Opinion Piece : New Technologies Should Be Regulated by Government — Not by Those Who Profit

by historian and journalist Peter Montague

Between 1972 and 1995, Congress supported its own in-house think tank called the Office of Technology Assessment, or OTA. The Congress defunded OTA in 1995, thus causing it to lose much of its capacity to foresee and forestall environmental and social harm that could be avoided or mitigated by sensible government policies and actions. During its brief existence, OTA produced 750 high-quality reports on a wide range of problems that Congress was trying to understand and resolve, such as job loss from automation, the benefits and costs of mammograms, the feasibility and cost of the Strategic Defense Initiative to shoot down incoming nuclear-armed missiles, and the accuracy and reliability of lie-detector tests.

Now Congressmen Mark Takano (D-California) and Sean Casten (D-Illinois) have proposed legislation to restore OTA . . . .

. . . The market is not going to solve the lasers-pointed-at-airplanes problem. Wall Street is not going to fix the climate emergency or control the proliferation of nuclear weapons or require that plastics be made biodegradable so they do not accumulate in the environment. Corporate managers may personally desire to be “socially responsible,” but so long as they answer to shareholders expecting a hefty return on investment, they will pursue technologies that increase their profits, regardless of their ill effects on workers, community and the natural world.

[some complain that] OTA reports are biased against the rapid introduction of new technologies, which many believe are essential for growing the economy  to avoid recession or depression. . . . technology corporations may not find it in their interests to have Congress well-informed about the pros and cons of various regulatory possibilities, so restoring OTA would almost certainly require a coordinated citizen  to make it happen.

full article


Automation and Robotics in Packaging – Oct 1, 2020

Join us for a 60-minute webinar, Automation and Robotics in Packaging, with live Q&A on Thursday, October 1 at 11:00 AM PDT / 2:00 PM EDT.

Visit a packaging trade show and what you’ll see across the floor is hundreds of robots and automated motion systems. Packaging operations have become extended automation systems that require very little manual labor. If the warehouse was the first part of manufacturing operation to go fully automated, the packaging operations are close second.

In this webinar author, robot futurist and changeover wizard John Henry will discuss how robots are currently used to automate packaging and how he expects them to be used in the future.

Click to register and obtain more information


How Much Information Is Too Much Information?

A Zocalo Public Square Event – You Tube Video Stream

The world is projected to generate 90 zettabytes of data this year and the next. That’s more than all the data produced since the arrival of computers, and if we still used DVDs, we’d need 19 trillion to store it all. Swimming in this massive sea of information, humans are easily overwhelmed; studies suggest we avoid important information because it might make us miserable, while seeking out information of dubious value to make ourselves happy.

What information do we need to know? What role should policymakers play in helping us find data that improves our well-being and filter out information—from calorie counts to credit card fees—that wastes our time or even endangers us? Harvard University legal scholar Cass Sunstein, author of “Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want To Know,” visited Zócalo and the Commonwealth Club to explain how we can make information work for us. This online streamed event was moderated by “WIRED” senior editor Lauren Goode. Read more about our panelists here: https://zps.la/3cjL6OA


From MIT Tech Review: Want consumer privacy? Try China

Forget the idea that China doesn’t care about privacy—its citizens will soon have much greater consumer privacy protections than Americans.

The narrative in the US that the Chinese don’t care about data privacy is simply misguided. It’s true that the Chinese government has built a sophisticated surveillance apparatus (with the help of Western companies), and continues to spy on its citizenry. 

But when it comes to what companies can do with people’s information, China is rapidly moving toward a data privacy regime that, in aligning with the European Union’s GDPR, is far more stringent than any federal law on the books in the US.  full story / podcast here

50 Top Private Software Companies of 2020

Guild – Partners with Fortune 1000 companies and nonprofit universities to offer education benefits to their employees.

Inc. – dedicated to the coverage of owners and managers of private companies – recently released the Inc 5000 2020. This list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America is grouped by industry, including engineering, manufacturing, transportation, and others. The software category was particularly impressive with its median growth of 197%, total revenues of $13.4 billion, and contributions of over 46,000 jobs, according to Inc. 

