Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #851 Technocratic Fascism and Post-Reaganoid Political Dementia: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by 12/19/2014. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more) con­tains FTR #850.  (The pre­vi­ous flash dri­ve was cur­rent through the end of May of 2012 and con­tained FTR #748.)

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Peter Thiel

Alex Karp

Intro­duc­tion: In this pro­gram we revis­it the com­plex intel­li­gence oper­a­tion that might be termed “L’Af­faire Snow­den.” A “psy-op” that is an exten­sion of anoth­er intel gambit–the Wik­iLeaks imbroglio–the Snow­den op is mul­ti-lay­ered and touch­es many bases. We will present a “bare bones” out­line at the end of this dis­cus­sion. This broad­cast sets forth one of the fun­da­men­tal dynam­ics of the Snowden/WikiLeaks affair–technocratic fas­cism.

In addi­tion, we will high­light an ide­o­log­i­cal trend loom­ing large in the devel­op­ment of the Snow­den op, and a dom­i­nant con­sid­er­a­tion in con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic affairs. Ronald Rea­gan opined that “gov­ern­ment is not the solu­tion to your prob­lems, gov­ern­ment IS the prob­lem.” This point of view, proven to be fun­da­men­tal­ly mis­tak­en in the wake of the 2008 finan­cial col­lapse brought on by dereg­u­la­tion, has dom­i­nat­ed the Amer­i­can and glob­al polit­i­cal land­scapes in recent years.

To make a long sto­ry short, the view has been that cor­po­ra­tions are good and gov­ern­ment is bad. Among the loud­est com­plain­ers in the wake of the Snow­den “dis­clo­sures” was “Big Tech”–the major tech­nol­o­gy firms. Fear­ing bad pub­lic­i­ty and loss of rev­enue, they piled on NSA and the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, opin­ing, as Face­book’s Mark Zucker­berg put it: “The gov­ern­ment blew it.”

Inher­ent in the expres­sions of out­rage by Big Tech is what we term “post-Reaganoid polit­i­cal dementia”–corporations are good, the gov­ern­ment is bad. In this pro­gram, we will exam­ine the bru­tal real­i­ty of the lais­sez-faire eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy embraced by Big Tech and some of the links between these self-pro­claimed “bear­ers of enlight­en­ment” and The Under­ground Reich.

Inex­tri­ca­bly linked with Big Tech’s lais­sez-faire eco­nom­ics is a form of “tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism.” A bril­liant arti­cle by David Golum­bia (researched for us by con­tribut­ing edi­tor “Pter­rafractyl”) dis­tills and pin­points a fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tic of the polit­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal land­scape shared by Edward Snow­den and Julian Assange, as well as Big Tech.

Golum­bia encap­su­lates this dynam­ic:  “Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant cor­po­rate-dig­i­tal leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (right­ly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrong­ly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-cre­ator] Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows direct­ly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties. Where the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neo­con Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t. . . .

Prince Bern­hard

The pro­gram begins with an excel­lent sto­ry by Mark Ames about Sil­i­con Val­ley par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Bilder­berg con­fer­ence. Found­ed by for­mer Nazi spy and SS offi­cer Prince Bern­hard of the Nether­lands, the group is “cor­po­ratist” and has strong links to the Under­ground Reich, as we saw in FTR #810.

Note that, in addi­tion to three Google exec­u­tives, the ros­ter includes Peter Thiel (Ron Paul’s top cam­paign con­trib­u­tor when he was enjoy­ing the sup­port of Edward Snow­den) and Alex Karp. Sean Park­er, the devel­op­er of Nap­ster, is also a Bilder­berg par­tic­i­pant and a big sup­port­er of Rand Paul.

Note, also, that Snow­den’s first attor­ney and the attor­ney for the Snow­den fam­i­ly is Bruce Fein, the top legal coun­sel to Ron Paul’s 2012 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, as dis­cussed in FTR #756. As dis­cussed in that same pro­gram, Julian Assange is a big fan of that same crowd.

Sup­ple­ment­ing the back­ground infor­ma­tion on the Bilder­berg group pre­sent­ed in FTR #810, some­thing of the over­all polit­i­cal nature of the orga­ni­za­tion can be gleaned from a pas­sage in Peter Lev­en­da’s “pre­quel” to The Hitler Lega­cyRat­line.

Dis­cussing Nazis who took advan­tage of a Mid­dle East­ern branch of the “Rat­line” escape net­works, Peter high­lights Paul Lev­erkuhn, a Nazi spy with vig­or­ous post­war espi­onage par­tic­i­pa­tion in the post­war peri­od. Lev­erkuhn was pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union at the first of the Bilder­berg con­fer­ences.

Far from the “Think Dif­fer­ent” cre­do super­fi­cial­ly espoused by Apple, Big Tech is fund­ing Ted Cruz and oth­er paleo con­ser­v­a­tives who want to abol­ish the IRS, don’t believe in cli­mate change and–as might be expected–same sex mar­riage.

Illus­trat­ing the back­ward-look­ing ethics of Big Tech, we look at their endorse­ment of low wages and even child labor, all under the rubric of lais­sez-faire, free-mar­ket ide­ol­o­gy. Bear in mind that Mus­soli­ni termed his fas­cist sys­tem “cor­po­ratism.”

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • Big Tech con­sul­tant Kevin Mur­phy’s warn­ing to min­i­mum-wage work­ers not to advo­cate on behalf of a min­i­mum wage lest they be replaced by an “app.Mur­phy is also advo­cat­ing that wages for teenagers should be low­ered, to make it eas­i­er for cor­po­ra­tions to hire them.
  • Big Tech’s con­spir­a­cy to hold down engi­neers’ salaries, con­ceived of by the icon­ic Steve “No-Jobs” of Apple.
  • We have not­ed that the finan­cial backer of Glenn Green­wald’s recent jour­nal­is­tic under­tak­ings is EBay’s Pierre Omid­yar, anoth­er “free-mar­ket,” lais­sez-faire ide­o­logue who helped bankroll the Ukraine coup, as well as Hindu/Nationalist fas­cist Naren­dra Mod­i’s ascent in India. Omid­yar pro­tege Modi is now mov­ing to weak­en Indi­a’s child labor laws. Kevin Mur­phy would be proud.

1. There is good rea­son for the pub­lic not to trust “Big Tech.” Mark Ames gives us an excel­lent sto­ry about Sil­i­con Val­ley par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Bilder­berg con­fer­ence. Found­ed by for­mer Nazi spy and SS offi­cer Prince Bern­hard of the Nether­lands, the group is “cor­po­ratist” and has strong links to the Under­ground Reich, as we saw in FTR #810.

Note that, in addi­tion to three Google exec­u­tives, the ros­ter includes Peter Thiel (Ron Paul’s top cam­paign con­trib­u­tor when he was enjoy­ing the sup­port of Edward Snow­den) and Alex Karp. Sean Park­er, the devel­op­er of Nap­ster, is also a Bilder­berg par­tic­i­pant and a big sup­port­er of Rand Paul.

Note, also, that Snow­den’s first attor­ney and the attor­ney for the Snow­den fam­i­ly is Bruce Fein, the top legal coun­sel to Ron Paul’s 2012 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, as dis­cussed in FTR #756. As dis­cussed in that same pro­gram, Julian Assange is a big fan of that same crowd.

Sup­ple­ment­ing the back­ground infor­ma­tion on the Bilder­berg group pre­sent­ed in FTR #810, some­thing of the over­all polit­i­cal nature of the orga­ni­za­tion can be gleaned from a pas­sage in Peter Lev­en­da’s “pre­quel” to The Hitler Lega­cyRat­line.

Dis­cussing Nazis who took advan­tage of a Mid­dle East­ern branch of the “Rat­line” escape net­works, Peter high­lights Paul Lev­erkuhn, a Nazi spy with vig­or­ous post­war espi­onage par­tic­i­pa­tion in the post­war peri­od. Lev­erkuhn was pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union at the first of the Bilder­berg con­fer­ences.

Illus­trat­ing the back­ward-look­ing ethics of Big Tech, we look at their endorse­ment of low wages and even child labor, all under the rubric of lais­sez-faire, free-mar­ket ide­ol­o­gy. Bear in mind that Mus­soli­ni termed his fas­cist sys­tem “cor­po­ratism.”

“Sil­i­con Val­ley and the Ingestible Bilder­berg ID Chips” by Mark Ames; Pan­do Dai­ly; 6/12/2015.

 Peter Thiel (Bilder­berg mem­ber) gave Ron Paul 2.5 mil­lion! Red Flag any­one?

DailyPaul.com, June 11, 2012

If some­one says “Bilder­berg Group” with a straight face, most respectable folks reach for their can­is­ter of Bear Mace spray—only to check them­selves because odds are, if some­one is talk­ing “Bilder­berg” they’re prob­a­bly pack­ing some­thing far more lethal than pep­per fog.

And yet—our para­noid reac­tions to para­noiacs’ obses­sions with Bilder­berg are so unnec­es­sary. There is, of course, a real Bilder­berg Group—it’s not like Bilder­berg is some delu­sional fan­tasy, like the chu­pacabra or amazon.com prof­its. Bilder­berg is basi­cally like a Davos or Jack­son Hole—only a bit whiter, crusti­er, and evil-er. But the idea is essen­tially the same: An annu­al pow-wow bring­ing togeth­er a cross-sec­tion of west­ern pow­er-elites from bank­ing, pol­i­tics, defense, ener­gy, and indus­try.

What made Bilder­berg an obses­sion with the Bircher/Ron Paul crowd was the key role David Rock­e­feller played over the years in hand­ing out Bilder­berg invi­ta­tions. Which is an irra­tional hatred even by irra­tional hate stan­dards, giv­en the fact that David Rock­e­feller was trained in eco­nom­ics by the Yoda of the Bircher/libertarian crowd, Friedrich von Hayek—but then again, peo­ple have hat­ed for far dumb­er rea­sons.

This week, the Bilder­berg Group is gath­er­ing in Aus­tria for their annu­al bull ses­sion, and in the benev­o­lent spir­it of trans­parency (or to rub it in our unin­vited faces), they’ve released their “final list of par­tic­i­pants.” The expect­ed vil­lains’ names are there: Hen­ry Kissinger, David Petraeus, Robert Rubin, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg, Richard “Prince of Dark­ness” Per­le. . . . But for our pur­poses at Pan­do, it’s the select few Bilder­berg­ers from Sil­i­con Val­ley whose names cry out for our atten­tion.

A scan through the list of Bilder­berg­ers over the years shows that Sil­i­con Val­ley has only recent­ly estab­lished a clique with­in the clique. This year’s list fea­tures three Google par­tic­i­pants: Eric Schmidt; Demis Has­s­abis, the AI whiz behind Google Deep­Mind; and Regi­na Dugan, the for­mer head of DARPA turned Google exec­u­tive . . . .

. . . .More seri­ous and sig­nif­i­cant here is the fact that Google is so well-rep­re­sent­ed, with three par­tic­i­pants. Three names from one com­pany is a rar­ity, some­thing you might’ve seen in the past from a Gold­man Sachs or Lazard—but not Sil­i­con Val­ley. It shows not just Big Tech’s con­tin­ued takeover of old­er estab­lished insti­tu­tions of pow­er, but specif­i­cally, Google’s—and it tracks with Google’s new role as the biggest lob­by­ist spender in Wash­ing­ton.

Next to Google’s three par­tic­i­pants, there’s Palan­tir with two big names on the Bilder­berg list: Peter Thiel [Dis­clo­sure: A Pan­do investor via Founders Fund], and Alex Karp. . . . Peter Thiel, as we’ve report­ed, was the main fun­der of Ron Paul’s 2012 pres­i­den­tial Super­PAC; Thiel has also been a rain­maker for Rand Paul’s cam­paign financ­ing efforts, and Thiel has donat­ed lav­ishly to a num­ber of lib­er­tar­ian out­fits, includ­ing Stu­dents For Lib­erty, which hon­ored both Thiel and Edward Snow­den (and Snow­den hon­ored SFL in kind). Thiel and Palan­tir also set up the Seast­eading Insti­tute, which co-orga­nized a lib­er­tar­ian cruise a few years ago with the lib­er­tar­ian Rea­son mag­a­zine.

And yet, even as Thiel serves on the Bilder­berg Group’s elite steer­ing com­mit­tee, Ron Paul, who took mil­lions from Thiel, believes that Thiel’s friends con­trol the world:

“They prob­a­bly get togeth­er and talk about how they’re going to con­trol the bank­ing sys­tems of the world and nat­ural resources.”

There’s more: Napster/Facebook bil­lion­aire Sean Park­er — who co-spon­sored Rand Paul’s recent “Dis­rupt Democ­racy” shindig in SOMA and “invest­ed heav­ily in Rand Paul’s polit­i­cal oper­a­tion” accord­ing to Politi­co— is list­ed as a Bilder­berg “par­tic­i­pant” at the group’s 2010 meet­ing in Spain.

Anoth­er Face­book bil­lion­aire, New Repub­lic pub­lisher Chris Hugh­es, went Bilder­berg in 2011.

But of all the Face­book bilder­bergillion­aires, Peter Thiel has been at it the longest—a “par­tic­i­pant” every year since at least 2007. That’s one year longer than Eric Schmidt, who got his Bilder­berg on in 2008. While Palan­tir CEO and co-founder Alex Karp is a rel­a­tive new­bie, Bilder­berg­er­ing since 2012.

...

Anoth­er sur­prise is the unusu­ally low Bill Gates Fac­tor. Microsoft long ago proud­ly staked its claim to Big Tech Cor­po­rate Evil—and yet Gates’ name only shows up on the Bilder­berg list once, in 2010. Instead, his spurned Microsoft suc­ces­sor, Craig Mundie, makes reg­u­lar Bilder­berg appear­ances going back to at least 2006.

Who else? Jeff Bezos made an appear­ance in 2013, along with that gold­en retriev­er of Big Tech opti­mism, Lar­ry Lessig. Going back fur­ther, before Thiel and Schmidt tech­nofied the Bilder­berg Group, one of the few stand­out Sil­i­con Val­ley names who par­tic­i­pated was Esther Dyson, for­mer chair of the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, whose name appears on the Bilder­berg list in 2007 and 2000.

