Techsploitation

A polite message from the surveillance state

Imagine what would happen if the phone and Internet systems in our country had the same warnings on them that Gtalk has. Every time you picked up the phone to make a call or logged on to the Internet, you’d get a helpful little message: “Warning: The government is recording everything that you are saying and doing right now.” Holy crap.

Let’s eat clone

Let's eat clone

I’m looking forward to eating my first clone hamburger. I mean, why not? I eat cloned plants all the time, and I admire cloned flowers. Clone meat seems like the next logical step.

Return of blog anxiety

Return of blog anxiety

In 2008, will blogs take on all the bad habits of the mainstream media, self-censoring when we should be publishing? Or will bloggers help the media progress just a little bit further toward independence of thought and bravery in publication?

Technology in wartime

Techsploitation

War changes everything, including technology. In the United States we are roughly six years into what the Bush Administration calls the “war on terror,” and what hundreds of thousands of soldiers know as the occupation of Iraq. Gizmos that a decade ago would have been viewed entirely as communications tools and toys are now potential surveillance and killing machines.

International intrigue

Techsploitation
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photo / zouzouwizman Creative Commons licensed: AttributionA wax market in Lagos, Nigeria 

The following story is not entirely made up. But it’s fictional enough that if you think you recognize yourself or your friends, then you must be mistaken.

Humans are dogs

Techsploitation: Humans are dogs

Two new studies of animal intelligence caught my attention last week because they prove that humans are no better than dogs and monkeys. This is something I’ve always felt to be true on an anecdotal level, and now cognitive science backs me up.

Consumerist crap for the holidays

Techsploitation: Consumerist crap for the holidays

For the holidays, I don’t want to do something nice for the earth. I don’t want to get handmade iPod covers from the Etsy online store that nurtures local craftspeople. And I don’t want to go off-line for a day to commune with people in the real world.

Comcast’s secret war on file-sharing

Techsploitation: Comcast’s secret war on file-sharing

For the past several months, Comcast has been covertly sending commands to your computer that tell it to stop receiving information — especially if that information is coming to you via BitTorrent, Gnutella, or other file-sharing applications.

Are you my genome friend?

Are you my genome friend?

People are desperate to understand themselves, and so they turn to genetics as if it were a self-help manual instead of a still poorly understood science.

Mapping the unmappable

Mapping the unmappable | Techsploitation

The weirdest (and saddest) map mashup ever is the Access Denied Map.

Why I voted for Josh Wolf

Why I voted for Josh Wolf | Techsploitation

Last week’s mayoral election in my hometown of San Francisco was one of those weird moments that make you think you’re living in a Philip K. Dick novel…

Carbon indulgences

Carbon indulgences

Carbon offset fees may be new, but the underlying notion goes back to the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church sold wealthy people indulgences to offset the spiritual cost of their sins and assure a place for them in heaven.

Consumer biotech

Consumer biotech | Techsploitation

Consumer biotech isn’t a new idea. Home pregnancy tests are a form of consumer biotech, as are Viagra and Prozac.

When science attacks

When science attacks

Two scandals rocked the sci-tech world last week. Not to put too fine a point on it, they reminded us that bad research and implementation can kill.

Moaning Lisa

Moaning Lisa

Our bodies are a technology.

Always away on IM

Always away on IM

Although IM technology has been around for years, I feel like it’s reached a kind of singularity that early users of “chat” would hardly recognize.

Whose bionics?

Whose bionics?

Sure, there a few ways the show tries to nod to feminism. Though Jamie isn’t educated, we’re told that she has an IQ higher than the Wolf Creek director who owns her. And her little sister is a hacker.

To see or not to see

Techsploitation
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Columnist Annalee Newitz 

I did not know the screaming man, nor did I know what country he was in. My view of him was shaking – the video was probably taken with a cell phone or cheapo digital camera with limited vid capability. Suddenly another man came into the frame and cut out the first man’s throat, which didn’t stop the screaming but instead turned it into a horrible, high-pitched wheezing. Eventually he sawed off the rest of his victim’s head and threw it around a little bit just for good measure. I had to stop watching, so I killed the tab in my browser.

My first thought was: what the fuck? And then, as the nausea subsided: what the fuck are these people trying to prove by killing a man like this? I was hungry for context.

The next day, I found myself asking more questions, but not about the motives of the murderers. Instead, I wondered about the communications technologies that allowed me to see that video in the first place. A group of bloodthirsty guys had to have handheld video-capture devices, video editing software, and a high-speed Internet connection to upload the finished product. Then they had to host the video somewhere that anybody could see it. In this case, that somewhere was the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco devoted to the preservation of history in digital form.

Most of the Internet Archive is organized as a physical-world archive would be: curators like film historian Rick Prelinger donate rare and antique collections of media that they’ve digitized, and the archive makes them available to the world. But archive founder Brewster Kahle has a populist streak. He believes the public should have a say in what gets preserved in the historical record, so he invites the public to contribute. That’s why the Internet Archive has a small area on its website called the Open Source Movie Collection, where anyone can archive his or her media.

Green satellites dying

Green satellites dying

Government-funded satellite systems and sensor networks are supposed to be spook stuff, technologies for surveillance and social control. They’re the “electric eyes” that follow us and turn our private lives into sitcoms for bored intelligence agents, right? Wrong.

NASA hippies

NASA hippies

As annoying as hippies can be, it’s strangely comforting to think that the one bit of junk we shot into deep space is emblazoned with a hippie symbol.