• The Hacker Issue

    Bad News: It's Peeple.

    The Hacker Issue
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    Bad News

    It’s Peeple.

    Please, I’m begging you ... listen, I know I really screwed up but please, please don’t do this. I have a wife and kids and a family back home. You don’t understand – they’ll fire me. I’ll be ruined. I’ll never work again. Oh please, reader, don’t do this to me. I’m so sorry. I’ll do anything. I’ll love you. I’ll hurt someone for you. I’ll bring your email inbox down to zero without deleting anything important! Just please for the love of God, don’t give me a bad review on Peeple.

    If you haven’t been to this depraved corner of the internet before, let me be the first to welcome you to Bad News, a weekly collection of the worst things to happen last week. And the only column on the internet written by me, some dude! As per the local custom, please spend a few minutes untangling your headphone cord, and drop the needle on the soundtrack:

    Monday, September 28

    As I alluded to in the previous episode, NASA announced today that they had discovered evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. Immediately, for about 3 or 4 hours, the world rejoiced “we can escape.” Over the subsequent hours, the majority of us simple folk slowly realized that no, we would not be escaping, we are not going to Mars, we are going to be left behind. That somber thought is only made more so by speculation that NASA may have intentionally waited to announce the news until the milestone discovery could be released to coincide with the internet virality wave caused by the new Matt Damon film, The Martian. Hey, if we disenfranchized are going to be abandoned in this toxic planet-sized gutter for eternity, we may as well watch something. Oh, and if any of you end up chilling on Mars then coming back to this shithole town, please remember to wash your goddamned hands.

    On a lighter note, the Justice Department is turning over infrastructural resources developed to share “counter-terrorism” intelligence to local police jurisdictions to help stave off rising violent crime rates in some of the nation’s poorest cities. Perhaps most interesting is that these resources come at a cost: the federales are also opening investigations into local police departments following the irrefutable trend of police brutality and hostility. The Justice Department ... am I sleep deprived or does that sound really weird when you say it out loud?

    In robot car news, Google is researching new ways to impersonate us. In their ongoing obsession with moving us from point A to point B while we stare at advertisements and categorize data for no pay, they’re taking a cue from human drivers who make rolling stops, cut corners, and break the occassional law to stay safe. Of course, I’m for this: teaching computers when and why to break their own rules and how to calculate collateral damage seems like a great last meaningful decision our species will ever make, I mean, if I had to choose.

    “The evidence is more definitive than ever before” is basically the Bad News catch phrase at this point, but in this case it was uttered by the Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin, who led a study that found Endocrine-disrupting chemicals – like the BPAs present in most cosmetics, food packaging, plastic bags, and the pesticides we spray all over our food – have deadly serious effects on our health. In fact, they mimick and inhibit hormones that regulate our metabolism and increase our risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, reproductive disfunction, thyroid disease, organ cancers, and neurological disorders developed during gestation. I’ll spare you the jokes – this sucks.

    Tuesday, September 29

    If there ever was a celebrity spokesperson for the survivors of online bullying it’s probably Monica Lewinski, whose private life was devestated in arguably the first viral political scandal to be broken online. That’s why it makes so much sense that she announced that she would be launching an anti-cyberbullying campaign today. While I count myself among a generation of loser guys who came up trolling each other on message boards back in ’98 (and it shows on my timeline occassionally), I’m actually a staunch opponent of cyberbullying. I wish her luck, because it’s the fucking wild west out here. Send help plz.

    Speaking of cyberbullying, get a load of this fucking shit: today Apple pulled an app that reported the location and severity of remote drone strikes in the Middle East nearly in real time. Apple’s reason? “Excessively crude and objectionable content”. When the tech giant will pull their apps from the White House and the Pentagon is unclear. Tim Cook was not available for comment.

    You know it’s barely fall, which means it’s almost Halloween, which is practically Thanksgiving and therefore time to discuss, you guessed it, holiday shopping! And it’s got FAA regulators squirming because this year’s runaway seller is expected to be consumer drones. I had a perfect opportunity to segue into this story about drone gifts from drone murders, and I wasted it on a run-on sentence about the ever-expanding holiday season of consumerism. Can you believe that shit?

    Sound the new survey telling us what we already know alarm: the wide availability of information and our bombardment by it is making us less happy, less able to relax, less comfortable in our relationships, more restless, less able to retain information, more compulsive, and less able to resist the temptation to participate. *Spaces out.*

    ...

    Sex!

    ...

    With robots!

    ...

    More popular than human-on-human action by 2050!

    ...

    As our lives (sex and otherwise) become more automated, more and more of us are finding ourselves serving those automations for money. Don’t just take my word for it – crossfade a la Reading Rainbow – read the new jobs study that found an unprecedented number of Americans are leaving the traditional workforce for the independent labor market, driven to get “gigs” in the “sharing economy” or with “startups like Uber” or bicycle delivery apps. Those were quotes not satire. Fml.

