tymshft

There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Will “America First” hasten “China First”?

I have written a number of things in this tymshft blog over the years, but if I were to look over them again, I suspect that every one of them was written with an exclusively Western mindset.

Which is surprising when you think about it, because the most significant trend that people have been talking about for decades is the coming end of American dominance.

Over the last several hundred years, various countries and empires have taken turns as major world powers. For the people of today, it is inconceivable that Portugal was once one of those world powers. Now it’s the holiday spot for people from England, who themselves once presided over an empire upon which the sun never set. After the United States pretty much bailed Britain out in the 1940s, there were two world powers – and by 1990, there was only one.

Meanwhile, futurists kept an eye on the billion-plus people in the so-called “uncivilized” part of the world. Here’s part of what the American Conservative wrote in 2012:

[China’s poverty] began to change very rapidly once Deng Xiaoping initiated his free-market reforms in 1978, first throughout the countryside and eventually in the smaller industrial enterprises of the coastal provinces. By 1985, The Economist ran a cover story praising China’s 700,000,000 peasants for having doubled their agricultural production in just seven years, an achievement almost unprecedented in world history. Meanwhile, China’s newly adopted one-child policy, despite its considerable unpopularity, had sharply reduced population growth rates in a country possessing relatively little arable land….

Even a century ago, near the nadir of China’s later weakness and decay, some of America’s foremost public intellectuals, such as Edward A. Ross and Lothrop Stoddard, boldly predicted the forthcoming restoration of the Chinese nation to global influence, the former with equanimity and the latter with serious concern.

While the American Conservative article goes on to argue that China’s ascendancy does not necessarily mean the United States’ decline, it argued that at the time (2012) we were clearly heading that way.

Our elites boast about the greatness of our constitutional democracy, the wondrous human rights we enjoy, the freedom and rule of law that have long made America a light unto the nations of the world and a spiritual draw for oppressed peoples everywhere, including China itself. But are these claims actually correct? They often stack up very strangely when they appear in the opinion pages of our major newspapers, coming just after the news reporting, whose facts tell a very different story.

Just last year, the Obama administration initiated a massive months-long bombing campaign against the duly recognized government of Libya on “humanitarian” grounds, then argued with a straight face that a military effort comprising hundreds of bombing sorties and over a billion dollars in combat costs did not actually constitute “warfare,” and hence was completely exempt from the established provisions of the Congressional War Powers Act.

But as the 2012 author well knew, the Obama administration would not be in power forever. At worst, Obama would be re-elected in 2012, but would leave office by 2017.

What if a very different leader were to take his place? What if a new President were to appeal to those who were NOT elite? What if he were to (intentionally or unintentionally) heed the George Washington warning against entangling alliances, and were to reverse the traditional isolationism that dominated the United States for most of the years between 1789 and 1940 – when the “America First” movement fell due to Communist disapproval (after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union), followed by American disapproval the next year after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor?

What if, on Inauguration Day in 2017, a new President were to stand on the Capitol steps and, despite their loaded meaning, actually utter the words “America First”?

Twice?

Well, that could lead to unexpected consequences:

This year’s Davos forum taking place from January 17, is supposed to be dominated by a haunting specter of hostility to globalization and the rise of protectionism around the world. It comes at a time, when the new U.S. president-elect is talking tough on trade, promising tariffs and increased government interference in the market. The forum will end on the day the new president is sworn in. It also, for the first time, features the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi’s pitch was fundamentally a focus on free trade rather than geopolitical confrontation, and a pitch for inclusive globalization. Protectionism, nativism and populism were identified as three threats that must be contended with by a more cooperative approach to global trade.

The speech itself comprised of a robust defense of the current world order.

The above was written by Sumantra Maitra at china.org.cn. And why not use china.org.cn as a reference? The Davos crowd, hit by the double whammy of Brexit and Trump, is all too willing to welcome anyone who champions the global interconnectedness of nations. And while there are some who argue that China remains a totalitarian state, with its population controls and its notorious “Great Firewall,” China can simply tell its critics to look in the mirror.

