‘The older I get,’ said Daphne, ‘the more I think people get to look like other people. I never did when I was young but now I can hardly look at a face without thinking how much it looks like someone else.’

May 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Like Apple a huge number of companies transform unwaged enthusiasm into micro-productivity that, in aggregate, can be folded into profit schemes but could never be paid for as actual wage labor. Valve’s Steam service is building an ecosystem of unwaged user productivity, selling games through its “Early Access” program, essentially allowing game developers to charge players to beta test their games in exchange for the flattering thrill of seeing something before it’s ready.

Coursera has traded on goodwill and charitable idealism to duck expensive overhead costs by using voluntarily donated space while transforming transcription services into student curriculum. Duolingo redirects the desire to learn a language into a business that sells low-cost translations to media companies wanting to syndicate stories into non-English-speaking markets. GitHub has inserted itself into the open source software community by creating a central repository of collaborative coding projects, while charging users to operate private repositories. Google , Facebook, Twitter , have all turned even the most basic acts of daily life into market research micro-labor, and the more personally intertwined we become with each the more productive we become for them.

To a large extent, work has always been a delusional gifting of time and energy to bosses in exchange for the abstract comforts of a purposeful identity in a superstructure of someone else’s making. This arrangement was always transitory, and now that the economies of scale have grown so large that the value of the end product can no longer support the labor necessary for its creation, we find ourselves still desiring of the identity we once derived from serving, a yearning that drives people into charitable forms of giving to for-profit companies while increasingly mistrusting one another. Individuals don’t need help because they’re lazy, uneducated, addicts, or criminals, but companies are always worth contributing to because they do great things for the collective.  read more

FILM: Polly Hudson

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For in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril; – nevertheless, the sea is the sea

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Boston Dynamics was as much its YouTube channel as it was a robotics firm. Poorly lit, with a look that betrayed iMovie’s default settings, the videos were what Boston Dynamics did best: present experimental technologies as logical conclusions. Of course we’ll have quadruped robots running faster than Usain Bolt. I mean, obvy. The banality of it all; how could you resist? But there were consequences to this kind of thinking.

PETMAN isn’t the T-1000. It was meant to test hazard suits worn by military personnel, so, the logic goes, it needed to move like one. LS3 isn’t a mobile weapons platform, but a way to haul supplies across uneven terrain. In neither case are the technologies murderous on their own, but a very real problem lies in the goals they serve. Here are robots meant to streamline war. Make war go faster.

My—our—obsession with Boston Dynamics served as a kind of military boosterism. An obscenely large foam hand emblazoned with the words Real Future Shit (and, occasionally, We’re All Going to Die). Also, a sense that only in a not-too-distant future will war be truly horrifying, when it’s waged by articulated legs, quadcopter swarms, railguns—only then. I’m absolved of any guilt about the wars happening right now because I’ve transferred it to the future still buffering. Fearing what a robot might do makes me comfortable with what drone strikes do right now.

Paralysis comes swift when you think of all the ways you’re complicit in ongoing horror. So 2013 went to drone pilot confessionals. Snake robots in water. It was also the year I turned 30, and, feeling nostalgic, searched for early footage of the Gulf War—the moment, I think, science fact and science fiction became inseparable, inviting all of us to imagine what could be at the cost of what already was.

No one company should take all the blame, if that’s even the word. The speculative arms industry is thirsty and involves universities, blogs, commercial gimmicks—even DIY makers cobbling better, cooler drones in the backyard. Harmless, robbed of context.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: tim_d

The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

Now, I know the response: “I’m recorded by security cameras all day, it doesn’t bother me, what’s the difference?” Hear me out – I’m not done. What makes Glass so unique is that it’s a Google project. And Google has the capacity to combine Glass with other technologies it owns.

First, take the video feeds from every Google Glass headset, worn by users worldwide. Regardless of whether video is only recorded temporarily, as in the first version of Glass, or always-on, as is certainly possible in future versions, the video all streams into Google’s own cloud of servers. Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus (with an emphasis on people’s accurate, real-world names): Google’s servers can process video files, at their leisure, to attempt identification on every person appearing in every video. And if Google Plus doesn’t sound like much, note that Mark Zuckerberg has already pledged that Facebook will develop apps for Glass.

Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index.

Now our stage is set: not for what will happen, necessarily, but what I just want to point out could technically happen, by combining tools already available within Google.

Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

I’m still not done…  read more

WORDS: Bernadette Mayer

Je me donne des règles pour être totalement libre

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

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Male bodied folk have the dubious benefit of external genitalia, flopping forth and front for the world to see in every locker room and public bathroom across the globe. By adulthood, most men have seen enough dick to know how they measure up against normal folk and porn stars alike. Like it or not, if you have a weird penis, you’re probably going to know.

But not the ladies. No, even in the most nude of the nonsexual naked times, women walk around with their genitals tucked sweetly between their legs, nestled away from prying eyes. Betwixt the thighs of every woman lurks a vulva as unique as her fingerprints. With nothing to compare herself too, she begins to wonder. To assume the worst. To fret that she is excessive, ugly, smelly, weird, wrong, too dark, too light, too fleshy, too soft, too much.

And one day she Googles “designer vagina”.

Cue flashing dollar signs.

Thanks to the carefully crafted copy on the soothing-yet-demonic genital cosmetic surgery websites, she is suddenly stricken with the panicked realization that she is, indeed, the owner of a grotesque downstairs smile. Her vagina is weird. Obviously, her worst fear is true: all of her childhood masturbation definitely made her vulva asymmetrical and that one year spell of regular deep dicking back in college unquestionably made her love tunnel looser than dead turkey neck. The baited trap – that if she Googled, it must be true – is set in the cache of before and after pictures.

These pictures confirm that she is the owner of a crotch disaster because all of the women in the before pictures are totally, 100% anatomically normal. That’s the advertising genius. The ‘before’ snatches may be biological perfection but the vulnerability inherent in simply Googling “designer vagina” belies such deep physical insecurities that the merest whiff of confirmation sends these women fist first into their bank accounts. The women who Google simply don’t notice that the before shots are normal because they are so afraid.

Afraid of what, though? Of being unique? Of being displeasing? Of their own genitalia?

The natural extension of cosmetic surgery from its bread and butter, our human billboards (faces, breasts, asses) to our deepest, darkest crevices is brilliant. Everyone knows how their nose compares to other people’s. Only people who eat pussy know what real world pussy really looks like.

Please note how this form of advertisement capitalizes on the golden pairing: a legitimate lack of knowledge and borderline disastrous body dysmorphia. With no normal to compare to and a deep seated fear of all things weird and Lovecraftian, doctors can elegantly swoop in and ply their trade. There, there, I know it’s hard to accept that you have a squirrelly and unattractive vulva but the good doctor is here to slice up your bits and make you a star.  read more

ART: [unknown]

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