Saturday, April 28, 2018

Breaking news only matters if it's happening next door

Like many people, I appreciate the distractions provided by the 24-hour news cycle. It is great for when I don't have the mental energy to absorb anything else.

However, I'm increasingly ignoring "breaking news" these days. After the initial story breaks, the lack of real information is spackled with speculation, opinion, and tendentious political commentary. Even from sources that I pay for.

I'd rather wait and read a longer three-dimensional analysis in a trusted and considered weekly or monthly publication.

"Breaking news" increasingly only matters to me if it's happening next door.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg and the Chinese competition

An interesting quote from Mark Zuckerberg during this week's appearance on Capitol Hill:

“Some of these use cases that are very sensitive, like face recognition for example,” he said carefully. “And I think that there’s a balance that’s extremely important to strike here where you obtain special consent for sensitive features like facial recognition. But don’t — but that we still need to make it so that American companies can innovate in those areas.

“Or else we’re going to fall behind Chinese competitors and others around the world who have different regimes for different, new features like that.”

I think that this is a valid point; however, falling behind Chinese competitors can have many meanings. I assume he didn't mean this one:

The technology’s veneer of convenience conceals a dark truth: Quietly and very rapidly, facial recognition has enabled China to become the world’s most advanced surveillance state.

A hugely ambitious new government program called the “social credit system” aims to compile unprecedented data sets, including everything from bank-account numbers to court records to internet-search histories, for all Chinese citizens. Based on this information, each person could be assigned a numerical score, to which points might be added for good behavior like winning a community award, and deducted for bad actions like failure to pay a traffic fine.

The goal of the program, as stated in government documents, is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

Anyone who has seen S03E01 of Black Mirror would likely recall the following: