The Internet is Just a Prototype The week in hyperlinks #17

A weekly reading list to stimulate thoughts about the (digitised) world you might (or might not) want to live in.

Here is a collection of articles and ideas that caught my eye during the past week. They offer data about the world we presently live in, and hints about the one we might wish to pass on to future generations.

Noteworthy news

Prisoners to get phones in cells in bid to curb violenceBBC News

The pointers to the future are often in “outlier” user communities: “All calls, which will continue to be paid for by prisoners, will be recorded and they must be to phone numbers on an approved list. … Every prisoner will be given a “risk rating” according to their chances of taking part in violence, escapes, disturbances and gang activity.”

NBN frustration prompts community to take high-speed internet into their own handsABC

“Mr Archer said Wamboin residents were promised that the NBN would be a superior service to ADSL connections – but the reality was very different. “It’s way more expensive, it has a 10th of the data capacity we had with ADSL, so we’re actually stepping backwards instead of going forwards,” he said.” — Whatever your nation’s problem, a massive centrally-planned project is unlikely to be the solution.

Security flaws in 4G can lead to mobile phone hackingliveMint

“One device pretends to be a mobile phone network while the other impersonates a real mobile phone network. Thus, the system is capable of altering specific data, while transmitting the bulk of the data unchanged. Depending on the equipment, the attacker can keep the distance of several hundred metres from the targeted phone during the attack.” — Maybe those wires were a good idea after all? See also Why you might want to wrap your car fob in foil.

Woman dependent on oxygen tank dies after provider cuts off electricityDavid Icke

“While the family claims that they notified PSE&G of Daniel’s heart condition two years ago, after the woman was placed in hospice care, the power supply company claims they never knew the elderly lady relied on the air tank to breathe.” — How will our devices and platforms signal ethical needs to each other along whole supply chains?

YouTube Will Invest $25 Million to Fight Fake NewsDaily Beast

“The company said it would invest in more “authoritative” news videos to counter the conspiracy-theory clips that plague the site.” — The Ministry of Truth is alive and well. See also 25 ways Silicon Valley resembles the former Soviet Union and Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda and Twitter begins purging millions of users from follower counts.

Cool tech

Xineoh offers AI that predicts customer behavior with scary accuracyVentureBeat

“Essentially, it can do this by predicting what consumers will buy, where to market products, and how to target a brand’s story. By anticipating what products consumers will buy with a high level of accuracy, Xineoh allows the business to minimize unnecessary inventory and maximize working capital. It also helps match customers with the right products and services, predict churn, and inform marketers of the best time to reach out to customers to reduce cancellations.”

Brave Passes 3 Million Monthly Active Users and Makes Top 10 List in the Play Store in 21

A privacy-based browser that also pays content providers via blockchain: “Brave can automatically distribute your contributions based on how much time you spend on sites. Or, you can choose to control exactly which sites receive what percentage of your contributions.”

Data points of distinction

New Science Shows The Science of How Psychedelic Drugs Repair Neurons in the BrainEra of Light

More of an allied thought: our biological systems have developed over long periods, with repair and healing being central features. Are psychedelics acting as antifragile stressors (i.e. exploring new states without destroying the system)? What might be the implications for technology design and development? Is chaos engineering the “psychedelics of networking”?

9 out of 10 popular cell phone models exceed regulatory limits for radiationNatural News

“The original compliance tests entailed measuring the radiation that is absorbed by a test dummy filled with liquid, but this is done using a “separation distance.” When the agency re-tested popular phones from makers like Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola in the carry position most people use close to their body, they discovered that some had three times greater radiation than their original readings.” — Will those who quickly profited from the tech sales have skin in the game for any long-term harm?

Chrome Web Browser Will Now Use 10% More RAM With Spectre FixFossbytes

“However, this isolation process comes with caveats. Since more render processes are created with more tabs, performance tradeoffs are experienced. With a large number of process, Google Chrome will haul 10-13% more RAM than it previously used to.” — Security and performance isolation are hard to engineer right. Intel’s security lapse is now your premature upgrade cost.

Important ideas

Making artificial intelligence socially just: why the current focus on ethics is not enoughLSE

“To address these, different strategies are being suggested such as implementing re-training schemes for workers, algorithm auditing, re-framing the legal basis for AI in the context of human rights (including children’s rights in the digital age), calling for AI intelligibility, voicing concerns against AI privatisation and monopolisation, suggesting ‘human-centred AI’, proposing an AI citizen jury and calling for stronger and more coherent regulation.” — plus a 5 step governance plan to tame AI.

Global inquiry into citizens in the digital ageWe are #UnitedCitizens

“The Fourth Group and partners are running a global inquiry into citizens in the digital age. Our joint mission is to develop a citizen-led Global Agenda which outlines the major problems caused by technology and a set of responses.” — I have no comment on the substance, but there is a clear demand for a rethink of our relationship to technology. Perhaps it has always been thus with the fruit of the tree of knowledge?

Interesting views

The Cognition CrisisFuture Human

“A cognition crisis is not defined by a lack of information, knowledge or skills. We have done a fine job in accumulating those and passing them along across millennia. Rather, this a crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment — the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it.”

Eddie Hughes MP on why the UK needs a Chief Blockchain OfficerDavid Gerard

“The paper goes hard on libertarian ideals — the “fundamentally liberalising approach to data storage” of DLT and blockchain, “why supporters of classical liberalism — lovers of freedom — should embrace these kinds of new technology” and “we can use a mix of classical liberal values and new technologies to strengthen individual freedom and improve the life chances of all.”” — Tech as object onto which we project our political biases?

Jeff Bezos and Amazon have the advertising industry looking over its shoulderNBC News

“Amazon’s growing advertising business is poised to challenge the stranglehold Google and Facebook have on the internet’s ad dollars, thanks to its growing dominance in e-commerce and growing presence in the media world. Google knows what consumers are interested in, and Facebook knows who you are. But Amazon has what many in the advertising industry regard as the most important piece of the puzzle: what people buy. And the e-commerce giant is starting to capitalize on that data in a big way.”

Provocative perspectives

Survival of the psychopaths – they are plotting to leave us behindSOTT

This piece by cyberpunk writer Douglas Rushkoff is gaining widespread attention. Sample: “But the more devastating impacts of pedal-to-the-metal digital capitalism fall on the environment and global poor. The manufacture of some of our computers and smartphones still uses networks of slave labor. These practices are so deeply entrenched that a company called Fairphone, founded from the ground up to make and market ethical phones, learned it was impossible.”

I Grew Up in a CultMedium

“Another characteristic of cult life is the absence of authentic self-expression. Cults have a powerful unifying mono “cult-ure.” In ours, the members were magnetically friendly. … The niceness prompted initiates to let their barriers down. Which meant the appropriate boundaries weren’t in place when members were eventually made to feel uncomfortable. But that seemed a small price to pay to fit in.” — Beware friends and family who attempt to police your beliefs.

Media of merit

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