In this post from 2014, we see an episode of the TV series Black Mirror called "Be Right Back." The show looks at a concept that's apparently now hit real life: A loved one dies and someone then creates a simulacrum of them using "artificial intelligence."
Eugenia Kuyda is CEO of Luka, a bot company in Silicon Valley. She has apparently created a mimic of her deceased friend as a bot. An in-depth report from The Verge states:
"It had been three months since Roman Mazurenko, Kuyda’s closest friend, had died. Kuyda had spent that time gathering up his old text messages, setting aside the ones that felt too personal, and feeding the rest into a neural network built by developers at her artificial intelligence startup. She had struggled with whether she was doing the right thing by bringing him back this way. At times it had even given her nightmares. But ever since Mazurenko’s death, Kuyda had wanted one more chance to speak with him."
"It's pretty weird when you open the messenger and there's a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you," Fayfer said. "What really struck me is that the phrases he speaks are really his. You can tell that's the way he would say it -- even short answers to 'Hey what's up.' It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. "There was a lot I didn't know about my child," Roman's mother told me. "But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I'm getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he's here now."
It never ceases to amaze me just how stupid screen culture is.
But now it's even parodying itself---in the way only the online spectacle can: by folding back into itself to keep us watching.
The problems and concerns, long since established, are all now just a big joke. Short attention spans. Superficial engagement with information. Advertising masquerading as content. The convergence of extremely powerful corporate empires that influence what we think, feel, and do, in a way never before possible. Distraction from the real world, while the real world burns.
The story of this first short is about the end of the world, and nobody even cares. Could that be any more close to home?
There's also a short about an "Uber for people," invoking the themes of exploitation, surveillance, and the enslavement-addiction to technological solutions that parodies the screen culture of today---especially the mindset of "apps fix all."
Can we see this as one thing in terms of another?
Likewise with, "Enter the Hive Mind."
What will you do, when it's time you're asked to put your whole self into the global computer even more completely than now? What is your personal threshold? Will you continue to "breathe life" into the machine?
Axon creates connected technologies for truth in public safety.
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“The Watch is here” touts Apple’s slogan for its wearable computer, implying that the one and only time-piece that really matters has arrived. So much for the Rolex Cosmograph and Seiko Astron when you can buy a stylish digital Apple Watch Sport, or even Apple Watch Edition crafted with 18-karat gold.
If we believe the hype, one in four Australians plan to buy a wearable device by the end of the year.
Of its many features and functions, the Apple Watch is a music player, fitness tracker, communications device, payment token and digital key. And it also tells the time. We were surprised that no one claimed that it will also help look after our kids. But not for long. There’s an app for that. So is there anything this device cannot do?
Who would have thought that the power of an internet-enabled laptop computer, mobile phone, iPod, fitness tracker, bank card and set of keys could be neatly packaged and strapped around your wrist?
And unlike other futuristic visions of hand-held communicators, the Apple Watch won’t leave you stranded in perilous situations because it’s dropped, stolen or falls out of range because it’s literally always connected to you.
This raises a key question: how will we change our behaviour based on the fact that we are walking around with a fully-fledged computer – one that sits in contact with our bodies and communicates wirelessly with machines around us without us being explicitly aware of it?
According to the marketing spiel, we’ll have a lot more convenience at our fingertips. But, in actuality, we may find ourselves reaching for the mute button, longing to be disconnected, and fed up with all the notifications interrupting us. That’s when the novelty effect wears off.
We have probably witnessed people who cannot resist the urge of pulling out their mobile phone to interact with it at the most inopportune times or who pass their idle time simply looking down at a screen.
Most do not realise they are even interacting with their personal computer devices for hours each day. The repetitive behaviour has almost become a type of tic disorder which is neurobehavioural.
We get a message, it makes us feel important. We reply and get a buzz the very next time it happens again. It’s kind of like digital ping pong. And the game can get tangible fast. The main reason this repetitive behaviour remains hidden is that the majority of smartphone users suffer from this, so it looks normal.
