You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Technology and Computers’ category.

 

    The dour feminist in me would like to point out that women are still struggling toward full autonomy in society after some 2000 years of ‘civilization’ ( :/ ), but the hot topic of self driving vehicles has crossed my desk and merits a comment or two with regards to society.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always in order when it comes to vaunted new technology promoted by the tech industry.  Because they, like other features of capitalist society, value profit over anything else, the tech industry will often jazz up, embellish, and often outright fabricate their claims to make their product seem like the next “must have” consumer item in society (consider the recent crapple failphone X – now with *twice* the screens to break).

Skepticism in place, we do need to realize that sometimes the technological advance is real and will have serious effects in society.  Consider the case of the elevator operators in the 1940’s.  It was a flourishing job opportunity, and even wielded social power as a 1945 elevator-operator strike in Manhattan severely clogged the engines of business industry.  Within a generation this profession was gone; automatic elevators had all but replaced human elevator operators and ran elevators more efficiently and cheaply ever since.

A shit deal if you happened to train for and be a Elevator Operator – with the phrase “this is progress looks like burning in your ears” you had to go out a get a different job, and most likely one that did not pay as well as being an Elevator Operator.

Fast forward to the present day – Truckers are now facing this very same conundrum as automated vehicles are entering their field of work.  Operating truck driving software and actually driving a truck are two very distinct categories; thus yet another blue collar job opportunity might very well be shut off to the people.  I’m not a Luddite when it comes to new technology in society, but the motivation behind the vehicles (and most of capitalism to be honest) has me worried.  “In Canada 1 in every 100 workers is a truck driver, some 300,000 people – it’s the second most common occupation reported by men.” (The Walrus – Overhauled by Sharon J. Riley).

Are we going to spend the money to retrain these people if the technology for self-driving vehicles actually becomes a standard?  Or do we just turn these people to the wind, like the Elevator Operators of the 40’s, “here’s your last paycheck, sorry about your luck , bu-bye now.”?  I highly doubt that the trucking industry – the prime mover in its quest for ‘automated-efficiency’-  is going to step up to the plate and sponsor job retraining for all the employees that have become redundant.  The responsibility for integrating these now jobless people back into the economic workforce will most likely fall to the government and as valiant as Canadian social services are, a three hundred thousand plus hit on our limited social resources just won’t end well.

So, the case looks like this – Business moves ‘forward’ creating more efficiency and profitability, while the social and economic damage caused by said advances is left to the government to haphazardly repair with the limited resources available to it.  This smells like a looming case of what in corporate culture is known as “externalities” or items that have a tangible economic or social cost but importantly not directly to the company itself (Pollution is a prime example of an ‘externality’).  So really, it will be the common citizen, who will be responsible for keeping society going while business plunges ahead willy-nilly chasing the most effective and profitable supply chain.

I have a problem with these technology driven calamitous ‘externalities’ that we will be facing, not just in the transportation sector but in other sectors as well.  This process is driven by greed, and greed gives no fucks for those who must perish in the process of efficiency maximization.  The argument against me would be such – but with greater efficiency and optimization more people will be better served by the industry at hand, thus society will be better and everyone wins.

It’s just that everyone doesn’t win.  The people put out of work by technological advances and their families are going to lose and lose big because they will have no income to afford the goods being delivered so efficiently and profitably to the stores.  Our profit driven corporate/business sectors almost always seems to ignore that fact that their profitability hinges on condition that people exist in the market that have the capacity to buy their widgets.   You may have the best widgets out there, but with no demand, nothing happens.  Of course you can keep profits going up through dubious accounting methods and the churn and burn of the stockmarket magic – but that is an illusion as you are just moving money around an not creating actual value in society; plus that financial shell game periodically crashes hurting everyone in society (see 1929, 2008 et cetra).

The way forward is clear, at least to me.  Technological advancement needs to examined and fined tuned through the lens of what society as a whole needs, and not just the business sector because the business sector is necessary too short sighted to see beyond the bottom line and what is good for them at the time.

 

Related reading and some of my paraphrase fodder – Overhauled – By Sharon J. Riley found in the Walrus Magazine December 2017.