As Maitra poses the argument, two new coalitions of nations are forming. One consists of the nationalists – the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, and possibly other European nations in the coming months – nations who value nationalism and protectionism. According to Maitra, the other coalition consists of nations such as China who remain committed to globalism. Maitra concludes:

One needs to understand, that as long as there are laws of demand and supply, trade will be paramount and the forces of economics will favor countries which are pro-trade. Countries, which will try to be protectionist, will ultimately suffer as the market will inevitably punish them due to the lack of competitive advantage. Smaller countries will automatically coalesce around the powers which are more open to trade, and that should be a point well-articulated in Davos.

And as those small countries coalesce around the larger countries, obviously the larger countries will take the lead.

And which country is the largest country of all? Hint – it isn’t Switzerland.

When I shared this hypothesis with Tad Donaghe, a futurist whom I respect, I shared it in much shorter form. I was responding to this statement:

We will not accept Trump as the Leader of the free world.

I replied (while sharing the Maitra article):

Many have thought that the US would pass from world leadership regardless, and that China would ascend as the world leader. Perhaps this is happening, and both “America First” conservatives and “human rights” liberals are now on the sidelines.

His response:

We cannot allow that. There is no real freedom at all in China.

But csn “the West” truly prevent that from happening? And if so, how? None of the past Presidents – Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, or Obama – were able to free China’s masses, and Trump doesn’t look like he can do it either.

Continue the discussion here, or at Tad’s Facebook post.

No Zeptember or Rocktober in Norway – FM radio is being shut down

Chris Kim A linked to an Atlas Obscura post that linked to a phys.org post. The common topic of all of these is the phased shutdown of FM radio stations in Norway, beginning on January 11 and extending through the year.

I’ve talked about FM radio shutdowns before – my college campus radio station, KRRC, surrendered its FCC license several years ago. This was partly due to government hassles – other nonprofits kept on trying to grab KRRC’s spectrum allocation, and in some cases were successful, causing the radio station to move. (During my college years, a frequency change resulted in a change of KRRC’s slogan – the former submarine of the airwaves became the highest station on the dial.) Another reason – with only 10 watts of power, the station signal couldn’t go all that far. As digital radio technology improved, it became easier to just can the whole thing.

Norway actually has similar issues on a technological front. According to phys.org, “[t]he FM spectrum has room for a maximum of only five national stations.” There are already over 40 digital stations, so why not switch now?

Only one problem. Most of the population can’t receive those digital stations yet.

But many think the shift is premature.

A poll in Dagbladet newspaper in December found 66 percent of Norwegians are against shutting down FM, with only 17 percent in favour.

While around three quarters of the population have at least one DAB radio set, many motorists are unhappy, as only about a third of cars currently on the road are equipped.

Converting a car radio involves buying an adaptor for between 1,000 and 2,000 kroner (110 to 220 euros), or getting a whole new radio.

This is a common problem when a government phases out one service to replace it with another service – people aren’t willing to pay to make the change. Often the government has to force the issue, as the United States government did a few years ago when it forced the analog television channels to shut down in favor of digital channels. People who didn’t have cable had to buy special digital antennas to receive the new channels over the air. (But the antennas didn’t cost over $100.)

Should such a scenario happen in the United States, there is one advantage that we would have. While my smartphone cannot pick up digital radio broadcasts, it can pick up streaming Internet broadcasts via various apps such as the iHeart Radio app, so even if I didn’t buy a digital radio, I could still listen to some stuff on my phone as I drive.

However, the loss of FM radio in countries beyond Norway, probably also including the United States, will also have a cultural impact. While FM radio first appeared in 1945, it didn’t really hit its stride until the late 1960s, when FM “rock” stations began to appear. Technically, they offered better sound quality than the AM radio stations of the time. Culturally, they offered…well, something.

