Antithesister City

Where AI for Good Goes Bad; Lasers!; Lies About Privacy; and much more.


This is civic tech: Lots of big tech companies, including Intel, Google, and Microsoft, have launched well-intentioned “AI for Good” programs touting tools that can, for example, use facial recognition to spot animal poachers in the wild, but as Mark Latonero of Data & Society writes for Wired, “the fanfare around these projects smacks of tech solutionism, which can mask root causes and the risks of experimenting with AI on vulnerable people without appropriate safeguards.”
 
Code & Response, a new documentary film sponsored by IBM that highlights the role of civic tech in assisting in disaster response, is making the rounds of film festivals, Zack Quaintance reports for GovTech.
 
Attend: Monday, December 2nd at 6 pm, the Ford Foundation’s Realizing Democracy program is hosting a discussion of Nicholas Lemann’s new book Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal And The Decline Of the American Dream with Biju Matthew, Kim Phillips-Fein, and Yochai Benkler.
 
Organizing for democracy: One-third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics, according to a 2018 survey conducted by political scientist Eitan Hersh, but as he writes in the Boston Review, 80% of those people do no real political work. “It is all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family,” he writes, calling that “political hobbyism,” and arguing that it’s high time people who care about change stopped confusing satisfying their “own emotional needs and intellectual curiosities” with actually organizing to shift power.
 
Momentum, a tiny nonprofit training network whose strategies have deeply influenced new organizations including Never Again Action, Cosecha, IfNotNow, and the Sunrise Movement, gets profiled by Tyler Kingkade in Vice magazine.
 
Protesters in Chile are using lasers to fight police attempting to shut down their demonstrations, and in at least one case in Santiago, it appears they used them to down a police drone. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, where we’ve also seen this tactic employed during street protests, one demonstrator has not only customized their laser pointer/dazzler, they are also wearing gear to lessen their infra-red signature, making them less visible to thermal imaging equipment. Slowly but surely, all the cyberpunk novels are coming to life.
 
Life in Facebookistan: After bungling its initial launch of an effort to fight revenge porn by asking victims to send copies of naked photos they want to have suppressed, Facebook launched a research program to learn how it could better support victims and prevent the unwanted spread of intimate images, Olivia Solon reports for NBC News. The company learned that nude images weren’t the only problem in some cultural settings. And it also learned that victim support groups wanted the company to demonstrate more empathy, noting “that the language Facebook used did not convey the severity of the situation and at times could be perceived as victim-blaming.”
 
Privacy, shmivacy: Six in ten American adults say that it is impossible to go through daily life without having data about them collected by the government or companies, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. Only six in ten? And 81% say they think the potential risks outweigh the benefits of widespread data gathering. Just 9% say they always read the “terms of service” before approving their use of a digital product. (I believe the real number is more like one percent.)
 
End (ny)times: Today I learned that someone named Max Bittker has built a Twitter account that tweets whenever it spots the New York Times using a word it has never used before. In this case: “technochauvinism.” Other recent entries include: “designtrepeneur,” “antithesister” and “agnostopagan.”  (h/t Meredith Broussard)

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