 

Advertisements

The fight to maintain Net Neutrality has been raging.  You have not heard about it because it is not in the big companies interests for you to know about it.  Think it isn’t a big deal?   Please partake in the observed behaviour of said companies and remind yourself that these infractions happened during the time when the regulations were still in full force with the FCC enforcing the rules.

 

The best predictor of future outcomes is past behaviour…  Stop this shit.  Canada is waffling at the moment, but it is better than the free for all that will going down in the US.  If you happen to be a US citizen spend some time filling out a form and/or making a call to your congress critter here.

I’m not sure what exactly goes on in the American psyche when it comes to regulations that make the shit-kettle we know as life better for everyone.  Romanticizing the ‘good ole days’ is pretty much just bug-fuck crazy, unless you enjoy eating tainted meat, breathing polluted air, and having the female half of the population as sex slaves.  Regulation is necessary in a democratic society, libertarian fap-happy wet dreams aside.

 

Being a piano student and slowly learning the craft I found it fascinating to see the differences between how two pianists tackled and tracked their music.

Hard hitting social commentary to resume soon on DWR. Today, I have a bit of personal fluff that I hope will bring a smile to your day. TL;DR version provided at the end if you’re pressed for time. Just scroll all the way down.

I do not do well with real world objects or processes. My skill with a hammer was once likened to lightning. I never strike the same place twice. With supportive feed back like that (thanks, Dad), it should be no surprise that I do most of my tinkering in the virtual world. In the synthetic land of 1s and 0s, mistakes are a Ctrl-Z away from being completely erased from history.

Recently I’ve had two such interests cross paths: photoshop and web coding. I have spent a great deal of time looking up manuals and tutorials online on these two subjects. In both fields, there are usually a thousand and one ways to get a particular result. The trick is finding a method that is effective, efficient, and caters to your style of doing things. So while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at either photoshop or coding, what I have gotten fairly good at is finding the bits and pieces I need on the internet, then combining them to achieve my tinkering goals. My Google-Fu is strong (if I do say so myself).

Throughout my many photoshopping adventures, I have, from time to time, played with geometric shapes, patterns, and psuedo-fractals (check my profile photo). As these shapes are not representing anything, the choice for colours is wide open. This makes things quite difficult for me, as I’m horrible at deriving colour schemes.

“You better marry someone who can dress you, because you don’t know a thing about colour”
-My first web design instructor

While I have many techniques for checking my colour choices, there is one relevant today. I will put a hue adjustment layer on top of my project and slide it slowly around the 360 degrees of the colour wheel until I find a spot I like. On numerous occasions I’ve thought that the shifting colour was more impressive than any one spot on the wheel. I will just play with slider, going back and forth, watching the colours shift into each other. Depending on the project, these colour shifts can be very exciting or quite soothing.

Previously, I played with the idea of taking a number of stills at incremental hue settings and then making an animated GIF out of them. However, GIF files only have 256 colours and the results were less than impressive. On top of that, the process was painfully slow and arduous. After three or four attempts, I gave up on the notion and it disappeared in the lonely wasteland that is the graveyard for broken dreams and abandoned whims. Two recent discoveries brought it back.

First, I learned that it is possible to write scripts for photoshop. While the program comes with a number of actions and the ability to create your own, sometimes a project needs a more custom-fit solution. It turns out that one of the languages you can use for this is javascript, a language I am familiar with because of the web work I’ve done. Further, there is a script reader you can attach to photoshop that will log the script involved in every PS action you take. You can then use that log to inform your scripts. The potential is immense.

Second, I learned about APNGs. I was reading up on reducing web site load times and this article said that you should compress all images, as any file made in photoshop is unnecessarily large. I tested a few online compressors out and indeed, the there was a lot of file shrinking possible. One of these compressors had a new feature. They compressed not just JPGs and PNGs, but also APNGs. Their example blew my mind. It was animated PNG of a panda waving, smoother and clearer than any gif I had ever seen.