Hello, I’m Jim Ladd. (sucking sound) Now we’re going to play an entire album side of music, recorded live at the Spent Seed Hall by a supergroup featuring members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, along with The Grateful Dead, Big Fat Green Colombian Marmalade, and The Archies. Put your headphones on now. After this, I’ll be heading out to the Sunset Strip, and the next show on this station will be hosted by The Rock Chick.

Hi, I’m the Rock Chick. After this 25 minute album side, I’ll be speaking to you in my deep gravelly voice and playing the new Zeppelin cut. Since it’s August 31, this is a great time to hear this, because we are going to be celebrating Zeptember all next month, followed by our celebration of Rocktober. Let me say that again in my deep voice – ROCKTOBER. Then I’m going to replay yesterday’s interview of a Black Panther at the local Free Clinic.

So what will the cultural impact of digital radio stations be? Will R. Crumb trucking give way to R. Scoble in the shower?

But WHY were the iPhone naysayers incorrect?

When I look at predictions that were incorrect – more often than not, my own predictions – my intent is not to make fun of the stupid people (generally me) who got it so wrong, but to ask the question – WHY was the original prediction incorrect?

When Apple came up with its iPod that was also a phone – with the wildly unoriginal name “iPhone” – it was not an overnight success. In fact, some very influential people thought that it would be a spectacular failure.

Ben Sin revisited those incorrect predictions, but again he was not laughing at the bad predictions:

Now, this piece isn’t in any way meant to poke fun at people who predicted failure for the iPhone. Nobody, not even Jobs, could have known the iPhone would be the single most important invention of the past decade.

So why did people such as Steve Ballmer, TechCrunch, and others think that the iPhone would fail? For a lot of reasons, but I’d like to focus on two of them.

First, several people didn’t like the idea of a touchscreen at all. TechCrunch:

That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone. Don’t be surprised if a sizable contingent of iPhone buyers express some remorse at ditching their BlackBerry when they spend an extra hour each day pumping out emails on the road.

David Platt:

…users will detest the touch screen interface due to its lack of tactile feedback. Using a thumb keyboard, as on the very popular Treo phone, allows the user to feel the keys and know subconsciously that he’s about to press this one and not the one next to it. A touch screen doesn’t allow that, so the user will have to be looking at the keyboard at all times while using it.

And I’ll include myself in that number. For years after 2007, I resisted getting a phone that didn’t have a “real” keyboard. Even though I hsve relatively thin fingers, I knew that there was no way that I could accurately type on a virtual keyboard that was so small.

So what did I learn, and what did others learn, when we finally got an iPhone or an Android phone that had a virtual keyboard?

Auto-correct.

Granted that auto-correct is constantly vilified, but on balance it does more good than harm. Contrary to the 2007 belief that people would take forever to type anything on a virtual keyboard, I type at a pretty fast rate – and my phone corrects my errant keystrokes more often than not.

And by freeing up the space formerly occupied by a physical keyboard, modern phones can now either have a bigger screen, or can do away with the complexities of a “chiclet” model phone in which the keyboard slid in and out. This resulted in a better user experience.

Add to that another thing that Jobs wasn’t banking on in 2007 – voice dictation. I personally am not a big user of voice dictation, but as we get more comfortable with the technology and as Siri, Alexa, and their friends continue to evolve, input will be even easier.

(One caveat: voice dictation has its own drawbacks. If you get irritated when you see a crowd of people all staring at their phones, you will get REALLY irritated when that same crowd of people all starts TALKING to their phones.)

So what’s the second reason that people thought the iPhone would fail? The cost was too damn high. Even back in 2007, when most people were not exposed to the full cost of buying a phone because it was buried in their data plan, people worried that the iPhone would be a failure because other phones could do the same thing much more cheaply.

Ballmer:

It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

So, what happened? The iPhone came out, it was really expensive, and in the U.S. it was only available on a single cellular network. Sounds like a recipe for failure, right?

No. Because people really, really wanted the iPhone, and they loudly demanded that Apple release the iPhone for Verizon and other networks. And in economic terms, it became a scarce good with pent-up demand.

