Earth’s own role as a life-supporting planet began maybe 3 billion years ago. Nobody knows exactly, but scientists do know that in a billion years or less the Sun will be too large and hot to allow the persistence of photosynthesis on Earth, and eventually the Sun will age into a red giant with a diameter the size of Earth’s orbit.
Some additional perspective: the primary rock formation on which most of Manhattan’s ranking skyscrapers repose—Manhattan Schist—is itself about a half billion years old. In The Bronx there are rocks 1.5 …
“We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,” wrote Father John Culkin, SJ, a Professor of Communication at Fordham and a colleague of Marshall McLuhan, whose magnum opus was Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man.
So: who — or what — are we, now that we are extended by, say, our phones?
Explained McLuhan, “All media are extensions of some human faculty — psychic or physical. The wheel is an extension of the foot.The book is an extension of the eye. Clothing, an extension of the skin. Electric curcuitry, an extension of the central nervous system. Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act — the way we perceive the world. …
Privacy regulations are good, but without a clear understanding of them, plus enforcement, they can actually make things worse—especially if they start with the assumption that your privacy exists only as a grace only of other parties, and most of those parties are incentivized to violate it.
Exhibit A for how much worse things can get is the online advertising and publishing industry’s response to the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which went into force in May of last year. Soon as that happened, websites everywhere put up “cookie notices” on the doors to their websites, requiring (or appearing to require) that visitors click “accept” to terms and privacy policies that in effect allow those entities to continue violating your privacy by harvesting, sharing, auctioning off and otherwise using your personal data, and data about you. …
The following lives in continuous draft form at the ProjectVRM wiki. Improvements are welcome. (Details in the Call to Action at the bottom.)
The purpose of this manifesto is to encourage and guide development of tools that enhance and extend people’s ability to protect and project their privacy in the online world.
We have used such tools in the natural world for as long as we’ve had the privacy technologies called clothing and shelter, and social norms for signaling and respecting personal intentions around privacy. …
Don’t think about what’s wrong on the Web. Think about what pays for it. Better yet, look at it.
Start by installing Privacy Badger in your browser. Then look at what it tells you about every site you visit. With very few exceptions† (e.g. Internet Archive and Wikipedia), all are putting tracking beacons (the wurst cookie flavor) in your browser. These then announce your presence to many third parties, mostly unknown and all unseen, at nearly every subsequent site you visit, so you can be followed and profiled and advertised at. And your profile might be used for purposes other than advertising. …
The Spinner* (with the asterisk, which I’ll henceforth drop) is “a service that enables you to subconsciously influence a specific person, by controlling the content on the websites he or she usually visits.” Meaning you can hire The Spinner to manipulate another person. It works like this:
The Aspen Institute just published a 180-page report by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy titled (in all caps) CRISIS IN DEMOCRACY: RENEWING TRUST IN AMERICA. Its Call to Action concludes with the that screen-grab above.
This is good. Real good. Having Aspen and Knight endorse personal sovereignty as a necessity for solving the crises of democracy and trust also means they endorse what we’ve been pushing forward at ProjectVRM for more than a dozen years.
Since the report says (on page 73) we need to “use technology to enhance journalism’s roles in fostering democracy,” and that “news companies need to embrace technology to support their mission and achieve sustainability,” it should help to bring up the innovation we proposed in an application for a Knight News Challenge grant in 2011. This innovation was, and still is, called EmanciPay. It’s a citizen-sovereign way to pay for news, plus all forms of creative production where there is both demand and failing or absent sources of funding. …
This is a game for our time. I play it on New York and Boston subways, but you can play it anywhere everybody in a crowd is staring at their personal rectangle.
I call it Rectangle Bingo.
Here’s how you play. At the moment when everyone is staring down at their personal rectangle, you shoot a pano of the whole scene. Nobody will see you because they’re not present: they’re absorbed in rectangular worlds outside their present space/time.
Then you post your pano somewhere search engines will find it, and hashtag it #RectangularBingo.
Then, together, we’ll think up some way to recognize winners.
Originally published at blogs.harvard.edu on January 21, 2019.