...

 2. Sup­ple­ment­ing the back­ground infor­ma­tion on the Bilder­berg group pre­sent­ed in FTR #810, some­thing of the over­all polit­i­cal nature of the orga­ni­za­tion can be gleaned from a pas­sage in Peter Lev­en­da’s “pre­quel” to The Hitler Lega­cy, Rat­line.

Dis­cussing Nazis who took advan­tage of a Mid­dle East­ern branch of the “Rat­line” escape net­works, Peter high­lights Paul Lev­erkuhn:

Rat­line: Sovi­et Spies, Nazi Priests and the Dis­ap­pear­ance of Adolf Hitler by Peter Lev­en­da; Ibis Press [HC]; Copy­right 2012 by Peter Lev­en­da; ISBN 978–0‑89254–170‑6; pp. 160–161.

. . . . Paul Lev­erkuhn (1893–1960)–a life­long diplo­mat, spy, and banker, Lev­erkuhn was also a devot­ed Nazi who joined the Par­ty before the war began and who held var­i­ous impor­tant posts in Ger­many dur­ing both World Wars. He had an exten­sive back­ground run­ning Abwehr oper­a­tions in Turkey, and accord­ing to the CIA report ref­er­enced above he also ran a spy net­work after the war “based on Lebanon and extend­ing into the Mid­dle East.” Lev­erkuhn for the ben­e­fit of those with a con­spir­a­to­r­i­al frame of mind, was also in atten­dance at the very first Bilder­berg­er meet­ing in 1954, as pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union [!–D.E.]. It should be point­ed out that this meet­ing took place four years before the CIA report was writ­ten claim­ing that Lev­erkuhn was run­ning agents in the Mid­dle East. . . .

3. David Holmes reminds us that any cor­po­ra­tion or enti­ty that’s chastis­ing or boy­cotting the state of Indi­ana over its new pro-big­otry laws should prob­a­bly avoid things like donat­ing to Ted Cruz too:

“Beyond Thiel: Google, Microsoft, and the Oth­er Big Tech Firms Fund­ing Ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Ted Cruz” by David Holmes; Pan­do Dai­ly; 3/31/2015.

Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz (R‑TX) is a grown man who wants to abol­ish the IRS. He also thinks birth con­trol “induces abor­tions”and plays to his party’s ugli­est impuls­es when it comes to same-sex mar­riagecli­mate change, and coun­tries where lots of Mus­lims live.

Last Mon­day, the Tea Party’s prize pig became the first can­di­date to for­mally announce a bid for the 2016 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. And among the think-pieces and works of sheer dem­a­goguery that flowed through the Internet’s back­bone all week, one head­line in par­tic­u­lar caught our tech-dam­aged eye: Breitbart’s “The Sil­i­con Val­ley Lib­er­tar­i­ans Putting Seri­ous Mon­ey Behind Ted Cruz.”

The syn­ergy between Sil­i­con Val­ley and the Tea Par­ty is fre­quently trum­peted by blog­gers and talk­ing heads on the Far Right. But this sup­posed align­ment is far from per­fect. The nar­ra­tive that the GOP will find in techie lib­er­tar­i­ans its sav­ing grace obscures a cou­ple key real­i­ties about Sil­i­con Valley’s polit­i­cal DNA. The first is that, despite the pre­pon­der­ance of high-pro­file tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­ans like Peter Thiel, Uber CEO Travis Kalan­ick, and eBay chair­man Pierre Omid­yar, the mon­ey fun­neled into pol­i­tics from Sil­i­con Val­ley firms’ polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees is fair­ly bal­anced between Demo­c­ra­tic and Repub­li­can can­di­dates. Dur­ing the 2012 Pres­i­den­tial race in par­tic­u­lar the tech set came out over­whelm­ingly in favor of Barack Oba­ma.

But the sec­ond real­ity this nar­ra­tive ignores is that it’s not just the out­spo­ken fringe lib­er­tar­i­ans like Thiel that give to Tea Par­ty can­di­dates. Some of the biggest and most main­stream firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley like Microsoft and Google, despite also sup­port­ing tra­di­tional lib­eral caus­es, have aligned them­selves with lib­er­tar­ian anti-tax inter­ests — and these same inter­ests often rep­re­sent some of the ugli­est sides of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

While Bre­it­bart is known to engage in the same fact-chal­lenged Repub­li­can agit­prop made famous by Fox News and Nixon, the cen­tral argu­ment of its arti­cle is true: Pay­pal cofounder, ear­ly Face­book investor, and the Valley’s most vocal and vis­i­ble lib­er­tar­ian gad­fly Peter Thiel has indeed giv­en giv­en $2 mil­lionto a Super PAC run by the con­ser­v­a­tive anti-tax group Club For Growth, which in turn was Ted Cruz’s biggest sin­gle donor dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign, giv­ing $705,657. Club for Growth was also the sin­gle biggest con­trib­u­torto the suc­cess­ful Sen­a­to­r­ial cam­paign of Tom Cot­ton, the dar­lingest of Tea Par­ty dar­lings who made his name writ­ing a bor­der­line uncon­sti­tu­tionallet­ter under­min­ing Obama’s nego­ti­a­tions with Iran.

(There’s no unjar­ring time to dis­close that Thiel is also a minor investor in Pan­do, through Founders Fund, so let’s do it here.)

Beyond Thiel, how­ever, Bre­it­bart only iden­ti­fied one oth­er Sil­i­con Val­ley lib­er­tar­ian, ex-Face­book employ­ee Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya — who left no ques­tion about his lib­er­tar­ian bonafides dur­ing an episode of This Week in Star­tups— as a major Cruz donor, writ­ing the Texas Sen­a­tor a check for $5,000.

What the piece failed to men­tion was that it’s not just lib­er­tar­i­ans like Thiel who con­tributed to Cruz’s cam­paign, but also the polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees or PACs belong­ing to some of Sil­i­con Valley’s most promi­nent firms.

For instance, Microsoft’s PAC gave $10,000to Cruz dur­ing the 2012 elec­toral cycle, Google’s PAC gave $10,000, and Facebook’s PAC gave $3,500. Oth­er top lob­by­ing spenders in tech, like Com­cast and Intel, gave Cruz $7,500and $2,000, respec­tively.

And that’s only the begin­ning when it comes to big tech com­pa­nies con­tribut­ing to can­di­dates that oppose same-sex mar­riage or engage in cli­mate change denial — in fact, it’s dif­fi­cult to con­tribute to any Repub­li­can can­di­date with­out that politi­cian also tak­ing up these stances, which run counter to the ideals of inclu­siv­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity that clas­sic Sil­i­con Val­ley firms pro­mote.

Grant­ed, those check amounts are minus­cule rel­a­tive to the annu­al rev­enues and mar­ket caps of these com­pa­nies. And they con­sti­tute mere frac­tions of the mil­lionscom­pa­nies like Google spend each year on lob­by­ing, which is spread out across caus­es and can­di­dates from all over the polit­i­cal spec­trum. Nor is it true that Repub­li­can can­di­dates are the only recip­i­ents of tech mon­ey with prob­lem­atic plat­forms or records. Big tech also put its mus­cle behind the failed Con­gres­sional cam­paign of Demo­c­rat Ro Khan­na, about whom Pando’s Yasha Levine found lit­tle to love.

But it’s huge­ly hyp­o­crit­i­cal to see Sil­i­con Val­ley unite in out­rage over Indiana’s anti-gay rights lawthen turn around and donate to can­di­dates who vot­ed in favor of a Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ban­ning same-sex mar­riage. It’s equal­ly hyp­o­crit­i­cal to watch one tech giant after anoth­er aban­don the con­tro­ver­sial ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive think tank ALECover cli­mate change denial, while also con­tribut­ing to some of Con­gress’ most noto­ri­ous deniers. And yes, the dol­lar amounts of the dona­tions are small. But if tech firms ceased fund­ing these can­di­dates with the same fer­vor they’ve adopt­ed in con­demn­ing Indiana’s new law, it could com­pel some GOP politi­cians to break with their par­ty on increas­ingly unten­able and extrem­ist stances. For bet­ter or worse, mon­ey talks.

As was the case with Big Tech’s long-time ties with ALEC — ties which, for most firms, were only recent­ly sev­ered— align­ing one­self with a can­di­date like Cruz means align­ing with notions that on occa­sion tran­scend mere polit­i­cal dis­agree­ment into the realm of irra­tional­ity and hate-speech. Cruz is no friend to gay rights, and his anti-sci­ence bent infects a num­ber of his posi­tions, from repro­duc­tive rightsto cli­mate change.

...

4. Again, “Big Tech” is NOT benev­o­lent. Exem­pli­fy­ing this dynam­ic is a bill­board that was post­ed in San Fran­cis­co, warn­ing min­i­mum-wage work­ers not to work for a high­er wage.

“New San Fran­cis­co Bill­board Warns Work­ers They’ll Be Replaced by iPads if They Demand a Fair Wage” by Paul Carr; Pan­do Dai­ly; 7/17/2014.

Walk­ing home from Pando’s office a few nights ago, I noticed this giant new bill­board…

. . . . Its mes­sage — that min­i­mum wage increas­es will lead to ser­vice work­ers being replaced by apps — is con­tin­ued on an accom­pa­ny­ing web­site — BadIdea­CA — which claims to be “hold­ing activists account­able for min­i­mum wage con­se­quences.”

So who the hell pays for bill­boards threat­en­ing wait­staff with redun­dan­cy if they demand a liv­ing wage? A bit of dig­ging and click­ing reveals that the cam­paign is backed by Employ­ment Poli­cies Insti­tute, the con­ser­v­a­tive lob­by­ing group which reg­u­lar­ly cam­paigns on behalf of the restau­rant indus­try.

Fol­low­ers of Pando’s Tech­to­pus cov­er­age might remem­ber the Insti­tute for one of its key advis­ers, Kevin Mur­phy, aka “the man Sil­i­con Valley’s CEOs turn to when they want to jus­ti­fy screw­ing work­ers“. As Mark Ames explained back in Feb­ru­ary…

[W]hen the heads of com­pa­nies like Apple, Adobe, Google, Intel, Intu­it, Microsoft and oth­ers, are called upon to explain why it’s okay to screw over employees—or their consumers—they know exact­ly who to call…

…Mur­phy has a long his­to­ry of try­ing to con­vince courts that work­ers are not being screwed and that dom­i­nant monop­oly cor­po­ra­tions are good cit­i­zens, despite evi­dence to the con­trary.

It’s some­how gross­ly fit­ting that a group which argues for screw­ing ser­vice staff — and which is advised by a guy who tells com­pa­nies like Apple that it’s ok to screw their work­ers — is now post­ing ads in San Fran­cis­co say­ing that ser­vice staff deserve to be replaced by iPads if they demand a fair wage.

 5. The fel­low who craft­ed the bill­board dis­cussed above favors low­er­ing the min­i­mum wage to make it eas­i­er for com­pa­nies to employ teens.

“Meet the Ass­hole Behind San Francisco’s Most Ass­holeish Bill­board” by Paul Carr; Pan­do Dai­ly; 7/21/2014.

Well, a few hours ago, the guy behind the ass­holeish bill­board, cre­at­ed by the ass­holeish lob­by group, that employs an ass­hole to encour­age oth­ers to be even greater ass­holes, final­ly respond­ed to the mount­ing crit­i­cism of his ass­holeish cam­paign. And guess what?

He was an ass­hole about it!

Quite how us hav­ing writ­ten about the ass­holeish­ness of his bill­board is tes­ta­ment to its accu­ra­cy is unclear, as is at what point “giant and obnox­ious” became a syn­onym for “cre­ative.” But Mr Saltsman’s ass­holeish response rais­es a more impor­tant ques­tion…

Who exact­ly is this ass­hole?

Well, as well as being a thor­ough­ly cre­ative ass­hole, Michael Salts­man is the research direc­tor at Employ­ment Stud­ies Insti­tute, the group that paid for the bill­board in San Fran­cis­co, and also this one in LA…

. . . . (Also unclear: why Miley Cyrus would be “twerked off” at a pro­posed min­i­mum wage hike, giv­en she earned a report­ed $76.5m last year. Even at the pro­posed new rate, a San Fran­cis­co restau­rant work­er would have to wait tables non-stop for more than 580 years to match her annu­al income.)

For some rea­son, though, Salts­man doesn’t men­tion his employ­er on his Twit­ter bio. Instead he describes him­self sim­ply as a “Researcher, Com­mu­ni­ca­tor, Defend­er of the Min­i­mum Wage.” Where by “defend­er” he pre­sum­ably means “ass­hole who spends mil­lions of dol­lars try­ing to destroy it on behalf of mas­sive cor­po­ra­tions.”

But Salts­man doesn’t just lim­it his ass­holeish­ness to bill­boards and Twit­ter bios.

Here, for exam­ple, him being an ass­hole in the Wall Street Jour­nal, blam­ing democ­rats for want­i­ng to pay ser­vice staff so much that soon every­one will be replaced by robots. Restau­rant chains have no choice!

Cus­tomers may find the new tech­nol­o­gy con­ve­nient, but the thou­sands of young adults who used to earn mon­ey fill­ing these roles won’t. The data sug­gest employ­ers are act­ing from eco­nom­ic neces­si­ty rather than spite.

And here’s him in anoth­er WSJ guest col­umn, being an ass­hole in response to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma point­ing out that Cost­co is huge­ly prof­itable while still pay­ing min­i­mum wage..

Not all busi­ness­es can afford the cost of Mr. Obama’s good inten­tions… Cost­co charges its cus­tomers as much as $110 a year for the priv­i­lege of shop­ping at the store. That’s a $2 bil­lion-per-year lux­u­ry no gro­cer or restau­rant enjoys.

And here he is again, billed as a “con­tribut­ing writer” in the Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter, ass­hole­splain­ing about how a “high­er min­i­mum wage doesn’t cut pover­ty.”

