Tag Archives | Corporation Watch

American cultural imperialism has a new name: GAFA

Duncan Hull (CC BY 2.0)

Duncan Hull (CC BY 2.0)

via Quartz:

In France, there’s a new word: GAFA. It’s an acronym, and it has become a shorthand term for some of the most powerful companies in the world—all American, all tech giants. GAFA stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

The phrase is used by newspapers, blogs, and talking heads on TV—see here and here and here (all links in French). It even appears in the local version of “The Internet for Dummies.” Le Monde’s economics editor, Alexis Delcambre, tells Quartz that GAFA first appeared in his newspaper in December 2012. “GAFA is not used very often, but when used, it is almost always on critical topics, including taxes or personal data,” he says.

In the US, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are generally praised as examples of innovation. In the French press, and for much of the rest of Europe, their innovation is often seen in a less positive light—the ugly Americans coming over with innovative approaches to invading personal privacy or new ways to avoid paying their fair share.

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Asimov’s Three Laws Are Not an International Treaty

Lima Pix (CC BY 2.0)

Lima Pix (CC BY 2.0)

via Slate:

Recently, Elon Musk voiced his concern (again) that developing artificial intelligence is “summoning the demon.” If you read his comments, though, you saw he wasn’t warning that the operating system from Hercould do more than break Joaquin Phoenix’s heart. Musk was specifically discussingdefense contractors and autonomous weapons. That’s consistent with his recent “Terminator” warnings (and that sentence fulfills my obligation to mentionTerminator in an article about artificial intelligence). It also echoes the legal position advocated by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (which has as unambiguous a name as you’re likely to find) that autonomous weapons “appear to be incapable of abiding by the key principles of international humanitarian law.” Opposition to killer robots seems as uncontroversial as opposition to the Killer Clown and support for “Killer Queen.” However, if you look closely at international law, it doesn’t have anything to say about artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons.

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Is AI a Myth?

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via Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

A few weeks back the technologist Jaron Lanier gave a provocative talk over at The Edge in which he declared ideas swirling around the current manifestation AI to be a “myth”, and a dangerous myth at that. Yet Lanier was only one of a set of prominent thinkers and technologists who have appeared over the last few months to challenge want they saw as a flawed narrative surrounding recent advances in artificial intelligence.

There was a piece in The New York Review of Books back in October by the most famous skeptic from the last peak in AI – back in the early 1980’s, John Searle. (Relation to the author lost in the mists of time) It was Searle who invented the well-know thought experiment of the “Chinese Room”, which purports to show that a computer can be very clever without actually knowing anything at all.

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Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence

Eddi van W. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Eddi van W. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Vanity Fair:

Kurt Andersen wonders: If the Singularity is near, will it bring about global techno-Nirvana or civilizational ruin?

THE GREAT SCHISM

Artificial intelligence is suddenly everywhere. It’s still what the experts call “soft A.I.,” but it is proliferating like mad. We’re now accustomed to having conversations with computers: to refill a prescription, make a cable-TV-service appointment, cancel an airline reservation—or, when driving, to silently obey the instructions of the voice from the G.P.S.

But until the other morning I’d never initiated an elective conversation with a talking computer. I asked the artificial-intelligence app on my iPhone how old I am. First, Siri spelled my name right, something human beings generally fail to do. Then she said, “This might answer your question,” and displayed my correct age in years, months, and days. She knows more about me than I do. When I asked, “What is the Singularity?,” Siri inquired whether I wanted a Web search (“That’s what I figured,” she replied) and offered up this definition: “A technological singularity is a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict.”

Siri appeared on my phone three years ago, a few months after the IBM supercomputer Watson beat a pair of Jeopardy!

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“They Did What They Liked”: Chevron and Dow on Trial

Jonathan McIntosh (CC BY 2.0)

Jonathan McIntosh (CC BY 2.0)

via Dissent Magazine:

“They want me to be bankrupt, they want my wife to leave me, they want me to jump off a building,” says Steven Donziger, a lawyer based in New York City whose team won an unprecedented judgment against Chevron in 2011. That year, an Ecuadorean court found Texaco guilty of having polluted close to 2,000 square miles of the Amazon basin with crude oil, toxic wastewater, and other contaminants. The country’s Supreme Court eventually ordered the company’s successor, Chevron, to pay $9.5 billion for environmental remediation, medical treatment, and other relief for those affected. But Donziger’s victory painted a bull’s-eye on his back. The lawyer says he’s been watched; that he’s had laptops, thousands of documents, bank statements, and tax returns seized by court order and handed to Chevron’s lawyers; and that friends and supporters have been turned against him by threats of ruinous lawsuits.

