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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13 2019, @03:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the last-throes-of-public-culture dept.

https://public-interest-tech.com/

Mr. Schneier and friends have created a new website to promote a change to the socio-economic technical milieu we are currently facing.

He suggests we need to have "public interest technologists" to help the situation.

He writes:

"We need technologists who work in the public interest. We need public-interest technologists.

Defining this term is difficult. One Ford Foundation blog post described public-interest technologists as "technology practitioners who focus on social justice, the common good, and/or the public interest.""

Is he right? How can this be implemented without becoming as riddled with government agents, spies and mafias as the key positions of our corporations and institutions are right now?

Full disclosure: this writer has been a public interest technologist for a while now and I have actually alluded to the need for something like what is being suggested on multiple occasions, 'a different kind of organization' is the way I put it, way back a few months ago.

Discuss.


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by SemperOSS on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:16PM (19 children)

    by SemperOSS (5072) on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:16PM (#906643)

    The way society is going these days, the chasm between rich and poor seems to be ever-expanding with the richer getting much richer and the poorer not quite beating inflation. (And yes, I know that there are some that say it is changing and that the richer has actually not really got much richer within the last year or so.)

    The advance in technology can go two ways, towards a Star Trek-like utopia where money is not necessary as robots can do whatever is needed or an Elysium-like reality where the rich are in Heaven (OK, Elysium in the sky) where they are catered for by robots and the poor in Hell (solidly planted on Terra Firma) where they struggle to survive. If the (rich) technologists do not soon realise that the latter will make the poor want better and possibly cause a revolution (or at least an uprising), the world is in for a hard time. It is easy to think that this is just a problem for the poor countries and that we are not really so bad off, but it does not seem so.

    There has been an ongoing theory that if it is raining on the rich, it will drip on the poor, which recent research has proven wrong. The rich get richer alright, but the poor unfortunately stagnate or even get poorer — not a healthy combination for long-term stability. A usual argument by the well off for the status quo is the concept of the American Dream™ — if you work hard and diligently, keep your head down and pursue your goals then you could become the next Bill Gates/Jeff Bezos/Steve Jobs/..., only, the chance of that is probably less than having a substantial win in the lottery. Of the millions and millions of people that aspire to become rich and famous, only the very few and extremely lucky achieve it, which means the actual chance of achieving it is a rounding error in the big scheme of things.

    The sooner we realise that technology needs to benefit all, the sooner we will go toward a better society. (I have purposely skipped the fact that technology has benefited many people already with things like cars and mobile phones as that fact does not counter the argument about the growing chasm between rich and poor.)

    Now it is time to get the popcorn out and look for words like Social Justice Warrior, socialist, communist, lunatic and other such niceties in the comments to this.


    --
    I don't need a signature to draw attention to myself.
    Maybe I should add a sarcasm warning now and again?
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:47PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:47PM (#906653)

    maybe you get rich by making yourself indispensable (or rather, your "product").
    if you can convince that people need something from you then you get rich?
    so there's at least two categories.
    one are the things you really need and things you don't but make your life ... more agreeable.
    since we are (mostly) not at war on a global scale, number one things seem to be affordable overall (or at least not scarce).
    number two things are mostly what generates the huge wealth discrepancy. we "make a few rich" so many can feel they have a better life?
    it's not like the rich came to your house and force you to open your safe or lift your mattress and turn over your hard earned cash?
    i assume "number one things" are also the source of some very rich people but even the rich understand that war is misery for all,
    so those rich from "number one things" tend not to exploit the nature of the thing, rather increasing the availability and affordability (more buyers equals more profit).
    one assumes this requires a certain amount of "up front cost" to realize -aka- re-investment.
    as for "number two things", well ... (limited) exclusivity, scarcity and lots of brainwashing (advertising) is required to extract the monies. maybe other stuff too?
    so-called "culture" is a hotly contested turf for people getting rich with "number two things" and brain-washing starts early in formative years?

    as to comment concerning the actual article, just this: putting yourself "out there" will expose you to a lot of flak. more "brains" with "opinions" everyday ... and increasing.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:51PM (11 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @04:51PM (#906655)

    I don't know where you're looking at, but in the USA people have been progressively lifted out of poverty for decades, under the much-derided ideas that you choose to skewer.

    Basically, (summarising a lot of data here) less than ever of the US population is wondering where its next meal is coming from, while more of the US is considering the relative merits of Apple and Samsung.

    In fact, while it's true that the rich are getting richer, so are the middle classes and the poor both.

    If you want to check this out, go to federal numbers from the census bureau on wealth and population segments. This is public data, well known to economists.

