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RWU Calls For An End To The Autonomy Sideshow

With shedding union employees being a chronic obsession of the railroads, some of them have given credence to schemes to run trains 'autonomously'. While not having a serious chance of implementation at scale, these autonomous follies can soak up public funding (e.g.: $6MM to Parallel Systems) and the time of regulators and business development staff. RWU has authored a Resolution Against Pod Trains (linked above and below) to detail exhaustively the reasons 'pod trains' as a wasteful diversion.

US TikTok Ban Aims To Weaken China And Protect Tech Monopolies

The US government has for years threatened to ban TikTok, one of the most popular social media apps in the country. It’s now looking like this might actually happen. This March, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation called the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act”. This bill states that it “prohibits distributing, maintaining, or providing internet hosting services for a foreign adversary controlled application (e.g., TikTok)”. It passed with an overwhelming majority of 352 votes in favor and just 65 votes against.

If Protests Are ‘Terrorism,’ What Are State Brutality And Surveillance?

In 2020, in Canarsie, Brooklyn, a gunshot detection technology, called ShotSpotter, reported a gunshot fired. It alerted the NYPD and sent them to a street address. The officers arrived at the location, and a Black man named Fitzroy Gayle happened to be walking past it, on his way home. The officers got out of their cars, targeted and detained him and started hitting him, causing serious injuries to his neck, knee and ankle. “If the robot tells you, ‘GO,’ you’re already scared and amped. They just beat this guy mercilessly,” said Matt Mitchell, a digital technology expert who studied the case. “The guy was saying ‘What did I do?’ This is an example of when digital surveillance and tools go wrong.”

Is Intellectual Property Turning Into A Knowledge Monopoly?

The twentieth century saw the emergence of public funded universities and technical institutions, while technology development was concentrated in the R&D laboratories of large corporations. The age of the lone inventor Edison, Siemens, Westinghouse, Graham Bell had ended with the nineteenth century. The twentieth century was more about industry-based R&D laboratories, where corporations gathered together leading scientists and technologists to create the technologies of the future. In this phase, capital was still expanding production. Even though finance capital was already dominant over productive capital, the major capitalist countries still had a strong manufacturing base.

Project Provides Housing And Tech Training For Young Women Of Color

The quaint, Victorian-style house where social entrepreneur Bridgette Wallace chose to bring her vision to life looks like any other home in Boston’s historic Garrison Trotter neighborhood. Built in 1900 and nestled in the heart of Roxbury, this unassuming property on Boston’s Hutchings Street houses an innovative co-living and co-learning model to curb the effects of tech industry-driven gentrification. Welcome to G{Code} House, a place where women and nonbinary people of color ages 18-24 can reside as they complete a two year coding course that prepares them to enter the workforce.

Civic Innovation Is Flourishing In Cities Right Now

This summer, cities around the world are unveiling and expanding new tools and initiatives in the name of civic engagement and digital innovation. From Los Angeles to Lisbon, local governments are testing different models of outreach and participation with the promise of increasing trust and equity in civic processes and institutions. Ranging from online portals to citizen assemblies, the wave of experimentation in policy and design responds to historic levels of distrust and disengagement in government at all levels. The question remains whether these new tools deliver on their promises to effectively bring underrepresented communities into decision-making processes and increase transparency and equity in bureaucratic systems.

Human Suffering Worsens In DRC, The Heart Of Africa

It’s easy to think that the human suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) couldn’t get worse until it does, and it always does. How much more Black life will have to be sacrificed to fuel the industrial world’s hunger for Congolese resource riches, meaning most of all the minerals essential to high-tech manufacturing, including state of the art weaponry? Black Africans fight one another in DRC, but all those of us on our phones, sitting in front of our laptops or in the seats of commercial and military aircraft, and in every other way wired to modern technology should know that this is our war, our highly complex and catastrophic proxy war.

To Counter AI Risk, We Must Develop An Integrated Intelligence

The recent explosion in the stunning power of artificial intelligence is likely to transform virtually every domain of human life in the near future, with effects that no-one can yet predict. The breakneck rate at which AI is developing is such that its potential impact is almost impossible to grasp. As Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, co-founders of the Center for Humane Technology, demonstrate in their landmark presentation, The AI Dilemma, AI accomplishments are beginning to read like science fiction. After just three seconds of hearing a human voice, for example, an AI system can autocomplete the sentence being spoken with a voice so perfectly matched that no-one can distinguish it from the real thing.

