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The Trump Administration Will Be Great for Telecom Giants

By Dan Gillmor

A rule of thumb I follow is to never be surprised when a politician who vows to do bad things keeps his or her word.

So as the Trump administration unfolds, it comes as no shock that Big Telecom is about to get pretty much everything it wants over the next four to eight years—and that the open internet, open technology in general, consumer welfare, and maybe even free speech are in serious jeopardy.

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I Help Create the Automated Technologies That Are Taking Jobs

By Daniel Bliss

You would not know it from the discussions about the economic issues of the nation’s industrial heartland, but manufacturing is at an all-time high in the United States according to a November 2016 Brookings Institution study. The manufacturing recovery since the Great Recession has been quite remarkable. If you will forgive me, America is already great in manufacturing again.

However, more manufacturing no longer translates necessarily into more jobs thanks to technology-driven productivity gains. So manufacturing is up, in terms of production, but manufacturing employment is down. Companies are doing well while many employees have been displaced. This transformation in manufacturing is largely not the fault of NAFTA or a weak Chinese trade policy, but of people like me: engineers and scientists working on new technologies, constantly extending the capabilities of machines, and reducing the need for humans for many tasks.

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How Frankenstein’s Monster Became Sexy

By Joey Eschrich

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Future Tense—a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University—will hold an event called “The Spawn of Frankenstein” in Washington, D.C., to discuss the novel’s legacy. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.

Perhaps the best-remembered aspect of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel about scientific creativity and its consequences is the gruesome visage of Victor Frankenstein’s creation. His “hideously deformed and loathsome appearance” animates the novel’s central narrative arc of violent retribution—the monster isn’t inherently enraged or vengeful, but rather made that way through a series of rejections and abuses by people (including his creator) repelled by “a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”

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Don’t Broadcast Sean Spicer’s Press Conferences Live

By Dan Gillmor

How should journalists cover people who lie routinely and brazenly, and whose plain goal is to delegitimize the traditional press as an institution?

You’d have imagined by now that American journalists from major news organizations would have a strategy, given the Trump team’s habitual contempt for truth during the presidential campaign. But by the end of Day 2 of the Trump presidency, it was clear that the press corps—or at least the portion of it that covers the White House—is still groping for a way forward.

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The Important Lesson Scientists Could Learn From Trump’s Victory

By Darlene Cavalier and By Jason Lloyd

A few years ago, residents of Opelika, Alabama, noticed that something was very wrong with the local waterway. The waters of Saugahatchee Creek, which begins near Opelika and traces a winding route into the Alabama River before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico near Mobile, had turned dark and smelled bad. A longtime volunteer from the local water-monitoring group was among the first to alert officials. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management tracked the sludge in the Saugahatchee to breaches in several chemical waste ponds on the grounds of a shuttered textile mill, and it ordered the responsible parties to fix the problem.

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What Is “Military Artificial Intelligence”?

By Brad Allenby

We are in an era of existential fear of technology. Luminaries like Bill Joy, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking have warned against emerging technologies, especially artificial intelligence. Musk, for example, has warned that AI is “summoning the demons,” and Hawking has claimed that “[T]he development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” More than 20,000 AI researchers to-date have signed an open letter arguing that “Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” Human Rights Watch among others has launched a campaign against “killer robots,” while the U.N. is increasingly active in reviewing the technology.

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The U.K. Has Passed a New Law Permitting Outrageous Surveillance. The U.S. Could Be Next.

By Dan Gillmor

An ill wind is blowing in places that have championed freedom.

This erosion of civil rights didn’t start in the era of Donald “Burn the flag, go to jail” Trump, though he’s made clear his intentions to accelerate it (particularly when it comes to freedom of expression). And the United States isn’t the only place it’s happening.

Some of the most disappointing moves to limit people’s human rights have already taken place in Europe. The United Kingdom—which gave the world the Magna Carta—just enacted its so-called “snooper’s charter,” which will enshrine what can only be called the first full-on surveillance state among Western democracies. Among other notable intrusions into people’s privacy, it will give government vast new authority to hack people’s devices; force companies to decrypt personal information when the government asks for it; and require telecommunications companies to store users’ online activities, with a host of government agencies being able to fish around in that data without a warrant. As Jack Schofield observes in the Guardian, “It more or less removes your right to online privacy.”

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Pokémon Go Help Someone

By Thomas P. Seager and Susan Spierre Clark

Twenty years ago, when millions of people were displaced by a storm like Hurricane Matthew, we’d see convoys of temporary trailers being towed into stricken areas to shelter the newly homeless. We’d hear appeals for donations from charities like the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. And we’d be impressed with stories of neighbors and rescuers pitching in to help the unfortunate.

In the near future, information technology may provide new, more effective ways to organize disaster response. We’ve already seen the power of Twitter to coordinate political revolution, and we’ve seen the Pokémon Go augmented reality game motivate tens of thousands of people to get outdoors and chase imaginary monsters. What if, in response to crises, augmented and alternate reality games like Pokémon Go switched into a mode that rewarded players for donating blood? Delivering water bottles? Filling sandbags? Offering temporary housing? Or evacuating areas threatened by storm, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, or other hazards?

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Don’t Connect to a Public Wi-Fi Network Anywhere You Wouldn’t Go Barefoot

By Jamie Winterton

We’ve all done it. Maybe because of work pressures—you need to catch a plane but are also pushing toward a deadline. Maybe out of sheer boredom—your flight is delayed yet another hour and there is really only so much time you can spend at the airport bar before noon. Whatever the reason, we’ve all been there—stuck in the airport, looking at a list of little Wi-Fi signals, some without the lock next to them, wondering … it couldn’t hurt, could it? Just this once?

Of course, airports aren’t the only place with skeezy Wi-Fi. Coffee shops, parks—bring your device to any public place and see what networks are out there. Your phone is constantly calling out, looking for any Wi-Fi networks it has connected to in the past, and any networks that it might want to connect to in the future. (Your smartphone is definitely in an open relationship with your home network.) Some of these Wi-Fi networks have names you want to trust: OHare Airport Official Wi-Fi, for example. Some definitely scream “stay away”—like GetOffMyLAN. Some are bizarrely complex—Purchase4478_Open3’—and some are thoroughly bland—Netgear00. But what do you really know about any of them?

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You Bought It, but You Don’t Own It

By Aaron Fellmeth

The days of buying software, movies, and music albums on nifty plastic discs are about over. Soon media will be obsolete. Content—streaming and on-demand delivery of entertainment and software—will reign supreme. When consumers access one of these, they will do it over the internet, and when they buy a copy, it will increasingly be stored on remote servers (more popularly known as the cloud) that are accessed online.

Yes, some people are still buying DVDs and even CDs, but they’re swimming against the tide. In the near future, they will find themselves struggling to find a CD or DVD player that isn’t marketed as “retro,” like buying a turntable today. The major software publishers are so committed to cloud computing that they have either integrated their software with internet services, such as Microsoft Windows 10’s OneDrive, or stopped selling copies altogether, as Adobe did when it moved its Creative Suite publishing software (including Photoshop) entirely to the cloud. Web-based services like Netflix for movies and television, and Steam for video games, dominate the entertainment market, and even streaming music through such services as Spotify might someday replace downloaded MP3 files.

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