Tag Archives | Society

How To Think About The Origins Of The American Surveillance State

slaveryMatt Stoller on understanding that the United States was birthed as a surveillance society:

American political surveillance is older than the republic itself.

Think about it this way. Slaves were controlled in a largely totalitarian society, even before the American Revolution, and this lasted until the Civil War. This society involved radical restrictions on peoples’ ability to read, travel, work for pay, trade, own property, marry, and not be physically and mentally abused. At the core of slavery was an aggressive need for control, it was the mother of all totalitarian surveillance cultures. This surveillance didn’t just involve slaves, but surveillance of those who sought to free slaves via such institutions as the Underground Railroad.

After slavery and a brief interlude of Reconstruction, sharecropping and segregation took its place, and sharecropping was enforced by a reign of terror by both legal institutions like local police and commercial monopolies of credit, railroads, and farm supplies, and extra-legal institutions like the KKK.

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Algocracy: The Threat Of Rule By Algorithm

microchip

Will democracy give way to algocracy? Via the Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technologies, John Danaher writes:

In brief, modern technology has made it possible for pretty much all of our movements, particularly those we make “online”, to be monitored, tracked, processed, and leveraged. We can do some of this leveraging ourselves, by tracking our behavior to improve our diets, increase our productivity and so forth. But, of course, governments and corporations can also take advantage of these data-tracking and processing technologies.

Data-mining [could create] a system of algorithmic regulation, one in which our decisions are “nudged” in particular directions by powerful data-processing algorithms. This is worrisome because the rational basis of these algorithms will not be transparent:

Thanks to smartphones or Google Glass, we can now be pinged whenever we are about to do something stupid, unhealthy or unsound. We wouldn’t necessarily need to know why the action would be wrong: the system’s algorithms do the moral calculus on their own.

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Mormon Church Changes Stance on Race

Mormon Jesus

Mormon Jesus approves.

Just as the Roman Catholic Church has become  more liberal, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon Church, has decided that “dark skin” is no longer the “mark of Cain.”  I tell ya, the End must be extremely goddamn nigh.

VIA Dwindling in Unbelief

The LDS church has finally confessed. It admits that it was wrong about
race from the church’s beginning in 1830 until 1978 when God changed
his mind about black people.

Here is what the new document “Race and the Priesthood” says about it:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse … that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.

If that is true, then the LDS church disavows the Book of Mormon, which says that God cursed people by blackening their skin, causing them to be “a dark, filthy, and loathsome people,” and that any “white and delightsome” person who “mixes seed” with them will be “cursed with the same cursing.”

Here are just a few passages in the Book of Mormon that the Mormon church now disavows:

After they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

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Bank Tellers Rely On Public Assistance, Too

If you think working for a bank is a  good idea, because a bank is a lucrative business, a business which is responsible for handing out the currency that keeps the economy running, the people working, and the masses fed, then why are bank tellers in the same boat as fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees?

VIA CBS Money Watch

Taxpayers spend $899 million annually in state and federal benefits to support bank tellers and their families, according to a new report from The Committee for Better Banks.

One-third of bank tellers receive some sort of public assistance, ranging from Medicaid to food stamps, the financial industry employee advocacy group found, citing research from the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. In New York state, almost 40 percent of bank tellers and their family members are enrolled in public assistance programs, costing the state and federal governments $112 million in benefits.

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U.S. Health Care vs. Socialized Health Care

Say what you want about the PPACA legislation (I certainly don’t support it), it’s getting harder and harder to defend privatized, for-profit medicine when the United States gets ranked below Costa Rica by the World Health Organization. And as much as I want to support government-run health care, it’s idiots like these guys which make me fear what might happen the next time I get sick and there just so happens to be a vote on who gets to be insured and who doesn’t that day. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I grew up in Europe or north of the border.

VIA Christian Science Monitor

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Living Today With Replicant Memories

arminjar 18-17-23Via OMNI Reboot, Roy Christopher ponders whether total media saturation has programmed our memories:

In his 1999 book Culture Jam, Kalle Lasn describes a scene in which two people are embarking on a road trip and speak to each other along the way using only quotations from movies.

We’ve all felt our lived experience slip into technological mediation and representation. Based on this idea—and the rampant branding and advertising covering every visible surface— Lasn argues that our culture has inducted us into a cult. “By consensus, cult members speak a kind of corporate Esperanto,” he writes, “words and ideas sucked up from TV and advertising.”

Indeed, we quote television shows, allude to fictional characters and situations, and repeat song lyrics and slogans in everyday conversation. Lasn argues, “We have been recruited into roles and behavior patterns we did not consciously choose.” Lasn presents this scenario as if it were a nightmare.

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Does Silicon Valley Want To Create Its Own Separate Nation?

balloonPlease leave me behind. CNET News dissects a talk given at Y Combinator this past weekend that echos the recent sentiments of Google co-founder Larry Page, eBay co-founder Peter Thiel, and others who imagine a libertarian, tech-utopian paradise as the ultimate goal:

At Y Combinator, Balaji Srinivasan, a Stanford lecturer and co-founder of genetics startup Counsyl, lays out his proposal for creating opt-in societies “outside the US, run by technology,” Srinivasan said, often reading from the slides he presented onstage with an authoritarian tone.

The idea is techno-utopian spaces — new countries even — that could operate beyond the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government. It’s a decision that hinges on exiting the current system, as Srinivasan terms it from the realm of political science, instead of using one’s voice to reform from within.

Calling his radical-sounding proposal “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit,” Srinivasan thinks that these limitless spaces, popularly postulated by Page at this year’s Google I/O, are already being created, thanks to technology and a desire to exit.

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The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent” Part 2 – Is Mass Surveillance So Bad If You Can’t See It?

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

In the dark ages known as the twentieth century, mass surveillance of entire populations was a sport practised only by elitist totalitarian states . Those unlucky enough to live in a what was then termed a “free country”, had to sit on the sidelines and simply imagine what it was like to be subject to constant state intrusion.

But times change, and after several wars of the twentieth century (including the war to end all wars) mass surveillance was finally liberated. The liberators of surveillance even adopted a snappy slogan to help spread their evangelic message, which today is more commonly used than that one about washing up liquid – “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Don’t bother de-constructing this slogan in any way – just marvel at its symmetry and its almost Shakespearean rhythm.

You see the secret to success of the architects of “surveillance for all” was they spotted that surveillance is so much easier to sell to the masses when it’s invisible.… Read the rest

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Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying Jobs—They Aren’t

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.     ~Isaac Asimov

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
~Isaac Asimov

Change and the unknown may be the commonest fears, along with public speaking. All of which hold the potential of limiting progress. Perhaps some adhere to a notion of singularity, maybe ignorance, perhaps others are prone to the narratives passed down from parents. I don’t know, and I accept that. What I do know is that we all have the power to educate ourselves, and to choose. For the sake of balance I offer you this.

via MIT Technology Review

Many experts would have us believe that robots and other technologies are behind the job drought. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades

american jobs

Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.

Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

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