The twentieth century was the bankruptcy of the social utopia; the twenty-first will be that of the technological one.” - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Technology and its impact on our everyday life is something that we wrote about several times in the past and is above all visible to anyone: think back of your life 5 years ago and see how much has changed. Do this exercise until your earliest memories and appreciate the significant changes of your every tasks and thinking. You might be old enough to have had black and white television, remember a handful of phone numbers, know how to read a (physical) map, and look outside the window while waiting for or onboard public transportation.

Our lives are increasingly digitized and part of it is driven by large companies and influential tech CEOs. The heroes of the day are young entrepreneurs who created businesses out of their computer and now brace billions of dollars. While they are to be praised for their efforts and courage, they actually represent a threat to a large part of society.

They are infused with an idyllic vision of the world where computers, technologies and the cyberspace are perceived as a potential alternative to traditional forms of governments and thus by extension of social organization. But they are also insulated from the rest of the world, living in the most expensive cities of the world and exclusive locations. While they keep repeating that their aim is to help the world, they are apparently unable (or unwilling) to see how much physical and moral destruction their creation have brought to the world.

All parts of the economy have been affected by the rise of these technocrats, who have been repeatedly found guilty of evading taxes, destroying jobs, and having poor work conditions (from Apple workers in China to Amazon’s warehouses in North America and Europe). The hardest hit segment of society have been told to ‘re-train’, a tall order given the speed of change and the difficulties of learning a new trade at an advanced age or without financial support.

Their power is tremendous but like so many of us, they have given up on a vision for the future and prefer to rely on the system’s ability to ‘self stabilize’. This is a mirage that will cost us dearly as the tech world is building a powerful infrastructure that is not supervised or accountable. If we do not restrict the ability of these companies to collect data and monitor us, they will eventually cross the thin line between legal and moral, just like the financial world has been doing.

Great power comes with great responsibilities. This is definitely not something that we can read from the actions of some of the world’s most powerful companies.

Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real – “Over dinner, they talked about all the bogus findings in their field. It started as a game: What’s the most ridiculous paper you’ve ever read? But pretty soon, their conversation turned to deeper questions: How could such silliness make its way to print? And, more importantly, why were so many clever, well-trained researchers turning out illegitimate results?

Notes From an Emergency: Tech Feudalism – “But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven’t been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people’s lives. The tech industry enjoys tearing down flawed institutions, but refuses to put work into mending them. Their runaway apparatus of surveillance and manipulation earns them a fortune while damaging everything it touches. And all they can think about is the cool toys they’ll get to spend the profits on.

Jailed for a Facebook post: how US police target critics with arrest and prosecution – “Sometimes when police allege threats, it seems they lack any evidence of danger and are simply pursuing charges because they were offended by the comments: “They use that as a basis to prosecute someone either they don’t agree with or don’t like … It can have a huge chilling effect on people’s expression online.”

Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever – “But it’s conspicuous that our media landscape is now a perfect Ailes-ian dystopia, cleaved into camps of captive audiences geeked up on terror and disgust. The more scared and hate-filled we are, the more advertising dollars come pouring in, on both sides.

A predictable nuclear accident at Hanford – “In a perverse way, radioactive contamination has gone from a shameful secret to be concealed to an asset to be milked. The cleanup campaign is becoming like the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, America’s longest war. It takes place on the periphery of American public vision; it greatly enriches contractors; and there is always light at the end of the tunnel, but the only way we get near the light is when the tunnel collapses.

China Blinks! – “The slowdown was already controlled so this is not “China blinking” so much as it is China easing off the brake a little. Given the extent to which yields have run ahead it is not surprising at all.

Picture of the day: Robots (Defined)

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi