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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Big Technology

Some call it a scam. Others say it’s the best available option. Either way, the Facebook Oversight Board is about to decide whether Trump can use Facebook.

Hakan Nural/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, the biggest tech story will be the Facebook Oversight Board’s ruling on Donald Trump. Facebook suspended Trump indefinitely following the Capitol Riots earlier this year. And now the board — a 19 member body that can review and overturn Facebook’s content decisions — is about to decide whether to bring him back.

As we enter a frenzied news cycle over the board’s decision, the key question underlying it all will be whether we can trust this new entity, which Facebook set up last year.

Some call the board a necessary, Supreme Court-style institution that brings…

Moral panics over new technology always hide deeper problems we don’t want to deal with.

Image Courtesy of the Author

What do bicycles and social media have in common? Soon after being adopted, each of these technologies brought on a tsunami of unjustified moral panic. Let’s start with bikes.

When bicycles burst onto the Victorian scene in the 1800s, they were a big deal. This cool contraption made it possible to travel much further and faster than you could ever go on foot. Better yet, bikes were a lot cheaper than horses (not to mention simpler to maintain).

Soon enough, bicycles gained popularity with a group whose transportation options had historically been limited: women. At that time, if women wanted…

Big Technology

The question isn’t what’s going to get automated. It’s what’s going to get automated last.

Elaine Kwon

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

As I wrote Always Day One, my book about tech giant culture, I learned of a massive automation program inside Amazon’s corporate offices called Hands…

Big Technology

Amazon delivery drivers and liberal city dwellers vote together. But for how long?

In his new book, Fulfillment, Alec MacGillis writes of an Amazon distribution center in Sparrows Point, Maryland that sits on land once occupied by a Bethlehem Steel plant. The story underscores how dramatically the U.S. economy has transformed in recent years. Instead of making things, many of our biggest companies now distribute things made elsewhere. We’ve moved from an economy of production to one of dispersion.

The shift from factory to fulfillment work is core to the American story right now. For the American worker, a factory job like one at Bethlehem Steel was dangerous, but it paid $30 to…

In our search for easy answers, we give up control.

The evidence is overwhelming: we are far more powerful than the technology that is supposedly mind-controlling us. It’s not even close.

As I’ve discussed here and in many other places, we need to give ourselves more credit. Instead of passively accepting the idea that we’re all being puppeteered by some sort of menacing tech bogeyman, we can hack back distractions.

To be clear, too much social media can be harmful. No one disputes that too much of all sorts of good things can be bad, whether it’s too much news or too much booze.

But the popular narrative that distractions…

Ron worked in a biotechnology lab before becoming homeless six years ago. Photos by Talia Herman for OneZero

A group of ex-tech workers, gig employees, and locals priced out of the housing market are fighting for affordable housing in Silicon Valley

At the corner of East Homestead and North Wolfe Road in Cupertino, California, stands a large oak tree planted by one of the most successful companies in history — Apple. The tree is a landmark at the entrance to Apple Park, the company’s $5 billion spaceship-of-a-campus, which surrounds a circular headquarters set in an entire city block, not unlike the home button in the rectangle of an early-model iPhone. At least three or four stories tall, the oak is one of the larger specimens among the 9,000 trees planted in this 175-acre Garden of Eden. …

Cash-strapped governments are turning to tech that converts cameras into automated license plate readers to penalize uninsured drivers

Photo: marcoventuriniautieri/Getty Images

In March, the president of Rekor Systems Inc., Robert Berman, told investors that 2020 was a “transformative year.” The surveillance tech company’s platform, Rekor One, which converts regular cameras into automated license plate readers (ALPR), had proven alluring to cash-strapped state governments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oklahoma, which has seen its tax revenue plummet alongside falling oil prices, announced a statewide rollout of Rekor One in November to track uninsured motorists. …

Gamblers flock to a new kind of online casino that’s open 24 hours a day

Caption: A Crash betting game on

“I’ve kind of developed a problem,” J.J. tells me over Discord voice chat.

In his early teens, his dad won $50,000 on a scratch-off lotto ticket, dramatically improving the family’s living situation almost overnight. “That helped us not be poor,” he said. But the windfall also colored his views of gambling in ways that didn’t become evident until recently. …

Open Dialogue

Evan Selinger in conversation with Chris Gilliard

Illustration: Julia Moburg/Medium; Source: Getty Images

This is Open Dialogue, an interview series from OneZero about technology and ethics.

During the pandemic, educational technology companies experienced a 900% increase in business once schools started shutting down campuses and restricting visitors. These companies swooped in with A.I.-infused software designed to prevent students from cheating. These proctoring algorithms can verify who is taking an exam through facial verification. They can also monitor test-takers, scrutinizing their behavior for signs of irregularities that might indicate cheating, like looking away from the screen.

Critics contend the software promotes unfairness, invasions of privacy, and unduly inflicted anxiety. The situation is so dire…

‘At 50, you’re just getting started’

Illustration by Traceloops. Sources: @emptynestcoach, @jaigray0, @sallymisha

One morning in 2015, as 59-year-old Sally Misha Hamana waited for a department store clerk to serve her, a man — “a gentleman,” she says — lined up next to her. “I like your hair,” he told her. His throwaway comment left her speechless. She’d stopped coloring her grays a few months back, and her cropped pixie cut was 100% silver. “What does it matter what I look like?” she’d thought. “Nobody sees me anyways.”

The struggle began in her forties, when she was marketing a Texas rodeo. People began talking over her. Dismissing her ideas. Long-term colleagues sidelined her…

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