Tag Archives: Technology

The Great Social Media Purge of 2018!

Vulture 8Media users that do not follow today’s prescribed line of thinking are feeling the pain. Outliers big and small are squawking loudly and persistently about curtailed “reach” of posts, invisible tweets, and shadow banning. Seems that The Powers that Be have devised a most effective way to help silence any differing views.

The Decline of America

Such media efforts are only the latest developments aiding in the nation’s covert decline – a decline evidenced by a gargantuan and growing national debt, decimation of our manufacturing base, rise of the 1% accompanied by decline of the middle class and explosive growth of the dependent class.

Why would this media tantrum rank right up there with the biggies, such as the tax-and-spend mentality that led to the gargantuan debt, that led to the need for near-zero interest rates to enable debt payments, that led to easy borrowing, that led to breezy acquisitions on borrowed money, that led to monopolies.

The reason is that the media tantrum is 1) the result of powerful monopolies, and 2) monopolies demand obedience.

Obedience creates an echo chamber into which we plebeians must fit. Inhabitants of echo chambers do not think; they regurgitate. They do not create; they copy. They do not question; they accept. They are good at following orders.

Rise of the Monopolists

Conversely, monopolists do not follow, but lead. Take for example, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. There is no question that Mr. Thiel’s innovations in several industrial and financial sectors have greatly benefited people. Most of us have made good use of PayPal or aspire to own an electric car, and businesses benefit from the data integration provided by Palantir. However, in spite of his obvious intellect, Mr. Thiel’s view of monopolies seems self serving. Here is an excerpt from an article discussing Peter Thiel’s book Three Cheers for Creative Monopolies.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel advocates the benefits of creative monopoly. That’s a company that is “so good at what it does that no other firm can offer a close substitute.” They give customers more choices “by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.

He goes on to say, “All happy companies are different: Each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: They failed to escape competition.” He suggests entrepreneurs focus on “What valuable company is nobody building?”  The Balance, May 2018

A monopoly is a monopoly, creative or not, since causes and effects are the same no matter what one calls a monopoly. Today, the cause is barrels full of cash generated by cheap borrowing that enable vertical and horizontal acquisitions. The effect is concentration of products and services in a few gigantic companies, regulated or unregulated.

Sure the giants in their field offer consumers “choices,” as Peter Thiel says. But to what extent? You don’t like the way Facebook is treating you? Go to the competition! Oh wait, there isn’t any.

There Once Was the Model T

Ford Model T 2 - CopyOne might say that when Henry Ford perfected the assembly lines that produced the Model T, a car that dominated the market for its relative affordability and simplicity, his company earned the distinction of being so good that no other firm offered a close substitute. With the mass-produced Model T, the company also added an entirely new category of abundance to the world.

However, like today’s media giants, the Ford Motor Company had a strange way of offering consumer choices. Henry Ford famously said,

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

So, General Motors, who up until then catered to the moneyed class, started to make affordable cars that were not black, and had bells and whistles that the utilitarian Model T eschewed.

Good lesson on how to thwart a company’s dominance in a market!

It’s Their House

Private companies, including those that provide media services, should be free to run their businesses as they see fit. It’s their house.

It is up to consumers to do their due diligence so they understand what they are purchasing and how they are paying in one form or another for the products and services they buy. The cost might be a tacit agreement to tow the prescribed line of thinking. Or the cost might be sharing all your needs, wants, preferences, and ideals so you can be efficiently placed in the appropriate marketing and cultural category.

It is also up to consumers, as well as voters, to make choices. Some consumers now suffering from the whims of media might be tempted to clamor for government regulation, thereby exchanging one master for another.

Miracles do happen, and perhaps once enough consumers of media, especially social media, complain about their dissenting opinions being scrubbed from view, media companies will see the error of their ways and be inclusive (a favorite term of progressives). But if that miracle does not happen….

Be Creative!

Must you settle for being dependent on media, especially social media? How about creating your own mailing lists, reaching out to like-minded people and groups, supporting the endeavors of like-minded people in exchange for their support?

Might participating in the rise of creative alternative means of communication be a better choice than continuing to send out invisible tweets and posts?

Bloggers Beware Part II – 20 Proposals to Regulate the Internet

Mark Warner 2 - Copy
Mark Warner

U.S. Senator Mark Warner appears to be on a mission to “nationalize” the Internet, the result of which no doubt will be restriction of content, stifling of innovation, and scarce improvements in data protection or consumer privacy. The gentleman from Virginia has published a white paper called Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms.