It just so happened that these new-to-me things were fresh in my mind when I was using my colour wheel check on a project and it all clicked together. After a little trial and error, I had written a script that would adjust the hue by 5 degrees, save a numbered PNG to a folder on my desktop, then repeat until it went all the way around the colour wheel. I found a couple online APNG assemblers, uploaded my stills, downloaded the animation, and put it through the compressor. Now, I’m not about to pay for the pro service, so I was only able to use one quarter of my stills. This makes the result not nearly as smooth as I’d like, but I’m still pretty happy with it.

So now, after much too much ado, I present a fractal colour morph built on script and Google-Fu, created by yours truly.

For the adventurous among you, I have a second example. With some images, this shifting colour can give the illusion of movement. Warning: The linked animation is big (5MB) and is not recommended for viewers who aren’t comfortable with flashing lights. If you’re cool with that, enjoy some psychedelic splendour.

TL;DR Lookie! Colours!

wmd     I’m currently reading a book called Weapons of Math Destruction, inside Cathy O’Neil details how ‘Big Data’ (via the use of opaque algorithms) is increasing inequality and threatening democracy in the industrialized world.

About half-way done and the sad word of the day that I’ve learned from the book is this –

This untidy word in question is “Clopening” and is defined as this:  When an employee works late on night to close down the store or cafe and then returns a few hours later, opening it again.  It makes logistical sense for a company, but leads to sleep deprived workers and crazy schedules.

Oh, and another term – “Churn” – the negative costs associated with hiring for and training a new person in a position.  Churn speaks directly to the company’s bottom line and thus is a large input factor into many HR related algorithms.

Terminology aside, let’s take a look at the central idea of the chapter called ‘Sweating Bullets”:

“Scheduling software can be seen as an extension of the just-in-time economy.  But instead of lawn mower blades or cell phone screens showing up right on cue, it’s people who badly need money.  And because the need money so desperately, the companies can bend their lives to the dictates of a mathematical model.

[…]

The trouble, from the employee’s perspective, is an oversupply of low-wage labour.  People are hungry for work, which is why so many of them cling to jobs that pay barely eight dollars per hour.  This oversupply, along with the scarcity of labour unions, leaves works practically with no bargaining power.  This means the big retailers and restaurants can twist workers’ lives to ever-more-absurd schedules without suffering excessive churn.  They make more money while their workers’ lives grow hellish.  And because these optimization programs are everywhere, the workers know all too well that changing jobs isn’t likely to improve their lot.  Taken together, these dynamics provide corporations with something close to a captive workforce. 

    I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I consider scheduling software one of the more appalling WMD’s (weapons of math destruction).  It’s massive, as we’ve discussed, and it takes advantage of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.  What’s more, it is entirely opaque.  Workers often don’t have a clue about when they’ll be called to work.  They are summoned by an arbitrary program. 

   Scheduling software also creates a poisonous feedback loop.  Consider Jannette Navarro.  Her haphazard scheduling made it impossible for her to returnprecariate to school, which dampened her employment prospects and kept her in the oversupplied pool of low-wage workers.  The long and irregular hours also make it hard for workers to organize or to protest for better conditions.  Instead, they face heightened anxiety and sleep deprivation, which causes dramatic mood swings and is responsible for an estimated 13% of highway deaths.  Worse yet, since the software is designed to save companies money, it often limits workers’ hours to fewer than thirty per week, so that they are not eligible for company health insurance.  And with their chaotic schedules, most find it impossible to make time for a second job.  It’s almost as if the software were designed expressly to punish low-wage workers and keep them down. 

    The software also condemns a large percentage of our children to grow up without routines.  They experience their mother bleary eyed at breakfast, or hurrying out the door without dinner, or arguing with her mother about who can take care of them on Sunday morning.  This chaotic life affects children deeply.  According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, an advocacy group, “Young children and adolescents of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside daytime working hours are more likely to have inferior cognition and behavioural outcomes.”