The New York Post appears to have giv­en him carte ass­hole to attack the min­i­mum wage, while the Huff­in­g­ton Post has an assholy trin­i­ty of Salts­man columns includ­ing…

◦  The Min­i­mum Wage: A 75th Anniver­sary That’s Not Worth Cel­e­brat­ing

◦  To Help the Poor, Move Beyond ‘Min­i­mum’ Ges­tures

◦  A Train­ing Wage Might Get Teens Off the Couch

With that last one, Salts­man might just have reached peak ass­hole. “Here’s an out­side-the-box pro­pos­al to get our young peo­ple back in the work­place,” says Salts­man, who like­ly earns more in a year than most min­i­mum wage work­ers do in a decade.  “Let’s make teens less expen­sive for employ­ers to hire. Let’s low­er their min­i­mum wage.”

Yes, let’s! You fuck­ing ass­hole.

6. It isn’t just min­i­mum wage work­ers who feel the impact of Sil­i­con Val­ley cor­po­ratism. Sil­i­con Val­ley engi­neers have also been bent beneath the lash.

“The Tech­to­pus: How Sil­i­con Valley’s Most Cel­e­brat­ed CEOs Con­spired to Dri­ve Down 100,000 Tech Engi­neers’ Wages” by Mark Ames; Pan­do Dai­ly; 1/23/2014.

In ear­ly 2005, as demand for Sil­i­con Val­ley engi­neers began boom­ing, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and ille­gal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to arti­fi­cial­ly push their work­ers wages low­er by agree­ing not to recruit each other’s employ­ees, shar­ing wage scale infor­ma­tion, and pun­ish­ing vio­la­tors. On Feb­ru­ary 27, 2005, Bill Camp­bell, a mem­ber of Apple’s board of direc­tors and senior advi­sor to Google, emailed Jobs to con­firm that Eric Schmidt “got direct­ly involved and firm­ly stopped all efforts to recruit any­one from Apple.”

Lat­er that year, Schmidt instruct­ed his Sr VP for Busi­ness Oper­a­tion Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share infor­ma­tion “ver­bal­ly, since I don’t want to cre­ate a paper trail over which we can be sued lat­er?”

These secret con­ver­sa­tions and agree­ments between some of the biggest names in Sil­i­con Val­ley were first exposed in a Depart­ment of Jus­tice antitrust inves­ti­ga­tion launched by the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion in 2010. That DOJ suit became the basis of a class action law­suit filed on behalf of over 100,000 tech employ­ees whose wages were arti­fi­cial­ly low­ered — an esti­mat­ed $9 bil­lion effec­tive­ly stolen by the high-fly­ing com­pa­nies from their work­ers to pad com­pa­ny earn­ings — in the sec­ond half of the 2000s. Last week, the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals denied attempts by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the law­suit tossed, and gave final approval for the class action suit to go for­ward. A jury tri­al date has been set for May 27 in San Jose, before US Dis­trict Court judge Lucy Koh, who presided over the Sam­sung-Apple patent suit.

In a relat­ed but sep­a­rate inves­ti­ga­tion and ongo­ing suit, eBay and its for­mer CEO Meg Whit­man, now CEO of HP, are being sued by both the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the state of Cal­i­for­nia for arrang­ing a sim­i­lar, secret wage-theft agree­ment with Intu­it (and pos­si­bly Google as well) dur­ing the same peri­od.

The secret wage-theft agree­ments between Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intu­it, and Pixar (now owned by Dis­ney) are described in court papers obtained by Pan­do­Dai­ly as “an over­ar­ch­ing con­spir­a­cy” in vio­la­tion of the Sher­man Antitrust Act and the Clay­ton Antitrust Act, and at times it reads like some­thing lift­ed straight out of the rob­ber baron era that pro­duced those laws. Today’s inequal­i­ty cri­sis is America’s worst on record since sta­tis­tics were first record­ed a hun­dred years ago — the only com­par­i­son would be to the era of the rail­road tycoons in the late 19th cen­tu­ry.

Short­ly after seal­ing the pact with Google, Jobs strong-armed Adobe into join­ing after he com­plained to CEO Bruce Chizen that Adobe was recruit­ing Apple’s employ­ees. Chizen sheep­ish­ly respond­ed that he thought only a small class of employ­ees were off-lim­its:

I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior lev­el employ­ees…. I would pro­pose we keep it that way. Open to dis­cuss. It would be good to agree.

Jobs respond­ed by threat­en­ing war:

OK, I’ll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employ­ee who is not a Sr. Direc­tor or VP. Am I under­stand­ing your posi­tion cor­rect­ly?

Adobe’s Chizen imme­di­ate­ly backed down:

I’d rather agree NOT to active­ly solic­it any employ­ee from either company…..If you are in agree­ment, I will let my folks know.

The next day, Chizen let his folks — Adobe’s VP of Human Resources — know that “we are not to solic­it ANY Apple employ­ees, and visa ver­sa.” Chizen was wor­ried that if he didn’t agree, Jobs would make Adobe pay:

if I tell Steve [Jobs] it’s open sea­son (oth­er than senior man­agers), he will delib­er­ate­ly poach Adobe just to prove a point. Know­ing Steve, he will go after some of our top Mac talent…and he will do it in a way in which they will be enticed to come (extra­or­di­nary pack­ages and Steve woo­ing).

Indeed Jobs even threat­ened war against Google ear­ly 2005 before their “gentlemen’s agree­ment,” telling Sergey Brin to back off recruit­ing Apple’s Safari team:

if you [Brin] hire a sin­gle one of these peo­ple that means war.

Brin imme­di­ate­ly advised Google’s Exec­u­tive Man­age­ment Team to halt all recruit­ing of Apple employ­ees until an agree­ment was dis­cussed.

In the geopol­i­tics of Sil­i­con Val­ley tech pow­er, Adobe was no match for a cor­po­rate super­pow­er like Apple. Inequal­i­ty of the sort we’re expe­ri­enc­ing today affects every­one in ways we haven’t even thought of — whether it’s Jobs bul­ly­ing slight­ly less­er exec­u­tives into join­ing an ille­gal wage-theft pact, or the tens of thou­sands of work­ers whose wages were arti­fi­cial­ly low­ered, trans­ferred into high­er cor­po­rate earn­ings, and high­er com­pen­sa­tions for those already rich­est and most pow­er­ful to begin with. . . .

7. In FTR #795, we not­ed that Naren­dra Modi was polit­i­cal­ly evolved from the Hin­du nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alum­nus” of that polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment mur­dered Gand­hi.)

In addi­tion, we have seen that Mod­i’s elec­tion was heav­i­ly but­tressed by Ebay’s Pierre Omid­yar, who has under­writ­ten Glenn Green­wald’s recent jour­nal­is­tic ven­tures and par­tial­ly bankrolled the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to pow­er.

Modi is imple­ment­ing the lais­sez-faire agen­da favored by Omid­yar, a cyn­i­cal “cor­po­ratist” agen­da that is poised to restore child labor in India.

The lais­sez-faire/­cor­po­ratist agen­da cham­pi­oned by Omid­yar and Modi is at one with the “aus­ter­i­ty” doc­trine pro­mul­gat­ed by the GOP, Ger­many, the IMF and the Under­ground Reich.

“Get to work, kids! And be sure to bring your wages home to your [unem­ployed] mom and dad.”

“The Modi Gov­ern­ment Is Send­ing Mil­lions of Kids Back into Exploita­tive Labour” by Rashme Seh­gal; Quartz; 5/4/2015.

An amend­ment to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act pro­posed by the Naren­dra Modi-led gov­ern­ment is about to undo years of hard-won progress in the area of child labour—and con­demn mil­lions of kids to exploita­tive employ­ment.

The amend­ment will allow chil­dren below the age of 14 to work in “fam­ily enter­prises”—a euphemism for indus­tries such as car­pet-weav­ing, bee­di–rolling, gem-pol­ish­ing, lock-mak­ing and match­box-mak­ing. The new norms will also apply to the enter­tain­ment indus­try and sports.

The amend­ment flies in the face of the Right to Edu­ca­tion Act (RTE), 2009, which guar­an­tees edu­ca­tion to every child. After the RTE came in, child labour dropped from 12.6 mil­lion in 2001 to 4.3 mil­lion in 2014. The amend­ment will undo much of that progress. It will also be a seri­ous set­back to all the work done by activists, such as Swa­mi Agnivesh and Nobel lau­re­ate Kailash Sat­yarthi, to res­cue chil­dren from bond­ed labour and exploita­tion.

Mirza­pur-based Shamshad Khan, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tre for Rur­al Edu­ca­tion and Devel­op­ment Action, calls the move “ret­ro­gres­sive.”

“All our cam­paigns to end bond­ed child labour, start­ing from the eight­ies, will go up in smoke,” Khan said. “Schools will be emp­tied out, and poor chil­dren in states like Bihar, Jhark­hand and Uttar Pradesh will be back to work­ing in sheds and makeshift fac­to­ries that will all go by the nomen­cla­ture of ‘fam­ily enter­prises.’ The worst-hit will be the chil­dren of Dal­its, Mus­lims, trib­al fam­i­lies and those belong­ing to mar­gin­alised com­mu­ni­ties.”

The amend­ment can also be used to deny edu­ca­tion to the girl child, who will be sucked into all forms of house­work. Accord­ing to gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics, male lit­er­acy lev­els in 2014 stood at about 82%, while female lit­er­acy lev­els were as low as 64%. The school drop-out rate for girls is almost dou­ble the rate for boys.

An uncon­sti­tu­tional change

Ban­daru Dat­ta­treya, India’s min­is­ter of labour and employ­ment, announced in ear­ly April that the gov­ern­ment planned to intro­duce amend­ments to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act in the cur­rent ses­sion of Par­lia­ment.

His min­istry, while seek­ing the amend­ments, said the Act will not apply to chil­dren help­ing fam­i­lies in home-based work, and espe­cially fam­i­lies work­ing in agri­cul­ture and ani­mal-rear­ing. The objec­tive of these amend­ments, accord­ing to min­istry offi­cials, is to help chil­dren nur­ture a spir­it of entre­pre­neur­ship. They will par­tic­u­larly help chil­dren of fam­i­lies cur­rently liv­ing at sub­sis­tence lev­els, the min­istry claims.

Child rights activists say the move will ben­e­fit fac­tory own­ers in India’s cow belt. Their prof­its will esca­late four­fold as chil­dren could be made to work longer hours and paid less than adults.

...

Enakshi Gan­guly Thukral of HAQ Cen­tre for Child Rights believes this is an attempt by the Modi gov­ern­ment to ensure a size­able chunk of the pop­u­la­tion remains in the infor­mal sec­tor, deprived of min­i­mum wages and social secu­ri­ty.

“The gov­ern­ment is not in a posi­tion to pro­vide jobs for mil­lions of young peo­ple,” said Thukral. “Such a ret­ro­grade step will help ensure mil­lions of kids remain illit­er­ate and, there­fore, unem­ploy­able.”

Bad old days again

Major cut­backs in the 2015 bud­get in the areas of health, women and chil­dren, and edu­ca­tion will fur­ther com­pound this prob­lem. Thukral said labour offi­cials are already guilty of under-report­ing child labour. “But once child labour is per­mit­ted under one guise or the oth­er, then even a min­i­mum [lev­el] of account­abil­ity will cease to exist,” she said.

Labour offi­cials at the dis­trict lev­el are empow­ered to file cas­es against employ­ers hir­ing chil­dren but few employ­ers are ever con­victed. Sta­tis­tics from the labour min­istry for 2004–2014 show that there have been 1,168 con­vic­tions for chil­dren employed in haz­ardous indus­tries with about Rs83 lakh col­lected in fines. This mon­ey has been des­ig­nated for the reha­bil­i­ta­tion and wel­fare of child labour. How­ever, in this peri­od, only Rs5 lakh was dis­bursed from this fund.

Khan recalls the peri­od before the RTE Act, when dalals (touts) open­ly knocked on the doors of rich seths (mer­chants or busi­ness­men) to sell traf­ficked chil­dren.

“In the eight­ies, kids were being paid a dai­ly wage of as lit­tle as Rs4 per day,” he said. “We kept up pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, insist­ing that all out-of-school kids be cat­e­gorised as child labour. This open traf­fick­ing of kids declined sharply with the RTE Act. If the BJP (Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty) suc­ceeds in intro­duc­ing such a dan­ger­ous amend­ment, we will be back to those old days.” . . . .

8. “Pter­rafractyl” has pre­sent­ed us with a very impor­tant piece about tech­noc­ra­cy and the devel­op­ment of the Tor net­work. Of far greater impor­tance than the devel­o­ment of the net­work itself is the view­point expressed by what, for lack of a bet­ter term, might be called tech­no­crat­ic fas­cists. We present “Pter­ra’s” com­ments before excerpt­ing and pre­sent­ing the bulk of the arti­cle. David Golum­bia recent­ly wrote a fab­u­lous piece about the tech­no­cratic nature of the ideals behind the Tor Project and the vari­ety of fun­da­men­tally unde­mo­c­ra­tic, polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal assump­tions that are used to jus­tify its devel­op­ment, includ­ing the invo­ca­tion of nat­ural law argu­ments by Tor’s lead devel­oper, Roger Din­gle­dine. Giv­en Edward Snowden’s pro­mo­tion of Libertarian/Cypherpunk ideals as a glob­al pro-human right­s/pro-democ­ra­cy ral­ly­ing cry, and the inevitable growth of tech­no­cratic temp­ta­tions as tech­no­log­i­cal advances con­tinue, it’s crit­i­cal read­ing.

What might be described as the the­sis state­ment of this very impor­tant piece reads: “Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant cor­po­rate-dig­i­tal leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (right­ly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrong­ly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-cre­ator] Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows direct­ly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­tiesWhere the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neo­con Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t. . . .

Obvi­ous­ly, they are not con­cerned with demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal ideals in any size, shape, form or man­ner. The under­ly­ing despair inher­ent in such views reminds us of Oswald Spen­gler’s Decline of the West–a text that was fun­da­men­tal to the devel­op­ment of fas­cist ide­ol­o­gy. (We dis­cuss the Spen­gler text is our inter­views with Kevin Coogan.) The Spen­gler text was a major influ­ence on Fran­cis Park­er Yock­ey, among oth­ers.

