Archives September 2017

Phone zombies on the road

“It’s People Like Us uses dashboard cameras to capture the driving behaviour of five young motorists, all of whom willingly signed up to the project, and each of whom is revealed as a serial offender when it comes to using their mobile phones while driving.”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

“You Are Already Living Inside a Computer”

“Think about the computing systems you use every day. All of them represent attempts to simulate something else. Like how Turing’s original thinking machine strived to pass as a man or woman, a computer tries to pass, in a way, as another thing. As a calculator, for example, or a ledger, or a typewriter, or a telephone, or a camera, or a storefront, or a cafe. After a while, successful simulated machines displace and overtake the machines they originally imitated. The word processor is no longer just a simulated typewriter or secretary, but a first-order tool for producing written materials of all kinds. Eventually, if they thrive, simulated machines become just machines. Today, computation overall is doing this. There’s not much work and play left that computers don’t handle. And so, the computer is splitting from its origins as a means of symbol manipulation for productive and creative ends, and becoming an activity in its own right. Today, people don’t seek out computers in order to get things done; they do the things that let them use computers.

[…]

This new cyberpunk dystopia is more Stepford Wives, less William Gibson. Everything continues as it was before, but people treat reality as if it were in a computer.”

My iPhone Turned Me Into a Squirrel-Chasing Dog

Katie Hafner writes in Wired:

“I have a condition, marked by an inability to remain focused on a single task without getting distracted by something that catches my eye or floats to the top of the running to-do list in my head.

My condition has crept up on me over the past decade or so. Unlike classic attention deficit disorder, which is associated with functional impairments in the brain’s neurotransmitters, I have brought this problem upon myself. And only I can work my way out of it.

A typical 45 seconds of living with episodic partial attention: I begin to put the dog’s breakfast in his bowl only to notice a spot on the countertop that must be wiped clean this very second, which leads me across the room to the rag cupboard. During my journey, I hear a text arrive on my phone, which is on the kitchen table, so I do a hairpin turn to check the message, and when I pick up the phone I see a notification of a breaking CNN story. I sit down to read it. I’m two paragraphs into the story when I remember to check the text message and start to respond, which feels like work. Wasn’t I about to make myself a cup of coffee? I get up to do that. But why is the dog staring at me so plaintively?”

In China, facial recognition is used to buy KFC, board planes, and catch drug users

It works just as one might expect—diners approach a virtual menu, select the item they want to purchase, and then choose “facial scan” as a payment option. Users must input their phone numbers as an extra layer of verification, but the technology still works even if one’s phone is turned off.

A promotional video shows a young female customer scanning her face while donning a wig and appearing with friends, to tout that the technology can recognize an individual even if they are disguised or in a group…

Facebook has mapped populations in 23 countries as it explores satellites to expand internet

“Facebook doesn’t only know what its 2 billion users “Like.” It now knows where millions of humans live, everywhere on Earth, to within 15 feet. The company has created a data map of the human population by combining government census numbers with information it’s obtained from space satellites, according to Janna Lewis, Facebook’s head of strategic innovation partnerships and sourcing. A Facebook representative later told CNBC that this map currently covers 23 countries, up from 20 countries mentioned in this blog post from February 2016.

The mapping technology, which Facebook says it developed itself, can pinpoint any man-made structures in any country on Earth to a resolution of five meters. Facebook is using the data to understand the precise distribution of humans around the planet. That will help the company determine what types of internet service — based either on land, in the air or in space — it can use to reach consumers who now have no (or very low quality) internet connections.”

Facebook and Google own the top apps

“On mobile, where the majority of the world’s content is now consumed, Google and Facebook own eight of the top 10 apps, with apps devouring 87% of our time spent on smartphones and tablets, according to new comScore data (Figure A):

“In sum, the majority of our time online is now mediated by just a few megacorporations, and for the most part their top incentive is to borrow our privacy just long enough to target an ad at us.”