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The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’
“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas. The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy. …
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. …
The authors offer an expertly banalized version of tomorrow’s world: the gadgetry of decades hence is predicted to be much like what we have right now — only cooler. “Progress” is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated. Google will interpose itself, and hence the United States government, between the communications of every human being not in China (naughty China). Commodities just become more marvelous; young, urban professionals sleep, work and shop with greater ease and comfort; democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as “participation”; and our present world order of systematized domination, intimidation and oppression continues, unmentioned, unafflicted or only faintly perturbed.”
“What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century,” they tell us, “technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st.” Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces — forever. Zealots of the cult of consumer technology will find little to inspire them here, not that they ever seem to need it. But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy.”
“Loneliness is one of the first things ordinary Americans spend their money achieving.
So wrote Stephen Marche in last month’s cover story for The Atlantic. “Loneliness is at the American core, a by-product of a long-standing national appetite for independence,” he said. “The price of self-determination and self-reliance has often been loneliness. Americans have always been willing to pay that price.”
It is easy, and therefore popular, to say that headphones make us anti-social. But Marche is right. Wealth can buy — and modern technology can deliver — the independence that people have always sought. People have always had private thoughts. Headphones have the capacity to make our music like our thoughts. Something that nobody else can hear. Something we can choose to share. …
Personal music creates a shield both for listeners and for those walking around us. Headphones make their own rules of etiquette. We assume that people wearing them are busy or oblivious, so now people wear them to appear busy or oblivious — even without music. Wearing soundless headphones is now a common solution to productivity blocks. Baldwin’s invention for the Navy has become a social accessory with a explicit message: I am here, but I am separate. In a wreck of people and activity, two plastic pieces connected by a wire create an aura of privacy.”
How Headphones Changed the World | The Atlantic
Hijacking airplanes with an Android phone
“On Monday night, Google released extensive guidelines for software developers who want to build apps for Glass. With those guidelines, it is taking a page from Apple’s playbook, by being much more restrictive about the glasses than it has been with other products, particularly its Android operating system for phones, and controlling the type of apps that developers build.”
“To begin, developers cannot sell ads in apps, collect user data for ads, share data with ad companies or distribute apps elsewhere. They cannot charge people to buy apps or virtual goods or services within them.”
“Some developers said they were disappointed by the limits.”
“Other developers said it made sense for Google to be more cautious than it was with mobile phones because Glass was always in a user’s field of vision.
“You don’t carry your laptop in the bathroom, but with Glass, you’re wearing it,” said Chad Sahlhoff, a freelance software developer in San Francisco. “That’s a funny issue we haven’t dealt with as software developers.”
Mr. Sahlhoff said he wanted to build apps for carpenters so they could see schematics without lifting their eyes from machines, and for drivers to see the speed limit and points of interest without taking their eyes off the road.”
“In addition to restricting advertising in apps, Google is also limiting the amount of access app software has to the devices. The apps, which will be called Glassware, will be cloud-based, like Web apps, as opposed to living on the device like cellphone apps. Developers will not be able to change the display or access the sensors on the device.”
“By taking advantage of two new technologies for the discovery, information gathering and exploitation phases of the attack, and by creating an exploit framework (SIMON) and an Android app (PlaneSploit) that delivers attack messages to the airplanes’ Flight Management Systems (computer unit + control display unit), he demonstrated the terrifying ability to take complete control of aircrafts by making virtual planes ‘dance to his tune.’”
“The next transformative moment in mainstream computing devices, the first since smartphones in 2007 and tablets in 2010, will probably involve computers that attach themselves to our bodies. They’ll be disguised as everyday ornamental objects, like pairs of glasses and watches, so they can be (almost) imperceptibly inserted into our lives. (To say nothing of the hordes of cheap, unashamed sensors, like the Fitbit Flex or Nike FuelBand.)
That anticipation is palpable: the Kickstarter campaign for Pebble, a watch with an electronic-paper display that connects to smartphones to show alerts for things like incoming messages, weather updates, and Twitter, received over ten million dollars in contributions. And a Google News search for the Apple iWatch, anticipated by some as the company’s next breakthrough product, produces over twenty thousand results. The word “watch” may soon seem much like the word “phone,” simultaneously mummified and revivified.”
Objects of Desire: The First Smart Watch | New Yorker