Sunday, March 04, 2018

Our Brave New World

When I was in the Sixth Form (not a state of being!) we read George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World". The course was "Modern Depressing Reading." Whoever would have thought that many aspects these dystopian worlds would be our future.

This week, I watched "Enemy of the State" (not for the first time).

I also watched Jonathan Taplin's riveting and alarming keynote speech on which discusses "Surveillance Capitalism". The speaker points out that Alexa records everything you say, including fights with your significant others in the lost "privacy" of your own home, that can be produced and used against you in a court of law.

 The sound quality via the trichordist site isn't all that good, so you might want to watch it on YouTube.

The speaker also discusses the applied science of deliberately creating addiction as a business model. The trick, as exploited by Facebook is to deliver a system of random and unpredictable rewards. A "like" is such a reward. Apparently, most Facebook users are so hooked on the worthless reward of "a like" for their written musings or photographs that they will check into Facebook obsessively, spending up to two hours a day, every day "working" for Mark Zuckerberg's benefit... for zero pay.

Meanwhile, and of interest perhaps to our European readers, as of May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on "the right to be forgotten". Europeans may ask search engines such as Google and Bing to remove inaccurate or irrelevant information that shows up in search results under their names.

However, Europeans do have to ask. 

Americans who find inaccurate and irrelevant information posted about them in the USA, often appear to be unable to do anything about it.

Legal blogger Cody Fierro for Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP gives a heads up to persons who work for companies that are starting to use wearable technology (worn by the employees) to track the employees' activities.

So, you (the employee) might get a free wrist-worn fitness tracking device, and a free gym membership. In theory, if the company can prove that you are losing weight and working out, their health care insurance premiums might go down.

What if your attendance at the free gym is poor, and you forget to charge the battery in your fitness tracking wrist band device? Could you be punished or shamed, as the Chinese "Sesame" Social Credit Score does to Chinese men who are not laudably patriotic, law-abiding, and altogether worthy of a wife?

For more on "Social Credit scores", see the above mentioned  Jonathan Taplin keynote speech. He talks about the lengths to which lovelorn Chinese males will go, socially, to attract a mate.

The good news for Americans who are not interested in all the world knowing about their private success or lack thereof in the gym is that there is the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) that ought to forbid employers from asking employees about their health status, and theoretically prohibits employers from punishing, demoting or firing employees based on their health status.  There is also a Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), so if your employer asks you to spit into a test tube, you do not have to do that. Then, there is HIPPA....   for more info about HIPPA etc, please read Cody Fierro's excellent article.

However... something to consider. Many of these wearable fitness trackers offer you the ability to link your daily progress to Facebook and other spy networks. If you voluntarily do so, your information may be in the public domain, and future employers may be able to see it. Is that worth a few random "likes"?

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

FWIW, The Telegraph has a list of the top fifteen most depressing books.

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