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[liberationtech] Beware of Geeks Bearing Grifts « The Berkeley Blog

Javier Ruiz javier at
Fri Sep 19 02:38:22 PDT 2014

I agree the iPhone hype is embarrassing, but it would be interesting to hear opinions on the models Apple is proposing for Home and Health data ( beyond the usual "you just cannot trust anything on a mobile” or “they give your data to the NSA") 

On 19 Sep 2014, at 10:05, Yosem Companys <companys at> wrote:

> Beware of Geeks Bearing Grifts
> by Gene Rochlin, professor emeritus, Energy & Resources Group, UC
> Berkeley | 9/18/14
> It seems as if the news media have become a wholly owned subsidiary of
> the internet technology complex (ITC) these days. No matter which
> seemingly outrageous new product or system is being put forth, it will
> become ‘news’ in print and online, unpaid advertising that assumes
> that all of us have little else to do but sit here and salivate over
> the next great new development, however futuristic and socially
> disruptive it is.
> Do I exaggerate? Over the past few days, Apple’s latest
> products/development/ideas have gotten almost as much media space as
> Ukraine or Ebola (although somewhat less than ISIS). And to a close
> reader of hype, what, exactly, is being promoted? The ‘new’ iPhone,
> which is somewhat larger than the original iPhone (among whose
> attractions was its small size)? The one you bought last year is now
> so five minutes ago. The miraculous web watch, for those with very
> tiny fingers and the 20-20 eyesight of youth who don’t mind their
> health as well as their location being monitored? The Apple Pay
> system, which will let you trade your money and credits from your
> account with those from someone else’s without their consent? Or, in
> conjunction with the others in the ITC, the Cloud, which provides a
> neat single warehouse for data theft? Not so widely noted is Apple’s
> dropping its promotion of the iPod, the small appliance that started
> it all, and which now seems to have been developed in order to do a
> bait-and-switch to the iPhone.
> For those of us of a certain age, who disdain the label of ‘Luddite’
> but still see no particular personal advantage to joining Facebook or
> Twitter, who prefer to protect our privacy and identity as much as
> possible, and who believe that there is no such thing as a perfectly
> secure internet site (although we hope some of our banks and all of
> our military sites are more secure than Home Depot), the notion that
> Apple Pay will make credit card payments obsolete is absolutely
> horrid. One after the other, these newly promoted ‘capabilities’ will
> not only stimulate sales, but will also ensure that the market never
> saturates.
> And one more thing. Many of these new capabilities introduce new
> insecurities, new modes of spam, new avenues for thefts of data and of
> value ranging from credits to cash, and new possibilities for
> blackmail, exposing us to a whole new generation of Internet grifters.
> Several common threads connect these ‘modernizing’ ideas, ranging from
> planes without cockpits and cars without drivers to ApplePay (or its
> equivalent). One is that they are always put forth in the spirit of
> idealistic innovations for the benefit of everyone. Less publicly
> mentioned is the admission that without continual innovation there is
> no hope of continual (and sometimes outrageous) profits. They assume
> that however impractical their widespread use may be within our
> present social formations, societies will simply adapt and reform
> themselves in the face of technological pressure. The social costs, of
> course, are never mentioned, let alone taken into account. That there
> are so few challenges reflects the degree to which the early successes
> of the computer industry, ranging from home PCs to LANs to the
> Internet, have softened up consumer resistance. Each new model, or
> innovation, can then be easily and widely promoted, even cheered, with
> complaints and interference only from a group who the industry can tag
> as backward outsiders.
> It is interesting to note that this is often expressed as the triumph
> of individuals over institutions, wrapped in a mantle of progress and
> development. Some of it, admittedly, does promote efficiency and
> social progress. But not all, and not everywhere. The creation of new
> social and political risks without forethought is already stirring
> demands for institutional control, a genuinely unfunded mandate. There
> is also a redistribution of wealth and privilege, instantiated by
> rapid obsolescence. More seriously, what I see being actively promoted
> is the triumph of libertarianism over social coherence, the creation
> of new social and political risks without giving them serious
> analysis. Many of the newer developments being promised also have no
> real benefits to the growing cadre of older folks, particularly those
> without the education and technical skills to keep up, while
> increasing their vulnerabilities in ways they cannot deal with as
> individuals. Their interests are not only marginalized, but as far as
> the press is concerned they are not important. No one is speaking up
> for them effectively. Some of us should try.
> Added note: Michael Cabanatuan reports on SFGate on Sept. 16 that
> because the use of services such as Uber and Lyft have cut deeply into
> San Francisco taxi rides in the past few months, the number of regular
> taxis on the street has sharply declined, nowhere more steeply than in
> wheelchair-accessible ramp taxis. He further reports that because ride
> services are not required to pick up people in wheelchairs, municipal
> authorities are considering stepping in. And so it goes.
> -- 
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