Liberty-leaning folks will not even need to read the 23 pages of proposals; they will only need to read the word “regulation” on the title of a paper dealing with platforms on which people express their thoughts, political leanings, religious beliefs, or business strategies.

Were Senator Warner’s white paper an isolated case of regulating free expression, there would be less cause for concern that is warranted in the wake of other legislation curbing the actions of websites, social media, bloggers, and others who express themselves on-line. This Just Vote No Blog recently wrote about California Senate Bill 1424 which aims to establish a Social Media Advisory Group “to study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media platforms, and draft a model strategic plan for Internet-based social media platforms to use to mitigate this problem.” Will your blog or post be declared “false information” because the powers that be did not like what you said?

The words “regulation” and “Internet” should not even be in the same sentence, since proposals such as these can only bring unfortunate consequences to our freedoms, as well as to our economic well being.

Find a Crisis and Exploit It

Kaiser Industries built a lot of roads and homes in California. Its pink cement-mixing trucks painted with the slogan “Find a Need and Fill It” were part of the state’s lore. Those were the 1950s, when industrialist/innovator Henry Kaiser found a need for homes, roads and factories, and filled that need by building them – with government’s blessings.

Today, it seems the dominant slogan is not the entrepreneurs’ find a need and fill it, but government’s find a crisis and exploit it. Instead of letting industrialists and innovators like Henry Kaiser produce the goods and services consumers want, government focuses on finding crises (or manufacturing them) and using these crises to tie the hands of producers and expand its reach.

Senator Warner’s 20 proposals to regulate the Internet serve as examples. Here is an excerpt from his white paper:

In the course of investigating Russia’s unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, the extent to which many technologies have been exploited – and their providers caught repeatedly flat-footed – has been unmistakable. More than illuminating the capacity of these technologies to be exploited by bad actors, the revelations of the last year have revealed the dark underbelly of the entire ecosystem. The speed with which these products have grown and come to dominated nearly every aspect of our social, political and economic lives has in many ways obscured the shortcomings of their creators in anticipating the harmful effects of their use. Government has failed to adapt and has been incapable or unwilling to adequately address the impacts of these trends on privacy, competition, and public discourse.

Before we even examine the 20 proposals, we might note the arrogance contained in the paragraph above:

* “Unprecedented interference in the 2016 election?” Hardly. Interference in the form of influence, spying and other strategies has happened several times in the past. A famous example of interference is Britain’s campaign to discredit Charles Lindbergh, leader of the “America First” movement of the 1940s, in an attempt to obtain military help from the U.S. in WWII.

* “Dark underbelly?” Perhaps Senator Warner could consider focusing on draining some swamps in Washington DC, rather than worry about Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook having a dark underbelly.

* “Anticipating harmful effects?” How good has been government in anticipating the harmful effects of its policies? How is the good old War on Drugs working for you and your family, especially if you happen to live in a poor neighborhood?

* “Government has failed to adapt” is always Newspeak for not yet passing more and more laws.

As noted in Senator Warner’s introduction to his proposals quoted above, the proposals purport to protect consumers and defend “our Democratic Institutions.” However, all “protection,” whether from government, the Mafia, or from zealous family members comes at a price. The price consumers must pay if they accept the “security” offered by proposals such as that of Senator Warner is loss of liberty. To protect one’s liberty one must make the effort to remain informed and exercise critical thinking. We must understand the products and services we use, and choose them wisely. We must not depend on “protectors” who most likely have their own agenda. This Just Vote No Blog wrote about that on our post Smart Cities – Your Life in a Fish Bowl.

Highlights of the 20 Proposals

These are what this Just Vote No Blog considers highlights of the 20 Proposals:

* Determine origins of posts and/or accounts to prevent bad actors from assuming false identities and influencing political debate.

* Identify inauthentic accounts to prevent spread of disinformation that pose a threat to our democratic process and undermine the integrity of digital markets.

* Make platforms liable for state-law torts (defamation, false light, public disclosure of private facts) for failure to take down deep fake or other manipulated audio/video content.

* Propose legislation that guarantees that platforms above a certain size provide independent, public interest researchers with access to anonymized activity data in order to measure and audit social trends on platforms that could help inform action by regulators in Congress.

