the places we grew our careers and social circles on have all been damaged beyond repair by men who, despite having billions of dollars, look like they have the suds and the emotional intelligence of a paper straw 5 minutes after it has entered my iced latte. they're surrounded by yes-men with less-money who are about half as smart as the character i played in my early satire days. i truly hope they all find the immortality they seek, and also that they then get trapped in quicksand, respectfully.
Jonathan Levinson: Police in Oregon are searching cellphones daily and straining civil rights (OPB)
Over the past decade, MDFT use has quickly proliferated across the country. Records obtained by OPB show the Portland Police Bureau adopted the technology as early as October 2014 and has invested at least $270,629.96, outspending significantly larger departments.
By contrast, since 2015, the similarly-sized Seattle police department has spent at least $240,837 on MDFTs. The Houston police department, with five times more officers than PPB, has spent at least $210,255, and the Los Angeles police department spent around $358,426 despite being almost 10 times the size of the Portland police.
Warrants reviewed by OPB going back to 2018 show PPB searching phones to investigate a wide array of crimes ranging from attempted murder, bank fraud and robbery to lower level crimes like bike theft. And for years, the bureau was conducting digital searches with no policies in place regulating the practice.
“People, when faced with authority figures in particular, are very likely to agree to whatever they’re asked to do,” he said. “I don’t think people understand how extracting works ... but on the other hand, I’m not entirely convinced that they wouldn’t consent even if they did just because people consent to all sorts of police invasions of their privacy without a second thought in order to acquiesce to their authority.”
Pareidolia, face detection on grains of sand, installation, Driessens & Verstappen, 2019
In the artwork Pareidolia* facial detection is applied to grains of sand. A fully automated robot search engine examines the grains of sand in situ. When the machine finds a face in one of the grains, the portrait is photographed and displayed on a large screen.
Pareidolia was developed for Sea Art on the isle of Texel, commissioned by SEA - Science Encounters Art. The production was supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL. Photo Heleen Vink, SEA Art, church De Burght, Den Burg, Texel, 2019
CIVIC Platform is a technology environment that makes institutional data more accessible, enabling creative applications and analysis.
We connect resources and a nationwide network of collaborators with complex information challenges in the public interest to build projects on CIVIC’s open technology frameworks.
Our vision is for public data to be available as a vital resource for collaboration and group problem solving -- accessible programatically, in common formats, with excellent documentation, using secure and reliable technology.
The technology is only part of the challenge. Custodians of this data in government, nonprofit, and academia face barriers of limited funding, access to talent, and unique compliance.
We’re building the teams and systems to make it happen.
Lindsay Zoladz: Buffy Sainte-Marie — Illuminations (Pitchfork)
The ability to harness new technology, of course, is a mighty power. That Buffy Sainte-Marie was using synthesizers and quadraphonic sound to upend conventional narratives about North American colonialism only made her more terrifying to the status quo. Perhaps that is why she has continued to make her life’s work bringing computers and digital technology to indigenous communities, as she has done with her Cradleboard Teaching Project or her 1999 manifesto “Cyberskins.” Emerging technology, she writes, can “counterbalance past misinterpretations with positive realities, and past exploitations with future opportunities. The reality of the situation is that [indigenous people] are not all dead and stuffed in some museum with the dinosaurs: we are here in this digital age.”
Fifty years ago, Illuminations was a declaration of that same life-affirming truth, and so it remains. It’s a portal to another world, as full of possibilities and alternative realities as that telephone-switchboard-like matrix into which Sainte-Marie plugged cord after cord. Lay down your cool cynicism, your rationality, your linear Western thinking, Illuminations instructs, before leaning close to whisper its secret: “Magic is alive.”
Lia Russell: The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare. (The New Republic)
Low pay, soaring rents, and cities littered with e-scooters. Welcome to the future.
But what is less widely acknowledged is how the gig economy interacts with other trends in California and forces unleashed by Silicon Valley—rising housing costs, choked infrastructure—to make life hell for those who live at or near the epicenter of America’s technology industry. Together, they constitute a nightmare vision of what the world would look like if it were run by our digital overlords, as they sit atop a growing underclass that does their shopping and drives their cars—all while barely able to make ends meet.
When Uber and Lyft announced they would guarantee California drivers a $15.60 minimum wage as an alternative to a new law aimed at curtailing gig companies’ misclassification of workers, Chair Ken Jacobs of U.C. Berkeley’s Labor Center found that the pledge was largely an empty one. Once you take into account drivers’ expenses and unpaid time between rides, their true gross wage would be $5.64 per hour. California’s state minimum wage is $12.00 an hour—far more than what rideshare companies were paying after expenses.
There’s also evidence that Lyft and Uber, the two most popular ridesharing companies, contribute to a decline in public transit ridership. City governments thus have less incentive to invest in more infrastructure, creating still more negative repercussions for poorer communities and communities of color. In November, voters in San Francisco elected to levy a 1.5 percent tax on rideshares, in a bid to incentivize riders to consider public transit.
The companies say that e-scooters are a “greener” form of transit than cars, but the evidence is underwhelming. One study published in August in an environmental journal, Environmental Research Letters, posited that whatever emissions electric scooters saved were offset by the greenhouse gas that gig workers expended chasing after scooters to perform maintenance and charging duties. The companies also say that e-scooters encourage a more diverse ridership, but San Francisco authorities reportedly found that e-scooter ridership tended to skew male, wealthy, and Caucasian.
Kashmir Hill: The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It (NYT)
A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images — and “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.
“It’s creepy what they’re doing, but there will be many more of these companies. There is no monopoly on math,” said Al Gidari, a privacy professor at Stanford Law School. “Absent a very strong federal privacy law, we’re all screwed.”
Mr. Ton-That said his company used only publicly available images. If you change a privacy setting in Facebook so that search engines can’t link to your profile, your Facebook photos won’t be included in the database, he said.
But if your profile has already been scraped, it is too late. The company keeps all the images it has scraped even if they are later deleted or taken down, though Mr. Ton-That said the company was working on a tool that would let people request that images be removed if they had been taken down from the website of origin.
Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University in Boston, sees Clearview as the latest proof that facial recognition should be banned in the United States.
“We’ve relied on industry efforts to self-police and not embrace such a risky technology, but now those dams are breaking because there is so much money on the table,” Mr. Hartzog said. “I don’t see a future where we harness the benefits of face recognition technology without the crippling abuse of the surveillance that comes with it. The only way to stop it is to ban it.”
De-risking custom technology projects: A handbook for state grantee budgeting and oversight
By Robin Carnahan, Randy Hart, and Waldo Jaquith.
Only 13% of large government software projects are successful.1 State IT projects, in particular, are often challenged because states lack basic knowledge about modern software development, relying on outdated procurement processes. Every year, the federal government matches billions of dollars in funding to state and local governments to maintain and modernize IT systems used to implement federal programs such as Medicaid, child welfare benefits, housing, and unemployment insurance. Efforts to modernize those legacy systems fail at an alarmingly high rate and at great cost to the federal budget.
This handbook is designed for executives, budget specialists, legislators, and other "non-technical" decision-makers who fund or oversee state government technology projects that receive federal funding and implement the necessary technology to support federal programs. It can help you set these projects up for success by asking the right questions, identifying the right outcomes, and equally important, empowering you with a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of modern software design.
Melanie Pinola: Get your digital accounts ready in case of death (NYT)
Preparing for your eventual demise is a gift your loved ones will appreciate even as they mourn your loss — and it will give you peace of mind in the present, too. Most people have thought about setting up a will and doing other estate planning, but you should also arm your family with the most essential information they’ll need in the immediate days and weeks after you’re gone, preferably in one easy-to-access place. Here’s how to set up a digital version of Myrna’s “little black book” for simple and secure information sharing with family members and trusted friends.
Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 2,923 genres by Spotify as of 2019-04-16. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.
Clones of the Queen is the selected artist for 'Hawaiian Indie.' ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Alexis C. Madrigal: No, You Don’t Really Look Like That (The Atlantic)
Since the 19th century, cameras have been able to capture images at different speeds, wavelengths, and magnifications, which reveal previously hidden worlds. What’s fascinating about the current changes in phone photography is that they are as much about revealing what we want to look like as they are investigations of the world. It’s as if we’ve discovered a probe for finding and sharing versions of our faces—or even ourselves—and it’s this process that now drives the behavior of the most innovative, most profitable companies in the world.
In every case, these AIs are designed to seamlessly take care of things for you: to answer questions, schedule meetings, provide directions, refill the milk in the fridge, and so on. So in addition to frightening ramifications for privacy and information discovery, they also reinforce gendered stereotypes about women as servants. The neutral politeness that infects them all furthers that convention: women should be utilitarian, performing their duties on command without fuss or flourish. This is a vile, harmful, and dreadfully boring fantasy; not the least because there is so much extraordinary art around AI that both deconstructs and subverts these stereotypes. It takes a massive failure of imagination to commit yourself to building an artificial intelligence and then name it “Amy.”
Felix Salmon: The most expensive lottery ticket in the world (Reuters)
The real winners are the happy and well-paid engineers, enjoying their lives and their youth while working for great companies like Google. In the world of startups, the only winning move is not to play.
If complexity and connectivity are necessary conditions for the perceived success (the complement of failure) of any given technology, it stands to reason that the risk of technological failure will increase over time, not fall.
I don't see this as a dystopian inevitability though. I think people are at their best and truest selves in the moments following failures. And to a simplistic extent, the human experience is one of either solving problems or creating problems to solve.
Divya Manian: We Can Finally Talk About Sexism in Tech–So Let’s Be Honest (TIME)
Ultimately, Spiegel’s emails reveal more about the tech culture that embraces such behavior. These emails are not revelations from a silly incident 20 years ago but rather happened a mere five years ago, when Snapchat was being created. It reveals how Silicon Valley’s fascination with self-obsessed youth has led us down a treacherous path that is unsafe for women and people of color. There’s an urgent need to provide safe spaces for women and people of color online. On the whole, I’m witnessing consistent conversation about discrimination and diversity. My hope is that these conversations lead to significant changes in team culture, demographics and how VCs choose to fund startups.
The brogrammer becomes the flat, oppressive ideal, and the fact that "bro" was originally a term of complex, critical affection within a community is lost, replaced by a distorting mirror in which people see themselves reflected as comic Hollywood caricatures, while disavowing their own, very real participation in what remain very real cultural issues.