Since January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public.
A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, based in Dayton, Ohio, provided the service to the police, and the funding came from a private donor. No public disclosure of the program had ever been made.
McNutt believes the technology would be most effective if used in a transparent, publicly acknowledged manner; part of the system’s effectiveness, he said, rests in its potential to deter criminal activity. … In 2006 he gave the military Angel Fire, a wide-area, live-feed surveillance system that could cast an unblinking eye on an entire city. … This produced a searchable, constantly updating photographic map that was stored on hard drives. His elevator pitch was irresistible: “Imagine Google Earth with TiVo capability.”
Even six months after the flights began, some Baltimore police officers still didn’t know exactly how the surveillance program worked.
[McNutt]’s exasperated when his system is criticized not for what it does, but for its potential. Yet for critics like Stanley, the two can’t be separated. … McNutt says he’s sure his system can withstand a public unveiling and that the more people know about what his cameras can—and can’t—do, the fewer worries they’ll have. But the police ultimately decide who and what should be tracked.
Source: Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above
“I said to myself, ‘This is where the rubber hits the road. The technology has finally arrived, and Big Brother, which everyone has always talked about, is finally here.’ ”
— Jay Stanley, ACLU senior policy analyst and privacy expert
Property tax—one of the most criticized taxes on U.S. residents—stems from a system put in place by William the Conqueror.
Source: The Feudal Origins of America’s Most-Hated Tax – The Atlantic
Banks, governments, credit card companies and fintech evangelists all want us to believe our cashless future is inevitable and good. But this isn’t a frictionless utopia says Brett Scott, and it’s time to fight back
‘Cashless society’ is a euphemism for the “ask-your-banks-for-permission-to-pay society”.
The future presented by self-styled innovation gurus has no scope for flexible, unpredictable or invisible people. They represent analogue backwardness. The future is a world of endless consumer choice built upon an inescapable digital uniformity of automated rules, a matrix outside which you can neither exist nor think.
We face creating an entire generation of people who do not know what it feels like to not be monitored.
Source: The War on Cash – The Long and Short
The ethics of defensive killing
If the government can’t make a full accounting to its people why it is killing on their behalf, it cannot kill morally.
Source: Is Obama’s Drone War Moral? – The Atlantic
Is it morally justified for a government to carry out a policy of targeted killings against proposed threats where we don’t know what the policy is, we don’t know who the targets are, we don’t know what the criteria for the targets are, what evidence they have to carry it out, and what their standards are?
– Sari Kisilevsky, philosopher of law and ethics at Queens College, CUNY
Slow population growth in America’s most productive cities is a big problem for the US economy.
The runaway success of the smartphone game Pokémon Go this summer provides a good illustration of the economic forces that are concentrating opportunity in large cities. Pokémon Go could generate as much as $1 billion in its first year, and almost all of it is going to flow to big technology companies like Niantic (located in San Francisco) and Nintendo (based in Kyoto, Japan).
People in the rest of the country will certainly play a lot of Pokémon Go, and the game’s geographical focus may lure some people out to patronize existing bars and restaurants. But the game will not directly create any jobs in most parts of the country. That’s a big contrast with older media industries like movies — which created jobs selling tickets and popcorn — and music recording, which created jobs in record stores.
To be sure, many people in the San Francisco Bay Area don’t want it to look more like Brooklyn. But they also probably don’t want housing to become so expensive that their children can’t afford to stay in the area. And that’s ultimately the choice they face.
Technology millionaires aren’t going away. If the region doesn’t find ways to accommodate soaring demand for housing, it will wind up being a place where only technology millionaires can afford the rent.
Source: The case for making New York and San Francisco much, much bigger | The new new economy
The race to turn everyday vehicles into vast, data-collecting repositories is becoming a great technological opportunity for legacy carmakers. But in order to earn the enthusiasm of consumers, automakers and startups must first earn their trust.
Source: Tesla Autopilot crash: Self-driving cars are watching us and recording our data whether or not we’re watching the road — Quartz
Today, America can no longer go to war without the private sector.
During World War II, about 10 percent of America’s armed forces were contracted. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that proportion leapt to 50 percent.
Today, 75 percent of U.S. forces in Afghanistan are contracted. Only about 10 percent of these contractors are armed, but this matters not. The greater point is that America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them.
Source: America’s Addiction to Mercenaries – The Atlantic
Machines that truly understand language would be incredibly useful. But we don’t know how to build them.
Source: AI’s Language Problem
At this point most people appear to know that something is terribly, terribly wrong in the United States of America. But like the proverbial blind man describing the elephant, Americans tend to characterize the problem according to their economic status, their education and interests and the way that the problem is impacting their peer group.
In reality, these are all symptoms of an entirely foreseeable systemic crisis. The basic outlines of that crisis were traced over 40 years ago in a book titled The Limits to Growth. Today we are hitting the limits of net energy, environmental pollution and debt, and the experience is uncomfortable for just about everyone.
any intention to “Make America Great Again” — if that means restoring a global empire that always gets its way, and whose economy is always growing, offering glittery gadgets for all — is utterly futile
Source: “You Can’t Handle the Truth!” – BillMoyers.com
Waste people. Rubbish. Clay-eaters. Hillbillies. Reckoning with the long, bleak history of the country’s original underclass.
The gloomy state of affairs in the lower reaches of white America should not have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has—and mobilizing solutions for the crisis will depend partly on closing the gaps that allowed for such obliviousness.
Source: The Despair of Poor White Americans