Although it seems like it, the Internet just didn’t assemble itself from a kit. Engineers made it. Engineers just want to design and build cool useful things. Generally they like this much more than repairing things they have sent into the world. And, for the most part, they are not wont to worry how their darlings might be used to destructive ends or what unforeseen consequences their adoption might occasion. Except for the evil ones, inventors steer clear of the dark side of their bright ideas as they push on to their next big thing.
Not that the rest of us can take much pride in foreseeing un-wished-for effects of technologies (or our actions, for that matter); due diligence is not most people’s thing. Somebody should be doing that but unless we engineer something, why should figuring out what could go wrong be our job? Well it is, because elites make rules, build stuff, and write code conducive to their own hegemonic aspirations. We the people are supposed to suck it all up without a peep, occasionally acknowledging that shit sometimes happens.
NOTE: This article has been updated to include subsequent events. It is also posted on CounterPunch.
One of my correspondents (let’s call her Jinwar), a supporter of autonomous areas in northwestern Kurdistan, notified me that Facebook had deleted her support group’s page plus her personal page as well those of others, requesting that the above graphic be shared widely on social media. (But before doing so, please read the last four paragraphs.)
Boston MA, November 5th, 2017, 8 PM. Around 11 this morning another lone gunman struck. This time in the peaceable little community of Sutherland Springs, TX (pop. some 500 human souls), 25 miles southeast of San Antonio, in a Baptist church during a Sunday service.
By 6 PM, television and radio news networks were pre-empting regular content to cover breaking developments. In my TV media market, ABC led the charge, with an independent VHF station bravely following suit. No doubt, the 11 o’clock news will be about the S.S. Massacre virtually entirely, as it was for NPR’s All Things Considered late this afternoon. “Special coverage” then forced its way in to regurgitate what little was known.
My first foul whiff of the Islamic State came in June of 2014, when I sensed their gathering ominous presence in Syria and Iraq. Little did I know how bad they would make life for the people of those countries or how complicit my country was in facilitating their rise. True, some of my predictions were wrong; Iraq did not fall. But ISIS isn’t over yet. As long as it continues to make trouble, I’m sure the Trump regime will react stupidly, at great cost to taxpayers, and even greater cost to Middle East citizens and refugees. All it takes is for some sorry-ass immigrant to mow down a few people—as in lower Manhattan recently—for the government to amp up the fear level and intervene in more places they want to destroy in order to control. Continue reading “Down Memory Lane with ISIS”
An alert reader turned me on to Fred on Everything, “Scurrilous commentary by Fred Reed.” You gotta admire Fred, he’s been there, done that, and has all sorts of considered opinions that are hard to dismiss. His bio, in which he says he’s crazy as a loon, begins with Would you trust this man with your daughter? If so, call. Crazy or not, unlike present company he’s learned in life. For that I give Fred a lot of credit.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” ~ Upton Sinclair
A triple-threat epidemic is sweeping the land—not just some deadly virus, water-born disease, or auto-immune reactions to toxins, although those too plague us—but of secrecy, unaccountability, and impunity, bypassing checks and balances, impervious to any outside scrutiny or supervision. This cancer on the Republic has metastasized throughout halls of power and workplaces almost everywhere.
Perhaps you haven’t noticed the investor class getting all gung-ho these days over Artificial Intelligence (AI). Only a couple of decades ago, these same people dismissed AI because it wasn’t very useful yet. But that’s all changed due to advances in machine vision and learning, and now VCs, hedge funds, and most of the rest of the usual big-money suspects are salivating over prospects of automating most of the rest of the economy, even including agriculture.
Thanks to its clot of institutions of higher learning, Boston—my fair city—is littered with tech startups and factories that churn them out. They and the Hub’s cloud of serial investors have created a knot of compressed energy, the nexus of which one can find at a suite in Kendall Square—epicenter of Boston’s tech scene, featuring outposts of Google, Oracle, Facebook and Amazon, pharma firms like Merck and Novartis and a host of biotechy startups fed by MIT’s biomedical research complex, augmented by its AI and Media Labs—where every Thursday evening prime movers get together for suds and savvy strategizing at private oasis called Venture Café. Continue reading “A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect”
The thing that saddens most in politics isn’t Donald Trump, the Republican Party, racism, xenophobia, or other alt-right affronts. No, as destructive as these forces are to the nation, what truly distresses me is the Democratic Party, and in particular opportunistic progressive politicians. Especially those tainted by corruption. The left doesn’t need that kind of skàta. We have enough tsouris as it is without shady standard-bearers.
