• The Hacker Issue

    Bad News: I Think You Know What the Problem Is Just as Well as I Do.

    The Hacker Issue

    Bad News

    I Think You Know What the Problem Is Just as Well as I Do

    Once again, it’s time for your weekly dose of depression. Think of it like homeopathy. Treat like with like. You’re depressed, so why not take a bit of sublingual dread before sleeping, to trick the body into shedding its slimy film of indifference. That’s right, dear reader, it’s Bad News Season Two Episode Three. This week, we slide our sunglasses down the bridge of our nose at automated surviellance, labor, and violence.

    While you were away ... drones and bots and gizmos held the trending positions as humanity collectively adjusted their undies, hoping no one would see us avoiding a future where our devices can think for themselves and intervene in our lives autonomously. Don’t touch that dial – lots of other bad shit happened last week as well so you won’t miss any of the highlights.

    That said, some updates are available. Would you like to restart now? There is no remind me later button in life, so toughen up, untangle those headphones, jack in, and cue the tone:

    Monday, September 14

    The week began with some chickens coming home to roost as Wall Street traders wrestle with the idea of twenty-first century regulation: namely, the reading and reviewing of communications sent from devices owned by stock traders. Hurts, don’t it?

    Speaking of Big Brother NYC, the city that never sleeps is upgrading its traffic signals – with vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) radio technology that promises to clear up congestion by listening for cars and following their every move. In related news, apparently some New Yorkers can afford cars.

    Today, shitty news site extraordinaire released an exclusive scoop reporting that Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani, alleged associate of Osama bin Laden, has been maintaining a Match.com dating profile from Guantanamo Bay Camp 7. Apparently he’s been issuing updates on detention stationary to his lawyer for years. Don’t swipe right just yet – he’s been held as a “high value prisoner” since 2007 and still hasn’t been given a trial.

    Pop quiz, what’s essential for all life on earth, pretty disgusting when you think about it, and at a historic five-hundred-year low? Nope, it’s not semen. It’s California’s mountain-top snow. According to the US Geological Survey:

    More than 120 of the state’s reservoirs are less than a fifth full, and 190 under half.

    Well, that’s just great.

    Leave it to US Military researchers at DARPA to create the first ever device capable of interpreting sensations for the human brain. Like all dystopian technology, it’s heralded for miracle health benefits, and also like all dystopian technology, it will one day encourage you to absorb vitamin goop while you bob up and down in a human battery cell adrift in a state of euphoric comatose.

    Comic-relief, Bad News style ... Colorado recreation area Waterton Canyon had to literally close its gates today as park managers became fed up with dweeby selfie-stick waving millenials inching within feet of wild bears preparing to hibernate.

    Today Amazon high-priest Jeff Bezos officially announced that his company Blue Origin would be blasting the world’s elite into space. Which is great news for those of us who want to Bling-Ring these chumps while they’re jacking off in geo-sync.

    Monday ended with a spot of light labor news, as journalists begin to actually read what researchers have been saying for the last few years: in the next two decades over 35 percent of jobs will be automated by artificial intelligence and robots. The thought occurs to me – does this mean one-third of us are basically already robots?

    Tuesday, September 15

    A study reported today that exposure to bad or negative news before going to work may contribute to unhappiness during the day. As I fumble for my no-shit-sherlock bell, please fill the dead air with exasperated hair tugging and hand wringing – ah, here it is. Ding. P.S. sorry but maybe the fact that bad things keep happening while we’re trapped reproducing the capitalist mode of production is responsible for our unhappiness? Don’t put the bad news messenger (me!) on blast. Especially not on a Tuesday.

    Hey, speaking of. The disaster crew over at Fukushima insisted today that 850 tons of once-radioactive seawater has been properly filtered and it is now perfectly safe to dump it back into the ocean. I might believe that if literally last week I had not reported (in this very column) that hundreds of bags of Fukushima nuclear waste were swept away during a massive flood.

    One in five teenagers wake up in the middle of the night to check Facebook. Seems like that sentence is all this paragraph needs to be sufficiently sucky.