  -Cathy O’Neil.  Weapons of Math Destruction p. 128 – 129

    I look at the grossly unfair conditions these people are facing and can see the self-perpetuating cycles that are being established.  I thank the many heavens that I have a profession that keeps me out of this particularly cruel circle of horror.  Unionized, and organized through my work, through my collectively bargained contracts I can count on stable work hours and a reasonable compensation.  This condition of relative comfort seems far out of reach for so many people who are no less deserving than I – a stable means to live an raise a family are not unreasonable demands to make- but the Precariate’s humble demands are dismissed and ground down with the help of these WMD that perpetuate, codify, and bring to fruition the crippling inequality in our societies.

The push for unionization must always be kept at the forefront of any progressive movement, because left to their own machinations, corporations will exploit people and society for their own selfish ends.

 

1st-chart

A reminder, that the more egalitarian a society is, the better off it is for both the poor *and* the rich.

Hey…heeeeey… JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier…frack you and your paywalls.

This is from Sci-Hub’s main page.

“We fight inequality in knowledge access across the world. The scientific knowledge should be available for every person regardless of their income, social status, geographical location and etc.

Our mission is to remove any barrier which impeding the widest possible distribution of knowledge in human society!

We advocate for cancellation of intellectual property, or copyright laws, for scientific and educational resources.

Copyright laws render the operation of most online libraries illegal. Hence many people are deprived from knowledge, while at the same time allowing rightholders to have a huge benefits from this. The copyright fosters increase of both informational and economical inequality.

The Sci-Hub project supports Open Access movement in science. Research should be published in open access, i.e. be free to read.

The Open Access is a new and advanced form of scientific communication, which is going to replace outdated subscription models. We stand against unfair gain that publishers collect by creating limits to knowledge distribution.”

Knowledge, available to the plebs?  What is heresy is this??

Of course the fascists are up in arms

“That’s all well and good for us users, but understandably, the big publishers are pissed off. Last year, a New York court delivered an injunction against Sci-Hub, making its domain unavailable (something Elbakyan dodged by switching to a new location), and the site is also being sued by Elsevier for “irreparable harm” – a case that experts are predicting will win Elsevier around $750 to $150,000 for each pirated article. Even at the lowest estimations, that would quickly add up to millions in damages.

But Elbakyan is not only standing her ground, she’s come out swinging, claiming that it’s Elsevier that have the illegal business model.

“I think Elsevier’s business model is itself illegal,” she told Torrent Freak, referring to article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.

She also explains that the academic publishing situation is different to the music or film industry, where pirating is ripping off creators. “All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold,” she said.

Elbakyan hopes that the lawsuit will set a precedent, and make it very clear to the scientific world either way who owns their ideas.

“If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge,” she said. “We have to win over Elsevier and other publishers and show that what these commercial companies are doing is fundamentally wrong.”

To be fair, Elbakyan is somewhat protected by the fact that she’s in Russia and doesn’t have any US assets, so even if Elsevier wins their lawsuit, it’s going to be pretty hard for them to get the money.”

[Sci-Hub]

We can lump this video in with the others that attempt to shed light on issues in society that matter while discreetly hawking their wares in the background.  The best form of advertising?  I’m not sure, but the commercial makes space for some thinking about how generational experiences are becoming increasingly stratified and foreign to one another.

Are today’s youth doomed to be nothing but cloistered vid-heads who only know nature through what they have seen on the screens of their tablets?  Possibly but I’m thinking that much of the fuss we see about losing out youth to technology is a direct result of our societies ruthless quest for economic productivity, seemingly at all costs.

productivity

Productivity has ever increased, but at what social cost?  Remember when only one bread-winner was required to live a reasonable life and raise children?  Successive generations have had to work harder for less money, just to stay in place.  Community life has taken a back seat to the lifestyle focused the individual and consumption – social technology directly feeds into our atomization and separation from others.

The leaders of our society have learned the lessons of the past.  All that New Deal/Civil Rights/ Second Wave Feminist scared them shitless and having witnessed what an organized community of like minded people can accomplish are doing their best to ensure that it (social change benefiting the masses) does not happen again.  People with common interests, common community and commitment to bettering their own interests change society.  Isolated lone-wolves mired in consumptive practices do not.  Hence witness the trajectory of our society in which the ‘tailored-experience’ is all the rage; the idea that making choices (ones that are carefully circumscribed mind you) is empowering; and sadly the idea that social power resides in competition and being ‘unique’.  These are all hallmarks of society geared toward preserving a status-quo that benefits a particular segment of society.