New Digital Legal Tool Helps Immigrant Workers Reclaim Stolen Wages

In the fall of 2018, Rodrigo Camarena caught an article in El Diario La Prensa, a Spanish-language newspaper in New York City, detailing the increase of wage theft for immigrant workers. One worker told the paper their employer threatened to call immigration services if they complained about not getting paid. Camarena is director of Justicia Lab, which develops technology to support immigrants and advocates. “It made me really mad, knowing the problem got so much worse under the Trump administration,” recalls Camarena. He reached out to Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy organization quoted in the article: “I basically asked: how can we help?”

Can The Global South Build A New World Information And Communication Order?

It is remarkable how the media in a select few countries is able to set the record on matters around the world. The European and North American countries enjoy a near-global monopoly over information, their media houses vested with a credibility and authority inherited from their status during colonial times (BBC, for instance) as well as their command of the neocolonial structure of our times (CNN, for instance). In the 1950s, the post-colonial nations identified the West’s monopoly over media and information and sought to ‘promote the free flow of ideas by word and by image’, as the 1945 Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) put it.

Havana Congress Plans Technological Sovereignty For Global South

The Congress brought together over 50 delegates - scholars, diplomats, parliamentarians, and policymakers from 26 countries across all six inhabited continents, including Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. Following deliberations over two days on geopolitics, climate, finance, technology and trade through panels and keynote speeches, including from Andres Arauz, Clara Lopez and Yanis Varoufakis, the Congress agreed to focus on science, technology and innovation in the next 18 months. The Congress, part of the Progressive International’s project for a New International Economic Order, is held as Cuba assumes the presidency of the G77 bloc of 134 Global South countries.

Amazon Wants Surveillance Robots In Every Home

Exciting news guys! Amazon has created a new robot, the Astro, to spy on people in their homes – and this one is smarter and sneakier than the Alexa. Tanya Basu of MIT Technology Review reports, “Amazon has a new plan for its home robot Astro: to guard your life  … The cute home assistant could be the most powerful, invasive home robot we’ve seen thus far.” It might be cute, but you have to ignore the fact that it’s watching you while you’re on the toilet and zapping your dog for getting in the way. “Amazon announced Wednesday that its home robot, Astro, will be getting a slew of major updates aimed at further embedding it in homes – and in our daily lives,” Basu continues. That’s not cute, it’s terrifying! Why does it have its own drones? Nothing that comes with drones is your friend. I don’t care if it’s a Dunkin’ Donuts Rainbow Cupcake. It shouldn’t have drones!

The Alternative To Cash Bail Is A Simple Reminder

Last March, the California Supreme Court ruled that low-income individuals were not to be subject to cash bail, stating that “conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional.” This came four months after a widely scrutinized bail reform law subject to a referendum was defeated by California voters in 2020.  Other states have moved even further to eliminate cash bail, part of the growing national concern with how a de facto for-profit element of the criminal justice system jails and immiserates people by the millions, the vast majority of whom have not been convicted of a crime. An Illinois bill from 2021 eliminates cash bail starting in 2023.

Albany Passes ‘Right To Repair’ Law For Electronics

It may soon be easier to get your busted iPhone fixed. Under a bill passed by the state legislature last week, digital electronics manufacturers – such as Apple or Samsung – will be required to make repair instructions and parts available to both consumers and independent technicians. The “right to repair” legislation, which still needs to be signed into law by the governor, is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States. It follows a year-long campaign by tech and environmental activists, who accused manufacturers of intentionally restricting the ability to repair their products – a strategy known as planned obsolescence. “This legislation ends what is a monopoly on the repair market by corporate actors and incentivizes competition within the industry,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, the bill’s sponsor.

Venezuela Launches Tech Platform To Quickly Improve Public Services

The Venezuelan government launched a new app-based initiative to address deteriorated public services that will facilitate a more direct means of communication between the citizenry and the government. President Nicolás Maduro toured the headquarters of a newly-opened rapid-response center, located inside the presidential palace of Miraflores on Saturday, saying the new system would “show the complaint, show the process and show the result, so that people can see processes and results.” Maduro said the aim was to break with the bureaucracy that often serves to delay a quick resolution, adding that issues related to water, education, and healthcare would be given priority.
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