* Require disclosures for online political advertisements in order to prevent targeted political ads sponsored by foreign advertisers. Require that platforms make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political ads.

* Establish a Public Initiative for Media Literacy funded by the federal government and primarily administered by state and local educational institutions.  Building media literacy from an early age would help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.

* Deem as information fiduciaries certain types of online service providers – including search engines, social networks, ISPs, and cloud computing providers – because of the extent of user dependence on them, as well as the extent to which they are entrusted with sensitive information.

* Endow the FTC with privacy rule making authority, so as to enable it to respond to changes in technology and business practices, as well as increase its funding.

* Adopt GDPR-like legislation. One major tenant of the GDPR (that the US could or could not adopt) is the potential of high penalties for non-compliance in which a company or organization can be fined.

* Determine that dark patters — user interfaces that have been intentionally designed to sway users towards taking actions they would otherwise not take under effective, informed consent — are unfair and deceptive trade practices. To address this, FTC could be given rule-making authority to ensure that the law keeps pace with business practices.

* Set mandatory federal standards for platform algorithms to be auditable, so that outputs of algorithms are evaluated for efficacy/fairness and potential hidden bias.

* Pass a bill requiring data transparency, such that free platforms provide users with an annual estimate of what their data was worth to the platform, which would provide significant price transparency, educate consumers on the true value of their data, and potentially attracting new competitors.  Data transparency would also assist antitrust enforcement agencies like the FTC and DOJ.

* Pass legislation that could define thresholds such as user base size, market share, or level of dependence of wider ecosystems, beyond which certain core functions/platforms/apps would constitute essential facilities, requiring a platform to provide third party access on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and prevent platforms from engaging in self-dealing or preferential conduct.

Does Anyone Actually Read Terms of Use?

Senator Warner’s 20 Proposals to Regulate the Internet might bring to mind prescription drug ads and their interminable laundry list of side effects. Have all the regulations imposed on drug companies prompted patients to consume less drugs or become more aware of side effects such as addictions? Have all the regulations lowered drug prices? Senator Warner’s 20 Proposals would most likely have the same result as the required listing of side effects.

However, more serious than ineffectiveness are the consequences. The proposals listed above lean towards the following outcomes:

* On-line social media platforms that host content, such as Facebook or Google Plus, will become liable for what is posted. This liability will transform social media’s function, increase the costs of operating a platform, discourage new entrants due to high costs and the threat of liability, subject platforms to the whims of powers that be bent on surpresing opposition, and is open ended. Will liability apply to content management systems such as WordPress or Joomla? Will e-mail clients such as Thunderbird or Apple Mail be liable for the content of e-newsletters, meeting announcements, or communication between group members?

* One of the proposals is the establishment of a Public Initiative for Media Literacy, funded by the federal government and primarily administered by state and local educational institutions, to build media literacy from an early age that would “help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.” Perhaps the real concern here should be the manipulation of our children’s minds? How about just teaching our kids to think critically instead?

* Mandatory standards for auditable platform algorithms sounds more like killing the golden goose of innovative proprietary code than protecting consumers or defending our Democratic institutions. How far will “auditable” go? How can proprietary code be proprietary when it in essence becomes open source?

* One of the 20 Proposals is to declare the Internet an essential facility. We as a People need to decide what we want the Internet to be: 1) a host for information of all types, ideas, random thoughts, beliefs, as well as a leveler of playing fields where a user with little financial wherewithal can start a future multi-billion dollar company from his/her dorm room; or 2) do we want the Internet to be just another regulated utility.

* Lastly, Senator Warner seems to think his 20 Proposals will improve competition by tying the hands of the big social media companies and supposedly facilitating new entrants. Here are three points to consider:

Successful people make it big by aspiring to be big. They do not enter a market that highly regulates bigness just because they are little, since they do not intend to remain little.

Successful people do not need government legislation, rather they avail themselves of government policies. For example, when government (because of its gargantuan national debt) keeps interest rates ridiculously low, smart people borrow loads of money, offer stockholders of competitors good prices, and sail into near-monopoly positions.

Remember WordPerfect and Quatro Pro, or MySpace? These guys dominated the word processing, spreadsheet, and social media markets respectively. But then came Word Office Suite and Facebook. So, big companies can be replaced by smarter and nimbler ones.

As the Wall Street Journal says in its article Warner’s Plan to Ruin the Internet,
“Mr. Warner has flexed his congressional muscles and made a point. Now he can go away.”  We concur.

Housing Affordability & Smart Cities

A little conspiracy theory is good for helping us question the status quo.  The greater the number of people telling us something is so great, the faster we should start asking  who, what, why, and who benefits.  Compact, supposedly “sustainable” cities are being promoted by planners not only as wonderful places in which we all want to live, but also solutions to astronomically expensive housing.  If such dense cities are also “smart cities,” all the better.  We invite you to ask, “Really?”

….more and more it’s becoming apparent that to be modern, to be contemporary, to be cutting edge, buying and owning things is a bug not a feature. Buying and owning things prevents you from monetizing tomorrow, let alone optimizing today.  Ben Pring, Leasing the Future, Huffington Post.

Every digital click, swipe, “like”, buy, comment and search produces a unique virtual identity – something we call a Code Halo™. While Code Halos are important to each of us, they are becoming increasingly vital to the success of every business. A new book from our Center for the Future of Work reveals how organizations can catalyze business with Code Halo thinking.  Cognizant Technologies

We all have a personal responsibility to adapt to changing housing markets. For some, this will require adjusting our savings and spending patterns, our expectations regarding home size, access to ground/yards and distance from work or school. For others, it may require adapting expectations regarding the evolution of our neighborhood character, or the personal equity gains derived from the housing market.  10 Common Ground Principles for Affordable Housing, Smart Cities Dive

To what extent have businesses today bought into the theory that in order to survive in today’s market, they need to track everybody’s every move? Businesses could be content with convincing health-conscious consumers to wear a fitness tracker at all times, or businesses could amass enough political donation power to change the way cities are built in order to facilitate maximum interconnectivity.

For example, California’s Bay Area Silicon Valley is home to technology giants, as well as sophisticated business-led public policy advocacy organizations that aggressively support dense housing in limited spaces. California has taken to heart draconian policies that limits land use, establishes vast protected areas off limits to development, and invests taxpayer money in dense subsidized housing located in “transit corridors.” Also, California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area, experiences a housing market that is totally unaffordable. Therefore, it would seem that land use policies such as Plan Bay Area beg the questions,

* Does limited space on which to build result in higher housing prices, and calls for government-subsidized and government-preferred development?

* Is there a relationship between government-preferred development and political support from dominant technology giants?

* Does proximity facilitate interconnectivity, supposedly so crucial to business success?

* Does the current generation truly see ownership as a “bug not a feature,” or is the generation being sold a bill of goods?

So, just in case voters perceive even a remote relationship between efforts such as Code Halo and how much they are paying for housing, what to do? Simply remember that there is a choice whether to wear a fitness bracelet, vote for “affordable housing” bonds to support narrow housing corridors, or re-elect anyone who has specialized in proposing legislation that removes your control of where or how you live.

Smart Cities: Your Life in a Fish Bowl

Amazon-Dash-Image-Tide 2Smart Cities are a national, state and county goal, for whatever reason anyone can come up with. Here is the reason offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation,

In December 2015, we launched our Smart City Challenge, asking mid-sized cities across America to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.

Sensors Are at the Heart of Smart Cities

* Builders are developing ways to use smart concrete to make bridges, highways, and buildings laced with carbon fibers able to respond to stress and monitor activity.

This new invention allows construction of smart concrete structures, able to detect even minute changes in the amount of stress inside. This new composite material is able to self-monitor for signs of cracks or stress.

In addition, smart concrete is expected to be used for building facility management, i.e. to weigh each room of a building to monitor the room occupancy in real time, thereby saving money and energy by allowing the lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation of the room to be controlled according to the occupancy level.

* Manufacturers are making smart appliances.

…select Whirlpool® smart appliances now support the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, allowing families to control their appliances from anywhere in the house with simple voice commands. So whether in the other room helping with homework or cooking dinner with messy hands, families can care for their loved ones better, faster and smarter.

Technology Companies Are Leading the Way

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft are the natural candidates in the building of smart cities. They already thrive on collecting and evaluating data. Microsoft is building the city of Belmont in the state  of Arizona.

