Shark dragging

This Year’s Dose of Horrible Behavior Towards Animals

How would you feel if some dudes would grab somebody dear to you, tie that person to a car and drag them around town for a couple of miles? While doing this, of course, they would laugh, because torture is fun.

And then there’s this horrific way to celebrate students: a jungle-themed prom where majestic wild animals are disrespected and psychologically tormented. This sets, of course, a wonderful example for the adults, parents and decision makers of tomorrow.

The CLOUD Act

The CLOUD Act – or Another Nail in the Coffin of Privacy

Finally, thanks to the CLOUD act passed earlier this year, American companies have the right to spy for the government of the USA on pretty much anybody that uses American products. The act also indirectly opens the door for other governments that enjoy snooping in their citizens’ private lives. And guess what, major tech companies had no problem turning their back on their customers because (surprise!) the act will save them loads of cash:

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Of course, this is all done with ethics and responsibility at the forefront, in the glorious battle against organized crime. Even if I wasn’t sarcastic, this is, after all, yet another weapon in the USA’s cyberwarfare arsenal. And the walls protecting our private lives have already started to fall.

Economic Inequality

Fairness in the World of Economic Inequality

We often gasp at the amount of wealth various entrepreneurs have amassed. News about economic inequality (sometimes known as income inequality) is quite common lately, and so it should be. Slowly but surely, society’s patience is reaching the breaking point and when that happens, chaos ensues.

It is hard not to be shocked when confronted with the knowledge that the accumulated wealth of 42 individuals (no typo, it really is a two-digit number) is greater than that of the poorest half of the world’s population put together. And then there’s that already outdated statistic about the world’s top 1% owning more than the bottom X% (82% as of 2017 and growing).

Is there a reason to rage when these statistics show up? To many, the answer is an obvious “yes”. Indeed, the disparity is staggering, but fury isn’t usually the right attitude to address a problem. There are many factors that contribute to the present state of affairs and we are directly responsible for some of them. Owning up to this is the first step towards improving things.

As I’ll soon show, there are different kinds of “rich and powerful”. Some of these people are highly beneficial for the progress of our species, while others are destroying lives and wrecking our ecosystem, dragging down society by setting the wrong examples.

Corporations vs The Public

Corporations vs The Public

Back in September of 2017, I met Oliwer, a Norwegian Green Peace activist looking for donations in Stockholm. He told me that they’re trying to stop the Norwegians from drilling for oil in the Arctic. He also told me about how a powerful, profitable company involved in logging is attempting to disrupt the environmental organization by suing it for a massive amount in damages to their business.

I asked him to tell me more, as it was hard to understand for me how such a thing could even work. My image of Green Peace was that of a world-wide, semi-decentralized network of agents (mostly volunteers). It’s hard to kill such an organization, especially given the volunteering aspect. Unfortunately, most money still leaves a trail (I’d switch to donations via cryptocurrencies if I were Green Peace).

I promised the man that instead of donating money, I’ll donate time and do what I do best: investigate and write. The case he told me about is only one of the many times corporations and even governments have went after Green Peace. It is, however, one of the most ridiculous (although admittedly not as ridiculous as when the government of Australia tried to basically pay a corporation to sue Green Peace).

Project One

One More Hyper-car for the Hyper-consumerist Empire

Diversity is beautiful. It’s the reason why our planet is so different than everything else we’ve encountered so far. Humans have added to the diversity through art and technology. But what if there is a boundary after which adding more diversity becomes ugly?

Do I blame the engineers that build hyper-cars? Of course not. Besides being a former Formula 1 fan, I know that these people are only doing their job. I do blame, however, a society that doesn’t encourage these bright minds to work on fixing bigger, more meaningful problems.

The Worship Of Mammon

The Survival Instinct and the Rules of the Human Game

Irrespective of us having free will or not, at least a part of our mind is taking decisions based on a very deeply rooted program. That program is our instinct and, like for all other species, its job is to ensure our survival. Instinct is both necessary and ruthless.

