With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are increasingly moving to a world where many decisions around us are shaped by calculations rather than traditional human judgement.
The Guardian, citing many industry experts, reminds us that these technologies filter who and what counts, including "who is released from jail, and what kind of treatment you will get in hospital."
A digital media professor said, these digital companies allow us to act, but in a very fine-grained, datafied, algorithm-ready way.
"They put life to work, by rendering life in Taylorist data points that can be counted and measured"
From the report (edited and condensed):
Jose van Dijck, president of the Dutch Royal Academy and the conference's keynote speaker, expands further. Datification is the core logic of what she calls "the platform society," in which companies bypass traditional institutions, norms and codes by promising something better and more efficient -- appealing deceptively to public values, while obscuring private gain.
There's the old theory to confront, that this is a conscious move on the part of consumers and, if so, there's always a theoretical opt-out.
Yet even digital activists plot by Gmail, concedes Fieke Jansen of the Berlin-based advocacy organisation Tactical Tech.
The Big Five tech companies, as well as the extremely concentrated sources of finance behind them, are at the vanguard of "a society of centralized power and wealth. "How did we let it get this far?" she asks.
Crawford says there are very practical reasons why tech companies have become so powerful.
"We're trying to put so much responsibility on to individuals to step away from the 'evil platforms,'
The opportunity costs to employment, to their friends, to their families, are so high" she says.
See where all of it began in these three excellent videos:
When MuckRock started using public records to find the oldest computer in use by the U.S. government, they scoured the country -- but it wasn't until a few tipsters that they set their sights a little higher and found that the oldest computer in use by the government might be among other planets entirely.The oldest computer still in use by the U.S. government appears to be the on-board systems for the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes -- nearly 40 years old, and 12.47 billion miles away from earth.
Last year NASA put out a call for a FORTRAN programmer to upgrade the probes' software.
But an earlier MuckRock article identified their oldest software still in use on earth -- "the computers inside the IRS that makes sure everybody is paying their taxes".
(Of course certain public figures don't have to worry about that.)
And it also identified their oldest hardware still in use -- "the machines running the nuclear defense system". (The launch commands are still stored on 8-inch floppy disks.)
It relies on memory storage that hasn't been commonly used since the 1980.
Beyond the nuclear program, much of the technology used by the federal government is woefully outmoded, the report says.
About 75 percent of the government's information technology budget goes toward operations and maintenance, rather than development, modernization and enhancement.
"Clearly, there are billions wasted," GAO information technology expert David Powner said at a congressional hearing Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.
The GAO report found that the Pentagon's Strategic Automated Command and Control System — which "coordinates the operational functions of the United States' nuclear forces, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker support aircrafts" — runs on an IBM Series/1 Computer, first introduced in 1976.
The system's primary function is to "send and receive emergency action messages to nuclear forces," the report adds, but "replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete."
Not to worry.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson told The Two-Way via email:
For years, the U.S. nuclear program has faced "low morale, understaffing and equipment shortages," NPR's Geoff Brumfiel has reported."This system remains in use because, in short, it still works.
"However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with Secure Digital devices by the end of 2017. Modernization across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) enterprise remains ongoing."
He said that in 2014, reports came to light that "three nuclear bases had only one special wrench that's needed to put nuclear warheads on missiles."
They had to share the wrench between bases — but apparently each base later got its own wrench.
At the time, Geoff pointed out some of the complications that come with a major weapons system "constantly on alert, but ... very unlikely [to ever] be used":
"Frankly, it's easy for the leadership to forget about the missiles and the people responsible for them.
And it's easy for those people to sort of get bored and get themselves into trouble. On top of all this, we have a much bigger problem coming down the road.
The weapons themselves are aging. The submarines, the bombers, the missiles — they're all going to have to be replaced."
So of course we are all wondering if Russia has updated current modern day systems and equipment as opposed to our antique systems?
And then there is this to wonder about: