Tips for Remaining Anonymous in the Surveillance Age

safe texting

Surveillance capitalism benefits companies who have large datasets about what people do and where they are – without the consent of those being monitored. The pervasive modern surveillance which is around us everyday from our phones to private cameras can be connected to large corporations or governments for nefarious purposes. Sometimes it can seem innocuous (but not positive) like ads or utterly terrifying like what’s happening in China.

So what to do if you don’t want to be monitored? Step one is to constantly pester politicians about it. You can use privacy enhancing browser extensions or go a little further and get glasses that prevents cameras from seeing your face.

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as facial recognition, has become more widespread in public and private spaces — including schools, retail storesairports, concert venues and even to unlock the newest iPhones. Civil-liberty groups concerned about the potential for misuse have urged politicians to regulate the systems. A recent Washington Post investigation, for instance, revealed FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used facial recognition to scan millions of Americans’ driver’s licenses without their knowledge to identify suspects and undocumented immigrants.

The motivation to seek out antidotes to an over-powerful force has political and symbolic significance for Doctorow, an L.A.-based science-fiction author and privacy advocate. His father’s family fled the Soviet Union, which used surveillance to control the masses.

“We are entirely too sanguine about the idea that surveillance technologies will be built by people we agree with for goals we are happy to support,” he said. “For this technology to be developed and for there to be no countermeasures is a road map to tyranny.”

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This Knowledge Tree Cold Help us Avert Climate Catastrophe

tree with climate knowledge

The ongoing global climate crisis is still denied by some people (like the Australian Prime Minister) despite all the evidence. The predictions made by climate scientists decades ago are coming true: from crop failures to massive wildfires. Why then are we ignoring their predictions about what’s going to happen next? This question is tough since it can get people thinking about things they find uncomfortable. To help us talk with people who don’t understand the threat of ignoring the climate crisis Summer Praetorius created this helpful knowledge tree. The tree helps us find what people are thinking and how they reached their conclusion.

The thing about alarms is that they turn out to be useful. The canary in the coalmine, smoke detectors, tornado sirens, cell phone alerts; we generally agree that instruments to detect and convey impending threats are a step in the right direction. In fact, we require them in most buildings. The inconvenience of an occasional false alarm is far outweighed by the benefit of not dying in your sleep by a raging fire.

So while catastrophists may get the eye-roll of hyperbole, gradualists warrant an occasional head-slap of naivete. Their apparent inability to conceive a fundamentally different world leads them into a default mode of complacency, one that ironically makes it much more likely to provoke the thing they aren’t expecting. On the flip side, catastrophists are more prone to expect disaster, and might be more motivated to prevent the potential threats. So each will unwittingly prove the other one right, if they have their way of things.

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The Complex Mental Model of the Suburbs

the suburbs

It’s well established that the suburbs are bad for people’s health, the environment, mobility, and are associated with many other societal ills. However, amongst people who don’t live in the suburbs there is a profound distaste in sub-urban living that suburbanites don’t seem to understand. The revulsion people have to the suburbs predates our collective knowledge of the harm suburbs cause, so what is causing this disgust of the suburbs? That’s what Suzannah Lessard investigates in an essay in which she connects how we talk about (and conceive of) physical space influences our thoughts about it.

The problem with transcendence for progressives is that it is conservative in a profound way. I would venture that Howards End expresses a conservativism in Forster, in the sense of valuing what has accumulated over time, and the ways in which it can amount to something more than the sum of its parts, its uses, its price; a conservativism that was at odds with his progressive values yet could be expressed through a relationship to place depicted in Howards End; but only because that world was depicted as sufficiently obsolete that issues of power and status, of exclusion and exploitation, were not at play. The actual form of suburbia, in contrast, breaks up landscape into tiny pieces, spreading out indefinitely, undoing the pastoral terrain as context—as something larger than ourselves. It balkanizes an age-old archetype of providential order—much as most progressives would resist that quasi-theistic idea. The pastoral landscape is the last resort of secular humanists in search of a quiet expression of their sense of transcendence—and the suburban formation destroys that. Long-shot speculation? Well, yes. But maybe it opens a tiny chink in the mystery of suburbophobia.

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A Union in the Kitchen will Improve Your Life

coffee

Thanks to the efforts of billionaires, and other corrupt individuals, union workers have been portrayed as lazy and inept. If anything, the opposite is true. Workers in unions have different goals than business owners insofar that workers just want to earn a good living while owners want to extract profit from consumers. Young workers today have noticed that the profit motive has left behind has the cost of living increase and wages remain stagnant. This has forced many young workers to unionize, and that unionization push is starting where a lot of young people end up working: kitchens.

Public opinion has recently swung in the other direction. Just over 10 percent of Americans are in a union now, considerably less than the 34 percent in 1954. However, more than half of Americans now say they view unions favorably, a number that has risen from around 41 percent since the recession. If there’s a silver lining to the ongoing decline of unionization, it’s that now, “membership in unions has gotten so low that people don’t even have a negative view of unions anymore,” Rogers says. There’s less of the cultural baggage associated with being in one, the slate has been wiped clean. Many of the organizers I spoke to said they’d never been in a union before, and either had no idea what they were about until recently, or a positive impression based on a dictionary definition of a union as a group of people with common cause arguing for their rights.

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Imperfection is the Perfect Goal

Many people want to be perfect and they spend a lot of their energy trying to improve themselves so they appear perfect. This is a fool’s game as perfection is an impossible goal; and the earlier this is realized the better it is for your life. Yes, to be “perfect: be imperfect. Thanks to Instagram and other social media channels it’s easy to get the impression that everyone else has the perfect life and that you are being left behind. Remember that all of those feeds are curated snippets of one’s life which masks all their own imperfections. So don’t stress about it and just embrace who you are.

Perfectionism comes in three common flavors — “self-oriented,” where someone demands perfection from themselves; “other-oriented,” where they demand perfection from others around them (like spouses, co-workers or friends), and “socially prescribed” perfectionism, where the person feels external pressure from the larger world and society to be perfect.

The latter type seems to be especially pernicious, says Gordon Flett, a psychologist at York University in Canada, because it’s consistently linked to health and emotional problems. He recently published a paper looking at people with chronic health problems like fibromyalgia or heart problems. About one in four of them scored high in socially prescribed perfectionism, where they felt that society or people around them expected them to be perfect.

Striving for perfection isn’t the same as being competitive or aiming for excellence, which can be healthy things. What makes perfectionism toxic is that you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard that can never be achieved — essentially setting yourself up for perpetual failure.

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