    Wednesday, September 30

    Not sure if Big Brother is watching or just staring off into space? A little of both. Evidentally the Department of Homeland Security is just as oversaturated with data as we are, and are taking steps to automate the process of figuring out if threats are IRL or URL. That is, federal fusion centers which serve as a hub of surviellance between various agencies don’t know whether or not threats are to digital infrastructure, physical infrastructure, or neither. Guess how much I care. This much:

    A Russian geocryologist injected himself with a bacteria discovered in the permafrost that is at least 3.5 million years old in search of the key to immortality. His theory basically boils down to this: if something can stay alive for that long frozen in the dirt, maybe it can keep us alive forever? I just wrote that paragraph, for some reason.

    And now for the main event: today the entire internet pulled out a tuft of hair pouring over sensational headlines about Peeple, an upcoming app that will allow users to rate any person they interact with a la Yelp. I can see it now, my scathing reviews and 4.7 star rating. I literally cannot wait. We will all be meticulously rated by each other based on our intimiate, interpersonal, and work lives. The entire spectrum of the human nuance, completely reduced to numbers and statistics. I’ve never felt so alive.

    Thursday, October 1

    It was a slow day today. Pretty much nothing happened unless you count this terrifying survey of teenagers about romance and technology. Or this analysis of Manhattan real estate that found the island is worth $1,497 a square foot. Or, you know, this massive data leak of names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and billing addresses of 15 million T-Mobile customers. Or, when Google director of engineering said that “we’re going to be gods”. Or, this international standards proposal to catalog every single way you might die with serial numbers.

    Then, everything stopped. A deadly misogynist shooting in a small town in Oregon rocked the nation. We’ve all heard all about it. It’s horrific. I’ll just leave you with these thoughts, from the last time we spoke publicly about these tragedies.

    Friday, October 2

    Jobs. Jobs. Jaaahhbs. According to the September report released today, it was a rough past month for jobs. Politicians are always talking about job growth as a good thing, but in fact the 142,000 jobs that were added to the economy last month were added almost exclusively to sectors like technology and healthcare, sectors which have already been off-limits to the working poor and to regions where “jobs” are needed the most.

    It’s getting easier to write programs capable of “machine learning” – that is, to produce a kind of artificial intelligence that can learn new things based on old data – but teaching robots how to improve the efficient use of their own machine bodies is a task that’s only just beginning. Researchers in Maryland are designing new classrooms to teach robots how to learn new things about the physical world and their place in it, pretty much sealing the deal on this whole “will they / won’t they” love arc between Man and Machine.

    Meanwhile, as Beijing continues to build artificial military islands in the South China Sea, US diplomats keep procrastinating their official stance on the expansion, opting instead to just patrol the area with the US Navy just in case. Eeep.

    Saturday, October 3

    Just when you thought things could not get any worse, the US military dropped a bomb on a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Pretty sure that’s a war crime. Think about the phrase ‘war crime’ for a second. Like, say it slowly to yourself. Just bounce from one word to the other, back and forth. War. Crime. War. Crime. Sounds weird huh? What exactly is one of those?

    Are you the administrator of a brutal police state trying to tamp down the consequences of massive inequities and the criminalization of entire demographics? Are you running out of words to describe the problems growing constantly ourside of your control? Just tack the word cyber onto literally anything! That ought to stoke the populist animosity long enough to make it to the next scandal! Wait, are you seriously an administrator of the police state? Eww, quit your job.

    Speaking of no hope for positive spin and the relentless propaganda machinery of the capitalist mode of production, poor one out for the overworked finance guys down on Wall Street who between bumps of coke and getting bonuses for ruining peoples lives, have evidently been bottling up their feelings and working their relationships into the ground. I don’t want to be insensitive about depression and people dying so just pretend that I said one of the dozen cynically satisfied at the misfortune of those who profit off of the pain and suffering of others off-color jokes you expected me to say at the end of this sentence.

    Last and certainly not least, S/O to Singapore startups for always keeping it one hundred. It’s important to stay spry.

    Sunday, September 4

    The damage was assesed this morning on the back of Hurricane Joaquin after historic flooding in South Carolina devestated the coastline and sent floodwaters surging through the state’s waterways. According to residents of Charleston, the ocean simply “rose up and came in their homes”. Combine the worst flood that part of the country has seen in recorded history with the fact that the video I just linked to generated a hashtag joke about a woman grabbing brand-named frozen food on her way out the door, and you’ll get some sense of the collasal shitstorm we’re in for over the next several generations.

    Could it get any worse? It can always get worse.

    Tune in next week!

    Season six of post-apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead literally filmed in post-apocalyptic South Carolina! Donald Trump begins to choke on live television; millions of Americans lean toward their TV sets, speechless, gripping the armrests of the nation while he successfully dislodges a hard candy from his throat by patting himself on the back and continues his press event! Entire country not quite sure how to feel about what just happened!

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