About half of Google’s workers are contractors who don’t receive the same benefits as direct employees
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.