Not every Apple product has been a runaway success, but they have clearly had several successes over their decades-long history, and the iPhone was clearly one of them. While it could have gone the other way, and while certain aspects of the iPhone marketing have been ridiculed (“It’s white! OMG OMG OMG!”), the iPhone delivered enough functionality and included enough revisions that people continued to have interest in it.

And the iPhone influenced other products, and even other markets. Today you have Android phones that receive calls, play music, and access the Internet. And they’re really expensive and don’t have keyboards.

On a personal note, one of those iPhone revisions affected my industry, biometrics. In the years before 2007, if someone had told you to put your finger on a phone to unlock it, you would have resisted the idea because that’s what police do to criminals. But when Apple put a fingerprint reader on an iPhone, use of the technology in consumer markets became acceptable.

In 2007, it was difficult to predict that this new device would change things as much as it did. And we never really know when a new product will succeed, and when it will fail. So frankly, when the next revolutionary product comes out, we probably won’t be any better at knowing whether it will change everything, or be a spectacular failure.

Anyone got an iPod for sale?

Perceptive RETURN from Travel

There are a number of people who write about traveling. There are blogs (allow me to single out Perceptive Travel for special mention), books, and other media that describe the sensation of going away from your home to a strange and different place.

However, there isn’t really any emphasis in talking about coming home from travel.

Of course, there are a couple of exceptions.

One that comes to mind is The Odyssey. If you want to talk about a long business trip, look to Odysseus. He went away from home for ten years to fight in the Trojan War, and then it took another ten years for him to actually get home. The Odyssey describes the second set of ten years, but it doesn’t end at the point that he says, “Honey, I’m home.” You see, Odysseus’ long absence meant that he had to take care of some personal business before he could relax at home with his family.

The second exception comes not from ancient Greece, but from modern Mississippi. In a post entitled Vujà dé all over again, Shawn Zehnder Rossi describes her feelings upon returning home after spending ten days in Paris. Obviously she experienced a lot of new things during her time in Paris, but her post described what happened when she came back home from her trip. An excerpt:

At home, I add sugar-free syrups to my coffee. But this morning, the sugar-free syrups tasted completely different. What once was a comfort food addition now just adds a strange taste. And it was a strange moment.

I sat in my armchair this morning to watch TV and read my morning news on the laptop — and I had to get used to it again. My bed felt “new” last night. It is a strange sensation to have so many things I’ve known for so long feel new again.

I guess this means that Rossi is…um…a homer.

Before that pendulum shifts away from the cloud, check the full story

The secret to writing success, political success, or whatever is to make an outlandish statement which gets people so angry that they can’t help but read it. I haven’t quite gotten to that stage yet, but my 2014 post The pendulum is shifting away from the cloud. Told you so. was admittedly a bit of a contrarian attention-getter. Not that I’m negating my basic point – that we switch between distributed vs. centralized computing in a pendulum-like fashion – but back in 2014, you could clearly get more attention by saying that the cloud is out.

Well, cloud is still hot – in fact, my employer deployed a cloud-based solution last year – but people are beginning to question whether the cloud is totally wonderful.

And so we have this Geektime article:

With a steady increase in concerns for our cyber security, people will begin to move away from the cloud to secure their data and provide their own solutions.

Why? Because Yahoo, apparently. At the time that I write this, Yahoo (and its acquirer Verizon) are dealing with the fallout from a revelation of a second attack on Yahoo’s accounts – this one netting information from a billion accounts. Because of this and other threats, people are looking at non-cloud solutions.

Last month, CNET reviewed home storage solutions that cost less than $100, making it affordable to store data locally in one’s own “Cloud in your Attic.”

Even the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said, “As people assert control over their data, the web will ‘re-decentralise,’ reducing dependency on technology giants, returning power to individuals and businesses and allowing developers a rich space for innovation.”

And who would know better than the man who got us all online?

However, before you jump ahead and spend $99.99 to get your own server, ask yourself – are you a better cybersecurity professional than Yahoo’s cybersecurity professionals? Because if you’re not, then your system will be LESS safe than Yahoo’s system, which was breached at least twice.