“Tor, Tech­noc­racy, Democ­ra­cy” by David Golum­bia; Uncomputing.org; 4/23/2015.

As impor­tant as the tech­ni­cal issues regard­ing Tor are, at least as important—probably more important—is the polit­i­cal world­view that Tor pro­motes (as do oth­er projects like it). While it is use­ful and rel­e­vant to talk about for­ma­tions that cap­ture large parts of the Tor com­mu­nity, like “geek cul­ture” and “cypher­punks” and lib­er­tar­i­an­ism and anar­chism, one of the most salient polit­i­cal frames in which to see Tor is also one that is almost uni­ver­sally applic­a­ble across these com­mu­ni­ties: Tor is tech­no­cratic. Tech­noc­racy is a term used by polit­i­cal sci­en­tists and tech­nol­ogy schol­ars to describe the view that polit­i­cal prob­lems have tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions, and that those tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions con­sti­tute a kind of pol­i­tics that tran­scends what are wrong­ly char­ac­ter­ized as “tra­di­tional” left-right pol­i­tics.

In a ter­rific recent arti­cle describ­ing tech­noc­racy and its preva­lence in con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal cul­ture, the philoso­phers of tech­nol­ogy Evan Selinger and Jathan Sad­owski write:

Unlike force wield­ing, iron-fist­ed dic­ta­tors, tech­nocrats derive their author­ity from a seem­ingly soft­er form of pow­er: sci­en­tific and engi­neer­ing pres­tige. No mat­ter where tech­nocrats are found, they attempt to legit­imize their hold over oth­ers by offer­ing inno­v­a­tive pro­pos­als untaint­ed by trou­bling sub­jec­tive bias­es and inter­ests. Through rhetor­i­cal appeals to opti­miza­tion and objec­tiv­ity, tech­nocrats depict their favored approach­es to social con­trol as prag­matic alter­na­tives to gross­ly inef­fi­cient polit­i­cal mech­a­nisms. Indeed, tech­nocrats reg­u­larly con­ceive of their inter­ven­tions in duty-bound terms, as a respon­si­bil­ity to help cit­i­zens and soci­ety over­come vast polit­i­cal fric­tions.

Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant cor­po­rate-dig­i­tal leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans, Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (right­ly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrong­ly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands.

While these sug­ges­tions typ­i­cally frame them­selves in terms of the words we use to describe core polit­i­cal values—most often, val­ues asso­ci­ated with democracy—they actu­ally offer very lit­tle dis­cus­sion ade­quate to the rich tra­di­tions of polit­i­cal thought that artic­u­lated those val­ues to begin with. That is, tech­no­cratic pow­er under­stands tech­nol­ogy as an area of pre­cise exper­tise, in which one must demon­strate a sig­nif­i­cant lev­el of knowl­edge and skill as a pre­req­ui­site even to con­tribut­ing to the project at all. Yet tech­nocrats typ­i­cally tol­er­ate no such char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of law or pol­i­tics: these are triv­ial mat­ters not even up for debate, and in so far as they are up for debate, they are mat­ters for which the same tech­ni­cal skills qual­ify par­tic­i­pants. This is why it is no sur­prise that amount the 30 or 40 indi­vid­u­als list­ed by the project as “Core Tor Peo­ple,”the vast major­ity are devel­op­ers or tech­nol­ogy researchers, and those few for whom pol­i­tics is even part of their ambit, approach it almost exclu­sively as tech­nol­o­gists. The actu­al legal spe­cial­ists, no more than a hand­ful, tend to be ded­i­cated advo­cates for the par­tic­u­lar view of soci­ety Tor prop­a­gates. In oth­er words, there is very lit­tle room in Tor for dis­cus­sion of its pol­i­tics, for whether the project actu­ally does embody wide­ly-shared polit­i­cal val­ues: this is tak­en as giv­en.

This would be fine if Tor real­ly were “pure­ly” technological—although just what a “pure­ly” tech­no­log­i­cal project might be is by no means clear in our world—but Tor is, by anyone’s account, deeply polit­i­cal, so much so that the devel­op­ers them­selves must turn to polit­i­cal prin­ci­ples to explain why the project exists at all. Con­sider, for exam­ple, the Tor Project blog postwrit­ten by lead devel­oper Roger Din­gle­dine that describes the “pos­si­ble upcom­ing attempts to dis­able the Tor net­work” dis­cussed by Yasha Levine and Paul Carron Pan­do. Din­gle­dine writes:

The Tor net­work pro­vides a safe haven from sur­veil­lance, cen­sor­ship, and com­puter net­work exploita­tion for mil­lions of peo­ple who live in repres­sive regimes, includ­ing human rights activists in coun­tries such as Iran, Syr­ia, and Rus­sia.

And fur­ther:

Attempts to dis­able the Tor net­work would inter­fere with all of these users, not just ones dis­liked by the attack­er.

Why would that be bad? Because “every per­son has the right to pri­vacy. This right is a foun­da­tion of a demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety.”

This appears to be an extreme­ly clear state­ment. It is not a tech­no­log­i­cal argu­ment: it is a polit­i­cal argu­ment. It was gen­er­ated by Din­gle­dine of his own voli­tion; it is meant to be a—possibly the—basic argu­ment that that jus­ti­fies Tor. Tor is con­nected to a fun­da­men­tal human right, the “right to pri­vacy” which is a “foun­da­tion” of a “demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety.” Din­gle­dine is cer­tainly right that we should not do things that threat­en such demo­c­ra­tic foun­da­tions. At the same time, Din­gle­dine seems not to rec­og­nize that terms like “repres­sive regime” are inher­ently and deeply polit­i­cal, and that “sur­veil­lance” and “cen­sor­ship” and “exploita­tion” name polit­i­cal activ­i­ties whose def­i­n­i­tions vary accord­ing to legal regime and even polit­i­cal point of view. Clear­ly, many users of Tor con­sider any obser­va­tion by any gov­ern­ment, for any rea­son, to be “exploita­tion” by a “repres­sive regime,” which is con­sis­tent for the many mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who pro­fess a vari­ety of anar­chism or anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ism, but not for those with oth­er polit­i­cal views, such as those who think that there are cir­cum­stances under which laws need to be enforced.

Espe­cially con­cern­ing about this argu­ment is that it mis­char­ac­ter­izes the nature of the legal guar­an­tees of human rights. In a democ­racy, it is not actu­ally up to indi­vid­u­als on their own to decide how and where human rights should be enforced or pro­tected, and then to cre­ate autonomous zones where­in those rights are pro­tected in the terms they see fit. Instead, in a democ­racy, cit­i­zens work togeth­er to have laws and reg­u­la­tions enact­ed that real­ize their inter­pre­ta­tion of rights. Agi­tat­ing for a “right to pri­vacy” amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion would be appro­pri­ate polit­i­cal action for pri­vacy in a democ­racy. Even cer­tain forms of (lim­ited) civ­il dis­obe­di­ence are an impor­tant part of democ­racy. But cre­at­ing a tool that you claim pro­tects pri­vacy accord­ing to your own def­i­n­i­tion of the term, overt­ly resist­ing any attempt to dis­cuss what it means to say that it “pro­tects pri­vacy,” and then insist­ing every­one use it and nobody, espe­cially those lack­ing the cod­ing skills to be insid­ers, com­plain about it because of its con­nec­tion to fun­da­men­tal rights, is pro­foundly anti­de­mo­c­ra­tic. Like all tech­no­cratic claims, it chal­lenges what actu­ally is a fun­da­men­tal pre­cept of democ­racy that few across the polit­i­cal spec­trum would chal­lenge: that open dis­cus­sion of every issue affect­ing us is required in order for polit­i­cal pow­er to be prop­erly admin­is­tered.

It doesn’t take much to show that Dingledine’s state­ment about the polit­i­cal foun­da­tions of Tor can’t bear the weight he places on it. I com­mented on the Tor Project blog, point­ing out that he is using “right to pri­vacy” in a dif­fer­ent way from what that term means out­side of the con­text of Tor: “the ‘right to pri­vacy’ does not mean what you assert it means here, at all, even in those juris­dic­tions that (unlike the US) have that right enshrined in law or con­sti­tu­tion.” Din­gle­dine respond­ed:

Live in the world you want to live in. (Think of it as a corol­lary to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.)

We’re not talk­ing about any par­tic­u­lar legal regime here. We’re talk­ing about basic human rights that humans world­wide have, regard­less of par­tic­u­lar laws or inter­pre­ta­tions of laws.

I guess oth­er peo­ple can say that it isn’t true — that pri­vacy isn’t a uni­ver­sal human right — but we’re going to keep say­ing that it is.

This is tech­no­cratic two-step­ping of a very typ­i­cal sort and deeply wor­ry­ing sort. First, Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows direct­ly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties. Where the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rightsof 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role.

We don’t have to look very hard to see the prob­lems with that. Many in the US would assert that the right to bear arms means that indi­vid­u­als can own guns (or even more pow­er­ful weapons). More than a few con­strue this as a human or even a nat­ural right. Many would say “the citizen’s right to bear arms is a foun­da­tion of a demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety.” Yet many would not. Anoth­er democ­racy, the UK, does not allow cit­i­zens to bear arms. Tor, notably, is the home of many hid­den ser­vices that sell weapons. Is it for the Tor devel­op­ers to decide what is and what is not a fun­da­men­tal human right, and how states should rec­og­nize them, and to dis­trib­ute weapons in the UK despite its explic­it, demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-enact­ed, legal pro­hi­bi­tion of them? (At this point, it is only the exis­tence of legal ser­vices beyond Tor’s con­trol that make this dif­fi­cult, but that has lit­tle to do with Tor’s oper­a­tion: if it were up to Tor, the UK legal pro­hi­bi­tion on weapons would be over­writ­ten by tech­no­cratic fiat.)

We should note as well that once we ven­ture into the ter­rain of nat­ural rights and nat­ural law, we are deep in the thick of pol­i­tics. It sim­ply is not the case that all polit­i­cal thinkers, let alone all cit­i­zens, are going to agree about the ori­gin of rights, and even few­er would agree that nat­ural rights lead to a nat­ural law that tran­scends the pow­er of pop­u­lar sov­er­eignty to pro­tect. Dingledine’s appeal to nat­ural law is not polit­i­cally neu­tral: it takes a side in a cen­tral, ages-old debate about the ori­gin of rights, the nature of the bod­ies that guar­an­tee them.

That’s fine, except when we remem­ber that we are asked to endorse Tor pre­cisely because it instances a pol­i­tics so fun­da­men­tal that every­one, or vir­tu­ally every­one, would agree with it. Oth­er­wise, Tor is a polit­i­cal ani­mal, and the pub­lic should accede to its devel­op­ment no more than it does to any oth­er pro­posed inno­va­tion or law: it must be sub­ject to exact­ly the same tests every­thing else isYet this is exact­ly what Tor claims it is above, in many dif­fer­ent ways.

Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neo­con Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t.

Tor, like all oth­er tech­no­cratic solu­tions (or solu­tion­ist tech­nolo­gies) is pro­foundly polit­i­cal. Rather than claim­ing it is above them, it should invite vig­or­ous polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion of its func­tions and pur­pose (as at least the Tor Project’s out­go­ing Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Andrew Lew­man, has recent­ly stat­ed, though there have yet to be many signs that the Tor com­mu­nity, let alone the core group of “Tor Peo­ple,” agrees with this). Rather than a staff com­posed entire­ly of tech­nol­o­gists, any project with the poten­tial to inter­cede so direct­ly in so many vital areas of human con­duct should be staffed by at least as many with polit­i­cal and legal exper­tise as it is by tech­nol­o­gists. It should be able to artic­u­late its ben­e­fits and draw­backs ful­ly in the oper­a­tional polit­i­cal lan­guage of the coun­tries in which it oper­ates. It should be able to acknowl­edge that an actu­al foun­da­tion of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties is the need to make accom­mo­da­tions and com­pro­mises between peo­ple whose polit­i­cal con­vic­tions will dif­fer. It needs to make clear that it is a polit­i­cal project, and that like all polit­i­cal projects, it exists sub­ject to the will of the cit­i­zenry, to whom it reports, and which can decide whether or not the project should con­tinue. Oth­er­wise, it dis­par­ages the very demo­c­ra­tic ground on which many of its pro­mot­ers claim to oper­ate....

9. We con­clude by pre­sent­ing some of the salient points of the intel­li­gence oper­a­tion under­tak­en by Snowden/WikiLeaks et al:
  • One goal of the oper­a­tion is the desta­bi­liza­tion of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, both its for­eign pol­i­cy and elec­toral appeal.
  • The Snow­den op helped to frus­trate Oba­ma’s attempt­ed dia­logue with Chi­na and Rus­sia, dri­ving the final nail into the cof­fin of Oba­ma’s “reboot” with Rus­sia.
  • The op result­ed in the alien­ation of many young vot­ers from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, result­ing in the low­est vot­er turnout since the end of the Sec­ond World War in the 2014 elec­tions that gave the GOP con­trol of both hous­es of Con­gress.
  • The “op” was designed to desta­bi­lize the NSA and GCHQ.
  • Anoth­er goal of the oper­a­tion was to gain Ger­many’s inclu­sion in the Five Eyes spy­ing pro­gram. Ger­many being “shocked, shocked” at the Snow­den “dis­clo­sures” is ludi­crous, since most of the infor­ma­tion has been on the pub­lic record for years and BND has part­nered with NSA on the pro­gram for a long time.
  • The “op” was intend­ed to attack and dimin­ish the very Big Tech firms that were sup­port­ive of Snow­den.
  • All of the par­tic­i­pants and asso­ciates of the par­tic­i­pants in this oper­a­tion track to the far-right, includ­ing and espe­cial­ly Snow­den him­self.
  • The “op” is an Under­ground Reich project, with the BND being the whip hand. We also feel that an Under­ground Reich ele­ment of the CIA was involved as well. The cur­rent loca­tions of the prin­ci­pals are sig­nif­i­cant: Glenn Green­wald is in Brazil, a prime locale for the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion; Assange is in the Ecuado­ri­an embassy in Lon­don; Snow­den is in Rus­sia; all the rest of the prin­ci­pals are in Germany–Jacob Apple­baum of Wik­iLeaks (who appears to have been instru­men­tal in get­ting Snow­den from Hawaii to Hong Kong, Sarah Har­ri­son of Wik­iLeaks, who facil­i­tat­ed Snow­den’s flight from Hong Kong to Rus­sia; Lau­ra Poitras, who was instru­men­tal in the “leak­ing” of the Snow­den mate­r­i­al and in the Cit­i­zen Four doc­u­men­tary; Peter Sunde, the Siemens employ­ee who cre­at­ed the Pirate Bay site that host­ed Wik­iLeaks. WHY are they in Ger­many, when Ger­many is part­nered with NSA and does the same kind of elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance? If they are REALLY con­cerned with pri­va­cy, civ­il lib­er­ties etc., Ger­many is the last place they would be. For­eign cit­i­zens have NO pri­va­cy rights in Ger­many.
  • Anoth­er suc­cess­ful goal of the Snow­den op was to destroy Oba­ma’s re-boot of rela­tions with Rus­sia and begin Cold War II, which has been done. Note that EBay king­pin Pierre Omid­yar helped to fund the Ukraine coup, as well as under­writ­ing Glenn Green­wald’s jour­nal­is­tic ven­tures.

