January 20, 2019

Welcome to the Creepy Tech Dystopia

“We may remember 2018 as the year when technology’s dystopian potential became clear, from Facebook’s role enabling the harvesting of our personal data for election interference to a seemingly unending series of revelations about the dark side of Silicon Valley’s connect-everything ethos.

The list is long: High-tech tools for immigration crackdowns. Fears of smartphone addiction. YouTube algorithms that steer youths into extremism. An experiment in gene-edited babies .

Doorbells and concert venues that can pinpoint individual faces and alert police. Repurposing genealogy websites to hunt for crime suspects based on a relative’s DNA. Automated systems that keep tabs of workers’ movements and habits. Electric cars in Shanghai transmitting their every movement to the government.

It’s been enough to exhaust even the most imaginative sci-fi visionaries.

“It doesn’t so much feel like we’re living in the future now, as that we’re living in a retro-future,” novelist William Gibson wrote this month on Twitter. “A dark, goofy ’90s retro-future.”

More awaits us in 2019, as surveillance and data-collection efforts ramp up and artificial intelligence systems start sounding more human, reading facial expressions and generating fake video images so realistic that it will be harder to detect malicious distortions of the truth.

But there are also counter-measures afoot in Congress and state government – and even among tech-firm employees who are more active about ensuring their work is put to positive ends.”

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JJ Editor's Picks

"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."

"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."

"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"

"Two new documentaries take on Billy McFarland and his disastrous music festival... the secret villain of this story all along: the subtle menace of social media marketing."

"Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up. "It's definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.""

"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "

"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."

"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."

"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."

"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."

"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."

"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"