Belmont (as the town will be called) will feature 80,000 residential units, public schools, and commercial buildings. Everything in the 25,000-acre property will be built around a flexible infrastructure model, which is why many are calling the proposed town a smart city. In many ways, Belmont will be a location where the latest technologies and innovative designs can be tested on a actual community, creating a real-life blueprint for how cities of the future could be run.

The Internet of Things

Thus, in a smart city we reach the pinnacle of The Internet of Things, where all is connected, watched and evaluated.

The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.

Watch for the Downside

Since Biblical times knowing where you live is understanding who you are.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest (Revelation 2.13)

Now imagine not only knowing where you live, but also where you are at all times via your phone, your appliances, your city. Imagine not only knowing where you are, but also what are you doing or buying. Or do you for a moment think that the information gathered about you is not inventoried, catalogued, evaluated, and used?

Not everyone is happy with smart cities. Critics are concerned about the rise of the tech oligarchy.

The tech oligarchs who already dominate our culture and commerce, manipulate our moods, and shape the behaviors of our children while accumulating capital at a rate unprecedented in at least a century want to fashion our urban future in a way that dramatically extends the reach of the surveillance state already evident in airports and on our phones.

The drive to redesign our cities, however, is not really the end of the agenda of those who Aldous Huxley described as the top of the “scientific caste system.” The oligarchy has also worked to make our homes, our personal space, “connected” to their monitoring and money machines.

Your Life, Your Choice

Do you want maximum convenience because you are so pressed for time? Do you want to keep up with your peers and have the latest tech gadget on the market? Is your desire to help stop climate change high enough for you to actively support housing-dense villages filled with sensors that constantly monitor your use of energy?

If so, then you need to accept your life in a virtual fish bowl, where your actions can be relayed to a cloud server and analyzed for purposes beyond your control. You need to accept the possibility that the information gathered from you might be about you in particular, not just about what everyone does in the aggregate. And you need to accept the risk that in a future you do not at present foresee, someone possessing considerable power may not like what they see in the data gathered from you.

Just Vote No If Big Data Does not Appeal to You

Technology, the Internet, smart phones have increased our productivity, enriched our lives and given us power as individuals to express our thoughts and share our discoveries.  Therefore, it behooves us to ensure that the positive blessings of technology remain friendly towards us.

However, it appears that Big Data might be developing in ways akin to Big Pharma.  Regulation has been suggested for both biggies, but can one really regulate away people’s natural profit motives or the market’s unforgiving forces?  Probably not, or at least not without ushering in tyranny.  If the free and open market demands smart cities, great! However, if they are foisted on an unsuspecting public by interested parties, that’s not so great.

If you are not a supporter of Big Data, you might consider choosing leaders who do not use your tax dollars to subsidize developers of smart cities.  Find out if your city or county leaders are falling all over one another rushing to give technology companies tax breaks, while your small business has none.  Be aware of who wants to change things in your neighborhood, and just vote no on tax proposals sure to be on your ballot to support such changes.

America in Decline

It is All Trump’s Fault

Neal Gabler on Moyers and Company marked the first anniversary of the Donald Trump presidency by writing that America has descended into Banana Republic status thanks to Mr. Trump.

“Whatever her failings, America was once majestic. Now she is hopelessly diminished — a wealthier version of the corrupt nations in the developing world that we used to ridicule. And we owe it all to Donald Trump for making America small again.”

Someone who can transform a nation from “majestic” to third world in 12 months must be capable of walking on water.  Not that such transformation feats are impossible.  George Bush turned Iraq, a country different from ours but stable, into an incubator for terrorism.  Hillary Clinton and her State Department, after contributing to the unforgivable death by impaling of Muammar Gaddafi, plunged Libya into complete chaos (gloating afterwards “We came, we saw, he died”).

The Real Decline

However, the mindless assertion that Donald Trump is responsible for America’s decline is not the point of this article.  The point is that America is in decline, and there is very little time to save it.  Our Founding Fathers came up with an amazing idea when they created this nation.  This was to be a country where the People ruled, where government was for the People and by the People.  But such an experiment, they knew, required a responsible populace – folks who understood what to vote for and what not to vote for in order to preserve their liberty and prosperity.

Alas, the Founding Fathers’ experiment seems to have been a tall order.  Today, just about everyone depends in some form or another on government, thereby making government the master not the servant of the people.  Today, we have voted ourselves into $20 trillion worth of national debt.  Today, we see dismal statistics on America’s life expectancy, child mortality, income inequality, and literacy.