Because one thing is constant whether you’re dealing with public cloud, private cloud, or your own box – someone is going to have to secure the thing. While I’ll admit that Yahoo is a much more tempting hacker target than, say, Joe’s Server in the Hall Closet, both need to be secured.

In my case, I am not a cybersecurity expert, so if I were to implement a home server, I’d need to get someone to secure the thing for me. And even people who are cybersecurity experts are not necessarily going to know all of the threats that could affect a home server.

I’m not saying that there aren’t valid reasons to move off the cloud in some instances. But before you move off the cloud because it’s “not secure,” think through the ramifications of selecting an alternative.

Will our robot overlords come with payment dispensers? (Obama and AI inequality)

As I write this, people in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world are approaching a major holiday. While the holiday itself falls on a Sunday, many people will celebrate the holiday on Monday.

For these people, this will be a paid holiday, in which they will get money even though they don’t do any work.

But what if this situation becomes permanent, as robots come in and do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do?

The concept of guaranteed income has been bandied about for a while. As I noted in a 2013 post, the theory is that as robots take over jobs and massive unemployment results, governments will be forced to pay guaranteed income to keep citizens afloat.

There’s a second point of view – one that I expressed in 2013, and still hold today. I believe that as the robots are implemented, new jobs will be created.

Well, now a third point of view has been expressed, by a guy named Barack Obama. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the President of the United States. Yes, I know that if you read Twitter, you’d get the idea that Donald Trump is President of the United States, but technically he won’t take power for nearly a month. So in the meantime, Obama gets to do Presidential things and say stuff:

In a report examining the economic impact of AI, the Obama administration trumpeted the technological advances that are expected in the coming years, but warned that automating mass amounts of jobs could exacerbate wealth inequality.

“AI should be welcomed for its potential economic benefits,” the report reads. “Those economic benefits, however, will not necessarily be evenly distributed across society.”…

Tuesday’s report laid out a number of recommendations for Congress and the next administration to help mitigate any negative economic impact that AI could have on the workforce. The recommendations include strengthening the social safety net, raising wages and investing in retraining and education to keep up with the shifting demands of the economy.

Now a “safety net” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “guaranteed income.” We’ve had a safety net for a while, which was described by the noted NGO The Clash in a multimedia presentation entitled “Know Your Rights”:

You have the right to food money
Providing of course
You don’t mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers
Rehabilitation

And it could be argued that “raising wages” would have the effect of actually INCREASING the use of robots to replace people. Think about that the next time that your favorite food establishment provides a super cool app to let you place your order. That app is cheaper than a $15 minimum wage order taker.

The report is addressing present concerns as expressed by voters. But what’s the chance of the report being consulted a month from now, when (as I noted) we have another President?

Donald Trump was propelled during the campaign by his argument that free trade agreements were depriving Americans of manufacturing jobs, but he spoke little about the threat that automation posed to employment.

So what’s going to happen? The federal government isn’t going to do anything, blue states are going to jack up the minimum wage, red states are going to give tax breaks to corporations, the corporations are going to continue automation, low wage workers are going to be unemployed, no guaranteed income will be implemented at the federal level, and even California and Washington won’t implement it at the state level. And then in 2020, we’ll get two Presidential candidates that will make the 2016 ones look like massively adored heroes. (Michael Moore vs. Michelle Malkin?)

That’s my prediction, and my predictions are always right.

Usually.

OK, not so much.

As modern distribution channels are swiftly trumped

When I first read the story that I’m about to share with you, I didn’t know if it belonged here in tymshft, in my music blog, or my business blog.

But first I had to figure out the truth behind Dave Schilling’s article in the Guardian on Taylor Swift’s new channel.

Millennials! Don’t sell your TVs just yet. You might be bored silly with the wasteland that is cable programming, but DirecTV’s new cord-cutting over-the-top service, DirecTV Now, will feature a 24-hour channel dedicated exclusively to the work of pop star Taylor Swift….

…the Guardian has obtained the launch day lineup for Taylor Swift Now in a journalistic coup that will surely be criminalized as soon as Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January.