    While we’ve got that tab open, let’s pop over to related articles. Another study found that children who don’t get enough sunlight are more likely to develop serious vision problems. When my co-worker saw that on my screen she gasped and said “Wow, that’s really depressing,” and I said “Wait ... who said that ... who’s there?!”

    Things seem pretty tight over in Germany, as it looks like support for Alternative for Germany, that country’s far-right party, is growing. The far-right’s popularity is up to an all-time high (all-time since ... you know ...) and attributed to the refugee crisis. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is getting a lot of shit (rightly so, I’d say) for refusing to take any refugees while 100,000 air-conditioned tents set up for Mecca pilgrimages are just sitting there, empty.

    Would you wear “e-skin”? It’s a paper-thin super-flexible material that can change colors designed to imitate the behavior of chameleons. Not sure if I would, I’ve already got a few pairs of regular skin.

    The UK is making progress on its nationalized fleet of smart cars which sound pretty cool unless you’ve seen Minority Report once or like even the trailer. Honestly, we’re all fucked.

    Wednesday, September 16

    If you woke up in America on Wednesday, you probably heard about Ahmed sometime around 10:45 AM. If you are reading this thirty years from now in an anthology of my work or were somehow not concious during September 16, 2015, here is the short version: A 14-year-old boy in Texas by the name of Ahmed Mohamed brought a clock he had built himself to school and was promptly arrested. Typical story of Islamophobic repression, but unlike most cases of institutional racism in this country, Ahmed’s story went viral nearly immediately. By – oh, I don’t know – about noonish he had already been invited to the White House, Facebook, Twitter, MIT, NASA, and a bunch of other places nerds go. By the end of the day he had 100,000 followers on Twitter and probably a scholarship. I’ll spare you all of the hot takes about hypocrisy (Muslim kids matter, but only when they’re American?) and so on, and leave you with this one observation: As we start to collectively unpack racism and the achievement gap, we’ll eventually have to wrestle with the consequences of “respectable” young victims of racism being seen as an analog for “intelligent” young victims of racism. There are also lots of kids that get arrested at school for doing actual crime and those kids are also the victims of institutional racism and often also incredibly smart.

    Big upset today in the world of psychopharmacology – Paxil, the widely-prescribed antidepressant long considered to be safe and effective for teenagers was found to be the opposite of that: dangerous and ineffective. This is really, really bad news, so I won’t make any jokes about it. Pharmaceutical companies ruin people’s lives.

    I always love a good development in conspiracy theory territory and today we landed a big one, folks. In an unprecedented declassification, the CIA released tons of documents today, some of them relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. Among those was a memo suggesting that Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating JFK had recently travelled to Mexico to meet with Cuban and Soviet ambassadors to arrange for travel visas in the weeks leading up to the shooting. What does this mean? Who knows. Back. And to the left. Back.... And to the left.

    If you would have been hanging out with me about ten years ago and asked me if I ever thought I’d be reporting on military aircraft industry news, I would have told you to take your battery out of your phone. But you gotta read this briefing from DefenseNews about Lockheed-Martin’s new stealth drone. I’m quite certain that some of my poetry friends could just read it on stage and get a book deal – it’s full of great lines like this:

    The TR-X will look very much like the U-2, taking advantage of the spy plane’s General Electric F118 engine and with a similar modular payload capability.

    and this:

    Lockheed is looking into increased power and cooling to accommodate new sensors, electronic warfare suites, and a more advanced communications system ...

    If that’s not edge-of-your-seat Bad News thrills, I honestly don’t know what is.

    Speaking of whatever, a UK defense firm is developing the first city-wide drone defense system for unlicensed UAVs, hoping to shroud London in an electromagnetic shield capable of deactivating illegal drones flitting about the town.

    I don’t know if you’ve been following the attacks on the internet infrastructure surrounding the Bay Area, but it’s been escalating of late. Reportedly, two more major fiber optic cables coming out of the Bay were deliberately severed. It’s interesting to imagine that in this time of increasing doom, re the whole “dystopian techno-apocalypse” thing, there are probably some very sweet insane people willing to strike out at the heart of the beast – I sure hope all of the retrospective political thrillers inspired by this moment in history portray you fairly, eager politically-motivated saboteurs.