In the same time, we’re living in a society that reaches for higher moral grounds through the evolution of ethics and empathy. Our need for moral progress is probably also an evolutionary trait, ensuring social progress, which is a necessity of our survival as a species. We have gotten this far not only because we are skilled individuals, but also because we’ve found ways to work together through the direst of circumstances. However, the evolution of our society is sometimes in conflict with the instinct of the individual.

Smartphone Privacy

Why It’s Not Surprising That Smartphone Privacy Is Going from Bad to Worse

Throughout the past years there have been several high-profile occasions when apps were in the news for questionable tracking strategies. Even applications that do not use novel means of compromising our privacy are gobbling up increasing amounts of data while their creators cash in on the profits obtained from selling the user’s digital life to the highest bidder. At the receiving end of this deluge of spyware are we, the people.

Even for those of us that do read the list of permissions an app requests upon installation, it is hard to avoid installing certain apps because they come with other features that we need. It’s an old trick that is akin to the Trojan horse. This is how these dubious app creators get in our back yard: by offering something that is 90% useful and 10% spyware, but which must be accepted as a whole.

Food Delivery Guy For Uber And Foodora

Just How Bad Is It to Do Food Delivery for Today’s App-Overlords

As it turns out following this journalist’s two-week investigation, it’s pretty bad. The man could barely manage $4.4 per hour working his legs off (for Uber Eats) in Stockholm, capital of Sweden, where the cost of living has increased drastically in the past decade. The pay was better when working for Foodora, a similar service, but still unfair given the amount of work, not to mention the minimum salary in Sweden. The interviewing procedure for Foodora is outright humiliating. The practical test encourages possible employees to jeopardize their life by breaking traffic regulations. Here’s the story in all its juicy (read gory) details:

Some of the things a technologically interconnected world has brought us are great. But damn, some of the others are pretty sad. I bet the argument that “at least they’re creating jobs” will eventually pop up. No, these are not jobs. This is slavery, plain and simple. The fact that the slaves are willingly performing this demeaning work is even worse. This shows the decay of the social structures that were meant to ensure our progress as a species.

Shenzen

Behind China’s Success

Like pretty much everybody that is up to date with current events, I’ve been following China’s rise as a high-tech superpower with great interest. The article touches on some very important points concerning innovation while showing some interesting statistics about one of China’s innovation hubs, Shenzhen.

But there’s more than patent applications that will power China’s success. The country’s social system is more competitive than many of its Western adversaries. Many Westerners (including me) would have ethical qualms in toying with genetically engineered human embryos. I’m quite sure that China is willing to go further and faster with such experiments. It is quite possible that this is an even greater game-changer than our so-called efforts into artificial “intelligence”.

Artificial Non-Intelligence

The Danger with Artificial “Intelligence” Is That It’s Not (yet) Intelligent

Albert Einstein once said that “our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal”. He said this in December 1917, almost a hundred years ago, after seeing Europe ravaged by the First World War. Regardless, Einstein continued contributing to that same technological progress. Human curiosity and our desire to achieve are incompatible with stagnation. We will have to deal with this by being careful with the technology we will inevitably develop.

Like many have said before me, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can either be our salvation or our doom. It is a far bigger game-changer than nuclear bombs. But the problem is that there is NO Artificial Intelligence yet, and there won’t be for quite some time to come. Everything that the world’s corporations are selling now-a-days as “smart” or “intelligent” is actually a mindless human construct. Sure, it’s advanced, but if a rocket is more advanced than a spoon, that doesn’t make it in the slightest more intelligent than the spoon. They both lack one of the prime ingredients of intelligence, which is self-awareness. And therein lays the true threat.

Right now, our so-called artificial “intelligence” is nothing but a tool that corporations can and will use ruthlessly against one another (and against the people of one another). This is already taking place on the stock market, something I wrote about last year. Back then, I highlighted the fact that exactly because these algorithms are not intelligent, they will be used to enrich and empower whoever spent money in building them, regardless of their morals or social affiliation. And let’s not forget that software is far easier to steal and smuggle than radioactive material. Put the wrong AI in the hands of the wrong people and…