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR #851 Technocratic Fascism and Post-Reaganoid Political Dementia: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook”

  1. Jeff Mar­tin cre­at­ed the “Think Dif­fer­ent” cam­paign for Apple in the mid-late 1990’s after Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. Jeff was regard­ed as a lit­er­al ‘wun­derkind’ and head­ed Apple’s mar­ket­ing before cre­at­ing Trib­al­Brands in 2001.

    ——-

    http://www.ssec.si.edu/about/our_board

    Jeff Mar­tin
    Founder and CEO
    TRIBAL
    San Mateo, CA

    Jeff Mar­tin Through the mar­ket­ing and devel­op­ment of ground­break­ing tech­nolo­gies, Jeff Mar­tin has spent his career apply­ing inno­va­tion to mul­ti­me­dia prod­uct design. Mar­tin con­tin­ues to build new mobile com­merce chan­nels by chang­ing the way con­sumers engage with the enter­tain­ment, sports, and phil­an­thropic indus­tries.

    Ref­er­enced by the San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle as Steve Jobs’ “mar­ket­ing whiz,” Mar­tin spent ten years as a senior exec­u­tive at Apple, six of which he was head of music, enter­tain­ment, and mar­ket­ing. Mar­tin was instru­men­tal in the strat­e­gy, design, and launch of the iMac, iPod, and Dig­i­tal Lifestyle prod­ucts such as iMovie, iTunes, and what is now iLife.

    In 2001, Mar­tin found­ed Trib­al Brands, the first com­pa­ny to dri­ve more than one bil­lion dol­lars in mobile-based sales for the enter­tain­ment indus­try through 17 glob­al car­ri­er alliances. Mar­tin and his team have since grown the busi­ness beyond mobile enter­tain­ment to include mCom­merce solu­tions for a vari­ety of con­sumer brands includ­ing Apple, Black­Ber­ry, Chrysler Fiat, Eliz­a­beth Arden, Harley-David­son, The World Bank, and Ver­i­zon.

    In 2008 Mar­tin launched Trib­al Tech­nolo­gies, which cre­at­ed the first intel­li­gent data­base behind mobile appli­ca­tions that pre­dicts con­sumer behav­ior and inter­ac­tion, pow­ers unique mCom­merce chan­nels, and pro­vides incen­tive pro­grams for cus­tomers. This exten­sive mobile ana­lyt­ics plat­form cap­tures action­able, psy­cho­graph­ic data high­light­ing user tastes and pref­er­ences col­lect­ed through mobile devices.

    Renowned vision­ary and found­ing mem­ber of the Ver­i­zon board of devel­op­ers, Mar­tin serves as a vot­ing mem­ber of The Nation­al Record­ing Acad­e­my of Arts & Sci­ences / GRAMMY Awards, and was appoint­ed by the Under-Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed Nations to the UNFPA Glob­al Advi­so­ry Board for Inno­va­tion.

    Fea­tured on NBC Night­ly News and Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, Mar­tin is the founder of mPow­er­ing, a 501(c)(3) non­prof­it, trans­form­ing the way phil­an­thropic caus­es col­lab­o­rate and uti­lize mobile tech­nol­o­gy to fight glob­al pover­ty. mPow­er­ing is chang­ing cen­tu­ry-old behav­ior by build­ing mobile rewards sys­tems that pro­vide instant, pos­i­tive rein­force­ment for going to school, par­tic­i­pat­ing in pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine, and dri­ving vil­lage com­merce.

    Mar­tin is a co-investor and board mem­ber of Plex, a lead­ing Inter­net TV solu­tion and open media plat­form embed­ded in LG NetCast™-enabled HDTVs and a fea­tured app for Google TV. Mar­tin was addi­tion­al­ly an advi­sor and co-investor in Video­Surf, and helped cre­ate the world’s first mobile video search solu­tion – pur­chased by Xbox Live in Novem­ber 2011.

    Mar­tin is a for­mer inter­na­tion­al con­sul­tant for dig­i­tal imag­ing tech­nolo­gies at the Graph­ic Arts Tech­ni­cal Foun­da­tion (GATF), through which he taught at Carnegie Mel­lon University’s Grad­u­ate School of Indus­tri­al Admin­is­tra­tion (GSIA). Mar­tin has also taught at the Haas’ Exec­u­tive Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.

    —-

    http://www.tribaltech.com/index.php/site/leadership

    Jeff Mar­tin, Co-Founder and CEO

    Through the mar­ket­ing and devel­op­ment of ground­break­ing tech­nolo­gies, Jeff Mar­tin has spent his career apply­ing inno­va­tion to mul­ti­me­dia prod­uct design. Mar­tin con­tin­ues to build new mobile com­merce chan­nels by chang­ing the way con­sumers engage with­in the enter­tain­ment, sports, and phil­an­thropic indus­tries.

    A for­mer Apple senior exec­u­tive, Mar­tin spent ten years at the com­pa­ny, six of which he ran Apple’s Glob­al Enter­tain­ment and Mul­ti­me­dia Divi­sion, report­ing direct­ly to Steve Jobs.

    In 2001, Mar­tin found­ed Trib­al Brands, the first com­pa­ny to dri­ve more than one bil­lion dol­lars in mobile-based sales for the enter­tain­ment indus­try through 17 glob­al car­ri­er alliances. Mar­tin and his team have since grown the busi­ness beyond mobile enter­tain­ment to include mCom­merce solu­tions for a vari­ety of con­sumer brands includ­ing Ver­i­zon, Harley-David­son, Apple, Black­Ber­ry, Eliz­a­beth Arden, Chrysler Fiat, and The World Bank.

    In 2008, Mar­tin launched Trib­al Tech­nolo­gies, which cre­at­ed the first intel­li­gent data­base behind mobile appli­ca­tions to pre­dict con­sumer behav­iors and inter­ac­tions, to pow­er unique mCom­merce chan­nels and incen­tive pro­grams for cus­tomers. This exten­sive mobile ana­lyt­ics plat­form pro­vides action­able, psy­cho­graph­ic data high­light­ing user tastes and pref­er­ences cap­tured through the mobile phone. Mar­tin formed Trib­al Tech­nolo­gies as a chan­nel for the tele­com, auto­mo­tive, retail, sports, and enter­tain­ment indus­tries to reach and inter­act with con­sumers using mobile devices.

    Posted by participo | June 22, 2015, 9:50 pm
  2. Remem­ber kids: if it’s decen­tral­ized, it’s ok. That seems to be the new rule. And you’re in luck because decen­tral­ized cen­sor­ship-free online forums are on the way! Not only can no gov­ern­ment cen­sor them but no enti­ty at all can cen­sor them ever. Unless that enti­ty some­how man­ages to take down bit­coin:

    Busi­ness Insid­er Aus­tralia
    The next Red­dit could be based on bit­coin and impos­si­ble to cen­sor
    Rob Price 7/7/2015 1:22 AM

    What’s next for Red­dit? After the abrupt dis­missal of a pop­u­lar staff mem­ber saw its vol­un­teer mod­er­a­tors take hun­dreds of the site’s most pop­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties offline in protest, some users have spec­u­lat­ed that this is the begin­ning of the end for the com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven news site.

    But there’s anoth­er, far more rad­i­cal vision for Red­dit (or a site just like it): A decen­tralised, bit­coin-pow­ered com­mu­ni­ty that is impos­si­ble to shut down, impos­si­ble to cen­sor.

    It’s the free speech advocate’s dream — and it’s not as unre­al­is­tic as you might think.

    Sim­i­lar projects are already thriv­ing, and two new blog posts pub­lished on Sun­day have made clear just how close we already are.

    Bit­coin, meet Red­dit

    First we have Fred Wil­son, a promi­nent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist at Union Square Ven­tures. Wil­son sug­gests tak­ing one of the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples of bit­coin — the blockchain — and apply­ing to Red­dit. The blockchain, if you’re unfa­mil­iar with it, is a decen­tralised ledger that stores every trans­ac­tion made on the bit­coin net­work. It means there is no need for a cen­tral bank to keep a record of who’s spend­ing what, because every­one has the record. It also means that because every­one has a copy, it is all but impos­si­ble to cen­sor.

    Apply that prin­ci­ple to Red­dit and it gives you a com­mu­ni­ty, col­lec­tive­ly pow­ered by its users, that is impos­si­ble to cen­sor. It’s the tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­an dream of effec­tive­ly lim­it­less free speech.

    Many of Reddit’s recent woes have come from the ten­sions that have risen between the site’s sup­port of free speech, and the real­i­ty of hav­ing to police a web­site for abu­sive, offen­sive, or ille­gal con­tent. (Many users were out­raged when the site banned r/FatPeopleHate, a com­mu­ni­ty ded­i­cat­ed to — you guessed it! — hat­ing fat peo­ple.)

    Wil­son sug­gests that, actu­al­ly, “it may be that there is no viable mid­dle ground between a cen­tral­ly con­trolled media plat­form and an entire­ly decen­tral­ized media plat­form. You are either going to police the site or you are going to build some­thing that can­not be policed even if you want to.”

    He goes on: “The inter­est­ing thing about an entire­ly decen­tral­ized media plat­form is that you can have clients that choose to curate, police, and cen­sor and clients that choose not to … The demand is there. The sup­ply (tech­nol­o­gy) is there. And we’ve seen a bunch of teams work­ing on this. I think one or more will get it right. And I think that will hap­pen soon.”

    This isn’t just a thought exper­i­ment

    Inter­est­ing hypo­thet­i­cal idea, right? Well, it gets a lot more excit­ing when you take into account the fact that Red­dit has pre­vi­ous­ly tried to do exact­ly this.

    A sec­ond blog post, pub­lished by for­mer Red­dit engi­neer Ryan X. Charles on Sun­day, sheds new light on inter­nal exper­i­ments at Red­dit. Charles, though no longer work­ing at the com­pa­ny, was hired as a “cryp­tocur­ren­cy engi­neer,” to help devel­op a dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy for the site.

    But, he writes, “we actu­al­ly had a secret, high­er pri­or­i­ty goal: We want­ed to decen­tralise Red­dit.”

    In a dis­cus­sion last year with then-CEO Yis­han Wong, Charles was told that the com­pa­ny “had a high-lev­el plan of decen­tral­iz­ing red­dit in the works, and they need­ed some­one to exe­cute this vision. Soon there­after, I left my job at Bit­Pay, the lead­ing bit­coin pay­ment pro­cess­ing com­pa­ny, to join red­dit, Inc. My pri­ma­ry goal at red­dit on Day 1 was to decen­tral­ize red­dit.”

    Ulti­mate­ly, the plans nev­er came to fruition. Wong part­ed ways with Red­dit, as did Charles just months lat­er after a large fund­ing round. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/fred-wilson-blockchain-reddit-openbazaar-uncensorable-2015–7But how might it have oper­at­ed? The engi­neer gives an exam­ple:

    Each user has an app, the red­dit app, which con­nects to the red­dit p2p net­work. For most users, the app is a nor­mal web app. Each user funds their own app with a small amount of bit­coin. In order to down­load con­tent, the user pays a very, very small amount of bit­coin to the peers on the net­work. This incen­tivizes peo­ple to keep the app open so as to keep ser­vic­ing the oth­er users. Fur­ther­more, when a user upvotes con­tent, that sends a small amount of bit­coin to the author of that con­tent, thus incen­tiviz­ing the pro­duc­tion of good con­tent. If all the con­tent is authen­ti­cat­ed, we can be rea­son­ably sure most pay­ments are going to the right peo­ple.

    In this sce­nario, red­dit, Inc. still exists, they just don’t have a monop­oly on the host­ing of red­dit con­tent. Instead, any­one can run the app to host the con­tent, and red­dit, Inc. is just the biggest ser­vice provider. Any user can run a busi­ness by run­ning the app full-time. Any user, includ­ing red­dit, Inc., can cen­sor con­tent they them­selves deliv­er to oth­er users, but can­not cen­sor con­tent oth­er users send to oth­er users.

    Decen­tralised net­works are far clos­er than you realise

    Bit­coin is the high­est-pro­file real­i­sa­tion of a blockchain-pow­ered app, but it’s not the only one. One of the oth­er sig­nif­i­cant exam­ples is Open­Bazaar. Orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped as a suc­ces­sor to online drug mar­ket­place Silk Road, it has evolved to become a decen­tralised mar­ket­place that lets users buy and sell lit­er­al­ly any­thing using bit­coin.

