Man vs. Machine. How your every move is being tracked. Get the most value in the next technology wave
June 5, 2017 – ISSUE #16
NEWS FOR SMART DATA-DRIVEN AUGMENTED CREATIVE PEOPLE
I had the great honour of working with an awesome bunch of people on the weekend to think through new ideas about the development of an ‘Emerging Media Arts’ curriculum at Megan Elliott’s Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. Awesome opportunity to be involved in something absolutely new.
Hope you can be part of it!
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NEWS YOU NEED TO KNOW
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of old ideas” – John Cage
In Australia, Facebook offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt worthless, insecure, stressed, defeated, anxious, and like a failure. Welcome to the next phase of Facebook privacy backlash, where the big fear isn’t just what Facebook knows about its users but whether that knowledge can be weaponized in ways those users cannot see, and would never knowingly allow.
Your every move can be tracked by some feature of Google. When you use the Google search box, the company can track all your search queries and the websites you visit. If you use Google toolbar, the company can watch the amount of time you surf a website. With YouTube, your viewing habits can be tracked. Google’s FriendConnect and Orkut archive your social networks. Google News, Books, Feedburner or Blogger log your reading habits. The writing you produce is stored on Google Docs, and your purchase habits and credit card numbers are captured by Google Checkout. Also gathered are voiceprint and call habits, through Google Voice; travel interests, patterns and place associations, through Google Maps, Google Earth and Google StreetView; medical conditions, medical history and prescription drug use, through Google Health; photos of friends and family, through Google’s Picasa images; and general activities, through Google Calendar. Then, there’s Google Desktop, which, at one point, offered what appeared to be an innocuous feature called “Search Across Computers.” This allowed Google to scan your computer to archive copies of text documents. In other words, just about everything on your PC – love letters, tax returns, business records, bad poetry – was duplicated on a remote Google server. Gmail? They’ve got all your emails on-file.
Earlier this month, The Australian uncovered something that felt like a breach in the social contract: a leaked confidential document prepared by Facebook that revealed the company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt worthless, insecure, stressed, defeated, anxious, and like a failure. Welcome to the next phase of Facebook privacy backlash, where the big fear isn’t just what Facebook knows about its users but whether that knowledge can be weaponized in ways those users cannot see, and would never knowingly allow.
Here’s a great article from Mishi Choudhary and Columbia professor Eben Moglen on “Digital Colonialism”, arguing that India should use its cost structures and talent base to offer cloud-based services that sell first world consumers their data privacy back to them as an export industry. Fascinating – and a lot of great enlightening points about how the data dictators Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple operate. (The first thing they notice is that the US government sees them as pillars of post-industrial American power, and as an immense national security intelligence resource; therefore, their strategic ally).
In today’s new economy—in which “good” jobs are typically knowledge or technology based—many well-educated and culturally savvy young men are instead choosing to pursue traditionally low-status manual labor occupations as careers. Masters of Craft looks at the renaissance of four such trades: bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering.
MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has launched The Human Factor — an ongoing series of stories and interviews that highlight research on the human dimensions of global challenges. David Mindell, who researches the interaction between automation and human behavior, discusses the interdependence of people, robots, and infrastructure. He concludes: “I’ve long believed MIT needs a new school to address these synthetic, far reaching questions and train students to think in entirely new ways”.
Soylent, the tasteless, colorless “meal replacement powder” tells us something profound about the state of labour in the Silicon Valley tech industry. As Elon Musk has said, “If there was a way that I couldn’t eat so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal.” The New York Times report says “The time wasted by eating is, in Silicon Valley parlance, a ‘pain point’ even for the highest echelon of techie.” Personally, I don’t think this is going to catch on in France or China, where real food is a central and everyday part of culture, anytime soon.
SMART EVERYTHING AND DATA-DRIVEN INNOVATION
“The Universe is an Intelligence Test” – Timothy Leary
Here’s a superb set of essays and videos from IEEE on ‘Can We Copy the Brain? A Unique Machine’ – Intensive efforts to re-create human cognition will transform the way we work, learn, and play – well worth poking around the essays and videos here!
Meanwhile, big banks will fall first to AI: China’s most famous VC, Lee Kai-Fu has so much trust in AI’s financial prowess he says, “I don’t trade with humans anymore”. He’s testing three algorithmic trading systems for his own wealth, which trade currencies, arbitrage, and a portfolio of its own choosing. His gamble has paid off: Lee reports that these systems have given an 8x return over his human personal banker, in an interview today with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney.
Extreme libertarians (supposedly) built blockchain to decentralize government and corporate power (supposedly). It could yet consolidate their control instead. While David Morris wonders about The Rise of Cryptocurrency Ponzi Schemes – scammers are making big money off people who want in on the latest digital gold rush but don’t understand how the technology works.
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” – Cesar Cruz.
Here’s a great short podcast by Alex Stolz with our friend famed Art Director Alex McDowell (Fight Club, Minority Report, and currently Art Directing the next Star Wars) on ‘Disrupting Film’.
Martin Scorsese writing in the Times Literary Supplement on ‘Standing Up for Cinema’. He’s disagreeing with a reviewer’s opinion that “In a book reader and writer collaborate to produce images, while a film director hands them down.”
Meanwhile the Norman Foster Foundation held its first ‘The Future is Now’ forum in Madrid this week. The Foundation is inherently interdisciplinary in scope, with its wide-ranging focus extending from architecture to infrastructure, engineering, technology, cities, the arts, and more. “I describe it as questioning traditional hierarchies and adopting a roundtable approach to creativity,” said Foster in a description of the organization.
To finish the moog meme, it’s also Keith Emerson’s birthday this edition and he probably had the biggest Moog ever constructed for this epic performance by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of Aaron Copland’s modernist masterpiece ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. Incredible music.