If We’re Not Careful, Tech Could Hurt the Fight against COVID-19

When COVID-19 emerged, many of us felt the instinct to use our technical skills to contribute something—and fast. But as researchers and technologists at Stanford, we also felt deep concern, having witnessed technologists’ blind spots and biases give birth to many dangerous technologies, including digital gaydar, deepfakes, discriminatory AI, AI surveillance and more. Even well-meant technologies can shift power away from those they purport to help. We have come to recognize that while the desire to help during COVID-19 is right, the rush to push just any COVID-19 technology is wrong and even has the potential to kill.

Trying to innovate their way back to normal, many technologists without previous medical or ethical expertise have proposed or deployed projects to calculate risk scores, trace contacts, model disease patterns and enforce quarantines. This inundation of ill-advised projects has led people to fall victim to misinformation and scams, eroded trust in science and provided cover for governments to expand their powers. Most new COVID-19 technologies risk adding to the chaos and eroding fundamental freedoms. With the stakes so

— source scientificamerican.com | Ria Kalluri, Lauren Gillespie, Agata Foryciarz, Wren Elhai, Sanjana Srivastava, Argyri Panezi, Lisa Einstein | May 18, 2020

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How Companies Like Google Plan to Profit in High-Tech COVID Dystopia

the billionaires I was referring to is, he didn’t just announce that partnership with Eric Schmidt, who will be chairing this blue-ribbon commission to, quote-unquote, “reopen” New York state with an emphasis on telehealth, remote learning, working from home, increased broadband. That’s what they announced during that briefing. He also announced that he would be kind of outsourcing the tracing of the virus to Michael Bloomberg, another megabillionaire. And the day before, at the briefing, Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to, quote-unquote, “reimagine” education.

And during all of these announcements, there’s just been sort of effusive praise heaped on these billionaires. They’re called “visionaries” over and over again. And the governor talks about how this is an unprecedented opportunity to put their preexisting ideas into action. And this is what I’ve described as the shock doctrine previously.

And we have talked on the show during the pandemic about what I would describe as kind of lower-tech shock doctrines of the kind we’ve seen before — immediately going after Social Security, immediately bailing out fossil fuel companies. And I want to stress that all of this is still happening, right? The suspending of EPA regulations. So, there’s still this kind of lower-tech

— source democracynow.org | May 13, 2020

Digital Farm Technology Is Not the Climate Panacea Corporations Want You to Think It Is

Smartphones have revolutionised our way of living. No need to visit a library when looking for information—we just go online. Convenience is convincing. But can digital technology solve all the problems in the world?

The idea of going high-tech in agriculture gained traction as a silver bullet against world hunger and climate breakdown during the corporate-backed UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) last month.

“New and innovative technologies such as biotechnologies, precision agriculture and digital agriculture […] need to be harnessed to improve food systems,” in the words of the UNFSS Scientific Group.


While technology is often associated with the pursuit of comfort and progress, it isn’t always so. Not everyone ends up as a winner.

— source theecologist.org | Astrud Lea Beringer | Oct 19, 2021

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The tech ‘solutions’ for coronavirus take the surveillance state to the next level

In a matter of weeks, coronavirus has shuttered the global economy and placed capitalism in intensive care. Many thinkers have expressed hope that it will usher in a more humane economic system; others warn that the pandemic heralds a darker future of techno-totalitarian state surveillance.

The dated cliches from the pages of 1984 are no longer a reliable guide to what is to come. And today’s capitalism is stronger – and weirder – than its critics imagine. Not only do its numerous problems present new avenues for profit-making, they also boost its legitimacy – since the only salvation will be dispensed by the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk. The worse its crises, the stronger its defences: this is definitely not how capitalism ends.

However, the critics of capitalism are right to see Covid-19 as a vindication of their warnings. It has revealed the bankruptcy of neoliberal dogmas of privatisation and

— source theguardian.com | Evgeny Morozov | 15 Apr 2020

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New German ID Cards

“It was a really creepy feeling,” says data protection activist Leena Simon, describing the moment when she last visited the citizens’ service center at her local town hall and they wanted to take her fingerprints.

