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.

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How Are Manufacturers Holding Up During the Pandemic?

Both reshoring and the deployment of automation have become more interesting to respondents. The survey reveals that 64% of manufacturers say they are likely to bring manufacturing production and sourcing back to North America, which is a 10% increase from the same sentiment reported in Thomas’ March survey of manufacturers. Another key finding shows that 25% of US manufacturers are considering expanding industrial automation as a result of COVID-19. . . . . full story click here

Tech Companies Still Fighting COVID-19

Technology companies are bringing their expertise to the fight against coronavirus. This week we saw even more companies contributing to the effort.

Optima: The need for specific consumer goods and hygiene products, pharmaceuticals and medical technology has increased exponentially. The broad-based Optima Group has responded to this development by supporting customers with special machine solutions which can be flexibly adapted to suit the new market requirements. A new website provides information about the portfolio. Anchor Harvey, an aluminum forging company with more than 30 years of experience forging products for the medical industry, has announced the expansion of the company’s medical industry forging capabilities to meet the increasing demand for emergency medical supplies during COVID-19. MaskForce Consortium: Recently, a consortium of Milwaukee-area manufacturers teamed up to help alleviate the shortage of N95 masks that hospital workers desperately need today. The group, which calls itself MaskForce, has accomplished a lot in only three weeks. They collaboratively designed an innovative mask with a replaceable filter that can be worn for hours without discomfort. One partner helped to speed regulatory approvals and sourced filter media. And another has set up a manufacturing cell to produce at least 50,000 masks. Stratasys, Inc. and Origin have signed an agreement in which Stratasys will market and promote Origin 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swabs to healthcare providers and other testing centers in the U.S. Origin plans to increase production from 100,000 per week to over a million per week in May.. more and details at link

Science and Technology Online Video Lectures

Joseph Stiglitz lecturing at Columbia University: The Great Divide

The annual Linus Pauling Memorial Lectures Series takes place in Portland Oregon (Linus’s home town). The presenters each season address topics ranging over all of the sciences, engineering and related philosophies of science and engineering. the focus has been on leading-edge thinkers.

Click here to go to series of lectures on. YouTube:

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls for strong US privacy law, rips “data-industrial complex”

Cook: Tech companies should de-identify customer data or not collect it at all.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called on the US government to pass “a comprehensive federal privacy law,” saying that tech companies that collect wide swaths of user data are engaging in surveillance.

Speaking at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) in Brussels, Cook said that businesses are creating “an enduring digital profile” of each user and that the trade of such data “has exploded into a data-industrial complex.”

“This is surveillance,” Cook said. “And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable.”

Profits over Privacy . . . . full article:

Tech Policy – Facial Recognition

This is how you kick facial recognition out of your town

Bans on the technology have mostly focused on law enforcement, but there’s a growing movement to get it out of school, parks, and private businesses too. In San Francisco, a cop can’t use facial recognition technology on a person arrested. But a landlord can use it on a tenant, and a school district can use it on students. 

This is where we find ourselves, smack in the middle of an era when cameras on the corner can automatically recognize passersby, whether they like it or not. The question of who should be able to use this technology, and who shouldn’t, remains largely unanswered in the US. So far, American backlash against facial recognition has been directed mainly at law enforcement. San Francisco and Oakland, as well as Somerville, Massachusetts, have all banned police from using the technology in the past year because the algorithms aren’t accurate for people of color and women. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has even called for a moratorium on police use.

Private companies and property owners have had no such  . . . . full article at MIT Technology Review

Autodesk Says Construction sites will become automated factories

A new wave of technology is coming out of the world of design software for automated construction and environmental improvements. This is good news for cities where buildings must be built in cramped spaces – buildings can be assembled in modules and brought to constructions sites. But is it also an important consideration regarding jobs and the automation of work. Full story

Is it Time to Outsource Your Passwords to an App?

First, if you are storing passwords in your web browser, stop. Because storing passwords in your browser is a terrible idea! For example, If other people (like the system admin at the office) have access to your computer, they can open Chrome’s settings tab and see all of your passwords in plaintext. 

Wired Magazine suggests: “Your brain has better things to do than store secure passwords. Get a dedicated password manager to keep your login data synced and secure across all devices.

And here are some that are recommended:

Bitwarden is the most transparently secure password manager we tested; it’s built on open source code that’s subject to regular security audits. The app is also free, making it a good choice for the password-manager curious. Advanced users like the ability to study the code, and they can even host Bitwarden on their own server. The free account has no limitations, but premium accounts ($10 a year) offer extras like support for logging in with a YubiKey and advice on strengthening your passwords.

The most user-friendly service of this bunch, 1Password seamlessly integrates with login windows to autofill passwords across all your browsers and apps. This is especially true on iOS, where the procedure is smoother than it is on other platforms. Features like Travel Mode, which automatically deletes sensitive data from devices before you go on a trip, and Watchtower, which identifies weak or reused passwords, help justify the cost: $36 a year for one user, $60 for the whole family. . . . full article

Digital Privacy

Technological progress has created a situation of severe tension and incompatibility between the right to privacy and the extensive data pooling on which the digital economy is based.

In the last decade, both governments and giant corporations have become data miners, collecting information about every aspect of our activities, behavior and lifestyle. New and inexpensive forms of data storage and the internet connectivity revolution — not only in content, but in fact — in just about everything (from smart appliances to nanobots inside people’s bodies) — enable the constant transmission of big data from sensors and data-collection devices to central “brains”; the artificial intelligence revolution has made it possible to analyze the masses of data gathered in this way.

The intensive collection of data and the inherent advantages of the new technology have spawned the cynical idea that privacy is dead, and we might as well just get used to that fact. In what follows, I will describe three aspects of the right to privacy that have become especially relevant in the digital world. I will then demonstrate that not only is privacy still alive and kicking, but also that we should treat it with the respect it deserves as the most important of all human rights in the digital world.

The first perspective on privacy in the digital world is the idea that . . . read full article here

Tech News: French Parliament Approves Digital Sales Tax, U.S. Orders Inquiry

The French parliament has just approved a 3% digital sales tax aimed at closing the loopholes big tech companies use to bring down their tax bills.  

The plan: The tax on sales generated in France will apply to companies with global revenues over €750 million ($849 million) or French revenues over €25 million. It is expected to raise about €500 million a year.

A backlash: Inevitably, most of the companies affected are based in the US. It’s for that reason that the US government has ordered an inquiry into the new tax, with the potential to implement tariffs on French goods in retaliation.

First of many: The low tax yield from wealthy global tech firms is controversial far beyond France. The UK, Spain, Italy, and Austria are considering similar sales taxes, raising the question of how the US will respond if they take effect. Perhaps it might even prompt countries to finally agree on some common tax rules.

source: MIT Technology Review and Wall Street Journal