The Internet is Just a Prototype The week in hyperlinks #18

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

Firstly, a big welcome to the 200+ new subscribers this past week—the biggest increase I’ve ever had! In addition to longer opinion pieces, I also send out this weekly update of what’s I’ve found wandering on the Web.

So here is this week’s collection of articles and ideas that caught my eye, with a focus on ‘digital life’ , broadband Internet and personal data. 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

Facebook moderators ‘keep child abuse online’BBC News

No week is complete without a Facebook scandal… “Graphic videos showing children being abused remain on Facebook despite numerous requests to have them removed, an undercover film has suggested. Moderators also do not remove posts that violate hate speech and routinely ignore posts from children who may be under-age.” See also Privacy pioneers plan ‘zero tracking’ rival to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg says Holocaust deniers are ‘making an honest mistake and aren’t trying to mislead people’.

Goodbye Censorship: Digital Rights Activist Creating Open Source Internet, Free From Gov’t SpyingStillness in the Storm

“The Pursuance Project allows for groups and individuals to privately create, without fear of their worked being spied upon by outside actors. This project will allow for those engaged in human rights work, investigative journalism, whistleblowing, activism, etc. to operate in a private and secure environment, where governmental entities that view these activities as threats are kept out.” — The utopian claims for the present Internet have long been debunked.

Apple pulls ‘QDrops’ from App Store, for-pay app pushed wild conspiracy theoryAppleInsider

“Apple isn’t clear on which rules of the App Store were broken by QDrops, but this is clearly an issue that has been on the mind of Apple’s leaders.” — It was basically a glorified RSS reader, that led you to some insider data on how corrupt Silicon Valley might be. Can’t imagine why Apple didn’t like it. See also Apple, Google cashed in on Pizzagate-offshoot conspiracy app (which is a lie) and Post-Putin Trump Needs Truth Channel More Than Ever — even the government has propaganda distribution problems!

Google hit with €4.3bn Android fine from EUBBC News

“Depending on your point of view, Margarethe Vestager is either the only global regulator really standing up to arrogant American tech giants – or a busybody trying to hobble innovative businesses because Europe can’t build its own.” — A customs cartel and a search monopolist walk into a bar. There is no joke, but the lawyers all buy themselves another round of Belgian beer.

The Pentagon Wants to Bring Mind-Controlled Tech To TroopsNextgov

“While those capabilities might fuel conspiracy theories about government mind-reading and mind-control, Emondi told Nextgov that won’t be the case—scientists are only beginning to figure out how the brain’s 100 billion neurons interact, so controlling those interactions is next to impossible. Instead, he said it’s better to think of N3 technology as means to use to a computer or smartphone without a mouse, keyboard or touch screen.” — Shame, as I had high hopes of mind control tech getting my teenage daughters to clean up after themselves. See also “Non-Lethal” Directed Energy Acoustic Weapons in the USA, which may prove more helpful for domestic policing.

Cool tech

Closr — Jewellery for play

“What if you could send a touch to anyone, anywhere, right now? Closr lets you take foreplay out of the bedroom and into the every day.” — In my day, “sextech” was called “a bed”. Picture of the prototype of “a couples wearable necklace that connects (and can be activated) by your lover to promote intimacy when you are apart”. Award-winning, even! Call me old-fashioned, but I still think a well-made mattresses is a better long-term familial investment than any object with sensors and batteries.

The Moral Government — Cathy LoGerfo and Christopher Dunn

“If you would like to promote great values but don’t have the money or interest, or the ability for one reason or another to run for political office, then the Moral Government might be of interest to you.” — There are many such social media + mapping initiatives out there. Whilst this one may be embryonic and waiting adoption, it appeals to a new “post-political” zeitgeist, where citizens accept their direct responsibility for the governance outcomes they experience. Expect to see much more of the same.

Loon’s Internet-slinging balloons are headed to work over KenyaWired

“The trick is that air currents at different altitudes head in different directions. Loon took mountains of data (gathered from various government agencies and the flight patterns amassed during their own tests) along with a lot of machine learning (an Alphabet specialty) to turn those air currents into a new sort of map.”