    As such, Open­Bazaar faces all the same chal­lenges that any decen­tralised media plat­form would. How do you tack­le harass­ment, or slan­der, or deceit? How do you deal with objec­tion­able con­tent? How do you per­suade peo­ple to con­tribute pro­cess­ing pow­er to the upkeep of a net­work that will, in all like­li­hood, be used to help facil­i­tate ille­gal activ­i­ty?

    In June, Open­Bazaar took $US1 mil­lion in VC fund­ing from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Sil­i­con Valley’s most high-pro­file ven­ture cap­i­tal funds, as well as Union Square Ven­tures — the same fund Wil­son is a part­ner at. At the time of the fund­ing, lead devel­op­er Bri­an Hoff­man was can­did about the fact there would inevitably be “mis­use” of Open­Bazaar by crim­i­nals, but hoped the fund­ing round would help “legit­imise devel­op­ment of the pro­to­col.”

    Hoffman’s argu­ment is that as Open­Bazaar is a pro­to­col (like Bit­Tor­rent), rather than a cen­tralised enti­ty (like the Pirate Bay), its devel­op­ers can’t be held liable for what takes place on it — the same argu­ment the cre­ators of a decen­tralised Red­dit would like­ly use to wash their hands of ille­gal con­tent.

    Per­haps unsur­pris­ing­ly, Hoff­man told Busi­ness Insid­er that he thinks Wil­son is “super on point with this analy­sis I think.”

    The devel­op­er rec­om­mends some cau­tion: “Being both a huge Twit­ter and Red­dit fan I cer­tain­ly think build­ing a decen­tral­ized media com­pa­ny is intrigu­ing but hard­er than it looks. You kind of saw the dif­fi­cul­ty with attempts like Dias­po­ra [an ear­li­er decen­tralised social net­work] that nev­er real­ly took off. Projects like Open­Bazaar and oth­ers are fever­ish­ly work­ing to unbun­dle those types of busi­ness­es to push prof­it gen­er­a­tion to the edges rather than by charg­ing a toll with ads or fees in the cen­ter.

    “The blockchain and decen­tral­ized data­bas­es enable us to do so and those offer­ings are improv­ing every day.”

    “A par­a­digm shift is hap­pen­ing”

    The out­come of the #Red­ditRe­volt, as some are call­ing it, is anyone’s guess. More than 100,000 peo­ple signed a peti­tion call­ing for CEO Ellen Pao’s removal over the week­end, while clones like Voat.co are spring­ing up and promis­ing users an “uncen­sored” Red­dit-like expe­ri­ence. But at the same time, it’s not clear how many “ordi­nary” Red­dit users — the major­i­ty of whom nev­er even reg­is­ter accounts — care about these com­pa­ny pol­i­tics.

    Whether it is ulti­mate­ly Red­dit or not, how­ev­er, it is inevitable that some­one exper­i­ments with build­ing Wilson’s idea of a decen­tralised media plat­form. After all, as Charles points out, com­pa­nies are already attempt­ing it. When that hap­pens, Open­Bazaar may pro­vide a use­ful social, busi­ness, and legal blue­print to fol­low.

    ...

    So the future of pub­lic forums like Red­dit is bit­coin-pow­ered mes­sage boards that no one con­trols and users pow­er, pre­sum­ably with micro­trans­ac­tions:

    ...
    Each user has an app, the red­dit app, which con­nects to the red­dit p2p net­work. For most users, the app is a nor­mal web app. Each user funds their own app with a small amount of bit­coin. In order to down­load con­tent, the user pays a very, very small amount of bit­coin to the peers on the net­work. This incen­tivizes peo­ple to keep the app open so as to keep ser­vic­ing the oth­er users. Fur­ther­more, when a user upvotes con­tent, that sends a small amount of bit­coin to the author of that con­tent, thus incen­tiviz­ing the pro­duc­tion of good con­tent. If all the con­tent is authen­ti­cat­ed, we can be rea­son­ably sure most pay­ments are going to the right peo­ple
    ...

    That’s the plan. And that’s some­thing fans of not just r/FatPeopleHate, but ban-wor­thy forums every­where can rejoice over. Soon, one of the most wide­ly read sites on the web will have no restric­tions what­so­ev­er to the con­tent because no one will be able to restrict it. At all. By design. And any­one else will be able to set up their own uncen­sorable forums too. And the best part is that the webs’ troll army that spe­cialzes in putting the kind of con­tent up that would have pre­vi­ous­ly got­ten them banned will not only effec­tive­ly become unbannable, but they’ll now get paid in bit­coins for their trolling endeav­ors too! Wow.

    Let’s hope this does­n’t sud­den­ly take the fun out of trolling. It’ll be like play­ing a video game a ‘God mode’...what’s the point?! LOL.

    Kid­ding...let’s hope it takes the fun out of trolling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 7, 2015, 2:55 pm
  3. The Bit­coin assas­si­na­tion mar­kets are about to get some com­pe­ti­tion. And maybe a lot of com­pe­ti­tion:

    MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review
    Bitcoin’s Dark Side Could Get Dark­er

    Investors see rich­es in a cryp­tog­ra­phy-enabled tech­nol­o­gy called smart contracts–but it could also offer much to crim­i­nals.

    By Tom Simonite on August 13, 2015

    Some of the ear­li­est adopters of the dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy Bit­coin were crim­i­nals, who have found it invalu­able in online mar­ket­places for con­tra­band and as pay­ment extort­ed through lucra­tive “ran­somware” that holds per­son­al data hostage. A new Bit­coin-inspired tech­nol­o­gy that some investors believe will be much more use­ful and pow­er­ful may be set to unlock a new wave of crim­i­nal inno­va­tion.

    That tech­nol­o­gy is known as smart contracts—small com­put­er pro­grams that can do things like exe­cute finan­cial trades or nota­rize doc­u­ments in a legal agree­ment. Intend­ed to take the place of third-par­ty human admin­is­tra­tors such as lawyers, which are required in many deals and agree­ments, they can ver­i­fy infor­ma­tion and hold or use funds using sim­i­lar cryp­tog­ra­phy to that which under­pins Bit­coin.

    Some com­pa­nies think smart con­tracts could make finan­cial mar­kets more effi­cient, or sim­pli­fy com­plex trans­ac­tions such as prop­er­ty deals (see “The Start­up Meant to Rein­vent What Bit­coin Can Do”). Ari Juels, a cryp­tog­ra­ph­er and pro­fes­sor at the Jacobs Tech­nion-Cor­nell Insti­tute at Cor­nell Tech, believes they will also be use­ful for ille­gal activity–and, with two col­lab­o­ra­tors, he has demon­strat­ed how.

    “In some ways this is the per­fect vehi­cle for crim­i­nal acts, because it’s meant to cre­ate trust in sit­u­a­tions where oth­er­wise it’s dif­fi­cult to achieve,” says Juels.

    In a paper to be released today, Juels, fel­low Cor­nell pro­fes­sor Elaine Shi, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land researcher Ahmed Kos­ba present sev­er­al exam­ples of what they call “crim­i­nal con­tracts.” They wrote them to work on the recent­ly launched smart-con­tract plat­form Ethereum.

    One exam­ple is a con­tract offer­ing a cryp­tocur­ren­cy reward for hack­ing a par­tic­u­lar web­site. Ethereum’s pro­gram­ming lan­guage makes it pos­si­ble for the con­tract to con­trol the promised funds. It will release them only to some­one who pro­vides proof of hav­ing car­ried out the job, in the form of a cryp­to­graph­i­cal­ly ver­i­fi­able string added to the defaced site.

    Con­tracts with a sim­i­lar design could be used to com­mis­sion many kinds of crime, say the researchers. Most provoca­tive­ly, they out­line a ver­sion designed to arrange the assas­si­na­tion of a pub­lic fig­ure. A per­son wish­ing to claim the boun­ty would have to send infor­ma­tion such as the time and place of the killing in advance. The con­tract would pay out after ver­i­fy­ing that those details had appeared in sev­er­al trust­ed news sources, such as news wires. A sim­i­lar approach could be used for less­er phys­i­cal crimes, such as high-pro­file van­dal­ism.

    “It was a bit of a sur­prise to me that these types of crimes in the phys­i­cal world could be enabled by a dig­i­tal sys­tem,” says Juels. He and his coau­thors say they are try­ing to pub­li­cize the poten­tial for such activ­i­ty to get tech­nol­o­gists and pol­i­cy mak­ers think­ing about how to make sure the pos­i­tives of smart con­tracts out­weigh the neg­a­tives.

    “We are opti­mistic about their ben­e­fi­cial appli­ca­tions, but crime is some­thing that is going to have to be dealt with in an effec­tive way if those ben­e­fits are to bear fruit,” says Shi.

    Nico­las Christin, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty who has stud­ied crim­i­nal uses of Bit­coin, agrees there is poten­tial for smart con­tracts to be embraced by the under­ground. “It will not be sur­pris­ing,” he says. “Fringe busi­ness­es tend to be the first adopters of new tech­nolo­gies, because they don’t have any­thing to lose.”

    ...

    Gavin Wood, chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer at Ethereum, notes that legit­i­mate busi­ness­es are already plan­ning to make use of his technology—for exam­ple, to pro­vide a dig­i­tal­ly trans­fer­able proof of own­er­ship of gold

    How­ev­er, Wood acknowl­edges it is like­ly that Ethereum will be used in ways that break the law—and even says that is part of what makes the tech­nol­o­gy inter­est­ing. Just as file shar­ing found wide­spread unau­tho­rized use and forced changes in the enter­tain­ment and tech indus­tries, illic­it activ­i­ty enabled by Ethereum could change the world, he says.

    “The poten­tial for Ethereum to alter aspects of soci­ety is of sig­nif­i­cant mag­ni­tude,” says Wood. “This is some­thing that would pro­vide a tech­ni­cal basis for all sorts of social changes and I find that excit­ing.”

    For exam­ple, Wood says that Ethereum’s soft­ware could be used to cre­ate a decen­tral­ized ver­sion of a ser­vice such as Uber, con­nect­ing peo­ple want­i­ng to go some­where with some­one will­ing to take them, and han­dling the pay­ments with­out the need for a com­pa­ny in the mid­dle. Reg­u­la­tors like those har­ry­ing Uber in many places around the world would be left with noth­ing to tar­get. “You can imple­ment any Web ser­vice with­out there being a legal enti­ty behind it,” he says. “The idea of mak­ing cer­tain things impos­si­ble to leg­is­late against is real­ly inter­est­ing.”

    “You can imple­ment any Web ser­vice with­out there being a legal enti­ty behind it...The idea of mak­ing cer­tain things impos­si­ble to leg­is­late against is real­ly inter­est­ing.”
    Yes, the acqui­si­tion of more and more pow­er and influ­ence by cyber­lib­er­tar­i­an tech­nocrats out to change the world will indeed lead to an “inter­est­ing” future.

    In relat­ed news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2015, 5:03 pm
  4. Ama­zon’s drone deliv­ery pro­gram just moved clos­er to becom­ing a real­i­ty. No, it’s not the robot­ic drone deliv­ery pro­gram. They’ll be using organ­ic drones for this. And, no, it’s not the one ot those biode­grade­able fun­gus drones. It’s the clas­sic organ­ic drone:

    AFP
    Ama­zon recruits ‘on demand’ deliv­ery work­ers in US.

    Pub­lished
    10 hours ago

    SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Ama­zon began adver­tis­ing its plan Tues­day to recruit on-demand deliv­ery work­ers, in a move that chal­lenges star­tups in the siz­zling sec­tor.

    The US online giant launched its Flex web­page seek­ing peo­ple to deliv­er Ama­zon pack­ages on a con­tract basis, say­ing it can pro­duce earn­ings of US$18 to US$25 (S$25.70 to S$35.70) an hour.

    The pro­gramme is now avail­able in Ama­zon’s home­town of Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, and “com­ing soon” to oth­er cities includ­ing New York, Bal­ti­more, Mia­mi, Dal­las, Austin, Chica­go, Indi­anapo­lis, Atlanta, and Port­land.

    “Be your own boss: deliv­er when you want, as much as you want,” the web­site says.

    Ama­zon enters a field crowd­ed with deliv­ery star­tups like Post­mates and Instacart, and sim­i­lar ser­vices from the ride-shar­ing giant Uber.

    ...

    They will be able to choose blocks of two, four or eight hours to work.

    Ama­zon’s dri­ve comes amid a grow­ing trend of on-demand employ­ment replac­ing tra­di­tion­al jobs. While offer­ing more flex­i­bil­i­ty, the work­ers gen­er­al­ly lack ben­e­fits such as unem­ploy­ment or dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance..

    The move comes with Ama­zon expand­ing its options for deliv­er­ies of gro­ceries and oth­er items in many loca­tions, with same-day deliv­ery for many items.

    “Ama­zon’s dri­ve comes amid a grow­ing trend of on-demand employ­ment replac­ing tra­di­tion­al jobs. While offer­ing more flex­i­bil­i­ty, the work­ers gen­er­al­ly lack ben­e­fits such as unem­ploy­ment or dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance.

    Note that Ama­zon’s new “Flex” couri­er ser­vice is a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the Uber mod­el in one key respect: it’s pay­ing hourly wages (and yet does­n’t con­sid­er them employ­ees), as opposed to Uber where your pay is based sole­ly on cus­tomer vol­ume. So that is indeed a poten­tial improve­ment over the “shar­ing econ­o­my” par­a­digm, as far as pro­vid­ing some degree of income secu­ri­ty for the “con­trac­tors” in this new “shar­ing econ­o­my” par­a­digm. Hope­ful­ly the $18-$25 hourly wage Ama­zon is pro­ject­ing will actu­al­ly be the drones make, but since that pay range esti­mate assumes cus­tomer tips, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that your Ama­zon deliv­ery guy’s qual­i­ty of life is now going to be heav­i­ly reliant on you tip­ping him well.