Technology:  A Competitive Advantage Lost

For example, let’s talk about technology.  When modern globalization – where each nation depends on a competitive advantage to thrive – became the norm in the 1970’s, the U.S. was expected to be the leader in technology.  It was expected to be comfortable with shedding its manufacturing base and focusing on development of computing power and associated economic sectors, such as banking and finance.

SFUSD BLM shirts 3But then unions fossilized mediocre educators into tenure; children were indoctrinated, not taught the three Rs and other skills to allow them self sufficiency and productivity; higher education became more interested in recruiting useful idiots into the progressive cause than teaching future professionals; and so many of our children went to school hungry because their parents were incapable of providing for them.  The destruction of the American family, the murderous war on drugs, big pharma, the military-prison-welfare complex are subjects for another day.

 

sunway supercomputer 2Results have been totally predictable.  America lost its competitive advantage.  In November 2017, China unveiled its Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer.  The TaihuLight ranked number one in the TOP500 list as the fastest supercomputer in the world.  The previous holder of the rank was the Tianhe-2, also Chinese.  And by the way, the TaihuLight is also energy-efficient, ranking 16th in the Green500 list.

Precious Little Time to Act

Meanwhile, America does little manufacturing, lacks an adequate skilled workforce, and is mostly focused on the fake news of the month – whether it is toppling down statues or keeping tabs on who exposed himself to whom 20 years ago.

Moyers & Company and Mr. Gabler make their living promoting the status quo progressive state, and that’s entirely their prerogative.  It is up to those who suppose Moyers and his company are not connecting the dots to present alternative scenarios.

Speaking of alternative scenarios to Mr. Gabler’s reason why America is in decline, here is a link to episode #1155 of the Max Keiser Report on RT.  Max and his guest Dan Collins paint a fascinating picture of how China is building trade partnerships, helping second-tier countries build infrastructure and schools, internationalizing its currency (so they one day may no longer need U.S. dollars), and buying up gold (maybe to establish a gold standard!?).  All this while the U.S. has for the last 15 years been squandering its human and economic treasure in endless war, and now has little to offer its neighbors but armaments and military bases.

Max Kaiser is fond of hyperbole.  He commented that President Trump is “euthanizing America” in the least painful way – winding down the country’s unrealistic view of itself as policeman to the world, making mutually-beneficial deals with other countries, enticing corporations to come home and provide jobs, and (a contentious part) giving the American worker a better chance of having a job without the presence of foreign workers, whether undocumented or holders of work visas.

We the People need to choose whether to continue on our current trajectory or turn things around.  We need to decide who gives a better reason for America’s decline — Neal Gabler or Dan Collins.

How is a Police State Created?

Silicon Valley SurveillanceCalifornia is ground zero for an incipient Police State, so say recent news stories in several publications, including California Political News and Views and Reason.com. View the short video on Reason.com. Understand how a Police State grows in increments.

Today, those increments are most prevalent in technology hubs like Silicon Valley. Technology has afforded us unparalleled conveniences. It also has created unmatched surveillance. DHS, NSA, CIA, FBI, TSA and other three-letter agencies claim to keep us safe through technology. Such technology relies on massive data gathering – your purchases online, your birthday wishes to your grandkids on Facebook, your wedding pictures on Instagram, your rant about lousy government schools on Reddit, and your biometrics captured by cameras pretty much anywhere.

The articles mentioned above focus on Palantir Technologies, a data crunching company that happens to believe that helping government make sense of data gathered from citizens guards civil liberties.

As an aside, Palantir is also the magic seeing stone from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy legendarium. Fantasy is what we get from those who assure us that data gathering from ordinary citizens serves to keep us safe, or that helping government parse data into categories of the snooped protects civil liberties.

Track record is best evidence. What has technology done with cookies – simply ensure you can successfully navigate from page to page on a website? No, cookies cling to your navigation, recording every website you visit, ready to serve as witness when you suddenly become persona non grata.  How about the Berlin Wall, the physical example offered in the Reason video. The Wall did not just pop up, but developed as papers were required of everyone crossing the border, checkpoints became formalized, folks became accustomed to being tracked. Then came the Wall.

Random Access Minds – Happy Birthday Hedy Lamarr!