She was instructed to press the index fingers of both hands on the glass surface of a scanner. The idea was that the resulting fingerprints would be included in her new passport. However, she used a trick that she’s not willing to share to spoil the scan. Leena is a member of a German organization called Digitalcourage, which is committed to privacy and digital rights.

So, did it work? Leena says she can’t be sure. But what she does know: “For the rest of the day, I felt awful.” She says it is “invasive” when the state forces law-abiding citizens to allow their fingerprints to be taken. After all, she says, it’s a tool ordinarily used by the police in criminal investigations: “I don’t understand why I should have

— source dw.com | Nina Werkhäuser, Esther Felden | 03.07.2021

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Techno-Feudalism Is Taking Over

This is how capitalism ends: not with a revolutionary bang, but with an evolutionary whimper. Just as it displaced feudalism gradually, surreptitiously, until one day the bulk of human relations were market-based and feudalism was swept away, so capitalism today is being toppled by a new economic mode: techno-feudalism.

This is a large claim that comes on the heels of many premature forecasts of capitalism’s demise, especially from the left. But this time it may well be true
The clues have been visible for a while. Bond and share prices, which should be moving in sharply opposite directions, have been skyrocketing in unison, occasionally falling but always in lockstep. Similarly, the cost of capital (the return demanded to own a security) should be falling with volatility; instead, it has been rising as future returns become more uncertain.

Perhaps the clearest sign that something serious is afoot appeared on August 12 last year. On that day, we learned that, in the first seven months of 2020, the United Kingdom’s national income had tanked by over 20%, well above even the direst predictions. A few minutes later, the London Stock Exchange jumped by more than 2%. Nothing comparable had ever occurred. Finance had become fully decoupled from the real economy.

But do these unprecedented developments really mean that we no longer live under capitalism? After all, capitalism has undergone fundamental transformations before. Should we not

— source yanisvaroufakis.eu | Yanis Varoufakis | 05/07/2021

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Ethical Problems With Modern Cars Containing Proprietary Software That Drivers Cannot Remove/Replace

THE folks lurking in our IRC channels have likely seen this recurring theme; cars and the things that nowadays go into new cars concern us. It’s not limited to what insurance companies are doing; drivers aren’t the sole targets of surveillance and remote control, either. Passengers in cars too are affected.

There are several dimensions to this problem, or several separable aspects. Spying in cars is a big and largely unexplored issue; but it’s not the only one. Many of today’s cars can be remotely controlled; if not by design, then by cracking, which in turn replaces the software that runs inside a car. The schemes by which this is done are kept under the veil of “national security” (see for example Vault 7 and Vault 8, especially the codenames/operations that relate to software in cars).

The digitalisation rather than mechanisation (in the physical sense) of car components and their controllers — including windows, brakes, blinkers etc. — should be a cause for concern if it’s all proprietary software. A few years ago, following the wave of trucks running over crowds in terror attacks, suggestions were made for remote controls (or

— source techrights.org | Roy Schestowitz | 07.03.21

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Farmers Deserve the Right to Repair Their Tractors

Thanks in large part to the introduction of machinery like tractors and combines, farms today are far more efficient and productive than they were a handful of generations ago. Though these time- and labor-saving technologies can run tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, farmers often aren’t able to fix their machinery themselves – which has significant implications for their finances, privacy, and security.

A few decades ago, any given farmer often had the skills and tools needed to quickly make repairs if their machinery broke down. These days, however, it’s not so straightforward. Most modern farm equipment is technologically advanced, containing computers and sensors that collect and transmit data. As a result, specific software tools are typically necessary to address mechanical failures and other issues.

However, most companies refuse to make those tools available to farmers, making it exceptionally difficult to fix broken machinery on their own. They can’t even go an independent mechanic, since manufacturers won’t sell them parts or diagnostic tools either. This leaves farmers essentially no choice but to take their broken equipment to a licensed dealership.

This isn’t cheap. A farmer might spend thousands of dollars on a simple adjustment they could have done themselves with the appropriate resources. On the other hand, this arrangement has proven wildly lucrative for manufacturers; for Deere, as an example, parts and repairs are up to six times more profitable than selling the equipment itself.

But money isn’t the only problem – it’s also a matter of time. Oftentimes on a farm, tasks like planting and harvesting have to be done within a window of just

— source nationalfarmersunion | Hannah Packman | May 24, 2021

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