The Internet is Just a Prototype The week in hyperlinks #29

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

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.

Censorship corner

Reddit Now “Quarantining” Users Who Question 9/11—Direct Users to Gov’t Site InsteadActivist Post

“The idea of Reddit redirecting people away from this open source subreddit to the official 9/11 Commission website is as ironic as it is ominous— as the 9/11 commission admitted it was railroaded in their own investigation and it is full of controversy. Not only were the commissioners given extremely limited funds to conduct their investigation, but they were also met with dead ends in almost every direction.” — Nothing to see here, please move along.

No censorship during the Umno General Assembly, says information chiefThe Star

“There is no censorship of the media coverage for the [Malaysian] Umno General Assembly 2018, says party information chief Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah. … Unlike previous years, Umno has decided that the debate session on the final day of the assembly will be a closed-door event, with a delayed telecast of the debates shown on the screens at the media centre in Bilik Mawar here. Asked why it was a delayed telecast instead of a live feed, Anuar said any parties that wanted faster information can contact the organisers directly.” — Note erased vs delayed forms of [limited] information access.

Anti-Defamation League, Facebook, Google & Youtube Appoint Themselves As Official Internet CensorEra of Light

“The whole narrative of a group that self-identifies as having the authority ‘to curb hate speech and abuse’ on the internet is deeply flawed and even hypocritical.”

The Twitter competitor targeted by payment processorsNews Voice

“Both of these make no sense because we already do not allow any illegal content and take action against it. Further, any adult content must be marked as NSFW (Not Safe For Work) per our user guidelines, which is a similar feature that Reddit and others have for adult content on their site. Stripe has no problem working with Facebook, Pinterest, and Squarespace, all of which certainly have adult content if you go looking for it.”

PC Magazine Fires Author and Relocates Article Citing Health Effects of 5GEra of Light

First rule of journalism: never upset your advertisers. However, in this case the journalist was the well-known and popular John Dvorak, so his firing became newsworthy.

Noteworthy news

Calif. enacts net neutrality law—US gov’t immediately sues to block itArs Technica

“California’s legal authority to impose its own net neutrality rules will be tested in court. The FCC’s recent repeal of federal rules said that states aren’t allowed to impose net neutrality rules, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called California’s net neutrality bill “illegal.”” — There is no meaningful way to quantify “neutrality” in terms of packet arrival patterns, so it cannot ever be enforced anyway.

Cities are teaming up to offer broadband, and the FCC is madWired

“Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.” — I have more sympathy for the Californians on this one.

New Zealand’s ‘digital strip searches’: Give border agents your passwords or risk a $5,000 fineWashington Post

“Border agents were already able to seize digital equipment, but the Customs and Excise Act of 2018 newly specifies that access to personal technology must be handed over as well. The law provides, however, that officials need to have “reasonable cause to suspect wrongdoing” before conducting a digital search — cold comfort for civil liberties advocates, who have sounded an alarm about the measure.” — Enough reason to leave your devices at home.

Rifts Break Open at Facebook Over Kavanaugh HearingNew York Times

“Many employees also viewed it as a statement: Mr. Kaplan believed Mr. Kavanaugh’s side of the story rather than Dr. Blasey’s testimony. That felt especially hurtful to Facebook employees who were also sexual assault survivors, many of whom began sharing their own #MeToo stories internally.” — Don’t work for Facebook if you value freedom (yours or others).

Cool tech

Pentagon funds covert communications gear that attaches to your molar tooth and allows you to make cell phone calls from inside your own headNatural News

“Sonitus Technologies, the wireless communications tech company behind the Molar Mic, received funding early on from In-Q-Tel, the non-profit investment arm of the CIA. But now, the device is ready for more in-depth testing. Peter Hadrovic, CEO of Sonitus, won’t say if CIA operatives are already using the device, but did say that Molar Mic has been to Afghanistan and has been used in stateside rescue operations.”

Solid — Inrupt

Sir Tim Berners-Lee adds identity to the Web. Haven’t had time to dig into it yet, but it’s had plenty of press coverage. See Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web and No on Tim Berners-Lee, Yes on Reward-Based Decentralization.

IBM launches pretrained Watson packs for industriesZD Net

“Each Watson pack is in different states of release but take best practices and training knowledge from various IBM engagements. For instance, IBM said its Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is generally available. IBM has integrated its weather data as well as Internet of things end points in agriculture and images to provide a “predictive view of a farm.” Farmers would get an app for realtime decision support.”

Uncool tech

The first “social network” of brains lets three people transmit thoughts to each other’s headsTechnology Review

“Stocco and his colleagues have created a network that allows three individuals to send and receive information directly to their brains. They say the network is easily scalable and limited only by the availability of EEG and TMS devices.” — The potential for abuse makes this scary.

The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. CompaniesBloomberg

“Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.”

Important ideas

Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of ScholarshipAreo

“This is the primary point of the project: What we just described is not knowledge production; it’s sophistry. That is, it’s a forgery of knowledge that should not be mistaken for the real thing. The biggest difference between us and the scholarship we are studying by emulation is that we know we made things up.”

