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Posts tagged “dystopia”

  1. AI Is Coming for Your Favorite Menial Tasks
    theatlantic.com

    Fred Benenson:

    When people talk about the effects of automation and artificial intelligence on the economy, they often fixate on the quantity of human workers. Will robots take our jobs? Others focus instead on threats to the quality of employment—the replacement of middle-class occupations with lower-skill, lower-wage ones; the steady elimination of human discretion as algorithms order around warehouse pickers, ride-hailing drivers, and other workers.

    What’s less understood is that artificial intelligence will transform higher-skill positions, too—in ways that demand more human judgment rather than less. And that could be a problem. As AI gets better at performing the routine tasks traditionally done by humans, only the hardest ones will be left for us to do. But wrestling with only difficult decisions all day long is stressful and unpleasant. Being able to make at least some easy calls, such as allowing Santorini onto Kickstarter, can be deeply satisfying.

    “Decision making is very cognitively draining,” the author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes told me via email, “so it’s nice to have some tasks that provide a sense of accomplishment but just require getting it done and repeating what you know, rather than everything needing very taxing novel decision making.”

  2. Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs
    wired.com

    Kevin Kelly:

    In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

    1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.
    2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can’t do everything I do.
    3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.
    4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.
    5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.
    6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!
    7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.
  3. Are China’s Tantrums Signs of Strength or Weakness?
    theatlantic.com

    Zeynep Tufekci wonders about China’s motivations around the Hong Kong situation:

    So why is China demanding significant censorship from Western companies—as in the case of this app—in the absence of a real threat? One thing to note is that while the original events being censored are minor to the point of trivial, the backlash creates a huge amount of publicity. You might be tempted to think that China has a Streisand-effect problem, in which trying to censor an event creates even more publicity. But that assumes the Chinese government doesn’t understand the Streisand effect, and that can’t be right, because if one government understands attention dynamics online, it’s China’s.

    Significant amounts of scholarship show that the Chinese government has been very good at burying important news by distracting from it with other, flashy but unrelated news. This shows a subtle and powerful understanding of the Streisand effect: Instead of censoring, China diverts attention.

  4. The China Cultural Clash
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson:

    I am increasingly convinced this is the point every company dealing with China will reach: what matters more, money or values?

    John Gruber summarizes Ben’s points really well:

    The gist of it is that 25 years ago, when the West opened trade relations with China, we expected our foundational values like freedom of speech, personal liberty, and democracy to spread to China.

    Instead, the opposite is happening. China maintains strict control over what its people see on the Internet — the Great Firewall works. They ban our social networks where free speech reigns, but we accept and use their social networks, like TikTok, where content contrary to the Chinese Community Party line is suppressed.

    Worse, multinational mega corporations like Apple and Disney are put in a bind — they must choose between speaking up for values such as the right to privacy and freedom of speech, or making money in the Chinese market.

    And Nilay Patel makes a great comparison:

    It’s not hard to understand that carmakers in the US market build to California emissions standards because they are the strictest - it’s the most efficient choice.

    Not a leap to think global companies will hold themselves to China’s speech restrictions for the same reason.

  5. The hard truths of climate change — by the numbers
    nature.com

    Nature has put together a comprehensive series of charts that do a really great job at showing just how fucked we are.

    Whatever they decide, nations will have to reckon with some difficult numbers that will ultimately determine whether the world can avoid the rapidly approaching climate meltdown. Nature documents the scale of the challenge in an infographic that explores energy use, carbon dioxide pollution and issues of climate justice. At a time when countries have pledged to curb greenhouse gases sharply, the data show that annual emissions spiked by 2.1% in 2018 — owing in part to increased demand for coal in places such as China and India.

  6. Hackers Hit Twitter C.E.O. Jack Dorsey in a ‘SIM Swap.’ You’re at Risk, Too
    nytimes.com

    Nathaniel Popper:

    Called SIM swapping, it allows hackers to take control of a victim’s phone number. In recent months, SIM swapping has been used to hijack the online personas of politicians, celebrities and notables like Mr. Dorsey, to steal money all over the world and to simply harass regular people.

    Victims, no matter how prominent or technically sophisticated, have been unable to protect themselves, even after they have been hit again and again.