It’s one of these articles that states that the information in the article WON’T BE FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE. Yeah, one of those.

(Excerpts from Schilling’s piece: the 6am show will be called #SquadGoals, and the 11am show will be called Bad Blood.)

So just when I was starting to doubt the whole thing, I ran across Lanre Bakare’s tweet about the article.

swift-channel

So Schilling didn’t make up the entire thing. I subsequently confirmed via MTV that Swift had launched the Taylor Swift Now channel in partnership with AT&T/DirecTv.

Swift is one of the biggest brands in music today, and she is the one who is best equipped to create her own channel. And while she’s still working through intermediaries such as AT&T, the time will eventually come when major musical artists will be able to sell their music directly without any intermediaries. Prince tried to do this, but was ahead of his time (and also past his former commanding stance in the industry).

Swift is making this move at the right time, which should make for some interesting negotiations when her contract with Big Machine expires. Will she opt for her own label partially owned by someone else (a la Madonna’s former label Maverick Records), or will she try going completely independent?

Well, if Swift wants to look for a model, she can look outside of the musical realm. There’s a man who has determinedly avoided the middlemen and roadblocks in his industry, and who is carrying his message directly to his customers.

You know who I’m talking about.

trump-twitter

Say what you will about him, Donald Trump has been the most innovative Presidential candidate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt used the radio to speak directly to the American people. Trump uses Twitter, a service that allows people to send short messages directly to other people. I mean, things like that didn’t exist in the days of Trump’s father Fred Trump – or did they?

Now Twitter, of course, is its own company, so Trump is dependent upon someone else to provide his megaphone. But Twitter is having its own problems as of late, which raises an interesting question – could Trump, in partnership with some other rich people, buy Twitter himself?

Now that would be really interesting.

Give thanks for your automated chauffeur

Good old Edith. Literally old, she’s a character that appeared in my 2013 post about medical advances. But Edith had to get to the doctor’s office in 2023:

So in May 2023, when Edith was 95 years old, she still scheduled her doctor appointment for the first Tuesday in May, and she still took a cab to the doctor’s office….An hour before the appointment, Gacepple Calendar reminded Edith of her appointment, and five minutes later the Toyota in the street let her know that it had arrived. No, not the driver – there was no driver – but the Toyota itself.

Edith was the expert on driverless cars. Outside of the techie circles, most individuals didn’t own driverless cars. But the cab companies that Edith used sure did. While some cabdrivers protested over their job losses, many of them got jobs with churches, nursing homes, and other groups that didn’t have the money – yet – to afford a driverless car. Edith was secretly pleased with the elimination of cab drivers – all of the cab drivers in the past had listened to that horrid country music, and Edith liked the freedom to choose her own music on the way to the doctor’s office. Edith, of course, usually listened to oldies music – early Katy Perry was her current favorite.

Well, we have a little over six years to go to see if my prediction will come true, but we’re moving a little closer. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who may be unemployed in a couple of months, is still working at his job.

Today I am announcing the launch of a new Automation Proving Ground Pilot Program. Through this program, the Department will designate facilities as qualified proving grounds for the safe testing, demonstration and deployment of automated vehicle technology. We believe that by designating facilities as part of a Community of Practice, we can foster a safe environment for these entities to share best practices related to testing and developing this technology.

As everyone in the United States is well aware, both state and federal governments are essential when revising regulations for technology advances. Certain states have done their part to advance driverless testing, and the U.S. Department of Transportation is doing its part also.

I was writing about “perpetual lineup” in 2014 – sort of

[DISCLAIMER: I am employed in the biometric industry. The views expressed in this post are my own, and are not necessarily the views of any present or previous employer, or of any organization with which I am presently or previously associated.]

For those who completely skipped over the disclaimer because they’re boring, I am employed in the biometric industry, and have been so employed for over two decades. There have been a number of changes in this industry over the years, both from a procedural standpoint (witness the varied effects of the 2009 NAS report) and a technological standpoint.

