participate, knowledge gained from the study will contribute to the ethical dialogue surrounding what parents do with more prenatal testing data.
Memory Detection Tests (MDTs) are a general class of psychophysiological tests that can be used to determine whether someone remembers a particular fact or datum. The P300 MDT is a type of MDT that relies on a presumed correlation between the presence of a detectable neural signal (the P300 “brainwave”) in a test subject, and the recognition of those facts in the subject’s mind.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working on the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS) allowing authorities to identify individuals by their faces—from images collected by street cams, driver’s license photos, mug shots or other sources. As Ginger McCall points out, there is little or no "legal oversight of such technologies." And I agree! Oversight and "under-sight" or sousveillance is absolutely essential lest this lead to Big Brother!
Kids growing up in the year 2020 will miss out on a lot of things: buying music, the familiar screech of a dial-up internet connection, their first fender bender... But worst of all, they will soon miss out on one of our most sacred traditions: playing hookey.
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” 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.
Planning childbirth and discouraging or eliminating factors that contribute to preventable birth complications are a priority for many transhumanists. All people should have access to reproductive services for free to use at their discretion, especially if we concede to live under a capitalist system that requires poverty, which in turn limits access to adequate care. This is a basic concept on which many transhumanists, especially at the IEET, agree.
One of the first rules one is taught as a futurist-in-training is to avoid “normative scenarios”—forecasts that describe what you want to see, even when the signals and evidence at hand make the scenario highly unlikely. This is much more of a challenge than non-futurists may think, as a good scenarist can usually come up with a plausible set of early indicators and distant early warnings to support just about any forecast. If one’s work focuses on issues that have a strong ethical component (around human rights, for example, or the global environment) the problem is further multiplied.
However disturbing the recently revealed individualsurveillance programs are, Reuter’s new documents detailing ParallelConstruction, a practice of reinventing how an investigation started, offers the first proof of definite, systemic abuse by the surveillance state. Parallel Construction embodies the dangers, lack of accountability, and opacity that many have feared the modern surveillance state would engender.
Project Prevention paid a total of 4,613 people, including eighty-four men, to get one of these birth-control procedures, including IUDs, tubal ligation, Depo-Provera, implanon, or vasectomy over its first fifteen years of operation.iii The project began in California after Harris failed to pass a bill to establish criminal penalties for mothers who consume. Harris began this crusade after adopting four children of a crack-addicted mother in Los Angeles. She responded in a reactionary manner, blaming parents, without much if any sympathy for those who suffer systemic oppression.
I was recently listening to an interview with Ann Cavoukian on Singularity 1 on 1, in which she began by claiming that privacy and freedom are fundamentally aligned. This may have been true historically. But looking forward, I suspect privacy and freedom are actually opposed. I know that may seem counterintuitive, so let me explain.
James Hughes appeared on Huff Post Live on July 26th to defend the work of the controversial Project Prevention led by its Director, Barbara Harris. Project Prevention focuses on paying largely poor, drug-addicted women to not have children by subsidizing them three-hundred dollars each when they secure some form of long-term birth control. Long term birth control methods include Intra-uterine Devices (IUDs), tubal ligation, sterilization, or for their few male clients, vasectomies.
In 2009, Dr. George Tiller, family doctor and abortion provider, was shot and killed in his Wichita, Kansas church by an anti-choice extremist. Before the murder, Julie Burkhart worked side by side with Dr. Tiller for eight years. Afterwards, Ms. Burkhart vowed to carry on his vision of safe, accessible abortion care for the women of Kansas. An Interview with Julie Burkhart, reproductive rights hero.
In the recent IEET survey we asked “When there are safe cures for these conditions should parents be legally obliged to provide them for their children?” and offered examples ranging from cerebral palsy to ADD. The more than 500 respondents were surprisingly supportive of legal obligations to provide these treatments to children, with majorities in support of all the treatments. Of course some of you were more supportive than others.