    Thursday, September 17

    A giant 8.3 earthquake in Chile set off tsunami warnings as far away as Hawaii and Oregon. The rumble caused the death of at least 11 people Wednesday night, and caused billions in damages, flipping cars and toppling entire neighborhoods.

    The US Air Force is threatening to bomb property neighboring Area 51 because owners refuse to sell. Real chill, suspicious shadow government black site ... reeaaal chill.

    Speaking of our little gray friends upstairs, NASA is building a super-powered radio telescope specifically for tracking down alien civilizations. Let me save you a lot of electricity, you nerds – aliens don’t live in civilizations, aliens live in the spores you and I breathe every day. Believe me, I know. Don’t ask me how, I just do.

    We should probably swing those satellites around to point at that black box rolling around your weird neighbor’s apartment, the Roomba. Today I read that the latest model of the robotic vaccuum cleaner can completely map your house, track how often certain spaces get dirty, and avoid cleaning areas it has recently cleaned. No word as of yet if it can wrap its fingers around your neck while you sleep, or post to your Facebook when you’re at work so I’m waiting for next year’s model.

    California is still on fire. Me-of-the-week goes to this fuckin’ snake. When the apocalypse happens in the next few weeks make sure you properly cite my articles. That last link is the closest thing you’re going to get to Bad News coverage of the Gay Doritos. Note to self, I absolutely must cop this new invisibility cloak before the next Lies Vol. III release party. Oh, and one small step for man, one giant leap for eerie portents from the movie Idiocracy.

    Friday, September 18

    Nothing much happened today, unless you count the first genetically-manipulated human embryos, the super-clap outbreak in England, these chimpanzees obsessed with horror films, that ISIS is using drones now, that Apple is meeting with CA officials to test something ‘autonomous car-related’, the Pentagon is practicing fighting Russia and the US keeps losing, or the bootcamp in China to cure phone-addiction. Other than those things today had the normal amount of bad news.

    Saturday, September 19

    I can always count on San Francisco to do the white-whineyist thing on the planet, and today was no exception. A man in that shitty excuse for a city is suing his ex-wife to prevent her from using fertilized embryos they froze during their marriage. I almost didn’t even save this link that’s how dumb I think this is until I realized the huge legal ramifications, should he win it could be the first example of “Pro Choice” working in reverse, legally preventing women from giving birth when and how they want to. Pay close attention to this, reproductive rights nerds.

    Speaking of the birds and the bees, scientists claim to have created the first lab-grown human sperm today. Huge if true. If you listen closely you can hear that scene in The Matrix where we’re all farmed by giant machines of our own design. Wait, didn’t I make that reference already?

    A major step forward (backward) in autonomous construction was reported today, as remote flying drones literally build bridges all by themselves. If you need me, I’ll be in my underground bunker. Knock three times fast then five times slow if you have food or weapons, otherwise buzz off.

    Sunday, September 20

    It is very rare that I have the opportunity to share something genuinely interesting and not even bad. Today is one of those days. As I was gathering up my harvest from the usual terrible news sources, I stumbled upon this unbelievable story of the Guevedoce boys in the Dominican Republic, who spend their lives gendered and assigned as girls until they go through puberty. During puberty, they develop penises and testes that ‘normally’ develop earlier in utero were it not for a rare deficency in 5-α-reductase, a testosterone converting enzyme. As they develop during this time, they also change their gender. I don’t know why, but I felt like I had to share this article. Gender and sex are both diffuse and complex!

    So that was a kind of not-bad article. To counter-balance, how about an incredibly terrible one?

    Today the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine), used to treat AIDS and cancer patients, was raised by its new owner from $13.50 a tablet to a whopping $750 per. This is obviously a terrible and disgusting example of capitalism at work, made worse when drug owner Martin Shkreli rationalized his decision “the drug is so rarely used that the impact on the health system would be minuscule” hoping to use proceeds to find more effective treatments to toxoplasmosis, the condition it treats. To readers overseas, please liberate us from this hellscape. Maybe send a drone?

    Tune in next week!

    Police officers replaced by robots, no one notices! Floating machine island houses world’s richest industrialists! Self-destruct sequence initiates itself!

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