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Big Technology

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

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…

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…

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…

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

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. …

Open Dialogue

Evan Selinger in conversation with Chris Gilliard

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’

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…

Open Dialogue

A conversation with the professor who just turned down a $60,000 grant from Google

The graphic text “Open Dialogue” is framed around different sketches of human faces and emotions.
The graphic text “Open Dialogue” is framed around different sketches of human faces and emotions.

Emotion A.I., affective computing, and artificial emotional intelligence are all fields creating technology to understand, respond to, measure, and simulate human emotions. Hope runs so high for these endeavors that the projected market value for emotional A.I. is $91.67 billion by 2024. A few examples are revealing: The automotive industry sees value in algorithms determining when drivers are distracted and drowsy. Companies see value in algorithms analyzing how customer support agents talk and computationally coaching them to be better speakers. And researchers see value in children with autism using A.I.-infused …

In the late 1970s, hackers forged a social media network using the dominant audio tech of the time — the telephone

A vintage landline phone
A vintage landline phone

POV: You’re a 14-year-old kid in Atlanta. It’s 1978, and the internet hasn’t been invented yet, so you mostly get your kicks over the phone. You love to call up your local radio station, WQXI, to request your favorite oldies. This time, however, the line’s been disconnected. A prerecorded message plays in your handset instead. QXI’s AM call-in number is now 741–0790, and QXI’s FM call-in number is… Just as you’re about to hang up, you hear something weird: After the recorded message ends and just before it loops again, you hear someone else on the line. They’re yelling “Hello…


Unlocking the medical potential of artificial intelligence requires being more realistic about its limitations

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

I’m excited to talk with Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad. Muhammad is the principal research scientist at KenSci, inc., a company specializing in A.I. in health care, and an affiliate professor in the department of computer science at the University of Washington Bothell. I’ve known Muhammad for a long time. When I started teaching philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, he was one of my first students. Over the years, we’ve kept in touch as Muhammad went on to get his PhD in computer science and eventually became a…

How to opt out of tech that invades your privacy

Too often, facial recognition feels like a mysterious, society-pervading technology that is too complex for individuals to understand or combat. We read about scary new applications of the tech and its increasingly concerning role in determining who gets a job, who gets a loan, or even who gets arrested. Because facial recognition is often mobilized by governments and massive corporations, though, it’s easy for individuals to feel powerless in the face of these technologies.

But we’re not powerless. New laws, new tech, and new collective action movements are giving consumers the tools we need to fight back against indiscriminate or…

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