November 9 is the birthdate of Hedy Lamarr, and a good day to celebrate women who made their mark in technology. A good day also to wonder what could have prompted women like Kathleen Booth to develop one of the first computer assembly languages when, as another technology pioneer, Erna Hoover, said, “When I was hired, the glass ceiling was somewhere between the basement and the sub-basement.”

So, let’s celebrate just three of the many technology pioneers who happened to be women.

Hedy LamarrHedy Lamarr – Frequency Hopping and your Wi-Fi

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. By age 18, she was married to Austrian ammunition manufacturer Fritz Mandl, who encouraged her to participate in his professional and social associations with the Austrofascist elite. Also by age 18, Eva Kiesler became known for her role in Ecstasy, a film that shocked for its acknowledgement of female sexuality, similarly to the cognitive dissonance that to this day accompanies the combination of beauty and brains.

Soon after Ecstasy, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, escaped her fascist milieu, went from Paris to Hollywood, and took the name of Hedy Lamarr. From the late 1930s to the late 1950s, Hedy Lamarr had a successful film career. She also decided during the 1940s to contribute to a solution to detection by enemy forces of radio-guided torpedoes. The knowledge of fascist plans and operations she acquired during her marriage to Fritz Mandl served her well.

“During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, which could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, thereby causing the torpedo to go off course. With the knowledge she had gained about torpedoes from her first husband, she thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, to help her develop a device for doing that, and he succeeded by synchronizing a miniaturized player-piano mechanism with radio signals. They drafted designs for the frequency-hopping system, which they patented.”

U.S. Patent 2,292,387 “Secret Communications System” was awarded to Lamarr (under her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey) and Antheil in 1942. Although the Navy at the time turned down the idea, probably because it could not conceive of torpedoes being guided by player-piano rolls, years later more random minds understood the basic usefulness of the principle of frequency hopping. The system eventually contributed to the development of spread-spectrum technology, the basis of today’s of wireless communications.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace – the First Programmer

Augusta Ada Byron, born in 1815, was the daughter of poet Lord George Gordon Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke. The couple separated soon after Ada was born, and Ada was raised by a single mom, who simply decided not to worry about gender roles. Ada had tutors in science and mathematics just like the boys of the day. She married William King, Earl of Lovelace, father of Ada’s three children and supporter of her academic endeavors.

Around the age of 17, Ada met Charles Babbage, “father of the computer” and inventor of the analytic engine. Ada studied the machine, and “described how codes could be created for the device to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. She also theorized a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known as looping that computer programs use today.”

Erna HooverErna S. Hoover – Feedback Control so your phone systems don’t overload

Erna Schneider Hoover, born in 1926, did not let her gender keep her from earning a PhD from Yale, being awarded one of the first software patents, becoming the first female supervisor of a technical department at Bell Labs, or being inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In an age of ubiquitous smartphones, we tend to forget that it was not so long ago that Bell Labs struggled with a growing number of analog telephones and switching systems overwhelmed by dropped calls and dreaded busy signals. Aided by her background in mathematics, Erna Hoover drew plans for a computer program that kept track of the number, intervals, and classes of calls. The monitoring allowed for prioritizing resources, thus preventing systems from overloading.

Dr. Hoover was awarded U.S. Patent No. 3,623,007, Feedback Control Monitor for Stored Program Data Processing System. Inventors listed are Barry J. Eckhart Ottawa, Canada, and Erna S. Hoover, Summit, NJ, U.S.A. For information: the order in which names are listed under “Inventors” does not indicate importance of contribution.

What to “Just Vote No” On?

An article about women inventors might seem out of place on this website, but it is not. Here are four suggestions:

* Vote No on any proposal to allow prioritizing establishment politics over subject learning like reading, writing, arithmetic, science, technology. The women inventors had to know their subject, either by formal tutoring or schooling as Ada Lovelace and Erna Hoover, or by self study like Hedy Lamarr.

* Vote No on any proposal that excuses learning choices. If you wish to major in sociology, that’s fine, but be aware that on the average you will not be earning as much as someone who majors in engineering.

* Vote No on any proposal that emphasizes gender. They are all designed to keep women economically indebted to government largess.

* Vote No on any proposal to standardize schooling to the point that natural curiosity and randomness is stamped out. The inventions by Lovelace, Lamarr, and Hoover all called for planned randomness, finding a pattern in the unexpected, connecting dots where no connection was there before.