Christmas in the UK has (sort of) been cancelled, but the Anti-Dystopians has not! This week, we talked with Mallika Balakrishnan, one of the original founders of the collective No Tech for Tyrants. We discussed tech activism, problems with Palantir and how centering the conversation around the people and communities that tech and policies impact can help us frame discussions of technology and politics.
In honor of Elon Musk being named Fortune Magazine’s Businessperson of the Year, here’s a photo of Californians testing Hyperloop technology despite not being able to build a literal train track between its two most populated cities. (I wonder if Fortune counted Musk refusing to shut down his Tesla factory in violation of a county health order during a pandemic for or against his award?)
Mentioned in This Week’s Podcast
A report, co-authored by Mallika, by No Tech For Tyrants and Privacy International about UK government contracts with Palantir and associated Motherboard coverage. You can sign the NT4T petition here.
Speaking of Palantir, you can check out our previous podcast episodes where we discuss the founder of Palantir, Peter Thiel, or Biden’s pick for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, who used to work for Palantir.
What we can learn about Facebook by thinking like an anarchist, or at least by reading Yale professor James Scott’s work.
On Nicholas Kristof’s article about Pornhub, and reporting by Samantha Cole about how it has impacted performers on the site. Another interesting article about how GoFundMe said it would stop processing payments for militias.
What I’ve Been Reading
I’ve not read it yet, but it looks fantastic—a book by Stanford (comparative literature) professor Adrian Daub called What Tech Calls Thinking: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Bedrock of Silicon Valley.
In more “bad algorithm” news, protests erupted at Stanford hospital over an algorithm to distribute COVID vaccines that prioritized some high-ranking doctors over patient-facing medical residents. Another reminder that algorithms reflect human-coded values and biases and are not apolitical tools granted to us from On High—despite some interesting research that has looked at theistic perceptions of artificial intelligence.
Somewhat related, San Francisco’s city board of supervisors voted to condemn the name of the Zuckerberg hospital in San Francisco (where I was born, back when it was just the San Francisco General Hospital). Interestingly, they didn’t try to change the name, since it probably would have meant returning Zuckerberg’s donation…
A very interesting article by Rory Van Loo from earlier this year about how US state regulatory agencies have been outsourcing their policing functions to big companies (ex. FTC requiring Facebook police other businesses to make sure they don’t misuse Facebook data).
Great review of new anti-tech-monopoly books by Zephyr Teachout and Barry Lynn (Break ’Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money and Liberty From All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People, respectively). Also a lovely idea for a last minute holiday gift . . .
Non-tech reading, but hilarious interview here with Irish author Séamas O’Reilly about why the Irish are absolutely loving mocking the upcoming film ‘Wild Mountain Thyme.’ Much like with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s book The Victorians, sometimes art is so bad that it produces a whole new, incredible sub-genre of excoriating reviews.
What You’ve Been Reading
Send me your favorite book recommendations from 2020! Maybe we will do a year in review podcast . . .
Stay safe out there and happy holidays!