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t LoseEpsilon Theory

“For every stock you buy and every vote you cast, the Process requires that you ask yourself: What are the Narratives (story arcs) I am being told? What are the Abstractions (categorizations) presented to me? What are the Metagames (big picture games) I am playing? What are the Estimations (the roles of chance) shaping outcomes here? Am I acting to promote Reciprocity (potentially cooperative gameplay)? Am I acting in a way that reflects my Identity (autonomy of mind)?” — This is an exceptional piece and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Profound.

Data of distinction

The social media paradox: Teens who are always online feel more lonelyNatural News

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen to a whopping 30 percent since 1999. Sadly, the figure can be even higher for teenagers. Both depression and loneliness are risk factors for depression, and using social media can worsen feelings. A lot of teenagers are online constantly, with 92 percent going online daily. About 89 percent of teenagers use one social media platform every day, with 24 percent of survey participants reporting that they are online “almost constantly.””

Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in US children: a cross-sectional observational studyThe Lancet

“Meeting the 24 h movement recommendations was associated with superior global cognition. These findings highlight the importance of limiting recreational screen time and encouraging healthy sleep to improve cognition in children.” — See also Parents’ Toxic Tech Dilemma.

4 Traits of a Cyber-Resilient CultureDark Reading

“The following are four key traits that both the recent survey and other experts say are common among the companies with the strongest cybersecurity cultures: Employ a CISO; Quality Relationship with the Business; Formalized Risk Management Policies; Long Tenures within the Security Team”

Scientist: Google Manipulates 25% of the World’s ElectionsHumans Are Free

“Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a Harvard psychologist, has dedicated the past five years to researching and investigating online manipulation, surveillance and censorship. His research is a cornerstone of The Creepy Line. … Epstein, a Clinton supporter, says that his research demonstrated a clear pro-Hilary bias in Google’s search engine results during the 2016 election. … He adds that Google’s manipulation can easily shift upwards of 20 percent of votes.”

Interesting views

Has the Operating System for the Western World Crashed?New York Magazine

“For Deneen, liberalism’s big innovation was to reject this classical understanding as unrealistic, unscientific, and oppressive. Seeking a more scientific basis for politics, liberals and proto-liberals such as Locke and Hobbes stripped humanity down to its bare essentials — self-interested individuals unmarked by culture or history.”

A Century Of AI Influence In Hollywood And How It May Affect UsCollective Evolution

“The first time the masses were introduced to artificial intelligence via the big screen was in the film Metropolis. Since then we have seen the number of AI cameos go up and quickly multiply. In the past 8 years alone, we have seen an increase of AI in films by 144% versus the last decade.”

As facial-recognition technology grows, so does wariness about privacy. Use at a school in Seattle fuels debate.Seattle Times

“SAFR has been watching over the main entrance gate of Seattle’s private elementary University Child Development School (UCDS) since this spring, buzzing in parents who come to pick up or drop off their kids. … It acts as an automatic doorman for parents and staff members — if a parent’s face is recognized by the camera mounted above the front gate, the door opens, reducing the need for someone inside the school to diligently answer a buzzer.”

Why I Left My Big Fancy Tech Job and Wrote a BookJessica Powell

“But there is also what drove me to leave the big tech company last fall and take a break. The issues that I got tired of defending at parties. The endless use of “scale” as an excuse for being unable to solve problems in a human way. The faux earnestness, the self-righteousness. All those cheery product ads set to ukulele music.”

What the EFF? — Neil Turkewitz

“The central point here is that EFF itself is opposed — indeed, violently opposed — to what it calls policy laundering. Yet here is EFF explicitly proposing exactly that: “baking Section 230 into NAFTA may be the best opportunity we have to protect it domestically.” Let that sink in — they are overtly engaged in practices that they have been railing against for years. That is notable for its mischievousness and duplicity even in the present, ethically-challenged environment.” — Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Ethics and the pursuit of artificial intelligenceSouth China Morning Post

“We may see a profound shift in agency away from man and toward machine, wherein decision-making could become increasingly delegated to machines. If so, our ability to implement and enforce the rule of law could prove to be the last guarantor of human dignity and values in an AI-dominated world. As we continue to grapple with such fundamental issues as equality and gender bias with great difficulty, what should be on the top of the AI “values” pyramid? How can we even know what human compatible AI is or will become?”

Provocative perspectives

We Always Make a ProfitBe Present First

“The framers of the US constitution understood the dangers of allowing religion to dominate government—they had witnessed it in recent history—but what they didn’t foresee was the rise of the corporation. If they had, I’m guessing that they would have put restraints on the influence of business over government, as they had with religion.” — With additional worthy insight into the relationship of business, government, religion and the press.

Media of Merit

From Twitter:

Buyable books

The Electric Universe — Wallace Thornhill & David Talbott

From reviews: “One is careful about announcing any allegiance to a new scientific movement. But this does seem to be different. In a few short books (I know there is years of work behind them) these people have explained many things about stars, the earth, super novas, galaxies that are simply not explained by the dominant “gravity-only” cosmology we all grew up with.”

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