    So drone on lit­tle biodegrad­able organ­ic drones! But nev­er for­get, whether or not you’re a “con­trac­tor” get­ting an hourly wage or work­ing for what­ev­er you can make, you’re not just lit­tle biodegrad­able organ­ic drones. You’re biode­grade­able organ­ic dis­pos­able drones:

    Salon
    Robert Reich: The shar­ing econ­o­my is hurtling us back­war­rds
    The for­mer sec­re­tary of labor out­lines the increas­ing­ly dystopi­an future of Amer­i­ca’s work­force

    Robert Reich, ROBERTREICH.org
    Wednes­day, Feb 4, 2015 03:45 AM CDT

    How would you like to live in an econ­o­my where robots do every­thing that can be pre­dictably pro­grammed in advance, and almost all prof­its go to the robots’ own­ers?

    Mean­while, human beings do the work that’s unpre­dictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetch­ing and fix­ing, dri­ving and deliv­er­ing, tiny tasks need­ed at any and all hours – and patch togeth­er bare­ly enough to live on.

    Brace your­self. This is the econ­o­my we’re now bar­rel­ing toward.

    They’re Uber dri­vers, Instacart shop­pers, and  Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrab­bit job­bers, Upcoun­sel’s on-demand attor­neys, and Health­tap’s on-line doc­tors.

    They’re Mechan­i­cal Turks.

    The euphemism is the “share” econ­o­my. A more accu­rate term would be the “share-the-scraps” econ­o­my.

    New soft­ware tech­nolo­gies are allow­ing almost any job to be divid­ed up into dis­crete tasks that can be parceled out to work­ers when they’re need­ed, with pay deter­mined by demand for that par­tic­u­lar job at that par­tic­u­lar moment.

    Cus­tomers and work­ers are matched online. Work­ers are rat­ed on qual­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty.

    The big mon­ey goes to the cor­po­ra­tions that own the soft­ware. The scraps go to the on-demand work­ers.

    Con­sid­er Amazon’s “Mechan­i­cal Turk.” Ama­zon calls it “a mar­ket­place for work that requires human intel­li­gence.”

    In real­i­ty, it’s an Inter­net job board offer­ing min­i­mal pay for mind­less­ly-bor­ing bite-sized chores. Com­put­ers can’t do them because they require some min­i­mal judg­ment, so human beings do them for peanuts — say, writ­ing a prod­uct descrip­tion, for $3; or choos­ing the best of sev­er­al pho­tographs, for 30 cents; or deci­pher­ing hand­writ­ing, for 50 cents.

    Ama­zon takes a healthy cut of every trans­ac­tion.

    This is the log­i­cal cul­mi­na­tion of a process that began thir­ty years ago when cor­po­ra­tions began turn­ing over full-time jobs to tem­po­rary work­ers, inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors, free-lancers, and con­sul­tants..

    It was a way to shift risks and uncer­tain­ties onto the work­ers – work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stress­ful than expect­ed.

    And a way to cir­cum­vent labor laws that set min­i­mal stan­dards for wages, hours, and work­ing con­di­tions. And that enabled employ­ees to join togeth­er to bar­gain for bet­ter pay and ben­e­fits.

    The new on-demand work shifts risks entire­ly onto work­ers, and elim­i­nates min­i­mal stan­dards com­plete­ly.

    In effect, on-demand work is a rever­sion to the piece work of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry – when work­ers had no pow­er and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost noth­ing.

    Uber dri­vers use their own cars, take out their own insur­ance, work as many hours as they want or can – and pay Uber a fat per­cent. Work­er safe­ty? Social Secu­ri­ty? Uber says it’s not the employ­er so it’s not respon­si­ble.

    Amazon’s Mechan­i­cal Turks work for pen­nies, lit­er­al­ly. Min­i­mum wage? Time-and‑a half for over­time? Ama­zon says it just con­nects buy­ers and sell­ers so it’s not respon­si­ble.

    Defend­ers of on-demand work empha­size its flex­i­bil­i­ty. Work­ers can put in what­ev­er time they want, work around their sched­ules, fill in the down­time in their cal­en­dars.

    “Peo­ple are mon­e­tiz­ing their own down­time,” Arun Sun­darara­jan, a pro­fes­sor at New York University’s busi­ness school, told the New York Times.

    But this argu­ment con­fus­es “down­time” with the time peo­ple nor­mal­ly reserve for the rest of their lives.

    There are still only twen­ty-four hours in a day. When “down­time” is turned into work time, and that work time is unpre­dictable and low-paid, what hap­pens to per­son­al rela­tion­ships? Fam­i­ly? One’s own health?

    ...

    An oppor­tu­ni­ty to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attrac­tive in an econ­o­my whose medi­an wage has been stag­nant for thir­ty years and almost all of whose eco­nom­ic gains have been going to the top.

    That doesn’t make the oppor­tu­ni­ty a great deal. It only shows how bad a deal most work­ing peo­ple have oth­er­wise been get­ting.

    ...

    Some econ­o­mists laud on-demand work as a means of uti­liz­ing peo­ple more effi­cient­ly.

    But the biggest eco­nom­ic chal­lenge we face isn’t using peo­ple more effi­cient­ly. It’s allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly.

    On this mea­sure, the share-the-scraps econ­o­my is hurtling us back­wards.

    “But the biggest eco­nom­ic chal­lenge we face isn’t using peo­ple more effi­cient­ly. It’s allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly.”
    Allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly. What a nov­el con­cept. And when turn­ing “employ­ees” into “con­trac­tors” because the new par­a­digm (which is actu­al­ly a 19th cen­tu­ry labor mod­el), it’s not real­ly clear what’s going to stop the cre­ation of some sort of 21st cen­tu­ry night­mare econ­o­my.

    And while it’s frus­trat­ing to see a com­pa­ny with Ama­zon’s size and clout embrace and pro­mote the “dis­pos­able drone” employ­ment mod­el, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that even if Ama­zon, Uber, and all the oth­er “shar­ing econ­o­my” com­pa­nies out there actu­al­ly made their con­trac­tors real employ­ees with the pro­tec­tion and secu­ri­ty that comes with that sta­tus, and let’s say the larg­er “temp” econ­o­my of temp work­ers that also don’t get the same ben­e­fits and pro­tec­tions as full work­ers also dis­ap­peared, that might not be near­ly as much of an improve­ment as one would hope.

    Drone on, dis­pos­able bio-drones.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 3, 2015, 11:24 am
  5. Ama­zon’s drone deliv­ery pro­gram just moved clos­er to becom­ing a real­i­ty. No, it’s not the robot­ic drone deliv­ery pro­gram. They’ll be using organ­ic drones for this. And, no, it’s not the one ot those biode­grade­able fun­gus drones. It’s the clas­sic organ­ic drone:

    AFP
    Ama­zon recruits ‘on demand’ deliv­ery work­ers in US.

    Pub­lished
    Sep 29, 2015, 11:49 pm SGT

    SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Ama­zon began adver­tis­ing its plan Tues­day to recruit on-demand deliv­ery work­ers, in a move that chal­lenges star­tups in the siz­zling sec­tor.

    The US online giant launched its Flex web­page seek­ing peo­ple to deliv­er Ama­zon pack­ages on a con­tract basis, say­ing it can pro­duce earn­ings of US$18 to US$25 (S$25.70 to S$35.70) an hour.

    The pro­gramme is now avail­able in Ama­zon’s home­town of Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, and “com­ing soon” to oth­er cities includ­ing New York, Bal­ti­more, Mia­mi, Dal­las, Austin, Chica­go, Indi­anapo­lis, Atlanta, and Port­land.

    “Be your own boss: deliv­er when you want, as much as you want,” the web­site says.

    Ama­zon enters a field crowd­ed with deliv­ery star­tups like Post­mates and Instacart, and sim­i­lar ser­vices from the ride-shar­ing giant Uber.

    ...

    They will be able to choose blocks of two, four or eight hours to work.

    Ama­zon’s dri­ve comes amid a grow­ing trend of on-demand employ­ment replac­ing tra­di­tion­al jobs. While offer­ing more flex­i­bil­i­ty, the work­ers gen­er­al­ly lack ben­e­fits such as unem­ploy­ment or dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance..

    The move comes with Ama­zon expand­ing its options for deliv­er­ies of gro­ceries and oth­er items in many loca­tions, with same-day deliv­ery for many items.

    “Ama­zon’s dri­ve comes amid a grow­ing trend of on-demand employ­ment replac­ing tra­di­tion­al jobs. While offer­ing more flex­i­bil­i­ty, the work­ers gen­er­al­ly lack ben­e­fits such as unem­ploy­ment or dis­abil­i­ty insur­ance.

    Note that Ama­zon’s new “Flex” couri­er ser­vice is a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the Uber mod­el in one key respect: it’s pay­ing hourly wages (and yet does­n’t con­sid­er them employ­ees), as opposed to Uber where your pay is based sole­ly on cus­tomer vol­ume. So that is indeed a poten­tial improve­ment over the “shar­ing econ­o­my” par­a­digm, as far as pro­vid­ing some degree of income secu­ri­ty for the “con­trac­tors” in this new “shar­ing econ­o­my” par­a­digm. Hope­ful­ly the $18-$25 hourly wage Ama­zon is pro­ject­ing will actu­al­ly be the drones make, but since that pay range esti­mate assumes cus­tomer tips, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that your Ama­zon deliv­ery guy’s qual­i­ty of life is now going to be heav­i­ly reliant on you tip­ping him well.

    So drone on lit­tle biodegrad­able organ­ic drones! But nev­er for­get, whether or not you’re a “con­trac­tor” get­ting an hourly wage or work­ing for what­ev­er you can make, you’re not just lit­tle biodegrad­able organ­ic drones. You’re biode­grade­able organ­ic dis­pos­able drones:

    Salon
    Robert Reich: The shar­ing econ­o­my is hurtling us back­war­rds
    The for­mer sec­re­tary of labor out­lines the increas­ing­ly dystopi­an future of Amer­i­ca’s work­force

    Robert Reich, ROBERTREICH.org
    Wednes­day, Feb 4, 2015 03:45 AM CDT

    How would you like to live in an econ­o­my where robots do every­thing that can be pre­dictably pro­grammed in advance, and almost all prof­its go to the robots’ own­ers?

    Mean­while, human beings do the work that’s unpre­dictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetch­ing and fix­ing, dri­ving and deliv­er­ing, tiny tasks need­ed at any and all hours – and patch togeth­er bare­ly enough to live on.

    Brace your­self. This is the econ­o­my we’re now bar­rel­ing toward.

    They’re Uber dri­vers, Instacart shop­pers, and  Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrab­bit job­bers, Upcoun­sel’s on-demand attor­neys, and Health­tap’s on-line doc­tors.

    They’re Mechan­i­cal Turks.

    The euphemism is the “share” econ­o­my. A more accu­rate term would be the “share-the-scraps” econ­o­my.

    New soft­ware tech­nolo­gies are allow­ing almost any job to be divid­ed up into dis­crete tasks that can be parceled out to work­ers when they’re need­ed, with pay deter­mined by demand for that par­tic­u­lar job at that par­tic­u­lar moment.

    Cus­tomers and work­ers are matched online. Work­ers are rat­ed on qual­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty.

    The big mon­ey goes to the cor­po­ra­tions that own the soft­ware. The scraps go to the on-demand work­ers.

    Con­sid­er Amazon’s “Mechan­i­cal Turk.” Ama­zon calls it “a mar­ket­place for work that requires human intel­li­gence.”

    In real­i­ty, it’s an Inter­net job board offer­ing min­i­mal pay for mind­less­ly-bor­ing bite-sized chores. Com­put­ers can’t do them because they require some min­i­mal judg­ment, so human beings do them for peanuts — say, writ­ing a prod­uct descrip­tion, for $3; or choos­ing the best of sev­er­al pho­tographs, for 30 cents; or deci­pher­ing hand­writ­ing, for 50 cents.

    Ama­zon takes a healthy cut of every trans­ac­tion.

    This is the log­i­cal cul­mi­na­tion of a process that began thir­ty years ago when cor­po­ra­tions began turn­ing over full-time jobs to tem­po­rary work­ers, inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors, free-lancers, and con­sul­tants..

    It was a way to shift risks and uncer­tain­ties onto the work­ers – work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stress­ful than expect­ed.

    And a way to cir­cum­vent labor laws that set min­i­mal stan­dards for wages, hours, and work­ing con­di­tions. And that enabled employ­ees to join togeth­er to bar­gain for bet­ter pay and ben­e­fits.

    The new on-demand work shifts risks entire­ly onto work­ers, and elim­i­nates min­i­mal stan­dards com­plete­ly.

    In effect, on-demand work is a rever­sion to the piece work of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry – when work­ers had no pow­er and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost noth­ing.

    Uber dri­vers use their own cars, take out their own insur­ance, work as many hours as they want or can – and pay Uber a fat per­cent. Work­er safe­ty? Social Secu­ri­ty? Uber says it’s not the employ­er so it’s not respon­si­ble.

    Amazon’s Mechan­i­cal Turks work for pen­nies, lit­er­al­ly. Min­i­mum wage? Time-and‑a half for over­time? Ama­zon says it just con­nects buy­ers and sell­ers so it’s not respon­si­ble.

    Defend­ers of on-demand work empha­size its flex­i­bil­i­ty. Work­ers can put in what­ev­er time they want, work around their sched­ules, fill in the down­time in their cal­en­dars.

    “Peo­ple are mon­e­tiz­ing their own down­time,” Arun Sun­darara­jan, a pro­fes­sor at New York University’s busi­ness school, told the New York Times.

    But this argu­ment con­fus­es “down­time” with the time peo­ple nor­mal­ly reserve for the rest of their lives.

    There are still only twen­ty-four hours in a day. When “down­time” is turned into work time, and that work time is unpre­dictable and low-paid, what hap­pens to per­son­al rela­tion­ships? Fam­i­ly? One’s own health?

    ...

    An oppor­tu­ni­ty to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attrac­tive in an econ­o­my whose medi­an wage has been stag­nant for thir­ty years and almost all of whose eco­nom­ic gains have been going to the top.

    That doesn’t make the oppor­tu­ni­ty a great deal. It only shows how bad a deal most work­ing peo­ple have oth­er­wise been get­ting.

    ...

    Some econ­o­mists laud on-demand work as a means of uti­liz­ing peo­ple more effi­cient­ly.