One of the more recent contributions to the discussion is a report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. Obviously the report has its own hashtag – #perpetuallineup to be precise.

It should be noted that the report is not a 100% complete slam on facial recognition technology itself.

The benefits of face recognition are real. It has been used to catch violent criminals and fugitives. The law enforcement officers who use the technology are men and women of good faith. They do not want to invade our privacy or create a police state. They are simply using every tool available to protect the people that they are sworn to serve. Police use of face recognition is inevitable. This report does not aim to stop it.

Rather, this report offers a framework to reason through the very real risks that face recognition creates.

Among other topics, the report touches upon privacy issues. For example:

If deployed pervasively on surveillance video or police-worn body cameras, real-time face recognition will redefine the nature of public spaces. At the moment, it is also inaccurate. Communities should carefully weigh whether to allow real-time face recognition. If they do, it should be used as a last resort to intervene in only life-threatening emergencies. Orders allowing it should require probable cause, specify where continuous scanning will occur, and cap the length of time it may be used.

Because, of course, the public is demanding that the police NOT implement body-worn cameras, or use them pervasively.

Whoops, I seem to have run across another article.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman is right that public safety could have been at risk had the officers paused to turn on their body cameras; Tuesday’s incident unfolded rapidly. But we wonder about the wisdom of her suggestion that there could be a technological fix in which body cameras automatically turn on when an officer pulls his or her gun. Police conduct isn’t only an issue when officers shoot people. When a patrol officer is on duty, his or her body camera should be on by default. If this means SDPD has to buy more expensive batteries that last longer, so be it.

So on the one hand, you have people declaring that body cameras are wonderful things that should always be turned on, and on the other hand you have people declaring the body cameras infringe on civil liberties and should only be turned on in certain circumstances.

I’ve been thinking about this contradiction for years. In fact, I wrote about it in this very blog in December 2014.

However, [Sterling] Crispin’s project doesn’t really touch on a basic conflict in our thinking about surveillance.

In a reactive manner, Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri has resulted in many calls for police to always wear video recording equipment, so that all encounters between police and civilians are recorded….Many are elated at the fact that the actions of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were captured by a number of cameras in Boston, Massachusetts.

At the same time, some of the same people who are demanding that the police record things are also demanding that the police NOT record things. Crispin is disturbed by the fact that the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system can possibly be used on civilians. Many are disturbed by all of those video cameras out there – stationary ones installed by governments and private businesses, and mobile ones on Google Glass and on our own telephones.

You can’t simultaneously demand that things be recorded, and that things not be recorded.

In fact, the all bodycam all the time movement has already resulted in one lawsuit threat:

At issue is body cam video the [Spokane Police] department posted to its Facebook page Wednesday that showed how [Sergeant Eric] Kannberg was dealing with one drunken individual when another person approached him and intervened. That video subsequently went viral on Facebook, racking up tens of thousands of views in the first 24 hours.

The man who contacted Kannberg, who was arrested on a third-degree assault charge, the arrest captured on video, says the police department shouldn’t have posted the video. The man’s attorney said the department should not have posted the video before the man who was arrested had his day in court.

The police department, however, says the video they posted wasn’t private, and they did it to show the patience Kannberg displayed in trying to peacefully resolve the situation.

But now let’s lighten up, because the Sterling Crispin post was partially inspired by a futuristic fiction story that I had written in September 2014. My fiction dealt with the ramifications of unintended consequences. I’ll give you an example – before I was born, people thought that television would become the great educator, bringing audiovisual education into our own homes. By the time I was born, TV was being called a vast wasteland.

In my fiction story, I postulated that unintended consequences may also affect the movement to expose bodycam footage.

While police webcams became more popular way back in 2014 after the Ferguson incident and the Ray Rice case, some people still felt that the police were hiding something. As the years went on, more and more police departments adopted transparency rules, and by the time that Kim and Steve were enjoying their bacon-infused lunch, several police departments were not only equipping every police officer and police car with a webcam, but were also providing real-time public access to these feeds. The goal in providing these feeds was to not only provide complete transparency into police operations, but also to educate the public on the dangers that police officers faced every day as they patrolled their communities.

