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Southern Europe Has Not Seen Net Job Creation in over a Decade - The Sounding Line
It is well known that Southern Europe has endured a particularly weak economic performance over the last decade, yet the magnitude and impact of the economic under-performance is often under-appreciated. Combined Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece have a population of over 126 million people and a GDP of roughly $3.7 trillion (2.99 trillion Euros). If the region were a country it would be the 10th most populous in the world and the fourth largest economy after the US, China, and Japan. Yet Southern Europe’s economy has yet to recover from a financial crisis that struck a decade ago. To this day, there are three million fewer employed people in the four countries than in 2008 and that counts anyone who works at least one hour a week as employed. In fact, the number of employed people is still lower than in 2005 despite the population of the region having grown by over three million people since then
#eu  #$#nextcrash  !write!dystopia  %stats  %policystats  %econ 
20 days ago by lemeb
Sky-High Deductibles Broke the U.S. Health Insurance System - Bloomberg
When one large employer switched all its employees to high-deductible plans, medical spending dropped by 12 percent to 14 percent, according to an analysis by economists at University of California, Berkeley and Harvard. But the workers weren’t learning to shop more effectively for health care. They simply reduced the amount of medical care they used, including preventative care. In high-deductible plans, women are more likely to delay follow-up tests after mammograms, including imaging, biopsies and early-stage diagnoses that could detect tumors when they’re easiest to treat, according to research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. 

the downside of ‘skin in the game’
!write!dystopia  #$#pharma  #$#ineq  %econ%behav  #healthcare 
23 days ago by lemeb
Opinion | What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook - The New York Times
Taken together, Facebook’s patents show a commitment to collecting personal information, despite widespread public criticism of the company’s privacy policies and a promise from its chief executive to “do better.”

“A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going,” said Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University.

Here are seven Facebook patent applications that show how the company has contemplated gathering and exploiting your personal information.
!write!dystopia  #surveillance  ~fb 
24 days ago by lemeb
Amazon’s Clever Machines Are Moving From the Warehouse to Headquarters - Bloomberg
Amazon began automating retail team jobs several years ago. Under an initiative called “hands off the wheel,” the company shifted tasks like forecasting demand, ordering inventory and negotiating prices to algorithms, people familiar with the matter say. At first, humans could easily override the machine’s decisions. For instance, if a brand notified Amazon about an upcoming marketing blitz for a product, an Amazon manager could increase the order in anticipation of demand the algorithm didn’t expect. But such tinkering was increasingly discouraged as the machines proved their precision, the people say. Anyone overriding the machines had to justify their decision, and the push to automate made them reluctant.
A key turning point came in 2015 when the value of goods sold through the marketplace exceeded those sold by the retail team, the people say. The retail team, which had far more employees, watched its importance fade and money funneled into projects like Amazon Web Services and Alexa. It didn’t help that the marketplace generated twice the operating profit margin of the retail business—10 percent versus 5 percent, according to a person familiar with the company’s finances. In many international markets, the retail team has never turned a profit, the person says.

in the “biz relationships don’t matter that much when you got massive scale” storyline
!write!scale  %stats  #t#automation  !write!technologist  !write!utopia  #$#labor  #$#logistics  #t#ml  !write!dystopia 
5 weeks ago by lemeb
Inside Anduril, Palmer Luckey's Bid to Build A Border Wall
As Luckey and his team see it, Lattice will become not just a system for securing the border but a general platform for geographic near-omniscience. With the aid of artificial intelligence, it aims to synthesize data from potentially thousands of sensors and local databases

It struck me after I’d wrapped up my visits with Anduril that, aside from the drug smugglers they helped intercept on the border, I had not heard the founders mention the people who might get caught in their omniscient zone. What is the right way to treat those individuals? What of the children and parents who are now being torn apart while crossing? Those are social and political questions, not technical specifications. But it is increasingly the case that the people who build new technologies trigger political consequences.