These award-winning companies represent the fastest-growing software application-based service vendors. Most are focused on popular online markets such as insurance, mortgages, wealth creation, job hunting, health care selection, product (often cannabis and art supplies) distribution, resellers, and other goods and services. Regardless of the market that they cover, software engineers will find the innovative techniques of interest, from user interface design and methods to accessing fairly dispersed database or HTML indexes to new online business models and the use of the latest software tech.

Inc.’s annual ranking of the leading privately-held American software companies provides insights and surprises. Software engineers will find the innovative techniques of interest, from user interface design and methods to accessing fairly dispersed database or HTML indexes to new online business models and the use of the latest software tech. See companies here

City of Glendale’s Tech – July 21, 2020 at 4PM – Zoom Webinar

Glendale Tech on Tap

The City of Glendale’s Tech on Tap event, “Virtually Meet & Greet our New Tech Accelerators,”  is July 21. This is the City’s fourth virtual Tech on Tap event and will feature speakers from Glendale’s two new Tech Accelerator Operators — Omkar Kulkarni from KidsX Health Accelerator and Hambarzum Kaghketsyan from HeroHouse Glendale Gateway Program, for a *virtual* afternoon Meet & Greet! The Meet & Greet will be followed by a Q&A session, where all participants are encouraged to participate to learn more about these two operators.

Register here

How ArtificiaI Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Augmented Reality (AR) Will Change the Face of Design

The combination of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and augmented reality (AR) will change the face of design in the not-so-distant future.

I truly believe that the combination of AI and AR is going to change the way in which we interface with our systems, the world, and each other. . . . we are still in the very early days of AI and AR. When Charles Babbage (1791–1871) commenced work on his Analytical Steam Engine in the 1830s, he thought of this machine only in the context of performing mathematical calculations, which he very much disliked doing by hand. It’s fascinating to me that Babbage’s assistant, Augusta Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), mused on something akin to AI. In fact, Ada wrote about the possibility of computers using numbers as symbols to represent things like musical notes, and she went so far as to speculate of machines one day “having the ability to compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” . . . . let’s consider the AI project I’m working on at the moment. This is going to be mounted on my vacuum cleaner. It’s going to employ a 3-axis accelerometer to monitor the vibrations, and it will use green and red LEDs to tell me if the container is OK or if it needs to be emptied. Just for giggles and grins, I want to equip it with Wi-Fi. Thus, on the remote chance my son decides to hoover the house while I’m at work, my gizmo can send a message to my smartphone saying “The bag needs changing” so I can call my son and pass on the good news. . . . . full story here

The Future of Single-Use Packaging in a Post-Pandemic World

We were throwing out our plastic bags – until suddenly the supermarkets don’t want our reusable bags brought into their stores any more.  Even the most vocal anti-plastic critics are now relying on a soap or sanitizer pumped or poured from a plastic container. . . .

Rather than all out bans on plastic, are there ways to make them less harmful to the environment, more sustainable?

Single-use packaging can evolve towards lightweight cartridges used in conjunction with durable soap and sanitizer dispensers. The lighter package, which may not have ideal aesthetics, could be hidden inside a shroud or housing so that it is not visually jarring. The design of the dispenser itself can be optimized for minimal human contact, or even touchless, to help improve hygiene and sanitation. . . . what else? more

IBM will no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology – for law enforcement

IBM’s CEO says we should reevaluate selling the technology to law enforcement

facial recognition image: Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

IBM will no longer offer general purpose facial recognition or analysis software, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said in a letter to Congress today. The company will also no longer develop or research the technology, IBM tells The Verge. Krishna addressed the letter to Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any [facial recognition] technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency,” Krishna said in the letter. “We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.” 

Facial recognition software has improved greatly over the last decade thanks to advances in artificial intelligence. At the same time, the technology — because it is often provided by private companies with little regulation or federal oversight — has been shown to suffer from bias along lines of age, race, and ethnicity, which can make the tools unreliable for law enforcement and security and ripe for potential civil rights abuses. full article at The Verge