    But the biggest eco­nom­ic chal­lenge we face isn’t using peo­ple more effi­cient­ly. It’s allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly.

    On this mea­sure, the share-the-scraps econ­o­my is hurtling us back­wards.

    “But the biggest eco­nom­ic chal­lenge we face isn’t using peo­ple more effi­cient­ly. It’s allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly.”
    Allo­cat­ing work and the gains from work more decent­ly. What a nov­el con­cept. And when turn­ing “employ­ees” into “con­trac­tors” because the new par­a­digm (which is actu­al­ly a 19th cen­tu­ry labor mod­el), it’s not real­ly clear what’s going to stop the cre­ation of some sort of 21st cen­tu­ry night­mare econ­o­my.

    And while it’s frus­trat­ing to see a com­pa­ny with Ama­zon’s size and clout embrace and pro­mote the “dis­pos­able drone” employ­ment mod­el, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that even if Ama­zon, Uber, and all the oth­er “shar­ing econ­o­my” com­pa­nies out there actu­al­ly made their con­trac­tors real employ­ees with the pro­tec­tion and secu­ri­ty that comes with that sta­tus, and let’s say the larg­er “temp” econ­o­my of temp work­ers that also don’t get the same ben­e­fits and pro­tec­tions as full work­ers also dis­ap­peared, that might not be near­ly as much of an improve­ment as one would hope.

    Drone on, dis­pos­able bio-drones.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 3, 2015, 11:49 am
  6. Oh hey, look at that: Google start­ed qui­et­ly col­lect­ing the loca­tions of all users of phones with Google’s Android oper­at­ing sys­tems this year. And it’s not the loca­tions of peo­ple who turn on the “loca­tion ser­vices” fea­ture of their phones, in which case they sure expect Google is track­ing them. It’s the loca­tions of ALL Android phones, whether or not loca­tions ser­vices are turned on and whether or not there’s even a SIM card in the phone.

    After being con­front­ed with this, Google has announced that it will no longer be col­lect­ing this data. Google also has an expla­na­tion: The infor­ma­tion was­n’t actu­al­ly col­lect­ed by the “loca­tion ser­vices”. Instead, it was infor­ma­tion about near­by cell tow­ers. Also, the data was sent to the sys­tem Google uses to man­age its “push noti­fi­ca­tions” and mes­sages on Android phones (push noti­fi­ca­tions are like mes­sages that app devel­op­ers can use to send a mes­sage to phones with the app installed) and that was it. Google also claims that the loca­tion data was nev­er stored or used.

    Yep, the data about which cell tow­ers were near­by (which is a great way to pin­point your loca­tion because you can tri­an­gu­late) was­n’t used...although it was use­ful for push noti­fi­ca­tions and mes­sages. That’s Google’s expla­na­tion for why it qui­et­ly decid­ed to sud­den­ly start col­lect­ing loca­tion data on all Android phones:

    Quartz

    Google col­lects Android users’ loca­tions even when loca­tion ser­vices are dis­abled

    Writ­ten by Kei­th Collins
    Novem­ber 21, 2017

    Many peo­ple real­ize that smart­phones track their loca­tions. But what if you active­ly turn off loca­tion ser­vices, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even insert­ed a car­ri­er SIM card?

    Even if you take all of those pre­cau­tions, phones run­ning Android soft­ware gath­er data about your loca­tion and send it back to Google when they’re con­nect­ed to the inter­net, a Quartz inves­ti­ga­tion has revealed.

    Since the begin­ning of 2017, Android phones have been col­lect­ing the address­es of near­by cel­lu­lar towers—even when loca­tion ser­vices are disabled—and send­ing that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alpha­bet behind Android, has access to data about indi­vid­u­als’ loca­tions and their move­ments that go far beyond a rea­son­able con­sumer expec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy.

    Quartz observed the data col­lec­tion occur and con­tact­ed Google, which con­firmed the prac­tice.

    The cell tow­er address­es have been includ­ed in infor­ma­tion sent to the sys­tem Google uses to man­age push noti­fi­ca­tions and mes­sages on Android phones for the past 11 months, accord­ing to a Google spokesper­son. They were nev­er used or stored, the spokesper­son said, and the com­pa­ny is now tak­ing steps to end the prac­tice after being con­tact­ed by Quartz. By the end of Novem­ber, the com­pa­ny said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tow­er loca­tion data to Google, at least as part of this par­tic­u­lar ser­vice, which con­sumers can­not dis­able.

    “In Jan­u­ary of this year, we began look­ing into using Cell ID codes as an addi­tion­al sig­nal to fur­ther improve the speed and per­for­mance of mes­sage deliv­ery,” the Google spokesper­son said in an email. “How­ev­er, we nev­er incor­po­rat­ed Cell ID into our net­work sync sys­tem, so that data was imme­di­ate­ly dis­card­ed, and we updat­ed it to no longer request Cell ID.”

    It is not clear how cell-tow­er address­es, trans­mit­ted as a data string that iden­ti­fies a spe­cif­ic cell tow­er, could have been used to improve mes­sage deliv­ery. But the pri­va­cy impli­ca­tions of the covert loca­tion-shar­ing prac­tice are plain. While infor­ma­tion about a sin­gle cell tow­er can only offer an approx­i­ma­tion of where a mobile device actu­al­ly is, mul­ti­ple tow­ers can be used to tri­an­gu­late its loca­tion to with­in about a quar­ter-mile radius, or to a more exact pin­point in urban areas, where cell tow­ers are clos­er togeth­er.

    The prac­tice is trou­bling for peo­ple who’d pre­fer they weren’t tracked, espe­cial­ly for those such as law-enforce­ment offi­cials or vic­tims of domes­tic abuse who turn off loca­tion ser­vices think­ing they’re ful­ly con­ceal­ing their where­abouts. Although the data sent to Google is encrypt­ed, it could poten­tial­ly be sent to a third par­ty if the phone had been com­pro­mised with spy­ware or oth­er meth­ods of hack­ing. Each phone has a unique ID num­ber, with which the loca­tion data can be asso­ci­at­ed.

    The rev­e­la­tion comes as Google and oth­er inter­net com­pa­nies are under fire from law­mak­ers and reg­u­la­tors, includ­ing for the extent to which they vac­u­um up data about users. Such per­son­al data, rang­ing from users’ polit­i­cal views to their pur­chase his­to­ries to their loca­tions, are foun­da­tion­al to the busi­ness suc­cess­es of com­pa­nies like Face­book and Alpha­bet, built on tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing and per­son­al­iza­tion and togeth­er val­ued at over $1.2 tril­lion by investors.

    The loca­tion-shar­ing prac­tice does not appear to be lim­it­ed to any par­tic­u­lar type of Android phone or tablet; Google was appar­ent­ly col­lect­ing cell tow­er data from all mod­ern Android devices before being con­tact­ed by Quartz. A source famil­iar with the mat­ter said the cell tow­er address­es were being sent to Google after a change in ear­ly 2017 to the Fire­base Cloud Mes­sag­ing ser­vice, which is owned by Google and runs on Android phones by default.

    Even devices that had been reset to fac­to­ry default set­tings and apps, with loca­tion ser­vices dis­abled, were observed by Quartz send­ing near­by cell-tow­er address­es to Google. Devices with a cel­lu­lar data or WiFi con­nec­tion appear to send the data to Google each time they come with­in range of a new cell tow­er. When Android devices are con­nect­ed to a WiFi net­work, they will send the tow­er address­es to Google even if they don’t have SIM cards installed.

    ...

    The sec­tion of Google’s pri­va­cy pol­i­cy that cov­ers loca­tion shar­ing says the com­pa­ny will col­lect loca­tion infor­ma­tion from devices that use its ser­vices, but does not indi­cate whether it will col­lect data from Android devices when loca­tion ser­vices are dis­abled:

    When you use Google ser­vices, we may col­lect and process infor­ma­tion about your actu­al loca­tion. We use var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies to deter­mine loca­tion, includ­ing IP address, GPS, and oth­er sen­sors that may, for exam­ple, pro­vide Google with infor­ma­tion on near­by devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell tow­ers.

    Accord­ing to the Google spokesper­son, the company’s sys­tem that con­trols its push noti­fi­ca­tions and mes­sages is “dis­tinct­ly sep­a­rate from Loca­tion Ser­vices, which pro­vide a device’s loca­tion to apps.” Android devices nev­er offered con­sumers a way to opt out of the col­lec­tion of cell tow­er data.

    “It is real­ly a mys­tery as to why this is not option­al,” said Matthew Hick­ey, a secu­ri­ty expert and researcher at Hack­er House, a secu­ri­ty firm based in Lon­don. “It seems quite intru­sive for Google to be col­lect­ing such infor­ma­tion that is only rel­e­vant to car­ri­er net­works when there are no SIM card or enabled ser­vices.”

    While Google says it doesn’t use the loca­tion data it col­lects using this ser­vice, its does allow adver­tis­ers to tar­get con­sumers using loca­tion data, an approach that has obvi­ous com­mer­cial val­ue. The com­pa­ny can tell using pre­cise loca­tion track­ing, for exam­ple, whether an indi­vid­ual with an Android phone or run­ning Google apps has set foot in a spe­cif­ic store, and use that to tar­get the adver­tis­ing a user sub­se­quent­ly sees.

    ———-

    “Google col­lects Android users’ loca­tions even when loca­tion ser­vices are dis­abled” by Kei­th Collins; Quartz; 11/21/2017

    Since the begin­ning of 2017, Android phones have been col­lect­ing the address­es of near­by cel­lu­lar towers—even when loca­tion ser­vices are disabled—and send­ing that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alpha­bet behind Android, has access to data about indi­vid­u­als’ loca­tions and their move­ments that go far beyond a rea­son­able con­sumer expec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy.”

    That’s def­i­nite­ly an ‘uh oh’ for Google. It’s not like the com­pa­ny needs anoth­er scan­dal involv­ing egre­gious pri­va­cy vio­la­tions. But accord­ing to Google, this infor­ma­tion was nev­er used or stored. The com­pa­ny was look­ing into using this data, but nev­er actu­al­ly used it, so no wor­ries!

    ...
    The cell tow­er address­es have been includ­ed in infor­ma­tion sent to the sys­tem Google uses to man­age push noti­fi­ca­tions and mes­sages on Android phones for the past 11 months, accord­ing to a Google spokesper­son. They were nev­er used or stored, the spokesper­son said, and the com­pa­ny is now tak­ing steps to end the prac­tice after being con­tact­ed by Quartz. By the end of Novem­ber, the com­pa­ny said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tow­er loca­tion data to Google, at least as part of this par­tic­u­lar ser­vice, which con­sumers can­not dis­able.

    “In Jan­u­ary of this year, we began look­ing into using Cell ID codes as an addi­tion­al sig­nal to fur­ther improve the speed and per­for­mance of mes­sage deliv­ery,” the Google spokesper­son said in an email. “How­ev­er, we nev­er incor­po­rat­ed Cell ID into our net­work sync sys­tem, so that data was imme­di­ate­ly dis­card­ed, and we updat­ed it to no longer request Cell ID.”
    ...

    That’s Google’s sto­ry. And who knows, per­haps this real­ly was just an ini­tial cor­po­rate exper­i­ment exclu­sive­ly intend­ed to assist with “push noti­fi­ca­tions” and mes­sag­ing sys­tems that nev­er went any­where (and kept going until Quartz dis­cov­ered it).

    But it’s pret­ty hard to ignore the fact that con­fig­ur­ing phones to send near­by cell tow­er infor­ma­tion back to Google is a great way to for Google to pin­point users loca­tions:

    ...
    It is not clear how cell-tow­er address­es, trans­mit­ted as a data string that iden­ti­fies a spe­cif­ic cell tow­er, could have been used to improve mes­sage deliv­ery. But the pri­va­cy impli­ca­tions of the covert loca­tion-shar­ing prac­tice are plain. While infor­ma­tion about a sin­gle cell tow­er can only offer an approx­i­ma­tion of where a mobile device actu­al­ly is, mul­ti­ple tow­ers can be used to tri­an­gu­late its loca­tion to with­in about a quar­ter-mile radius, or to a more exact pin­point in urban areas, where cell tow­ers are clos­er togeth­er.
    ...

    And it’s also hard to ignore the fact that this kind of data is poten­tial­ly high­ly lucra­tive and Google already allows adver­tis­ers to tar­get con­sumers using loca­tion data:

    ...
    The rev­e­la­tion comes as Google and oth­er inter­net com­pa­nies are under fire from law­mak­ers and reg­u­la­tors, includ­ing for the extent to which they vac­u­um up data about users. Such per­son­al data, rang­ing from users’ polit­i­cal views to their pur­chase his­to­ries to their loca­tions, are foun­da­tion­al to the busi­ness suc­cess­es of com­pa­nies like Face­book and Alpha­bet, built on tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing and per­son­al­iza­tion and togeth­er val­ued at over $1.2 tril­lion by investors.

    ...

    While Google says it doesn’t use the loca­tion data it col­lects using this ser­vice, its does allow adver­tis­ers to tar­get con­sumers using loca­tion data, an approach that has obvi­ous com­mer­cial val­ue. The com­pa­ny can tell using pre­cise loca­tion track­ing, for exam­ple, whether an indi­vid­ual with an Android phone or run­ning Google apps has set foot in a spe­cif­ic store, and use that to tar­get the adver­tis­ing a user sub­se­quent­ly sees.

    Yes, we have very use­ful loca­tion data that Google was secret­ly col­lect­ing, and we know Google already allows adver­tis­ers to use its loca­tion ser­vices data, but we are assured from Google that this secret­ly col­lect­ed loca­tion data — which could be quite use­ful for pin­point exact loca­tions — was­n’t actu­al­ly used by any­one. For any­thing. It was just col­lect­ed an thrown away. It’s not the most com­pelling expla­na­tion.

    But now we know: it’s tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble for Google to qui­et­ly con­fig­ure all exist­ing Android phones to send their loca­tion infor­ma­tion back to Google. And we also now know Google just might decide to qui­et­ly go ahead and do that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 22, 2017, 3:04 pm

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