Important ideas

The Zeroth MileVenkatesh Rao, Ribbonfarm

“I call it the Civilizational Waterfall Diagram, or CWD, built around a concept I call the zeroth mile. The point of this diagram to help foster what I call anthropocene literacy.” — One of the smartest people I have ever encountered offers a stunning synthesis of tech, physics and culture. Worth reading. Slowly and carefully.

The Crypto Enlightenment: A Social Theory of Blockchains — Melanie Swan

Immanence (a new word to me, too!) and abundance are explored in this 2015 deck that remains fresh today. Blockchain is the new Internet, and it’s the 1990s all over again! (Some of us are old enough to remember…)

Data of distinction

‘Over a barrel’: We are clueless about how much data we’re giving upThe Age

“The study also found 94 per cent of those surveyed did not read privacy policies. Of those that did, two-thirds indicated they still signed up even though they felt uncomfortable. Of those, 73 per cent said it was because accepting the terms was the only way to access the service.”

A Short Guide to Hard ProblemsQuanta Magazine

“The differences between complexity classes can be subtle or stark, and keeping the classes straight is a challenge. For that reason, Quanta has put together this primer on seven of the most fundamental complexity classes. May you never confuse BPP and BQP again.” — Some hardcore computer science made easy with a pretty picture. It’s like doing mathematics, but without the pain in your brain.

Even One Hour of Social Media Can Contribute to Poor Sleep in Teens, According to ResearchStillness in the Storm

“Of the students surveyed, the researchers also noted that 73.4 percent said that they used social media for at least one hour each day. With these figures, the researchers estimated that going on social media for an hour every day placed the odds ratio of shorter sleep duration at 1.82. Hiking it up to at least five hours a day significantly raised the odds ratio to 2.98.” — Don’t blame the Internet, it’s all the fault of electricity. Damn lightbulbs!

‘Generation Sensible’ in five chartsBBC News

Less booze, sex, drugs, babies and smoking for our offspring. No time, they’re too busy online chatting about their delinquent parents.

Interesting views

Teach ’em to Phish: State Sponsors of SurveillancePrivacy International

“Powerful and wealthy countries are giving money to arms companies to build border control and surveillance infrastructure, which only serves the interests of those powerful, wealthy countries. … The report calls on ‘benefactor’ countries to build schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, and promote democracy and human rights, if they genuinely want to assist other countries to be secure and stable.”

Is This the Moment for RISC-VEE Times

“Marena said that while the x86 guys have a strong hold on the desktop and server market, and Arm in the mobile space, RISC-V is ideal for embedded applications and where customization is required.” — No, I hadn’t heard of it either. But history suggests that the new tiddly-piddly computing platform always has 10x the market size of the old ugly-pugly one.

What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave RescueNew York Times

“The Silicon Valley model for doing things is a mix of can-do optimism, a faith that expertise in one domain can be transferred seamlessly to another and a preference for rapid, flashy, high-profile action. But what got the kids and their coach out of the cave was a different model: a slower, more methodical, more narrowly specialized approach to problems, one that has turned many risky enterprises into safe endeavors — commercial airline travel, for example, or rock climbing, both of which have extensive protocols and safety procedures that have taken years to develop.” — Safety is the new speed.

Why Are There So Many Robocalls? Here’s What You Can Do About ThemWSJ

“With caller ID basically broken, developers have proposed a call-certifying protocol (known as STIR) and guidelines for implementing it (known as SHAKEN). The names behind these acronyms are long and confusing.” — I wrote about this 15 years ago on my long-gone Telepocalypse blog, and we’re finally getting around to doing something. See also 4 scams that illustrate the one-way authentication problem.

Provocative perspectives

It’s Boom Time for Death CultsMedium

“Sarah Chavez believes Western women are trying to take back what was lost when women were cut out of death care, “striving to reclaim and imbue aging and death with meaning and value. That’s their way of resisting patriarchal ideas. When death and dying became professionalized by the medical and funeral industries, women had to figure out different ways to grapple with their relationship with mortality.”” — We have lost a lot of our ritual and roles to technology and industrialisation, and don’t seem very happy as a result.

Media of merit

From Twitter:

From YouTube:

  • Alan Watts — There are no mistakes — listen to what the wise sage has to say about clouds and waves.


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