Though tech companies have been taking their knocks lately, even the ones now under the most scrutiny were launched in a glow of idealism. We once dreamed that an era of ultraconnected and infinitely empowering tech would solve the kinds of problems that lead people to flee their own countries or that propel terrorists or nations to attack. Those problems didn’t end. It now seems obvious that tech was never going to make us better human beings; we are still our flawed selves. Instead, those same technologies that once seemed full of promise are finding their way into all-too-human clashes—led by a company named after an avenging sword.
%longform  #surveillance  !write!technologist  !write!dystopia 
5 weeks ago by lemeb
Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
The story goes like this: Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extraterrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, “So, where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s Paradox.

I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.

!write!dystopia  %contrarian  %philosophy  #space 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering - The Verge
Google has built a multibillion-dollar business out of knowing everything about its users. Now, a video produced within Google and obtained by The Verge offers a stunningly ambitious and unsettling look at how some at the company envision using that information in the future.

The video was made in late 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at X (formerly Google X), and shared internally within Google. It imagines a future of total data collection, where Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations to solve global problems like poverty and disease.

!write!dystopia  !write!technologist 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
AI safety via debate
To make AI systems broadly useful for challenging real-world tasks, we need them to learn complex human goals and preferences. One approach to specifying complex goals asks humans to judge during training which agent behaviors are safe and useful, but this approach can fail if the task is too complicated for a human to directly judge. To help address this concern, we propose training agents via self play on a zero sum debate game. Given a question or proposed action, two agents take turns making short statements up to a limit, then a human judges which of the agents gave the most true, useful information. In an analogy to complexity theory, debate with optimal play can answer any question in PSPACE given polynomial time judges (direct judging answers only NP questions). In practice, whether debate works involves empirical questions about humans and the tasks we want AIs to perform, plus theoretical questions about the meaning of AI alignment. We report results on an initial MNIST experiment where agents compete to convince a sparse classifier, boosting the classifier’s accuracy from 59.4% to 88.9% given 6 pixels and from 48.2% to 85.2% given 4 pixels. Finally, we discuss theoretical and practical aspects of the debate model, focusing on potential weaknesses as the model scales up, and we propose future human and computer experiments to test these properties.

Fast Company article:
!tech!ml  !write!dystopia  !write!utopia  #t#ml  #techpol 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
The future of political warfare: Russia, the West, and the coming age of global digital competition
The Kremlin’s political warfare against democratic countries has evolved from overt to covert influence activities. But while Russia has pioneered the toolkit of asymmetric measures for the 21st century, including cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, these tools are already yesterday’s game. Technological advances in artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and machine learning, combined with the growing availability of big data, have set the stage for a new era of sophisticated, inexpensive, and highly impactful political warfare. In the very near term, it will become more difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between real and falsified audio, video, or online personalities. Malicious actors will use these technologies to target Western societies more rapidly and efficiently. As authoritarian states such as Russia and China invest resources in new technologies, the global competition for the next great leap in political warfare will intensify. As the battle for the future shifts to the digital domain, policymakers will face increasingly complex threats against democracies. The window to mount an effective “whole-of- society” response to emerging asymmetric threats is quickly narrowing.
!write!dystopia  #russia  #us#elections 
12 weeks ago by lemeb
Leave.EU, Arron Banks and new questions about referendum funding | Politics | The Guardian
When asked about the use of Leave.EU’s database to send advertisements about his insurance products to campaign supporters, [Aaron Banks, a major Brexit backer and donor] said: “Why shouldn’t I? It’s my data.” When asked again last week, he said: “Leave.EU after the referendum campaign carried the occasional ad for insurance, so what?”

