The Internet is Just a Prototype The week in hyperlinks

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

Here’s a collection of links to articles that caught my eye last 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.

Scientists have found a way to photograph people in 3D through walls using Wi-Fi — Business Insider

“If there’s a cup of coffee on a table, you may see something is there, but you couldn’t see the shape,” Holl says. “But you could make out the shape of a person, or a dog on a couch. Really any object that’s more than 4 centimeters in size.” — When you microwave the whole world, it creates a lot of information leakage. The sensor age is a paradigm change from the earlier symbolic IT era.

Information Technology and its Discontents [PDF] — Jerry Ravetz

A profound paper from 2004… “This plasticity of IT becomes dangerous because in our technological culture there is no established theory of failure, one which recognises that all systems are inherently subject to misuse (incompetence) and or abuse (malevolence). The founding faith of the Scientific Revolution was that mankind could exercise magical powers over nature, and yet do so safely. This assumption became ever more deeply embedded in our culture, through the subsequent centuries of real progress, until it was first challenged by the atomic bomb. Even now, with all our experience of science going wrong in various ways, there is still no theory of error and evil in science, on the small scale or the large.”

One View of the Amazon Game Plan — Beyond Search

Speculation on the limits to growth of Amazon’s “digital conglomerate” business model.

Jeff Bezos goes full Orwellian with creepy facial recognition and tracking tech; ACLU urges ban — Natural News

“Amazon also admits that it will receive feeds directly from the cameras and search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement in order to notify the authorities. In other words, Amazon is becoming the fascist arm of the American police state, and is now openly admitting this. … Rogue police forces might use it to videotape public demonstrations, as one example, and use it to target political dissenters who are merely exercising their First Amendment rights.”

California debuts ‘digital’ license plates. Here’s what they’ll cost you.Sacramento Bee

“Some businesses will use them as mini-billboards to advertise their products or services, he said, but will be able to do so only when the vehicle is stopped. The license plate number will still appear on the screen when messages pop up, but it will be smaller and tucked into the upper right corner of the screen.” — How very American.

Twitter ‘bans women against trans ideology’, say feministsBBC News

“Twitter said its rules are enforced equally for every user, regardless of the commentary they engage in.” — But the moment you decide some perfectly legal speech is “hate speech”, you create multiple classes of speech, elevating some ideas over others. The rules themselves are the bias, even if equally applied. All speech should be protected, even if it is vicious and embarrassing bile. Indeed, “hate speech” serves a useful function, telling you whom to avoid!

Toward an Ethics of ActivismFrances Lee

This paper “…is a free, community-developed reader that seeks to disrupt dogmatic, exclusionary activist culture with kindness and connection. It continues the broader cultural conversation spurred by “Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice” and “Why I’ve Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists” to point towards the desperate need for social justice movements to adopt a radically different framework to survive.” — A much-needed antidote to self-righteousness.

PNG’s Facebook ban: Govt declares war on porn & fake newsRT

“Basil also floated the idea that PNG could create its own indigenous version of Facebook to rival the social network, as the country seeks to clamp down on the spread of so-called fake news and the dissemination of pornagraphic images.” — Social media companies will inevitably end up being heavily regulated.

How to Use Psychedelic Drugs to Improve Mental HealthOpen Culture

“In recent years, scientists and psychologists have conducted similar kinds of research under even more tightly controlled conditions, substantiating and expanding on the conclusions of early experimenters who found that psychedelics seem remarkably effective in treating depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other stubbornly destructive human ills.” — Time for these natural medicines to be (re-)normalised. What many fail to appreciate is that software, too, is psychedelic, being a pure manifestation of the mind.

Why read Aristotle today?Aeon

If software is going to help optimise individual and societal outcomes, what’s the objective function you wish to maximise? The ancient philosophers hint at a “hedonic calculus”.

George Osborne’s London Evening Standard sells its editorial independence to Uber, Google and others – for £3 millionOpen Democracy

Headline says it all. This is “media as information pollution” in a modern corporate corruptocracy.

11 of The Best Existing And in Development Wearable Technology That Create PowerInteresting Engineering

“Chinese scientists have managed to produce a synthetic fiber that mimics bio-electrical abilities of electric eels. These stretchy eel-inspired fibers could be used to make self-powering wearable devices of the future.” — With many more examples of that genre.

The EU is About to Destroy The InternetYouTube

The hyperlink to mainstream media content is going to be regulated, nominally for economic purposes to reward content creators, but the outcome will be pricing independent publications out of existence due to compliance costs. Which may be the true aim.

A Study of NASA Scientists Shows How to Overcome Barriers to Open InnovationHBR

“It took us months to realize what was going on here: The most resistant scientists and engineers saw open source methods as a fundamental challenge to their professional identities. They defined themselves as “problem solvers,” but open innovation crowdsourcing platforms didn’t let them play that role; instead, they had to frame problems for someone else to solve.”

Report: Facebook Allows Islamic State to Keep ‘Multiple Direct Connections’ to U.S. SupportersBreitbart

Adds a new dimension to “terrorist network”.

The roll out of 5G wireless service is ‘a massive health experiment,’ public health expert warns as cell companies install 800,000 towers across the USDaily Mail

“He also told Daily Mail Online that he’s concerned that ‘5G will use high-band frequencies, or millimeter waves, that may affect the eyes, the testes, the skin, the peripheral nervous system, and sweat glands.’ … ‘Millimeter waves can also make some pathogens resistant to antibiotics,’ he added.” — Well, we did famously eat that apple from the tree of knowledge… and there are consequences we may not like.

Free speech, censorship and the Oxford UnionHeather Marsh

I remember hearing Jacob Rees Mogg speak at the Oxford Union when I was an undergraduate. His distinctive style has not changed much in the interim. This article gives a perspective — possibly over-sold — on what happens when platforms for speech are captured by the interests of the ruling elite. A wider lesson for the Internet?

Google lied about size of Pentagon AI contract, tried to hide project – leaked emailsRT

“The emails also show that Google executives were deeply concerned about a potential public backlash if the company’s participation in the Pentagon program became widely known.” — Silicon Valley is a brand name of the US media-military-industrial complex, and you can’t cleanly separate the civilian from the military (meaning it’s all military).

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