The video is playing up the same fears every generation has about the next.  Are some of the concerns valid?  I think so, but nothing that cannot be overcome with realization that social media friends are not the same as having friends in real life.  Sharing (not the facebook variety) your life with others is a necessary part of healthily existing in society and cannot be replaced by social media.  Can social media/technology be used to enhance and facilitate our social interactions?  Of course, but it is not a replacement for the attachment and community humans need to be healthy and happy.

Societal analysis aside,I for one am glad that video games have come as far as they have.  Video games are an immersive experience for me that allow me to spend some time outside of the real-world.  At the same time I do realize that video gaming is just one aspect of life and must be balanced with other pursuits/activities/interests.

Admittedly, one must be careful in allocating time to video gaming as hours seem to disappear, especially when playing with your friends .  It is very easy to lose yourself in the experience and come out bleary-eyed on the other-side wondering why the hell it is 2am and why you’re not sleeping. :)

This Blog best viewed with Ad-Block and Firefox!

What is ad block? It is an application that, at your discretion blocks out advertising so you can browse the internet for content as opposed to ads. If you do not have it, get it here so you can enjoy my blog without the insidious advertising.

Like Privacy?

Change your Browser to Duck Duck Go.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 349 other followers

Progressive Bloggers

Categories

December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Blogs I Follow

The DWR Community

Not The News in Briefs

A blog by Helen Saxby

SOLIDARITY WITH HELEN STEEL

A blog in support of Helen Steel

The National Sentinel

Independent. Reliable. Honest.

BigBooButch

Memoirs of a Butch Lesbian

RadFemSpiraling

Radical Feminism Discourse

RED

Radical Education Department

a sledge and crowbar

deconstructing identity and culture

The Radical Pen

Join The Fight For Female Bodied Liberation.

Emma

Politics, things that make you think, and recreational breaks

Nordic Model Now!

Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution

The WordPress C(h)ronicle

These are the best links shared by people working with WordPress

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE

Biology, Not Bigotry

fmnst

Peak Trans and other feminist topics

There Are So Many Things Wrong With This

if you don't like the news, make some of your own

Gentle Curiosity

Musing over important things. More questions than answers.

ANTHRO FEMINISM

A place for thoughtful, truly intersectional Feminist discussion.

violetwisp

short commentaries, pretty pictures and strong opinions

Revive the Second Wave

gender-critical sex-negative intersectional radical feminism

Trans Animal Farm

The Trans Trend is Orwellian

Princess Henry of Wales

Priestess Belisama

miss guts.

just a girl on a journey

writing by renee

Trigger warning: feminism, women's rights

RANCOM!

Happily Retired

twanzphobic since forever

• • • • it's mocktacular! • • • •

Godless Cranium

Random musings of a godless heathen

freer lives

A socialist critique of the transgender phenomenon

Centering Women

A radical feminist page made for women only

radicalkitten

radical Elemental feminism

yumicpcake

A fine WordPress.com site

Feminist Twitches

Gender, Culture, Food, and Travel

RANCOM!

Happily Retired

Madam Nomad

Notes on the Journey

A Radical TransFeminist

when I said "fuck the patriarchy", I didn't mean it literally

Women's Space

Re-Member the Past, Seize Today, Dream the Future

The Colour of Pomegranates

Screaming into the Void

Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

Frequently Answered Questions

Cloak Unfurled

Life is a journey. Let us meet at the intersection and share a story.

gendercriticaldad

Fallout from my Peak Trans

Dead of Winter

Bitter Cold Truth from a Bisexual, Gender Critical, Almost Conservative Catholic

RADICAL THOUGHTCRIME

feminist heresy in an age of gender worship

Women’s Liberation Radio News

WLRN: A Radical Feminist Media Collective

UVic Womyn's Centre

bring back the women's centre

%d bloggers like this: