Eliminating the Human | The amazing Laura Grace Weldon

A View from David Byrne

I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda—it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature. We might think Amazon was about selling us books we couldn’t find locally—and it was and what a brilliant idea—but maybe it was also just as much about eliminating human interaction. I see a pattern emerging in the innovative technology that has gotten the most attention, gets the bucks and often, no surprise, ends up getting developed and implemented. What much of this technology seems to have in common is that it removes the need to deal with humans directly. The tech doesn’t claim or acknowledge this as its primary goal, but it seems to often be the consequence. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal. There are so many ways imagination can be manifested in the technical sphere. Many are wonderful and seem like social goods, but allow me a little conspiracy mongering here—an awful lot of them have the consequence of lessening human interaction.

I suspect that we almost don’t notice this pattern because it’s hard to imagine what an alternative focus of tech development might be. Most of the news we get barraged with is about algorithms, AI, robots and self driving cars, all of which fit this pattern, though there are indeed many technological innovations underway that have nothing to do with eliminating human interaction from our lives. CRISPR-cas9 in genetics, new films that can efficiently and cheaply cool houses and quantum computing to name a few, but what we read about most and what touches us daily is the trajectory towards less human involvement.

Note: I don’t consider chat rooms and product reviews as “human interaction”; they’re mediated and filtered by a screen.

We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.

the downside of technology

Social networks are also a source of unhappiness. A study earlier this year by two social scientists, Holly Shakya at UC San Diego and Nicholas ­Christakis at Yale, showed that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel about their lives.  While these technologies claim to connect us, then, the surely unintended effect is that they also drive us apart and make us sad and envious.

David Byrne is a musician and artist who lives in New York City. His most recent book is called How Music Works. A version of this piece originally appeared on his website, davidbyrne.com.

A MUST READ: Eliminating the Human – MIT Technology Review

***From L/T…

I do not spend hours on Twitter or Facebook like I used to.  Teaching about social media and blogging, I’m not doing that anymore.  In my own research/work at the moment… I can tell you that some of the greatest minds in the world are sharing generously with us… on blogs… on twitter… and on other social media.  Like David Byrne (read his thoughts above)… Just like so many of you amaze me each week on your blogs.

My online friend, the author LAURA GRACE WELDON has some of the MOST amazing Tweets!  Last week I tried to pick a few you might like 🙂  (One of the nice things about Twitter is you can go back and read all the tweets – and even go back months!)  Please follow her if you are on Twitter.

This is her:   Writer, editor, farm wench, wonder junkie, awkward empath, aspiring hermit.

 Laura has built a treasure on her website and in her poetry and in her books.  (top photo)  Please do this for you and go visit her website this winter.  She’s been such a gift to me.

There were so many great tweets, it was hard to pick!   See you all next week.

The Privacy Paradox | Google’s A.I. gets greedy | DuckDuckGo

What you need to know to take back your digital identity – and maybe even your soul.

READ and LISTEN: Introducing: The Privacy Paradox – Note to Self – WNYC

TECH ETHICS & DATA SURVIVALISM

If you can’t stop thinking about privacy, well, neither can we. It’s doing wonders for our insomnia. Kidding! Manoush sat down to talk privacy, algorithms, and accountability with Julia Angwin and Anil Dash recently, and we made that live chat into a bonus episode. Julia talked about her “information prepper” lifestyle and what it means to be a data survivalist. Anil talked about why spreading your information as widely as possible is the best defense—heterogeneity as privacy. And we tackle the perennial question: should we all get off Gmail?

fa9c542e-ae6e-4dee-b566-b13af0cd1a1cAlso, weirdly, there were a lot of jokes. LISTEN

By LT

Hi everyone!  I’ve taught social media in adult workshops the past few years and I kinda expected social media like Facebook would be a HUGE privacy concern. (I’d thought Facebook was about friends, more contacts, easy to remember their birthdays… THEN marketing, ads and greed took it over.)

There were wise people at the Greenfield College library who had given me handouts on data mining for my classes. I told my students they didn’t have to sign up for anything. I was teaching them the basics about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Search Engines, How To websites like WikiHow, YouTube, Google+ and others.

In February, I signed up for this week-long brilliant course THE PRIVACY PARADOX. You should listen, too. There is no time limit on this program, it won’t expire, and they have newsletters and tips.

Click the links in these tweets and secure your computers. It’s time we take back our data.

Everything was OK as long as there were enough apples, but when scarcity set in, artificial intelligence began to eliminate the enemy and seize the apples.

Source: Google’s Artificial Intelligence Getting “Greedy,” And “Aggressive”

It’s looking increasingly likely that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the harbinger of the next technological revolution. When it develops to the point wherein it is able to learn, think, and …

Source: Google’s “DeepMind” AI understands the benefits

Robots are taking jobs, but also creating them 

Robots, far more than free trade, are upending labor markets around the globe. Economists debate how much these machines threaten different kinds of jobs.

Millions of people around the world would lose their jobs under these scenarios, potentially sparking mass social unrest and upheaval.

From Duck Duck Go

[DuckDuckGo is the search engine that doesn’t track you. We protect your search history from everyone — even them!]

“Companies like Google uses your profile to filter the results they show you, based on what they think you are most likely to click on. This is commonly known as the “Filter Bubble.”  It’s a form of corporate censorship that can be used to influence public opinion (even unintentionally), such as election outcomes and other political issues.”

Want to learn more about how you are being censored? Check out the TED talk by Eli Parsier.

PBS: What Do Data Brokers Really Know?

While at the Aspen Ideas Festival in CO, Julia Angwin sat down with PBS’s Hari Sreenivasan to discuss what kinds of information data brokers gather about us, how they use it, and what we can do about it.  Read a transcript of our conversation, or watch the video below.

http://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365284309/

 

Your papers please?

Granted, in the absence of a national ID card, “we the people” are already tracked in a myriad of ways: through our state driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, purchases and electronic transactions; by way of our correspondence and communication devices—email, phone calls and mobile phones; through chips implanted in our vehicles, identification documents, even our clothing.