The other day I received another email blast from Alan Grayson. He has kept relatively (for him) quiet after leaving Congress at the beginning of the year but is now gearing up, it seems, but for what? In his take-no-prisoners style, it begins:
We need an organization dedicated to ending the Trump Administration.
So here it is. Welcome to the Resistance Movement! We want Donald Trump indicted, or we want him impeached and convicted, or we want to force him to resign. Any way it happens, the Angry Creamsicle has got to go.
This is not an organization for people who have mixed feelings about Donald Trump, or who worry about whether VP Pence would be better or worse, or are willing to let Senate Republicans “investigate” Trump and leave it at that. No. This is an organization for people who have decided that TRUMP MUST GO – and are ready to take action to make that happen.
The left-populist Orlando rapscallion is at it again. The four-term ex-congressman and failed Florida Senate candidate, the self-styled “congressman with guts,” appears to have a new and unsurprisingly unique field operation. His Resistance Movement is not to be confused the “resistance” to Trump that Nancy Pelosi claims to spearhead while refusing to play the impeachment card. Grayson may or may not have created or authorized a website calling itself The Resistance (http://www.lockhimupnow.org/) but he’s certainly promoting it and, if true to form, intends to capitalize on it…somehow.
An excerpt from a work in progress, a book called The Silica Papers: Who Technology Is and What She Wants, a set of essays that looks into what we can expect from this strange brave new world.
Our addictions to technology, especially of the digital sort and especially among the young, are manifest, but they aren’t entirely technology’s fault. Nor are they just the result of falling unto temptation, although practicing a bit more mindfulness and self-discipline wouldn’t hurt. Few of us ever asked for this stuff. We got it whether we wanted it or not, dreamed up by inventors and shoveled at us by the marketplace, packaged to titillate. And even what we think of as the good stuff often has a seamy underside that tries to hook us and then takes what it wants from us while we’re mesmerized. Technology won’t be denied, but the particular shapes it takes are fabricated by other forces that may not have our best interests at heart. Here are two stories of how our economy shapes the tech scene that in turn shapes us.
The Water Cooler Has Ears
For starters, you might not know that online social media is older than the personal computer. Forty years back, you only needed a computer terminal, a modem, and a telephone to participate in collaborative messaging apps called electronic bulletin board systems (BBS). They ran on minicomputers, were noncommercial, and staffed by volunteers (called SysOps). Some relics of that era still exist, but as the Net unfolded, BBS’s begat Usenet, then Reddit, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. piled on, demonstrating that computer users crave real-time online contact—the core social media value proposition. But sooner or later, almost all proprietary social media platforms succumb to Wall Street discipline to monetize our personal data, relentlessly upgrade, piling on features we never wanted or needed, and stalk us wherever we roam.
Today we celebrate the release by Sony Pictures of “The Emoji Movie,” rated PG (for saucy language). Rush to see it before it sinks without a trace. One look at the animation’s trailer told me it’s everything I hoped it wouldn’t be. Okay, the characters look authentic and are well voiced by prominent actors, but finding Patrick Stewart reduced to playing a pile of poop was particularly depressing. Basically the entire film is a promo for the eponymous app plus others for Google, Facebook, YouTube and DropBox. It is meant for children, of course, but the the protagonist is pathetic and the plot is a downer. Critics were sad-faced, to say the least, with reactions ranging from to to . Writing for rogerebert.com, critic Peter Sobczynski ended his review with
“The Emoji Movie” may be as depressing of a film experience as anything to come out this year but if the [lack of positive] reaction of the kids that I saw it with is any indication, there may be hope for the future after all.
We can hope against hope. The very fact that an emoji movie exists alarms me, but that it’s propaganda for big Internet brands hardly comes as a surprise. I guess I should get used to seeing more of that.