    “I’ve been looking at the criminal underground for a long time, and SIM swapping bothers me more than anything I’ve seen,” said Allison Nixon, the director of research at the security firm Flashpoint. “It requires no skill, and there is literally nothing the average person can do to stop it.”

    We’ve been hearing about this exploit for years. Of course, things seem to only have gotten worse.

  7. We Are Tenants on Our Own Devices
    wired.com

    Zeynep Tufekci is worried about what ownership means for always-connected products:

    Today, we may think we own things because we paid for them and brought them home, but as long as they run software or have digital connectivity, the sellers continue to have control over the product. We are renters of our own objects, there by the grace of the true owner.

    I worry about this a lot, maybe too much. Unless I don’t have a choice, I avoid any device that superflously requires an internet connection (or worse, a smartphone app) like the plague.

  8. The New Wilderness
    idlewords.com

    Maciej Ceglowski writes about privacy and I want to quote the whole thing:

    Ambient privacy is not a property of people, or of their data, but of the world around us. Just like you can’t drop out of the oil economy by refusing to drive a car, you can’t opt out of the surveillance economy by forswearing technology (and for many people, that choice is not an option). While there may be worthy reasons to take your life off the grid, the infrastructure will go up around you whether you use it or not.

    Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don’t have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. Congress has remained silent on the matter, with both parties content to watch Silicon Valley make up its own rules. The large tech companies point to our willing use of their services as proof that people don’t really care about their privacy. But this is like arguing that inmates are happy to be in jail because they use the prison library. Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it.

    That is not consent.

  9. How Recommendation Algorithms Run the World
    wired.com

    Zeynep Tufekci:

    Deep down, behind every “people like you” recommendation is a computational method for distilling stereotypes through data. Even when these methods work, they can help entrench the stereotypes they’re mobilizing. They might easily recommend books about coding to boys and books about fashion to girls, simply by tracking the next most likely click. Of course, that creates a feedback cycle: If you keep being shown coding books, you’re probably more likely to eventually check one out.

  10. Grifters Gone Wild
    nytimes.com

    More on scammers, by Maureen Dowd:

    As Maria Konnikova wrote in her book, “The Confidence Game,” “The whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change” when we are losing the old ways and open to the unexpected.

    We are easy marks for faux Nigerian princes now, when chaos rules, the American identity wobbles, and technology is transforming our lives in awe-inspiring and awful ways.

    See also, on Wired: Nigerian Email Scammers Are More Effective Than Ever.

  11. Scammers: They’re Just Like Us
    buzzfeednews.com

    Prompted by the college admissions bribery scandal in the US, the hosts of Do By Friday had an interesting discussion about grifting on a recent episode of the podcast. This article by Tom Gara was mentioned by Max Temkin and caught my attention:

    We are living in a golden age of grifting. For an ambitious scammer in 2018, this is like being a sculptor in 1500s Florence — every major force at play in our world is like a wind at your back. In politics, a team of all-star grifters now runs the United States, and their fake-it-till-you-make-it ethos bleeds into everything it touches and elevates aspirational young con artists into national figures. Technology now allows you to create and maintain an entirely constructed identity, giving you not just the tools to manipulate your image and massage the truth of your everyday life, but also an audience hungry to consume that image and believe in it.

  12. Once hailed as unhackable, blockchains are now getting hacked
    technologyreview.com

    Mike Orcutt:

    A miner who somehow gains control of a majority of the network’s mining power can defraud other users by sending them payments and then creating an alternative version of the blockchain in which the payments never happened. This new version is called a fork. The attacker, who controls most of the mining power, can make the fork the authoritative version of the chain and proceed to spend the same cryptocurrency again.

    This sounds less like a hack and more like a consequence of “it’ll never happen” dismissal of possible abuses of the system as it’s designed.

  13. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T Are Selling Customers’ Real-Time Location Data, And It’s Falling Into the Wrong Hands
    motherboard.vice.com

    Joseph Cox, for Motherboard:

    In the case of the phone we tracked, six different entities had potential access to the phone’s data. T-Mobile shares location data with an aggregator called Zumigo, which shares information with Microbilt. Microbilt shared that data with a customer using its mobile phone tracking product. The bounty hunter then shared this information with a bail industry source, who shared it with Motherboard.

    This is crazy. Zeynep Tufekci said it best: we are building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.

    Follow-up: Hundreds of Bounty Hunters Had Access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint Customer Location Data for Years