Do You Trust This Computer?

Weekly Axis Of Easy #44

 In this issue:
  • Documentary: Do You Trust This Computer?
  • Google employees revolt over military drone program
  • US Feds seize domain
  • Rogue network of cellphone snoopers discovered in Washington DC
  • DHS building database to monitor media influencers
  • More Facebook shenanigans: health records, political contributions & pay-for-privacy
  • Telus jumps on Canadian web blocking bandwagon.
  • Where is all this headed? Just look at China’s social credit system.

Documentary: Do You Trust This Computer?

I used to be an Artificial Intelligence (AI) skeptic, until I read Callum Chace’s The Economic Singularity and I realized that humanity is right now, collectively, right inside that inflection point of those familiar “hockey stick” graphs. The documentary “Do You Trust This Computer” explores the ramifications of the inevitable explosion in AI, machine learning and computer super-intelligence. The immediate effects will be apparent very soon. There will be skyrocketing unemployment as most jobs, including white collar, technical and management, are automated away. The middle class will be wiped out as society polarizes into “haves” and many more “have-nots” There will be autonomous weapons which will select their own targets; and the very real probability that we will ultimately lose control over our own AI creations.

Bracket off 90 minutes of your time and watch this documentary (it’s free):

Google employees revolt over military drone program

Speaking of autonomous weapons, recall that Google is now in the business of helping to build them with its partnership with the Pentagon to develop AI for the US military’s drone program. Turns out that many of the rank-and-file at Google aren’t on board with this and thousands of them have signed an open letter to Google’s CEO which was published in the New York Times.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

In other news, thousands of positions just opened up at Google.

US Feds seize domain

In the wake of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which holds website operators criminally responsible for actions of users saw Craigslist voluntarily shutter its personals section. Before the weekend the US FBI, DoJ and IRS seized the domain name as part of a crackdown against sex workers operating online. When this type of domain seizure occurs, the US Feds bypass the domain registrar and go straight to the US based registry operator (Verisign) to seize the domain. When it happens the Registrar simply receives an email notice that the domain has been seized (usually under a sealed warrant) and the name servers are updated.

Rogue network of cellphone snoopers discovered in Washington DC

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported the discovery of a rogue network of cell site simulators (CSS), which are electronic devices that basically “trick” your cellphone into connecting to them, thus enabling eavesdropping, deployed throughout Washington DC. They don’t know who put them there or who is operating them, just that they’re there.

DHS building database to monitor media influencers

Also from the DHS, they have put out an RFP to solicit tenders to build a big data platform to help them monitor and “rebrand” any and all media coverage about the DHS or “any particular” event. To wit:

“Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”

The RFP is available here, and interested parties have until April 13, 2018 to submit their proposals. We’ve already tendered ours, we’re proposing to build a lab of monkeys that retweets anything from a profile with a blue check mark and block and report anything without.

More Facebook shenanigans: health records, political contributions & pay-for-privacy

Facebook has revised its figure for profiles whose data was harvested by Cambridge Analytics from 50 million to 87 million. The same spokesman admitted that probably all Facebook profiles have been harvested by some third party or another. It was also revealed that Facebook scans your private messages.

Zuckerberg heads to DC this week to face questioning from a Committee of politicians, which it turns out, Facebook has already contributed an average of nearly $7,000 to 85% of sitting members of the committee. Expect softballs.

COO Sheryl Sandberg, deftly avoiding most of the media spotlight in this (hints of throwing Zuck under the bus and becoming Caesar?) poked above the silence long enough to float the idea of a pay-for-privacy revenue model for the platform.

Oh, and Facebook has been putting out feelers to hospitals to build out a data sharing arrangement for patient data.

Telus jumps on Canadian web blocking bandwagon

Telus is not an official member of Bell’s website blocking consortium but they’ve submitted a briefing that declares they’re totally cool with it, as Micheal Geist notes “It starts by arguing that there is no need for copyright expertise to run a copyright blocking system.”

Maybe they’ll just turn it all over to some manner of AI.

Where is all this headed? Just look at China’s social credit system

This week’s edition of #AxisOfEasy seems to have built on a theme. Where is all this going? We’re headed for an Orwellian algorithmically enforced authoritarianism. China has refined it to population-wide human-engineering operating system called “Sesame Credit” which gamifies obedience to the State. Not only are individual citizens scored according to their value as a good citizen, they are scored based on the citizens they are connected to. If your spouse, or child, or friend is penalized for committing an offense, your score will be impacted. The system is up and running now, and becomes compulsory in 2020.

Read about the tribulations  of a Chinese journalist who ran afoul of the system last year:


The West’s version of this will resemble The Circle. Have a great day ?

My new blog Guerrilla Capitalism seeks to explore how to maintain one’s independence, liberty and livelihood in the face of increasingly oppressive centralization and consolidation. Sign up today here.

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