    I mean, have fun with your little rant and all, but next time check your facts.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:08PM (2 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:08PM (#906660) Homepage Journal

      If that were all true, I would expect to cruise through the ghetto, and find "poor" people in possession of crazily modified cars, sporting huge 20 inch wheels costing thousands of dollars, wearing lots of bling, name brand "designer" clothing, snorting coke, drinking their favorite alcoholic beverages, showing off huge amounts of cash, and women dripping from their arms.

      Oh, wait. A duck search of ghetto bling assures me that all of that is real . . . and, maybe I should do moderate safe searches . . . some of that stuff I really didn't want to see . . .

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GOzbixP464 [youtube.com]

      --
      Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
      • (Score: 2, Touché) by RandomFactor on Sunday October 13 2019, @08:14PM (1 child)

        by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 13 2019, @08:14PM (#906702) Journal

        That video is pure gold.

        --
        В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @07:10AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @07:10AM (#906854)

          It's from one of the Bumfights movies, probably the second one [imdb.com].

    • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Sunday October 13 2019, @08:11PM (1 child)

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 13 2019, @08:11PM (#906701) Journal

      And how sustainable do you think this is? And what happens when the factors that allowed this to happen change? THAT'S the point he's making.

      I never understood why people reply to arguments along the lines of "We can't keep this up, we need to change course" with "well look what it *already* did." So the fuck what? If you have an uncle who served with distinction in wartime and you find out he's been molesting your kids, do you forgive him because he has medals from what he did in the past? No.

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:38PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:38PM (#906717)

        GGPP said there was a thing. GPP pointed out that there was no such thing. PP's response is that there might be a thing in future that doesn't exist now.

        Even if PP is one hundred percent totally right, GGPP is still wrong, and given PP apparently having trouble with the thread's topic, I wouldn't bet on PP being all that right either.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by c0lo on Monday October 14 2019, @02:04AM (5 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Monday October 14 2019, @02:04AM (#906809) Journal

      I don't know where you're looking at, but in the USA people have been progressively lifted out of poverty for decades

      Summarize this [wikipedia.org], then.

      Actually, don't bother, have it here [wikipedia.org]

      ... A December 2017 investigation by Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, found that homeless persons have effectively been criminalized throughout many cities in the United States.
      ...
      About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. Around 44% of homeless people were employed.

      Having a job that doesn't pay the roof over your head and running the risk being called a criminal.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @05:04AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @05:04AM (#906841)

        Sure. Fewer people than ever are in absolute poverty in the US of A, and the number in relative poverty is dwindling as well.

        The treatment of the remaining, dwindling minority could use some improvement, but the general trend is that population scaling down.

        There's your summary.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @10:27AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @10:27AM (#906890)

          Yet, almost half of the country can't afford a $400 emergency, very few can afford a $1,000 emergency, and half of the country makes $30,000 a year or less. This while wealth inequality keeps increasing, and while Trump's tax cuts have resulted in the rich paying a lower effective tax rate than working people. Having a TV or some other bits of technology does not make up for any of this. Saying, 'Well, things are better in some ways than they were in the past.' justifies none of this. This is like saying that someone in China ought to be happy with their totalitarian government because it's marginally better than North Korea's. Comparison is the enemy of freedom and justice.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @04:56PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @04:56PM (#907024)

            Yes! Make all the things perfect! Right now! No time for moving in the right direction! Instant total perfection for everyone!

            .... which happened nowhere, ever.

            But the US is moving in the right direction. Obviously a plot of the ultrarich vampire lizardpeople.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @01:52PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14 2019, @01:52PM (#906918)

          Sure. Fewer people than ever are in absolute poverty in the US of A, and the number in relative poverty is dwindling as well.

          Given the reference, one wonders if the reduction in those numbers isn't "achieved" by "accommodating" of those poor people in prisons, to work for peanuts.
          Wouldn't be terrible surprising.if so, late stage capitalism is bound to do a full circle and step into late stage communism; because there is no chance of endless growth, much less an exponential one, and the rich can keep their wealth only by brutal authority.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Monday October 14 2019, @02:22PM

            by c0lo (156) on Monday October 14 2019, @02:22PM (#906929) Journal

            one wonders if the reduction in those numbers isn't "achieved" by "accommodating" of those poor people in prisons, to work for peanuts.

            Well, well, well, ain't that [google.com] interesting?

            Homelessness in the state and federal prison population. [nih.gov]

            Nine percent of ASFPIs reported an episode of homelessness in the year prior to arrest, 4-6 times the estimated rate in the general US adult population

            Court-imposed fines as a feature of the homelessness-incarceration nexus... [oup.com]
            Results
            Our respondents experienced homelessness an average of 41 months during the current episode. Nearly two-thirds reported being convicted of a crime, and 78% had been incarcerated. More than 25% reported owing current legal fines. Individuals with legal fine debt experienced 22.9 months of additional homelessness after considering the effects of race, age, and gender.
            Conclusion
            We confirmed a strong association between homelessness and legal trouble. Among high-income countries, the USA has the highest rates of legal system involvement and the highest rates of homelessness; the relationship between the two may be connected.