As with any technological advance, however, the lofty goals of the originators were soon replaced by other goals. The streams themselves became revenue sources for the police agencies, as anyone who accessed the feeds had to sit through commercials for bail bond companies, defense attorneys, and Progressive Insurance. And the audience, rather than consisting of civil libertarians monitoring police activity, ended up as a bunch of teens watching voyeuristically.

What would Jim Conley say?

My “Edith” character from 2013, and Vinod Khosla (again)

Yes, I am Ann Landers. I re-use old posts whenever I can. But in this case I have a reason for doing so, because a fiction story that I wrote in 2013 has the potential to become less fictional.

The story was called “You will still take a cab to the doctor’s office. For a while.” It described a 95 year old woman named Edith and her May 2023 visit to the doctor’s office. She took a cab there:

Edith had booked and paid for the cab a month before the appointment, using the online Gacepple Calendar service. (Gacepple, of course, was the company that resulted from the merger of Google, Facebook, and Apple – the important merger that saved the tech industry in the United States from extinction. But I digress.) An hour before the appointment, Gacepple Calendar reminded Edith of her appointment, and five minutes later the Toyota in the street let her know that it had arrived. No, not the driver – there was no driver – but the Toyota itself.

Anyway, she gets to the doctor’s office. No doctor or nurse is present, but a voice guides her through the quick and painless examination.

!!!SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT!!!

After everything is done, Edith has a question.

“You’ve been very helpful. But I’ve always wondered exactly WHERE you were. If you were in Los Angeles, or in Mississippi, or perhaps in India or China, or perhaps even in one of the low-cost places such as Chad. If you don’t mind my asking, exactly where ARE you?”

“I don’t mind answering the question,” replied the friendly voice, “and I hope you don’t take my response the wrong way, but I’m not really a person as you understand the term. I’m actually an application within the software package that runs the medical center. But my programmers want me to tell you that they’re really happy to serve you, and that Stanford sucks.” The voice paused for a moment. “I’m sorry, Edith. You have to forgive the programmers – they’re Berkeley grads.”

As time goes by, this scenario is becoming more and more realistic. We are already working on robot doctors that can navigate down the hall to a patient to take readings.

Meanwhile, Vinod Khosla is working on the other part of the scenario – the part where a software package, rather than a human, does the diagnostic work. I’ve mentioned Khosla before – once in regard to “meat”, and once in regard to medicine. Now, prompted by a Scott Nelson share, it’s time to look at a more recent article about Khosla.

When Khosla looks 10 or 15 years into healthcare’s future, he sees a medical landscape seething with data-hungry, intelligent algorithms like Google’s AlphaGo instead of doctors as we know them today.

“Medicine has improved a lot as a practice,” Khosla said. “But I think it’s time to take this practice of medicine and turn it into the science of medicine.”

To make that happen, Khosla thinks we have to hand medical expertise over to the machines.

Specifically, Khosla wants big data and big databases to do the heavy lifting that no single human could do.

Khosla said you can diagnose disease with a single biomarker—the chemical signature of sickness—or you can diagnose disease by looking at 300 biomarkers. You can look at the patient in front of you and compare them to the last few you’ve seen, or you can scan a database of 100 million patients for the last hundred or thousand with the same condition….

According to Khosla, Medicare patients have seven major conditions on average. Wouldn’t it be better to have AI look at those conditions comprehensively—and one doctor, not seven, talk the results over with the patient?

Note that in Khosla’s case, we would still have doctors around, but they would be hired for their empathy skills, and not necessarily for their ability to read every medical journal.

However, I still think that my model, in which there is no doctor at all, is the more accurate one.

Why?

Because of how business works.

The average American publicly-traded company, when forced to choose between a 100% computerized system with no doctor and a 100% computerizied system with a doctor, will choose the lower cost option.

After all, if you don’t have any employees, then you don’t have to pay for healthcare.

Post Navigation