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Facebook threats and the Supreme Court: a guide to today’s case

John Marino (CC BY 2.0)

John Marino (CC BY 2.0)

via Gigaom:

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the appeal of a man who went to prison for posting violent rants on Facebook. The case will shape the future of what people can and can’t say online, and is being closely watched by the tech industry, domestic violence groups, and civil libertarians.

Here’s a short overview of the facts and the law, and where to learn more.

What did the man write on Facebook to land in such trouble?

Anthony Elonis, a 31-year-old man from a small town in Pennsylvania, served more than 3 years in prison over a series of Facebook posts in which he threatened to kill his ex-wife, strap a bomb to his chest and shoot up a kindergarten class. Elonis says he never intended to harm anyone, and the Facebook posts — many of them rap lyrics quoting Eminem — were just a way of  a venting, and that the violence he described was no more than hip hop-inspired hyperbole.

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The Modernized Slave Labor System: Also Known as the Prison Industrial Complex


via The Anti Media:

(TheAntiMedia) The united states prison system, not only a machine for mass incarceration, but a machine for modernized slave labor. The United States has 5% of the worlds population, yet we have 25% of the worlds prison population. Land of the free right?

It would seem the statistics say otherwise, since the official drug war president Nixon announced in the 70′s, our prison population has grown over 700%! Recent estimates put our prison population to well over 2.4 million inmates. 50% of the federal prison inmates are for non violent drug offenses. All the while 20% of state prison inmates are drug related.

Read More: http://theantimedia.org/modernized-slave-labor-k-prison-labor/

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Flight of the RoboBees

opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via AdBusters:

Colony Collapse Disorder (ccd), initially referred to as “mystery disease” when it surfaced at the beginning of the 20th Century, remains mysterious. Here’s what we know: Bee populations around the world are falling to pieces and the implications are cataclysmic. No more honey for your toast, nor pollen for your flowers, which means no more flowers. Or plants. Or food. Or life.

The most convincing theory as to the root cause of CCD is the decades-old use of neonicotinoid insecticides — a class of neuroactive pest killers that are chemically similar to nicotine and were initially developed by Shell Oil as an “environmentally friendly” alternative to traditional pesticides. And while these chemicals have been kinder to the mammalian class, they’ve ravaged the anthophilous.

As the rapid advancement of CCD began to reach feverish levels in June of this year, President Obama created a task force charged with solving the mystery within 180 days.

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Tanzania evicting 40,000 people for Dubai royal family

US Army Africa (CC BY 2.0)

US Army Africa (CC BY 2.0)

via Salon:

40,000 Masai people will be evicted from their homeland in Tanzania, because the Dubai royal family has bought it with the intention of using it as a reserve to hunt big game. Last year, the Tanzanian government had resisted the purchase, proposing instead a “wildlife corridor” dedicated to hunting near the Serengeti national park. However, the deal will still reportedly go through, and the Masai will have to leave by the end of the year.

The deal was brokered by the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company with a number of elite clients.

The Guardian’s Africa correspondent David Smith has the story:

Masai representatives will meet the prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, in Dodoma on Tuesday to express their anger. They insist the sale of the land would rob them of their heritage and directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods of 80,000 people.

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Carbon Colonialism: How The Fight Against Climate Change Is Displacing Africans

Homes burn following the eviction of their inhabitants by the Kenya Forest Service (FKS)

Homes burn following the eviction of their inhabitants by the Kenya Forest Service (FKS)

via Mint Press News:

Since the launch of a World Bank sponsored conservation programme in west Kenya eights years ago, the Bank-funded Kenya Forest Service (FKS) has conducted a relentless scorched earth campaign to evict the 15,000 strong indigenous Sengwer community from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills. The pretext? The Sengwer are ‘squatters’ accelerating the degradation of the forest.

This October, with violence escalating, pressure from campaigners finally elicited a public response from World Bank president Jim Yon​g Kim, who promised to help facilitate “a lasting, peaceful resolution to this long, unfinished business of land rights in Kenya.”

But according to British film-maker Dean Puckett, who is currently on the ground in Embobut forest in west Kenya capturing extraordinary footage of recent events, the plight of the Sengwer has only worsened dramatically since Kim’s intervention.

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