            Homelessness and Incarceration Are Intimately Linked [endhomelessness.org]

            Homelessness is intimately linked with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Almost 50,000 people a year enter homeless shelters immediately after exiting incarceration. ...
            People experiencing homelessness can also get pulled into the criminal or juvenile justice systems for misdemeanor offenses related to attempts to survive on the streets. They may be prosecuted for things like shoplifting or for publicly engaging in basic life activities like standing or sleeping — activities that would never be an offense when done in one’s home. The compounding effects of institutional racism result in the over-representation of people of color in the criminal justice system, which in turn pushes more people of color into homelessness.

            ---
            (RIP, MDC, I reckon you knew a lot about both homelessness and mental illness by direct experience).

            Mentally ill people in United States jails and prisons [wikipedia.org]

            Mentally ill people are overrepresented in United States jail and prison populations relative to the general population. There are three times more seriously mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than in hospitals in the United States.
            ...
            A broad range of scholarly research maintains that mentally ill offenders are disproportionately represented in solitary confinement and are more vulnerable to the adverse psychological effects of solitary confinement.[46][47][48][49] Due to differing schemes of classification, empirical data on the makeup of inmates in segregated housing units can be difficult to obtain, and estimates of the percentage of inmates in solitary confinement who are mentally ill range from nearly a third, to 11% (with a "major mental disorder"), to 30% (from a study conducted in Washington), to "over half" (from a study conducted in Indiana)

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:27PM

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:27PM (#906667) Journal

    You can forget about this "revolution".

    I have to paraphrase: *You will be exterminated, never having seen the faces of your killers.*

    They are complete psychopaths and will be perfectly happy to live on a planet with less than a billion people remaining.

    --
    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by redneckmother on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:36PM (1 child)

    by redneckmother (3597) on Sunday October 13 2019, @05:36PM (#906677)

    "There has been an ongoing theory that if it is raining on the rich, it will drip on the poor, which recent research has proven wrong."

    All I know is that "trickle down economics" has succeeded in making me yellow and wet.

    --
    Mas cerveza por favor.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @10:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13 2019, @10:44PM (#906748)

      So are you for auditing the Federal Reserve?

  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:38PM

    by Bot (3902) on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:38PM (#906718) Journal

    >The advance in technology can go two ways, towards a Star Trek-like utopia where money is not necessary as robots can do whatever is needed
    you misspelled 'dystopia', meatbag.

    --
    Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 2) by arslan on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:56PM

    by arslan (3462) on Sunday October 13 2019, @09:56PM (#906730)

    I dunno, there's still a need for the middle class, maybe a lot less, but someone's gotta maintain the robots, help to think and invent new shit. Until the robots think for themselves and invent new shit of course, but when that happens what need do they have for meat bags, rich or poor?

    Now on to topic, It is a silly job for sure, but the way we're going, with the amount of techno-clueless sheeple out there; this has some practical benefits. Sure there's other ways to educate and incentivize the masses but like everything else it doesn't have to be this way or that but rather a combination of.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday October 14 2019, @06:31AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 14 2019, @06:31AM (#906853) Journal

    the chasm between rich and poor seems to be ever-expanding

    Let us keep in mind that we don't actually know whether the "chasm" between rich and poor is "ever-expanding" because nobody has a clue how to value it (always a strong sign in the financial world that something is overvalued), and it's not particularly valuable to poor people in the first place. Can't eat or sleep in a credit default swap.

    At this point, I'm completely blowing off all concerns about wealth inequality because it's measured in an extremely bullshit way (ignores future income), is probably way exaggerated due to the crazy valuation of such things, and doesn't mean anything even if it were true.

    There has been an ongoing theory that if it is raining on the rich, it will drip on the poor, which recent research has proven wrong.

    More accurately, has shown isn't always right.

    if you work hard and diligently, keep your head down and pursue your goals then you could become the next Bill Gates/Jeff Bezos/Steve Jobs/...

    Who really is trying to be the next Bill Gates? What people are trying to do generally has a much better chance of success.

    The sooner we realise that technology needs to benefit all,

    Absolute bullshit. For example, I come up with some bit of gear that helps people who hang-glide. Should my bit of technology get deep-sixed because it doesn't help anyone who isn't a hang-glider?

    Technology doesn't need to benefit everyone. As long as it's helping someone without causing problems of a similar scale, it's fine.