Bookmarked Microfilm Lasts Half a Millennium by Craig Saper (The Atlantic)
Millions of publications—not to mention spy documents—can be read on microfilm machines. But people still see these devices as outmoded and unappealing. An Object Lesson.
Craig Saper discusses the rise and fall of microfilm. From its beginning in the 19th century to its demise with the rise of digital storage. It is always interesting to trace the history of particular technology, such as PowerPoint, PDF and email. It helps make sense where we are today.
Bookmarked 'Data is a fingerprint': why you aren't as anonymous as you think online by Olivia Solon (the Guardian)
More recently, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a computational privacy researcher, showed how the vast majority of the population can be identified from the behavioural patterns revealed by location data from mobile phones. By analysing a mobile phone database of the approximate locations (based on the nearest cell tower) of 1.5 million people over 15 months (with no other identifying information) it was possible to uniquely identify 95% of the people with just four data points of places and times. About 50% could be identified from just two points.
Olivia Solon demonstrates some of the problems that we face with privacy. This touches on some of the challenges that Michael Golumbia addresses in his post on personal data. Both authors come to the same conclusion, we are expecting too much of the consumer.

via Ian O’Byrne

Liked Our phones and gadgets are now endangering the planet | John Harris by John Harris (the Guardian)
Whatever its other ethical contortions, Silicon Valley has an environmental conscience. Facebook has pledged to, sooner or later, power its operations using “100% clean and renewable energy”. Google says it has already achieved that goal. So does Apple. Yet even if you factor in efficiency improvements, beneath many of these claims lies a reality in which the vast and constant demand for power means such companies inevitably use energy generated by fossil fuels, and then atone for it using the often questionable practice of carbon offsetting.
Harris also touches on James Bridle’s new book.
Replied to The cashless society is a con – and big finance is behind it | Brett Scott by Brett Scott (the Guardian)
Financial institutions are trying to nudge us towards a cashless society and digital banking. The true motive is corporate profit. Payments companies such as Visa and Mastercard want to increase the volume of digital payments services they sell, while banks want to cut costs. The nudge requires two parts. First, they must increase the inconvenience of cash, ATMs and branches. Second, they must vigorously promote the alternative. They seek to make people “learn” that they want digital, and then “choose” it.
I also feel that if everything is done by card then it makes it easier to profile users.
Liked Facial Recognition Technology Has No Place in Schools by Doug Levin (
Cory Doctorow’s novel, Little Brother, was intended as an act of science fiction, not a prediction. Other countries – like China and the UK – are already moving down the path of facial recognition in schools. In the U.S., we would do well to follow a different path.
Bookmarked You can’t buy an ethical smartphone today (Engadget)
Right now, it's impossible to buy a smartphone you can be certain was produced entirely ethically. Any label on the packaging wouldn't stand a chance of explaining the litany of factors that go into its construction. The problem is bigger than one company, NGO or trade policy, and will require everyone's effort to make things better.
Daniel Cooper explains the challenges associated with buying an ethical smartphone. He touches on the challenges associated with the construction (often in the Shenzhen province) and the number of rare materials involved.

Devices vary, but your average smartphone may use more than 60 different metals. Many of them are rare earth metals, so-called because they’re available in smaller quantities than many other metals, if not genuinely rare.

There is also limitations on the ability to recycle or refurbish devices, with significant challenges associated with replacing parts. This is also something that Adam Greenfield discusses in his book Radical Technologies.

via Douglas Rushkoff

Bookmarked Survival of the Richest – Future Human – Medium by douglas rushkoff (Medium)
At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.
Douglas Rushkoff reflections on the desire of some in technology to escape the world. This touches on the notion of technology as a system. In closing he suggests that the answer is stop worrying about how you might inoculate yourself against tomorrow, but start building relationships today in part so tomorrow does not occur.
Bookmarked Digital is Default by Steve Wheeler (
What does it mean to be digital today? For many it means they are connected to a much larger community of colleagues, friends and family than I would have been without digital. Without digital connection I am peripheral at best, isolated at worst. Being digital today means that bits are the currency in which I trade. Some still buy a newspaper every morning. Photographs may still be stored in an old shoe box. Artefacts do not lose their charm or value for many, but secure storage is now the Cloud, and it is synonymous with rapid access to information. The idea of content has shifted to one that is now malleable, negotiable, quickly revised, open to change and repurpose.
Steve Wheeler provides his own reflection on what it means to be digital today. This is something that Mal Lee and Roger Broadie also reflected upon. Vala Afshar recently looked at this from the point of view of the smartphone. Like Wheeler, I too wonder what the future may bring us. I also wonder about what future we want.