what a time to be alive.
#conservatives  *whatatime  #brexit  #t#ad  !write!dystopia 
april 2018 by lemeb
Yet More Proof Facebook’s Surveillance Capitalism Is Good at Surveilling — Even Russian Hackers – emptywheel
I’ve long tracked Facebook’s serial admission to having SIGINT visibility that nearly rivals the NSA: knowing that Facebook had intelligence corroborating NSA’s judgment that GRU was behind the DNC hack was one reason I was ultimately convinced of the IC’s claims, in spite of initial questions.
~fb  #techpol  #surveillance  !write!technologist  !write!dystopia 
april 2018 by lemeb
Chairman of Sinclair TV network met with Trump during White House visit | Media | The Guardian
The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met Donald Trump at the White House during a visit to pitch a potentially lucrative new product to administration officials, the Guardian has learned.

David D Smith, whose company has been criticised for making its anchors read a script echoing Trump’s attacks on the media, said he briefed officials last year on a system that would enable authorities to broadcast direct to any American’s phone.

filed under serious-news-report-that-reads-like-a-conspiratorial-spy-novel. more:
The company has been a driving force in the development of a new broadcasting standard known as Next Gen TV, and is one of the first involved in making chips for televisions, cellphones and other devices to receive the new transmissions.

A broadcasting industry group, of which Sinclair is a prominent member, lobbied federal authorities last year to force manufacturers to incorporate the chips in all new devices. This would have created orders for millions of chips and likely new revenues for Sinclair.
!write!dystopia  !write!technologist  !write!readthenews  #us#trumpland  #conservatives 
april 2018 by lemeb
Combatting Deep Fakes through the Right of Publicity
Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron recently sounded the alarm on Lawfare about the threat to democracy from “deep fakes,” lamenting “the limits of technological and legal solutions.” They argue that existing law has a limited ability to force online platforms to police such content because “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes from (most) liability the entities best situated to minimize damage efficiently: the platforms.” But in fact, a loophole built into Section 230 immunity—the intellectual property exception—could be helpful in combating deep fakes and other next-generation fake news. Victims of deep fakes may successfully bring “right of publicity” claims against online platforms, thereby forcing the platforms to systematically police such content. At a minimum, such right-of-publicity claims are likely to generate crucial litigation

ha! us law is not that permissive maybe.
!write!dystopia  #fakenews 
april 2018 by lemeb
Sinclair Made Dozens of Local News Anchors Recite the Same Script (
On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers. It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment “if you believe our coverage is unfair.” It may not have seemed strange to individual viewers. But Timothy Burke, the video director at Deadspin, had read a report last month from CNN, which quoted local station anchors who were uncomfortable with the speech. Mr. Burke tracked down the Sinclair affiliates and found when they had aired what he called a “forced read.”
#conservatives  !write!dystopia  #us#trumpland  !write!readthenews  *wtf 
april 2018 by lemeb
UN: Facebook has turned into a beast in Myanmar (
UN investigators have said the use of Facebook played a "determining role" in stirring up hatred against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

so much for the arab spring effect
!write!dystopia  !write!technologist  #techpol  ~fb 
april 2018 by lemeb
The industry of inequality: why the world is obsessed with private security | Inequality | The Guardian
At least half the world’s population lives in countries where there are more private security workers than public police officers, according to a new Guardian analysis.

More than 40 countries – including the US, China, Canada, Australia and the UK – have more workers hired to protect specific people, places and things than police officers with a mandate to protect the public at large, according to the data. In Britain, 232,000 private guards were employed in 2015, compared with 151,000 police.

The global market for private security services, which include private guarding, surveillance and armed transport, is now worth an estimated $180bn (£140bn), and is projected to grow to $240bn by 2020. This far outweighs the total international aid budget to end global poverty ($140bn a year) – and the GDPs of more than 100 countries, including Hungary and Morocco.

Around the world, private security guards patrol shopping malls, elite gated communities and some public streets. They often wear uniforms that resemble police clothing and in some countries, including Spain and Italy, private guards carry handguns as well.
january 2018 by lemeb

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