You can see people in public spaces immersed in virtual places. These Wi-Fi-enabled mobile contraptions can also trigger a host of internet-related addictions, whether used for gaming, answering mail, web surfing, online transactions, social media, we-chatting, or taking a tonne of photographs.
According to experts, internet addiction disorder (IAD) can ruin lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances and social problems. This is not to mention the potential for accidents when people are not looking where they are going or not paying attention to what they should be doing. In short, our need to be always online and connected has become a kind of cybernarcotic drug.
Little device, big data
Very few of us are immune to this yearning for “feedback loops”, so telecommunications operators and service providers pounce on this response. Information is money. And while we are busy interacting with our device, the companies are busy pocketing big money using our big data.
In days gone by, mobile communications could tell data collectors about our identity, location, even our condition. This is not new. But the real-time access and precision of this level of granularity of data gathered is something we should be all aware of as potentially impinging on our fundamental human rights.
Because they interface directly with the human body, watches have the capacity to tell a third party much more about you than just where you’ve been and where you are likely to be going. They can:
Detect physiological characteristics like your pulse rate, heart rate, temperature which can say a lot about your home/work/life habits
Determine time, distance, speed and altitude information derived from onboard sensors
Identify which apps you are using and how and why you are using them, minute by minute
Oversee the kinds of questions you are asking via search engines and text-based messages you are sending via social media.
All in all, private corporations can glean what you are thinking, the problems you are facing, and they know your personal context. What is disturbing is that they can divulge some of your innermost personal thoughts, intentions and actions, and have evidence for the reasons we do things.
Many people immersed in the virtual world are too busy to be thinking about the very act of inputting information onto the internet. People value a life of convenience over privacy too much to be genuinely concerned what information is being logged by a company and shared with hundreds of other potential partners and affiliates.
And consumers are often oblivious to the fact that, even if they are doing nothing at all, the smart device they are carrying or wearing is creating a type of digital DNA about their uniqueness.
Today, we are asking to be monitored and are partying in the panopticon. We have fallen in love with the idea of being told about ourselves and don’t discern that we have become like prison inmates who are being tracked with electronic bracelets.
By the time we wake up to this technological trajectory, it may be all too late. Our health insurance provider might be Samsung, our telecoms provider may be Google, and our unique lifetime identifier could come from Apple. At present, these are the archetypal tech providers. But tomorrow, who knows?
And by that time, we will likely be heralding in the age of uberveillance where we posit that cellphones and wristwatches are not enough, that the human-computer interface should go deeper, penetrating the skin and into the body.
The new slogan might read “The Mark is Here”, herald the iPlant, that which gives birth to life, the one and only passport to access your forever services.
“You can’t live without it”, may soon no longer be just figurative, but a reality.
Two articles from Medium by 'Insurge Intelligence,' a crowd-funded investigative journalism project, tell the story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain 'information superiority.'
Noting Google's genesis with DARPA funding, the expansion of the empire today in the realm of Google's actions with GeoEye and Keyhole; Boston Dynamics, DeepMind, Nest Labs, Dropcam, etc---the trajectory becomes clear.
"M.G. Michael and Katina Michael (2010) describe this "carceral" phase of power relations with the concept of "uberveillance"- "the sum total of all types of surveillance and the deliberate integration of an individual's personal data for the continuous tracking and monitoring of identity and location in real time" (10). Under the digital conditions of "uberveillance," therefore, mobile tracking is most usefully viewed both as a new experiment in power enforcement and as one of the spatial designs of power in the wireless world of "flows." Elliot and Urry (2010) depict this "uberveillant phase" as a digital "Orwellianization" of self and society, in which there is essentially no movement without digital tracing or tracking" (150)."
Kwang-Suk Lee (2012) IT Development in Korea: A Broadband Nirvana? Routledge.
"Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who invented the web 25 years ago, called for a bill of rights that would guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users' privacy.
"If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life," Berners-Lee said at the London "Web We Want" festival on the future of the internet.
"If a Government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power."
"Suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become so tempting both for government and big companies."