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Engineered for Dystopia

David A. Banks writes in The Baffler: Engineering has not strayed far from its military origins… Engineers are trained to “plug into chain-of-command decision making structures… In times like these it is important to remember that border walls, nuclear missiles, and surveillance systems do not work, and won’t even exist, without the cooperation of engineers.

The social ideology of the motorcar

“The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people”. So starts Andre Gorz’s justly famous 1973 essay which remains as relevant today as ever.

How the wealthy are plotting to leave us behind: An inside account

Douglas Rushkoff writes: (The billionaires I recently met) were preparing for a digital future that transcends the human condition altogether while insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.

How Andhra Pradesh built India’s first police state using Aadhaar and a Census

Gopal Sathe writes: The AP government now has access the intimate personal details of 43 million of the state’s 50 million residents: GPS coordinates of their homes, medicines they use, the food rations they eat, real-time feeds of thousands of security cameras, their castes and sub-castes, their religion, and of course — their Aadhaar numbers.

Melvin Kranzberg’s Six Laws of Technology, a metaphor, and a story

Michael Sacasas writes: Melvin Kranzberg was a professor of the history of technology and the founding editor of the journal Technology and Culture. Here are Kranzberg’s Laws of Technology — “a series of truisms,” according to him, “deriving from a longtime immersion in the study of the development of technology and its interactions with sociocultural change.”

Slaughterbots: How autonomous weapons endanger our future

From CNet/Future of Life Institute: Autonomous weapons use Artificial Intelligence to select and engage targets without human intervention. Now, a think tank backed by scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others, offers a graphic warning against machines that decide whom to kill. This fictional video underscores how seriously these experts view the issue.

Shriya Mohan: The Aadhaar of all things

From The Hindu: From a severely critical stand against Aadhaar in 2014, the Modi-led BJP in power has made a sharp U-turn to bulldoze its way into having every Indian scanned, tagged and labelled. As the Supreme Court begins hearing of petitions that challenge Aadhaar, a timeline of the country’s chequered date with the project.

Dr. Amory Lovins on India’s ‘sustainable energy future’

Amory Lovins, Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is one of the world’s leading energy experts and a key figure behind China’s ongoing transition to renewable energy. His appointment as a strategic advisor to NITI Aayog suggests that India’s top development policy agency maybe finally be rethinking the country’s present fossil fuel-based energy path.

The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’

From The Guardian: A series of fast-moving global megatrends, spurred by trillion-dollar investments, indicates that humanity might be able to avert the worst impacts of global warming. From those already at full steam, including renewable energy, to those just emerging, such as plant-based alternatives to meat, global trends show that greenhouse-gas emissions can be halted.

Coal vs Renewables: An open letter to India’s chief economic advisor

With the national energy policy about to be finalised, a recent lecture by Dr. Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor, revealed the government’s thinking on the question of coal vis-a-vis renewable energy. This rejoinder by an energy expert flags crucial issues and suggests alternatives that are vastly more healthier for the country and the planet.

Tribute: Nikolai Vavilov, persecuted Soviet geneticist who foresaw our present crisis

From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.

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